Mary Long Grier de Donimirski Papers

Collection Title: Mary Long Grier de Donimirski Papers

Collection Number: MS Coll. 266

Dates of Collection: 1909-1915

Box Numbers: 13 folders in 2 boxes

Repository: Chester County History Center, West Chester, Pa. 19380.

Language: English

Project Archivist: E. Richard McKinstry

Institutional History Note:

The Chester County History Center (previously known as the Chester County Historical Society) was founded in 1893 by ten prominent members of the Chester County community. This group of local historians, educators, naturalists, doctors, and business owners included Gilbert Cope, a genealogist and co-author of History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (1881), and Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock, the first president of the Society and Pennsylvania’s ‘Father of Forestry.’

As a membership organization, the Society was open to men and women who were interested in learning, sharing, and preserving the history of Chester County’s boroughs, townships, and residents. From its inception, the Society began to receive gifts in the form of books, printed materials, manuscripts, photographs, and objects, which were then stored in various West Chester locations, including the West Chester Public Library.

In 1902, CCHC partnered with West Chester University (then known as the West Chester Normal School) to acquire a permanent space to hold meetings and display the Society’s collection. In 1937, CCHC moved its growing collection of objects and archival materials into West Chester’s historic Horticultural Hall, the last commission of architect Thomas U. Walter before he became the 4th Architect of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Horticultural Hall was modernized in 1979 to improve collections management and increase exhibition space. In the early 1980s, CCHC initiated a joint project with Chester County government to administer the Chester County Archives, adding 300 years of public records to its care.

In 1992, the adjacent YMCA building was renovated to add 56,000 square-foot, ensuring that the History Center became a vital complex for exhibition, collection storage, and research. With an expanded library and research area, a 250-seat auditorium, and seven exhibition galleries, the new facility also allowed for an increased emphasis on educational programming. Becoming Chester County, a multi-media interactive exhibit highlighting migration, social reform, and innovation over the past 300 years in Chester County, debuted in 2020 with visible storage areas introduced in 2021.

Over the course of its history, CCHC has continued to expand its mission to preserve Chester County’s history. Museum exhibits and educational programming serve the community by connecting its diverse residents with a collection of approximately 950,000 objects, books, manuscripts, and photographs that document how the region was shaped and influenced by local and national events.

Today, CCHC is a nonprofit historical institution that works to promote the county’s rich history through community engagement, educational programming, and stewardship of materials in its Museum, Library, and Photo Archives collection.


The Donimirski Papers document the lives of Mary Long Grier de Donimirski and her husband Karol in New London Township, Pa. and subsequently following Karol’s desertion of his wife in March of 1913. Most of the papers consist of reports filed by private investigators that describe Karol’s social life and relationships with women while he resided in New York City, 1913-1915.

Collection Scope:

The Donimirski Collection consists chiefly of typewritten reports from 1913 and 1914, submitted by private investigators, on the social activities of Karol de Donimirski while he lived in New York City following his desertion of his wife Mary, a resident of New London, Chester County, Pa. The reports are dated–month, day, and year–and almost invariably are headed “Case. De Donimirski vs de Donimirski.” In addition, investigators note their expenses on pre-printed cards, including payments for carfare, meals, and incidentals. Interspersed are letters having to do with the work of the detectives.

Together with the Donimirski collection, there are papers in MS Coll. 266 having to do with the 1970s purchase and renovation of the Donimirski house by Dr. Scott T. Swank and his wife Kathy. Dr. Swank’s reminiscences include recollections about his discovery the place, which they named “Arcadia;” its condition, cleanup, and decoration; and the discovery the Donimirski collection.

Information For Researchers:

Access: Collection is open for research

Publication Rights: For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Librarian of the Chester County History Center

Preferred Citation: Mary Long Grier de Donimirski Papers. MS Coll. 266. Chester County History Center Library, West Chester, Pa.

Acquisition Information: Donated to the Chester County History Center by Dr. Scott T. Swank, 2023

Processing History: Processing and finding aid prepared by E. Richard McKinstry, Project Archivist, 2023


Mary Long Grier de Donimirski (1877-1944) was born into the Grier family, a leading Scots-Irish and Presbyterian family from Bucks and Montgomery counties of Pennsylvania. Their home church was the Neshaminy Presbyterian in Hartsville at which Grier family members served in various capacities. Another family member, Elizabeth J. Grier (1831-1907), Mary’s aunt, was a pioneer educator at the Oakland Institute in Norristown, Pa. whose founder was James Grier Ralston. Other Grier family members enjoyed decades-long prominence in further religious and educational endeavors in eastern Pennsylvania.

In 1895, Mary graduated from Walnut Street Seminary in Philadelphia and then from the city’s School of Vocal Art in 1898. Her parents both deceased, Mary then lived at Philadelphia’s Hotel Walton, 1905-1909, and took horse riding lessons at the Philadelphia Riding Academy. Along with her sister Jennie, Mary benefited from family trusts managed by the Girard Bank and the Colonial Trust Co., both in Philadelphia, and the Continental Bank and Trust of Norristown.

At the riding academy, Mary met Karol de Donimirski, a riding instructor and native of Poland. They were married on September 29, 1909 by a Methodist minister in Wilmington, Del. and resided in Philadelphia until January 4, 1912 when they moved to a farm in New London, Chester County, Pa., which Mary had purchased the year before for $17,000 using money generated by her trust funds. Mary and Karol lived in a late Federal-style house dating from 1838 and in no time, established a horse farm on property adjacent to the New London Presbyterian Church.

Karol deserted Mary on March 29, 1913 for a new life in New York City, leaving her to manage their farm alone. Mary tried unsuccessfully to convince Karol to return to New London to work out their differences, but he said he would never come back, suggesting that he might even return to Europe. In December, Mary hired an attorney, Ezekiel Hunn, to begin divorce proceedings. Hunn, in turn, hired New York City detective John Freiman to follow Karol in an effort to discover and provide evidence of marital infidelity. In the end, there was abundant evidence. According to a 1918 document issued by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, Mary was successful in securing a divorce.

Names and Subject Terms:

Donimirski, Mary Long Grier de, 1877-1944

Donimirski, Karol de

Hunn, Ezekiel (Lawyer)

Frieman, John (Private investigator)

Weinberg, Louis I. (Private investigator)

Wallace, Joseph (Private investigator)

New London Township. Pa.–Historic houses

Central Park Riding Academy

Riding clubs–New York (City)



New York (City)–Social life and customs

Manners and customs

Private investigators–New York (City)

Collection Arrangement:

The Donimirski papers are filed in 13 folders and housed in two archival boxes. The first folder in box one contains an introduction to the Donimirski collection together with 147 pages of transcribed reports on Karol Donimirski’s life in New York City submitted by private investigators who were hired to follow him. The second folder contains recollections of purchasing and renovating “Arcadia,” what the Donimirski house in New London Township, Pa. was named in the 1970s, by Dr. Scott T. Swank and his wife Kathy. Folders 3, 4, and 5 in the first box relate to Donimirski family members. Box 1, Folder 6 holds information on divorce during the early 20th century compiled by Dr. Swank. The balance of the papers, arranged in chronological order, mostly consist of original reports filed by private investigators who followed Karol Donimirski in New York City.

Related Material:

There is no related material on Mary or Karol de Donimirski at the Chester County History Center.

Folder Title Listing:

Box 1 Folder 1            Transcript of de Donimirski Papers

Box 1 Folder 2            Scott Swank–New London–Arcadia

Box 1 Folder 3            Photographs–Means

Box 1 Folder 4            Mary Long Grier de Donimirski–General

Box 1 Folder 5            Grier-Means, New London–Miscellaneous

Box 1 Folder 6            Divorce

Box 1 Folder 7            1913-January 1914

Box 1 Folder 8            February 1914

Box 2 Folder 1            March 1914

Box 2 Folder 2            April 1914

Box 2 Folder 3            May 1914

Box 2 Folder 4            June-December 1914

Box 2 Folder 5            1915

Collection Contents: