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Courtship of Elijah II and Killie Dayton

Killie DaytonOne sign of Elijah’s prosperity in the 1840s was his decision around 1846 to enlarge and reconstruct The Hermitage, which had not had a major remodeling in the more than eighty years that it had been the Rosencrantzes' home. A more imposing house would not only mark Elijah’s success as a new industrial entrepreneur but also establish his growing status in his community. It is also possible that Elijah, who was still a bachelor in this 30s, had attracting a bride from a well-established family on his mind. [Tell me more about the Gothic Revival architectural style.]

After the renovation was complete, Elijah began courting 18-year-old Cornelia (Killie) Dayton, granddaughter of the cotton merchant Captain Samuel Dayton with whom Elijah did business. [Tell me more about Killie Dayton's heritage.] In Killie, Elijah saw an attractive young woman from a cosmopolitan, affluent family of some renown, with a long-established heritage. For her part, Killie may have seen in Elijah a successful entrepreneur who had just enlarged his country residence in a manner that showed him to be a man of substance and taste.

The year 1850 proved to be a very difficult one for both Elijah and Killie. In July, the Rosencrantz mill was destroyed by a flood or fire. Elijah’s finances were already low; however, John urged him to rebuild. In October, Elijah set plans in motion to construct a brick mill building. The new mill was back in operation by the fall of 1851. Meanwhile, Killie's father died in August 1850, at age 44, and October of the same year, she lost one of her three sisters. A friend wrote to Elijah at the time about Killie's sadness but reassured him that her happiness would be restored with when she was “newly fixed in the new home.”

The courtship culminated in the marriage of Elijah and Killie on June 3, 1851. This happy event, which joined two well-established families, may well be one of the high points in the history of the Rosencrantzes' long years at The Hermitage.

The marriage may also have had an economic benefit for Elijah. In December 1851, he was able to obtain a loan of $3,400 from Samuel Dayton, which helped him not only to pay some of the costs of rebuilding the cotton mill but also to buy outright a paper mill in which he had been a partner. The paper mill did not prosper; the cotton mill, however, continued to provide the Rosencrantz family with income. Elijah and Killie were able to refurnish The Hermitage and start a family. William Dayton (Will) was born in 1852; John (John II) was born in 1853; and Mary Elizabeth (Bess) was born in 1855. Killie also contributed to a cultural shift within the family toward a more genteel lifestyle. She subscribed to Godey's Lady Book, which focused on fashion and Victorian women's values, and increasingly supplemented the Bibles and devotional readings in the family's library with works of history and fiction.

In 1858, Samuel Dayton made a gift to Elijah and Killie of land adjacent to The Hermitage that he had bought from Samuel Coe, bringing their total property to 200 acres.

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