Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Disappearance of Theodosia Burr Alston

The disappearance of Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of disgraced U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, is one of history’s continuing mysteries.

Theodosia was considered an intellectual prodigy in a time when women rarely received anything but a marginal education. At the age of eighteen she married James Alston who would become the 44th Governor of South Carolina. In 1807 her father, Aaron Burr was tried for treason, and although found innocent, went into self imposed exile. Theodosia acted as Burr’s agent in America, raising money and raising support among the political elite for his return to America.

In December 1812 Theodosia boarded the schooner Patriot bound from South Carolina to New York. Neither Theodosia nor anyone onboard the Patriot was ever heard from again. Legend has surrounded her disappearance ever since, including tales that: (1) she was captured by pirates and became the mistress of a pirate captain; (2) she was made to “walk the plank” by the pirate Dominique Youx; (3) she was discovered by a Karankawa Indian chief on the Texas Gulf Coast in the hulk of a wrecked ship but died before she could be returned to civilization;and (4) Theodosia Burr Alston may have been the Mysterious Female Stranger who died in Alexandria at Gadsby's Tavern on October 14, 1816. The Female Stranger was buried in St. Paul's Cemetery with a gravestone inscription:

To the Memory of a
whose mortal sufferings terminated
on the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months.
This stone is placed here by her disconsolate
Husband in whose arms she sighed out her
latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death.
How loved how valued once avails thee not
To whom related or by whom begot
A heap of dust alone remains of thee
Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be
To him gave all the Prophets witness that
through his name whosoever believeth in
him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts.10th Chap.43rd verse

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