Friday, October 21, 2016

Aaron Burr has an Association--and I'm a Member!

I joined the Aaron Burr Association when I was researching my bio novel about his last wife Eliza. When I started reading about him, I found him more interesting than Hamilton, the subject of my previous book. As history buffs know, it's so easy to get hooked on a historical figure. Every "Ricardian" has a unique story about how they "met" and got hooked on Richard III.
You may know that Aaron killed Hamilton in the most famous duel in US history, in 1804. And then what happened? Hamilton died 2 days later, and Aaron (Thomas Jefferson's Vice President) went into exile for a while. When he returned to Washington D.C. he made a speech that didn't leave a dry eye in the house.
The Association is made up of history buffs like me, and many members are Aaron's relatives.
This year, the Association had their meeting in the Bordentown, NJ area. We stayed in Hamilton NJ (what are the odds), and toured many historical sites. The Bordentown County Times sent some reporters to join us, and here's a reprint of the article that just appeared, with a video.

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Bordentown City visit has Aaron Burr Association seeking family history


BORDENTOWN CITY — A small garden in downtown here recently drew the attention of a national nonprofit group seeking a bit of family history.
Members of the Aaron Burr Association gathered at the corner of Crosswicks Street and Farnsworth Avenue, where a hardware store once stood. But the lack of a structure, as well as a morning drizzle, didn’t dampen the appreciation association members had for the location’s significance.
Demolished in the mid-20th century, the store was owned by Samuel Burr, a cousin of the historically famous dueler and then-U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. However, it also was the young city’s social and commercial epicenter, according to ABA member Doug Kiovsky, of Princeton, the tour’s guide.
“Bordentown City was an up and coming town, just before the Civil War,” said Kiovsky.
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Members of the Aaron Burr Association take a walking tour down Crosswicks Street.
Dorann Weber
The business’ popularity was rivaled only by the post office, according to a memoir written by the owner’s son, ABA founder Samuel Burr Jr. The book, Kiovsky said, indicated that the store sold dry goods, linens, tools and animal feed, as well as telephone service and fire insurance later on.
The store’s site was one of the stops along the tour that brought to Burlington County Burr family members and descendants, scholars and others with an interest in the history and genealogy of the clan.
Founded in 1946, the association’s mission is to preserve Aaron Burr’s legacy as a student, soldier, lawyer, politician, arts patron, educator, banker and family man, rather than his role in the 1804 duel that killed former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
The group meets annually at locations with a connection to the Aaron Burr family, as well as to Hamilton. Past meetings have been held in diverse places, such as Connecticut, Charleston, South Carolina, and Saratoga, New York.
“This is the first time we’ve been to Bordentown,” said ABA president Stuart Fisk Johnson, a Burr family descendant. “Next year, we’re going to Center City Philadelphia.”
Samuel Burr was a cousin of Aaron Burr. According to Kiovsky, he plied his trade at a family member’s store in Moorestown before moving to Bordentown City and purchasing his business. He, his wife and children were also heavily involved in the community through their various careers and volunteer work.
Bordentown Cemetery was the beginning of the local tour. Samuel Burr and his family are buried at the site, and his wife Anna served as president of the Bordentown Cemetery Association during her lifetime.
The tour group later stopped at the Clara Barton Schoolhouse, a one-room structure that served as the country’s first public school. Although the Burr children did not attend the school, Samuel Burr did correspond in writing with Barton, a teacher and founder of the American Red Cross, and they shared an educational ideology, according to Kiovsky.
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Douglas Kiovsky tells the group the history of the one-room  Clara Barton Schoolhouse.
Dorann Weber
“He met her in Washington, D.C.,” the tour guide added.
Stops at Old City Hall, the Francis Hopkinson House and a pizza lunch at The Vault restaurant gave the tourists opportunities to learn more about the family and the city it helped grow. The Vault is housed in a former bank whose president was Sarah Burr, a descendant of Samuel Burr.
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Bordentown City's Old City Hall was one of the many stops along the walking tour.
Dorann Weber
The tour was part of a week-long gathering that included visits to the Peachfield plantation in Westampton, the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton and Andalusia, a historic home in Pennsylvania. The group's annual business meeting was held in Mount Holly, at the home of Burr descendant Judy Gauntt.
Moorestown native Anna Burr Root was among the touring guests who traveled a distance to attend the ABA  gathering. While visiting the region, the Clifton Park, New York, resident said she planned to show her daughter where she grew up and learn more about their family history.
“Historians know a lot more than I do,” she said. “I enjoy the camaraderie and seeing the places.”
In addition to knowing the Burr genealogy and seeing sites related to the family, Johnson said the ABA tours help create awareness for the group’s mission.
“We’re concerned with correcting the (legacy) of Aaron Burr,” he said.
Johnson and other association members said they hope people will look closer at the duel with Hamilton to better understand the facts of the incident and to learn about Burr’s many attributes.
“Aaron Burr was one of the first feminists, advocating for women’s education,” he added. “Theodosia, his daughter, spoke six languages. He had her educated like a wealthy man.”
Johnson said Burr also was a Patriot, served as a military colonel and fought in the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War.
According to Johnson, Burr ironically saved Hamilton’s life by leading him to safety during a battle and was a member of an anti-slavery society that his dueling partner founded.
As for the infamous incident in Weehawken, Burr family members say their famous ancestor may not have meant to kill Hamilton. Research has shown that the dueling pistols supplied by Hamilton had hair triggers that may not have been known to Burr.
“Hamilton may have fired prematurely,” said Johnson.


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