Mary Kennedy Erwin

Mary (Polly) Kennedy Erwin (1747-1817)

Pennsylvania Register of Marriages Mary Kennedy to Arthur Erwin July 27, 1771

Listing of the marriage of Mary Kennedy and Arthur Erwin in 1771.

Marriage to Arthur

Arthur’s second wife, Mary was the daughter of William and Mary Ann Henderson Kennedy from Springfield Township in Bucks County. She was 21 when she married Arthur in 1771, taking on his household and 6 children by his first wife. Together they had 6 additional children. Arthur described Mary in letters as “as virtuous as any woman…not at all given to liquor” and “…did not have a lazy bone in her body.” 

Problems in the Marriage

Arthur’s vast holdings led to difficulties in his married life. Mary had grave concerns for her and her children’s inheritance and on how to equally distribute Arthur’s wealth fairly amongst all his heirs. This caused a schism and at least one separation between Mary and Arthur. According to the minutes from the Quarter Session held at the County Seat in Newtown, Arthur ejected Mary from their home, and she sued him for support.

The minutes alleged, “your petitioner having had, some time ago, the misfortune to fall under the displeasure of her said husband, he took revenge of her in a most indecent and inhumane manner by beating and abusing her, driving her out of his house in the night time without shoes or stockings or necessary clothing, and publishing her in the newspapers that no correspondent should trust her upon his account and discharging tenants and near neighbors from taking her in and harboring her in their houses, meaning not only to deprive her of the comfort and satisfaction of enjoying the company of any of her children which she has had by him." 


 In 1790, Arthur wrote to Mary’s brother Robert Kennedy that “he had fallen upon a plan to keep peace between his two families…He was preparing to move Polly and her children to the new countries; he had made large purchases there and would purchase more until his estate there was fully equal to the estate down here.”

End of Life

When Arthur died, he had not yet been able to put his plan in place. However, Mary received her 1/3 dowager portion of his estate, and her children did inherit the lands in Luzerne County, while Arthur’s children by his first wife remained on his lands in Bucks County.

Footnote 1: The Colonel from Erwinna, The Intelligencer

Notice placed by Arthur Erwin in the Pennsylvania Gazette disavowing Mary Erwin, June 27, 1781

Notice placed by Arthur Erwin in the Pennsylvania Gazette disavowing Mary Erwin.

Petition of Support filed by Mary Erwin against Arthur Erwin (click to open larger version)

Petition of Support of Mary Kennedy Erwin against Arthur Erwin.

Probate Record Dividing Arthur Erwins’s Estate, Bucks Orphans Court May 7, 1792 (click to view larger image)

The probate record dividing the estate (and crops) of Arthur Erwin.

The Last Will and Testament for Mary Kennedy Erwin (click for larger view)

Mary Kennedy Erwin's Last Will and Testament