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Who is Theodosia Burr?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 23, 2024
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Theodosia Burr Alston was born in Albany, New York, in 1783. The only daughter of former US vice-president Aaron Burr, Theodosia Burr spent most of her childhood under the close supervision of her father, who was intent on giving her a superior education. While most young girls of the time studied only music and French, Theodosia Burr also took arithmetic, economics, and Latin.

After her mother died, Theodosia Burr became the official hostess at the stately family home in Greenwich Village. By the age of 14, she was organizing dinners for heads of state, bishops, and the New York City elite. She became well-known as "the child prodigy" of the Burr family.

In 1801, Theodosia Burr married Joseph Alston, a wealthy plantation owner. She moved to South Carolina, where her husband had recently been appointed as governor. The marriage provided a huge financial relief for Aaron Burr, who was going through some rough times, and a social outlet for Theodosia, who became a staple in South Carolina's high society.

Aaron Burr had been plotting for years to form a new empire by getting Louisiana to separate from the States. However, things didn't turn out quite as expected, and he was eventually arrested on charges of treason in 1807. Aaron was acquitted on the condition that he left the country, so he set off for Europe soon after. Theodosia Burr became the ruler of the family estate, managing funds and making sure her father was well set in Europe.

Some years later, Aaron returned to New York, just days after Theodosia's son had died from malarial fever. On 30 December 1812, a heartbroken Theodosia Burr sailed off on The Patriot to meet her father. She never made it. History suggests that the ship was either lost in a storm or captured by pirates, but some believe Theodosia Burr survived the wreck, only to die hours later in the arms of a Karankawa Indian warrior. The ship was never found, but a portrait of Theodosia that was aboard the ship turned up in North Carolina in 1821. Nobody knows how it got there.

Joseph Alston died in 1816 and was buried next to his infant son. Legend holds that the ghost of Theodosia Burr haunts the South Carolina plantation where she used to live and can sometimes be seen floating above the water at Huntington Beach State Park.

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Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.

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Discussion Comments
By jessecody1 — On Apr 17, 2008

My Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandparent was Joseph Alston, Who was the governor of S.C. and Theodosia Burr Alston. I have some info on them but am always looking for more.

By Brenna — On Oct 16, 2007

sesml, my previous post was deleted because it included a website but you can find information about her at Brookgreen Gardens in SC, just south of Murrells Inlet on Hwy 17. The plantation she and her husband lived on is one of the plantations that now make up Brookgreen Gardens. There are tours available also in which you can see the Alston family graveyard where her husband and son are buried, in addition to other wonderful sights. Theodosia herself is believed to have been lost at sea, although some legends believe she survived either the shipwreck during a storm or an attack by pirates and that she lived out her life on the coast of NC unaware of who she was. Good luck!

By sesml — On May 02, 2007

I am intrigued by this woman and was searching for more definitive information not only about the legends of her death but also her life. Any recommendations of where to get more information on her?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
Learn more
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