Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett
Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett (1771 – June 16, 1842) was an
English-American poet and aristocrat.
3 See also
Margaret Agnew was born in 1771, in Bishop Auckland, England. Her
father, Robert Agnew, was the lieutenant governor of the Isle of Man.
Margaret defied social and religious conventions by marrying her
maternal uncle, Harman Blennerhassett, a wealthy Irish aristocrat.
They shared a 7,000-acre estate in
County Kerry until 1795, when their
union and Harman's revolutionary ideals prompted them to sell the
estate and immigrate to America.
Margaret is said to have been above average height with brown hair and
blue eyes. She often wore her hair bound in a silk headdress. She
wrote and spoke French and Italian fluently. She would often accompany
her husband on hunting trips and enjoyed horseback riding.
The couple left London and sailed to New York City in America. Once
there they traveled south to Pittsburgh, PA and then chartered a boat
down the Ohio River. The couple settled briefly in Marietta, Ohio.
In 1797, they purchased 174 acres of land on an island in the upper
Ohio River, in Wood County, Virginia (now West Virginia). The island
is located two miles below present-day Parkersburg, West Virginia, a
town which was named Newport until 1810. This land originally belonged
to George Washington. The 7,000-square foot Blennerhassett Mansion was
constructed between 1798 and 1800. In the meantime, the couple lived
in a blockhouse near their property.
Sketch of the mansion
At the Blennerhassett Mansion, Margaret entertained travelers of the
Ohio Valley in the mansion with dancing, music, and readings of poetry
and Shakespeare. Among the most famous guests was former vice
president Aaron Burr, who sought the financial support of numerous
wealthy landowners including Harman Blennerhassett. Between 1805 and
1806, Harman and Burr took part in a treasonous conspiracy to either
annex Texas or form a new country in the western United States. While
Margaret was in Marietta, Harman and his associates boarded boats and
escaped down the river into the Mississippi Territory. The following
day, the militia of Wood County, Virginia, ransacked the mansion,
despite Margaret's pleas to spare their home. She was forced to flee
down the river with her two children in tow.
Harman Blennerhassett and
Aaron Burr were both arrested and imprisoned
in the Virginia State Penitentiary until they were granted freedom.
The trial in Richmond had exhausted the Blennerhassett's accounts. The
following years were met with financial hardships and moving through
different states and countries. The Blennerhassetts first turned to
growing cotton in Mississippi. During the
War of 1812
War of 1812 embargo, they
relocated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. After Harman tried and failed
at setting up a law firm, he returned to Europe while Margaret and the
children stayed in Montreal.
In 1825, Margaret and her children joined Harman in Europe. Harman
died in 1831. Margaret remained in Europe until 1842, when she and son
Harman Jr., returned to the United States. She petitioned Congress for
restitution for the Blennerhassett Mansion’s destruction. Although a
Senate committee voted in favor of her appeal, she died June 16, 1842,
in a poor house in New York City. The Sisters of Charity buried her in
a New York cemetery.
Together Margaret and Harman had six children. Two sons, Dominic
(1799) and Harman (1803), were born to them during their time on the
island. A baby girl, named Margaret, was also born during their time
on the island but did not survive infancy. Another girl also named
Margaret was born during their time in Mississippi. Their youngest
child, Joseph, was born in 1812.
Their home on the island remained empty for many years before finally
burning to the ground. Between 1984 and 1991, the State of West
Virginia reconstructed the Blennerhassett Mansion on its original
foundations. The mansion and island comprise Blennerhassett Island
Historical State Park. In 1996, the bodies of Margaret and Harman Jr.
were reburied on the land in an historical Episcopal ceremony.
Replica of the mansion on Blennerhassett Island
Margaret is considered the first published poet from what is now West
Virginia. While in Montreal, she published two collections of poetry,
The Deserted Isle in 1822, and The Widow of the Rock and Other Poems
Blennerhassett's life was also the subject of a 1901 novel,
Blennerhassett; or, The Decrees of Fate, by Charles Felton Pidgin.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park
^ a b c Conner, Debra (September 25, 2012). "Margaret Agnew
West Virginia Encyclopedia. West Virginia
Humanities Council. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
^ a b c d Ohio Historical Society (June 21, 2012). "Madame
Blennerhassett portrait". OhioPix. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
^ a b Burke, Micheal (January 1999). "A Chronicle of the Life of
West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly.
West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Retrieved February 14,
^ a b c Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. "Blennerhassett
Mansion". Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. West Virginia
State Parks. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
^ a b c Safford, William H. (1850). The life of Harman Blennerhassett.
Comprising an authentic narrative of the Burr expedition: and
containing many additional facts not heretofore published.
Chillicothe, Ohio: Ely, Allen & Looker. p. 60.
^ Rice, Otis K.; Brown, Stephen W. (1993). "Chapter 6: Adapting to a
New Nation". West Virginia: A History (Second ed.). University Press
of Kentucky. pp. 52–53.
^ a b "
Ohio River baroness returns to her early 18th Century home".
News Tribune & Echo. June 29, 1996. Retrieved February 14, 2016
West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
^ "Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett". Find A Grave. 2008. Retrieved
February 21, 2016.
^ Agnew Blennerhassett, Margaret (1824). The Widow of the Rock and
Other Poems. Montreal.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Volume IV (Eleventh ed.). New York: The
Encyclopædia Britannica Company. 1910. p. 58.
^ Pidgin, Charles Felton (1901). Blennerhassett; or, The decrees of
fate; a romance founded upon events in American history. Boston: