Wright’s Ferry Mansion stands as testament of a strong rooting of the settlement made by a handful of English Quakers coming from Chester and Darby, Pennsylvania, to wild and virtually uninhabited country along the Susquehanna River1. Pervaded by English Quaker refinements and simplicity this house reflects the sophisticated tastes and panoply of interests of its original owner, Susanna Wright.
An image outside of Wright's Ferry Mansion
An image of Wright's Ferry Mansion



A dynamic personification of American Colonial self-sufficiency, Quaker-born Susanna Wright encouraged settlement of wilderness and the development of industry while stimulating a literary current through her personal writings and correspondence. She had come to Pennsylvania from Lancashire, England with her family in 1714 when 16 years old. Originally, the Wright family settled outside of Philadelphia, in Chester, Pennsylvania. Susanna lived there for 12 years before moving to what is now Columbia — at the time a remote wilderness with no access roads, known as “Shawannah town on Susquehanna.” In 1726, she purchased a long, narrow tract of 100 acres. Her father, John Wright, purchased a neighboring 150 acres, on which he built a log house.
An image of handwritten text

A voracious MIND

Susanna Wright — “the blue stocking of the Susquehanna,” expanded her intellect through correspondence and engagement with some of the most inventive minds of 18th century Philadelphia. Proficient in French, Latin and Italian, she also studied regional Native American dialects. Literature was her constant delight and she bought via London booksellers such as a then transplanted colonist named Benjamin Franklin works ranging from the most popular novels of the day to travel analyses of the wilds of the Americas and Africa.
An image of a journal


Her orders included writings by English poets John Milton and Alexander Pope, Anglo-Irish author and essayist Jonathan Swift, and many other voices of the Age of Enlightenment. James Logan — power-wielding colonial secretary to Province of Pennsylvania founder William Penn and, later, pro-colony expansionist Mayor of Philadelphia, Colonial Chief Justice, and eventual acting governor — had encouraged Susanna to further her mastery of the French language; he personally knew at least six languages, including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, as well as French.  Logan sent Susanna books by French dramatist Jean-Baptiste Racine, playwright Pierre Corneille, and theologian and poet François Fénelon. Susanna would send Logan excerpts of her own poetry.
An image of a globe, candle, and framed architectural illustration


Benjamin Franklin sent Susanna presents along with her purchased books: a thermometer; an almanac for the new year; and bayberry candles. In turn, the Philadelphia-based Franklin family would receive casks of pickled Susquehanna salmon, baskets of apples, and descriptive letters from Susanna’s pen. Benjamin Franklin is recorded as having sought Susanna’s impressions of the British General Edward Braddock's North American efforts against the French in 1750s. And, he is known to have visited Wright’s Ferry Mansion when experimenting with electrical current.
An image of intricate embroidery


Susanna’s knowledge grew to include a general understanding of modern medicine and law. Residing in Pennsylvania’s wilderness, she aided neighbors with health concerns while also serving as legal counsel for the resolution of disputes that arose among the community.
An image of the Servant's Quarters


Susanna Wright is also known for initiating a colonial silk industry along the Susquehanna River. At one point, Susanna had 1500 silkworms and declared she could have a million, if properly encouraged. At a London birthday celebration of King George III, Queen Charlotte wore a gown made from 60 yards of Susquehanna River Valley silk presented to her and General Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the British Army, sported stockings of silk also of Susanna’s making.
“Say Reason governs all the mighty frame,
And Reason rules in everyone the same,
No right has man his equal to control”

“When strip'd of power, & plac'd in equal light,
Angels shall judge who had the better right,
All you can do is but to let him see
That woman still shall sure his equal be,
By your example shake his ancient law,
And shine yourself, the finsh'd piece you draw.”
Susanna Wright's signature

A Mansion
& Ferry
on the

An image of the parlor in Wright's Ferry Mansion
An image of Wright's Ferry Mansion


Wright’s Ferry Mansion was built in 1738 by Susanna Wright (1697-1784). The imposing, two-story stone house was an important addition to the small settlement established by the Wrights and two other Quaker families - the Barbers and the Bluntstons. These three families were most likely encouraged to settle in this remote wilderness by James Logan. The powerful and strategic Logan surely recognized the importance of this region, for at this time, Maryland and Pennsylvania were in dispute over which colony owned the land framing the Susquehanna River. From the Pennsylvania perspective, it was crucial to have established settlements to affirm sovereignty. Equally worth noting, this region was at one time a distant extension of Pennsylvania’s Chester County, and its oversight proved often unwieldy.
An image of a document from Wright's Ferry Mansion


Susanna’s father, John Wright (1667-1749), assisted in establishing a new Lancaster County. He became the first Justice of the Peace, while neighbor Robert Barber became the first sheriff and another neighbor, Samuel Blunston, issued land patents for lands west of the Susquehanna River. Presumably, these three men hoped this river settlement would serve as the new county’s governing seat, but the nearby town of Lancaster (founded in 1729) was chosen instead. However, this settlement was identified as an excellent crossing site along the Susquehanna River, to which a ferry service was built on Susanna Wright’s property. No longer extant, the ferry would have been clearly visible from Wright’s Ferry Mansion.
A painting from Wright's Ferry Mansion


The ferry service included much more than a barge-like boat, guided by ropes extending across the water, connecting both sides of the river. Indeed, there was a Ferry House, which would have provided accommodations for travelers. There was also a tavern, where food and libations could be secured. There was a house for a blacksmith, as well as his forge, and a garden for growing produce as well as a field for grazing horses. This became an important crossing point along the Susquehanna, immediately recognized as Wright’s Ferry — “the gateway to the west” in its earliest incarnation.
*Watercolor painting by Pavel Petrovich Svinin entitled "A Ferry Scene on the Susquehanna at Wright's Ferry, near Havre de Grace"
An image of the Second Bedchamber in Wright's Ferry Mansion
The ferry was run by Susanna’s two brothers; James Wright (1714-1775) on this side of the river, and John Wright (1710-1759) on the opposite side. James was 11 years old when the Wright family arrived in this area and 24 when this house was completed in 1738. Presumably, James helped build it and probably lived here with his sister. Susanna did not marry, and she left the house to her eldest nephew, Samuel Wright (1754-1811), the son of James. The Wright family lived at Wright’s Ferry Mansion until 1922, long after the ferry had closed and been replaced by a series of bridges.
Door detail at Wright's Ferry Mansion
Preservation, Restoration, and the

von Hess

A painted portrait from Wright's Ferry Mansion
A photograph from Wright's Ferry Mansion
An image of the upstairs Work Room in Wright's Ferry Mansion
Following the Wright family, the house that remained much as it had been at the time of its construction was acquired by the Rasbridge family who saved it from scheduled demolition. Emmett Welsh Rasbridge lived in the house until 1973, when he sold the house to artist, graphic designer, and art connoisseur Richard C. von Hess and his wife, Louise McClure Tinsley Steinman von Hess, who then undertook a methodical, four-year restoration of the structure.
An image of the Best Bedroom in Wright's Ferry Mansion
The von Hesses commissioned celebrated preservationist George Edwin Brumbaugh, F.A.I.A. (1890-1983), “one of the most important restoration architects in Pennsylvania in the twentieth century” and visionary for the restorations of Ephrata Cloister for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Gate House and Golden Plough Tavern in York, Pennsylvania, to oversee the restoration of Wright’s Ferry Mansion.
An image of a bed from Wright's Ferry Mansion
Painting of Louise Steinman von Hess
An image of the Entry from Wright's Ferry Mansion
The Wright house was among his last research endeavors. Brumbaugh claimed that it was his favorite restoration effort because he was able to be as precise as possible with every detail. Indeed, the house had remained so clearly intact that it would soon become an excellent reference document for other 18th century-focused restoration and preservation projects. At this time, Mr. and Mrs. von Hess established the Louise Steinman von Hess Foundation to ensure its protection and further development as a focus for ongoing research and general appreciation.
An image of the staircase from Wright's Ferry Mansion
An image of the clock from Wright's Ferry Mansion
It was collector and connoisseur Richard C. von Hess who led the formation of this very special museum, which he continued to refine in the decades following his wife’s 1980 death. For the restored structure, he partnered with noted American furniture authority Joseph Keller Kindig, III (1923-2021) to assemble a most important representation of Pennsylvania furniture and craftsmanship of the first half of the 18th century, supplemented by rare English and European textiles, ceramics, glass, and metalwork.
Silhouette of Samuel Wright from Wright's Ferry Mansion
"This is indeed an impressive and valuable addition to our nation's growing stock of significant buildings... that are being preserved for the enrichment of our own lives and of generations to come."
1. Quakerism arose in mid-17th-century England, consisting largely of dissenting
Protestant groups that had broken with the strictures of the Church of England. With some females included as ministers, Quakers established a belief that “Christ has come to teach his people himself.” Personal religious experience of Christ was acquired through direct study of the Bible. Quakers focused/focus their lives on demonstrating behavior reflective of emotional purity, with a goal of Christian perfection. Quakers were/are known to use “thee” as an ordinary pronoun, refuse[d] to participate in war, wore/wear plain clothing, oppose[d] slavery, and practice[d] “teetotalism”. In the United States, modern Quakers focus on simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship.