Montalto

The summer of 1804 changed Burr’s life. Had he not dueled, he might have proceeded with plans described by Richard Cote in his book Theodosia.

Aaron Burr wanted his daughter Theodosia, her husband congressman and future (1812) SC Gov. Joseph Alston, and his grandson baby Aaron Burr Alston (Gampy) to visit him for the summer like they did in ’02 and ’03, to restore health from the hot South Carolina weather. Did anyone hear the Jeopardy show answer a few weeks ago about how Theodosia and Joseph Alston made Niagara Falls a popular honeymoon spot by gong there?

Burr’s education of Theodosia had made her the best-educated young lady of early America. Burr was for women’s rights, and kept a picture of Mary Wollstonecraft with him for 50 years. Dolley Madison was so impressed with hoe Theodosia was educated that she appointed Aaron Burr guardian of her son before Aaron Burr introduced her to James Madison.  Burr had opened a girls's school at 30 Partition Street headedby Madame de Senate.

Although he sold part of Richmond Hill, he kept four acres, and Joseph purchased a tract called Montalto near Richmond Hill, which he planned to develop as their summer residence. Vice President Aaron Burr was campaigning for NY governor. Here is what he wrote to his daughter in late winter1804 inviting them to spend the summer with him again. It shows how he wanted to accommodate his family after his wife.

“You take Richmond Hill; bring no horses or carriage. I have got a nice, new, beautiful little chariot, made purposely to please you.  I have also a new coachee, very light, on an entirely new construction, invented by the vice president.  Now these two machines are severally adapted to two horses, and you may take your choice of them.  Of horses I have five; three always and wholly at your devotion, and the whole five occasionally.  Harry and Sam are both good coachmen, either at your orders. Of servants there are enough for family purposes.  Eleanore, however, must attend you, for the sake of the heir apparent.  You will want no others, as there are at my house Peggy, Nancy, and a small girl of about eleven.  Mr. Alston may bring a footman.  Anything further will be useless; he may , however bring six or eight of them if he like.  The cellars and garrets are well stocked with wine, having had a great supply last fall.  I shall take rooms (a house, etc.) in town, but will live with you as much or as little as you may please and as we can agree, but my establishment at Richmond Hill must remain, whether you come or not.  Great part of the summer I shall be off eight or ten days at a time, but no long journeys.  You will have to ride every day or two to Montalto to direct the laying out of the grounds etc. In this way you cannot without wanton extravagance, expend more than four hundred dollars.  If you insist on bringing your horses, there is now room for them, and plenty of provender.  You ought to come by water, but not to be swindled again by taking a cabin.  Bring your Ada (a black nursemaid) if you please to finish her education.”

In January he wrote to Peggy Gallatin, one of his servants at Richmond Hill “to assure you that I am in perfect health… that I have had no duel or quarrel with anybody, and have not been wounded or hurt.”  Peggy later wrote to Aaron Burr asking if he would send her to school, and he did. But in April, the election campaign turned incredibly vicious and personal, and he wrote to Theodosia that he lost the race for governor.  The summer visit did not proceed, and his June and July became occupied with Hamilton instead of his own family.

Theodosia did not enjoy the three week stage coach ride from South Carolina to New York, but in 1812, when she came to visit her father for a last time, she traveled by ship that was lost at sea.  Every day Aaron would come down to these docks to await the Patriot that never arrived.  It was said to be captured by pirates.

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