25 Robinson Street – John and Angelica Church Residence

Chernow tells us Angelica made a strange choice in marrying him, except that he provided her with the riches she craved. He fled London probably after a duel involving gambling, and changed his name to John Carter. In 1776 the Continental Congress sent him to Albany to audit the books of General Philip Schuyler’s army.  He met daughter Angelica, and eloped with her when the general disapproved of him.

Commissary General of Purchases, Jeremiah Wadsworth was John Barker Church’s partner. They were contractors for the French Army in America and grew even wealthier. The bank of North America was started in Philadelphia in 1781by Robert Morris, Wadsworth and Church, who asked Hamilton to set up another bank The Bank of New York, which he did in 1784 on Pearl Street.

In the 1790’s John and Angelica lived in London. In 1797 they returned from England’s parliament to property on Broadway purchased for them by Hamilton. They threw extravagant parties. Hamilton lived nearby at 26 Broadway.

When Hamilton went to James Monroe’s hotel room July 11, 1797 (7 years before the duel) and they almost punched each other, it was Church and Monroe’s friend who stepped between and separated them. Hamilton said I will meet you like a gentleman. Monroe said “I am ready get your pistols.” Monroe turned to Aaron Burr as a second and Burr said Hamilton “would not fight.” and they did not. Hamilton’s biographer John Miller is quoted: “It was within Burr’s power to have precipitated a duel at this time and thus, perhaps, to have relieved himself of the necessity of killing Hamilton a few years later.”

Aaron Burr established the Chase Manhattan Bank in 1799, because the Bank of New York would only lend to Federalists.  Although Church was a Chase director, he accused Burr of taking a bribe for the Holland Company.  They dueled with the Wogdon pistols that had secret hair triggers. (Ron Chernow and I disagree on that point). The fabulously wealthy John Church had them made in England in 1796, the year before he returned to America. Matthew Davis’ page 417 refers to Burr’s pistol-case. This held lead balls and chamois leather and grease, that the challenger could use, but the challenger would never select the pistols. The one challenged (Church) did. Church would only use his own, not Burr’s pistol.  Church shot a button off Burr’s coat, and “declared he had been indiscreet and was sorry for it.”

John Church helped plan the 1801 Philip Hamilton duel, and when Philip was shot by George Eacker in Jersey City, he was rowed back to Church’s bedroom where he died.

Two items retrieved from Weehawken and sent to Church were the famous pistols, and the broken cedar branch. After Alexander Hamilton died in William Bayard’s house, he was taken to 25 Robinson Street, where the funeral began.

When John Church’s moved to upstate New York, he took the pistols with him.  They were used by a family member in the civil war and then purchased by the Chase Manhattan Bank in 1930.  They are in the vault (probably under) Wall Street right now.

(A quick demonstration of the concealed hair spring trigger pistols requiring 1/2 pound pressure instead of 10 pounds pressure will be (was) given to members at 1pm outside the Sheraton Hotel.)

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