Theodocia Burr Alston (1802) by John Vanderlyn
Referring back to the 2nd part/post here regarding the family of the Rev. James Porter, his grand-daughter Anne Porter, the daughter of Alexander Porter of Oaklawn Manor Plantation married in April of 1840, William Ashe Alston. The Alstons were a very powerful & wealthy planter family from the Georgetown area of South Carolina who generation upon generation increased their properties up until the Civil War.
Below is some of the genealogy of this family, however in this post I will be predominantly focusing on Joseph Alston Jr. born 1779, who was Governor of South Carolina.
I. Joseph Alston married Charlotte Rothmahler and they had (among others):
II. William Alston b. 1756 SC d. married Mary Ash b. 1759 d. They had:
III. : 1) Marie Alston b. 1779
*2) Joseph Alston b. 1779 see below
3) John Ash Alston b. 1780
*4) William Algernon Alston b. 1782
5) Charlotte Alston b. 1784
IV. *2) Joseph Alston b. 1779 Murrell’s Inlet, SC d. 1816 SC married in 1801 Theodocia Burr daughter of 3rd Vice President of the U.S. Aaron Burr (1756-1836) and Theodosia Bartow Prevost (1746–1794) Story Continues below.
1) Aaron Burr Alston
*4) William Algernon Alston b.1782 d.1860 married Mary Alston and had:
1 )Joseph Alston (1809-1861)
2) Josephine Alston (1810-1834)
*3) William Ashe Alston (1812-1842) married Anne Porter
4) Mary Ashe Alston (1812- )
5) Theodosius Alston (1813 -)
6) John Ashe Alston (1816-1858)
7) Anna Louisa Alston (1820-1905)
8) Charlotte Maria Alston (1820-1896)
V. *3) William Ashe Alston born 1812 in SC died NYC 1842 married in Franklin, Louisiana, Anne Porter daughter of Alexander Porter of Oaklawn Manor Plantation.
“Up the Waccamaw, only a few miles from Georgetown, is “Rose Hill,” the estate of the late Colonel William Ashe Alston. The founder of the American branch of this family was William, who came to this country in the early part of the eighteenth century. He married Esther La Bruce. In 1775, his son Joseph Alston married Charlotte Rothmahler. A son of this marriage, William Alston, named after his grandfather William, was the first to spell the name with one “l” probably to distinguish themselves from the other “Allston” branches that were predominantly in North Carolina.
William Alston, grandson of the founder, was first wedded to Mary Ashe, daughter of General Ashe, of North Carolina (from whom Asheville is named), and afterward married Mary, the daughter of Jacob Motte. At “Rose Hill,” the residence of his son William (by his first marriage), there hung at one time a beautiful life-size painting of this family, including William Alston, his wife Mary Ashe, and their five children.”
At the home of her father Aaron Burr, on February 2, 1801, Theodosia Burr age 17, married Joseph Alston age 22 a wealthy and cultured South Carolina rice planter. They afterward briefly stayed at Burr’s Richmond Hill mansion, and then traveled to Washington, where they watched Aaron Burr inaugurated as Vice President of the United States on March 4, 1801. The couple then continued south to The Oaks, Alston’s ancestral home on the Waccamaw River near Georgetown, S.C. That summer, escaping South Carolina’s heat & humidity they returned to upstate New York where the Alston’s had their “official” honeymoon in Niagara Falls, and are believed to be to be the first couple on record to do so.
Joseph Alston first came into public notice by his marriage with Theodosia Burr. Joseph was a gentleman of talent and culture, as his subsequent career proved. Inheriting considerable property, he was not impelled by want of means to make strenuous efforts for fame or fortune. His admission to the bar was the extent of his legal progression. Not until after his marriage, when he imbibed some of the ambition of his father-in law, Aaron Burr (who he corresponded with on a regular basis), do we find him in the political arena. “Theodosia was now in the zenith of life, the daughter of the Vice-President of the United States and the wife of the soon to be Governor of South Carolina. Rarely cultivated (for the time period – her father was very keen on women being educated), and accustomed to entertain at an early age, the guests that gathered around her (widowed) father’s table. None were more intellectually capable of filling the high positions she occupied in her native and adopted States.”
From “Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly” Article titled “In the Lowlands of South Carolina”p. 287 Jan.1. 1891
Connected with the best families of the South by marriage and association, Theodosia and Joseph Alston lived in South Carolina and had their only child Aaron Burr Alston in 1802. As mentioned, Theodosia Alston was the only (legitimate) daughter of Vice President Aaron Burr and by 1804 his political career was entering crisis mode. Jefferson had dropped Burr as his running mate for the 1804 election and he was being heavily criticized on personal and political levels by many other politicians – chiefly Alexander Hamilton. This led to the famous duel July 11, 1804 in which Aaron Burr shot and murdered Hamilton.
Burr’s political career was in shambles after this and he continued to involve himself in conspiracies (there will be more on Burr in the next post) to the extent that he left the US for Europe and only returned to New York in July 1812.
Theodosia, who was eagerly awaiting the reunion with her father, was to go to New York, but tragically her 10 year old son Aaron Alston had succumbed to a fever and died on June 30, 1812. Heartbroken, her grief nearly killed her. Meanwhile, her husband was sworn in as Governor of S.C., and for this reason he could not join her on the journey to New York City. So, she waited until December to make the trip.
On December 31, 1812, her father sent a friend with medical knowledge to accompany her on the ship Patriot leaving Georgetown, S.C. for New York City. The War of 1812 is on and the Patriot was a fast-sailing Privateer most likely making a rapid run to New York with its cargo. It is likely that the ship was laden with the proceeds from its privateering raids.
It never reached its destination.The fate of Theodosia Alston and all on-board the ship Patriot remains a sad mystery: no survivor returned to tell whether it had been victim of a storm, pirates or Carolina “Bankers” (Outerbanks gangs that would lure ships to wreck, and then they would kill the passengers and take the cargo.) The only documented evidence was on Jan. 2, 1813 when a British fleet had stopped the Patriot off Cape Hatteras.
Lore claims that Theodosia was carrying a portrait of herself as a gift for her father, and here is where the speculation of what happened to her gets fairly creative. There were several death bed confessions, a couple of pirates claimed responsibility -two of those supposedly made her “walk the plank.” That is assuming you could trust the pirate to tell the truth.
A New York paper some time since revived the story by giving an account of a lady in North Carolina who had in her possession a portrait of Theodosia. It was given her by an old lady (on her death bed…), who prized it very highly as one of the many things obtained by her husband some years before out of a vessel that came on shore under very extraordinary circumstances within a mile of their home in North Carolina. Another version of the tale has the old woman giving the painting to a Doctor for payment for services rendered.
All that is known about the Patriot and all those on board is that they were never heard from again.
Theodosia was 29 years old when she disappeared, leaving both a grieving husband (who would live only 3 more years) and a devastated father to mourn her loss.