Tea with Aaron Burr’s Aunt– Susan Johnson’s Diary, part 3

At the Connecticut Historical Society, I continued to read Susan Johnson’s diary from her visit to the North Carolina coast in 1800 and 1801. Today, in part 3, I’m looking at her visit with Aaron Burr’s aunt in New Bern. 

By November 25, 1800, Susan Johnson had arrived in New Bern, N.C., not far from where I grew up. Her husband, Samuel William Johnson, met her there. They had last seen one another two months earlier, when he left their home in Stratford, Conn. to travel to North Carolina.

During that time, he had been building gristmills and lumber mills and hewing a plantation out of Peter Mallet’s lands 100 miles to the south— and living, as Susan wrote in one of her letters, in his “solitary hut,” the windowless log cabin by the Black River.

After their first night together, Susan rose early and joined her first cousin Frances Pollock Devereux, their hostess.

In her diary she wrote:

“A fine morning. Mrs. D— & myself took a walk, to see a little of the town; it is situated on a point between two rivers the Trent on the south [and] the Nuce [Neuse] on the north. The town is in general well built, but the houses are principally small; a small church, neat & in good repair…. There is an elegant court house building, & a theater….

“My Aunt Hunt”

Later that day Susan had tea with “my Aunt Hunt.”  This was Frances Devereux’s mother, Eunice Edwards Pollock Hunt (1743-1822), who we first met in my last post.

Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758)-- mother of Aaron Burr, sister of Eunice Edwards Pollock Hunt and aunt of our diarist, Susan Johnson. From Jeremiah E. Rankin, Esther Burr's Journal (Howard University Print, 1901).

Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758)– mother of Aaron Burr, sister of Eunice Edwards Pollock Hunt and aunt of our diarist, Susan Johnson. From Jeremiah E. Rankin, Esther Burr’s Journal (Howard University Print, 1901).

She was the sister of Susan’s father and, like him, was a child of the great New England preacher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, and of his wife, the Puritan mystic, Sarah Pierpont Edwards.

After Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ deaths, their oldest son and his wife took Eunice and possibly some of the family’s other younger children into their household in Elizabethtown, New Jersey.

That son, Timothy Edwards (1738-1813), was a stern young Princeton grad who studied the law and later become a judge.  He and his family lived in Elizabethtown (now “Elizabeth”) from 1757 to 1770.

Growing up with Aaron Burr

That household, by the way, also included Aaron Burr, Jr., the future U.S. senator, vice-president of the U.S. and of course the man that killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804.

Aaron Burr, oil painting by John Vanderlyn, ca. 1802-09. Courtesy, New York Historical Society

Aaron Burr, oil painting by John Vanderlyn, ca. 1802-09. Courtesy, New York Historical Society

Eunice and Timothy Edwards’ sister, Esther, was Aaron Burr’s mother. Aaron Burr, Sr. died in 1757. So after Esther died of smallpox in 1758, Timothy became Aaron and his sister Sally’s guardian.

Aaron Burr was only 4 years old when he entered the Edwards household. He remained there until he left for Princeton.

Apparently he did not take well to his uncle Timothy’s strict ways: more than once, he ran away and tried to go to sea.

Married to Thomas Pollock III

Eunice married her first husband in Elizabethtown in 1764. He was Thomas Pollock III of New Bern. As I mentioned in my last post, he was one of the wealthiest planters and merchants and one of the largest slaveholders in the state of North Carolina.

By the 1760s, he had at least a summer residence in Elizabethtown, which is how he came to meet Eunice.

One source, a 19th-century compilation of biographies of Princeton alumni, indicates that he had actually left New Bern and moved to Elizabethtown year-round by that time.

According to his Princeton biography, Thomas Pollock III came to Elizabethtown sometime in the early 1760s. Like so many of the wealthy owners of enslaved people in coastal North Carolina, he sought relief from what he considered the unhealthy climate on his plantations.

Before he died in 1777, he and Eunice had 5 children, including a son named George. George Pollock grew up to become an intimate friend of his cousin Aaron Burr and the largest slaveholder in North Carolina.

His land and the enslaved people who worked his fields stretched across at least Craven, Bertie, Chowan and Halifax counties.

Susan Johnson’s New Bern cousin, Frances Pollock Devereux, was the only one of the five children, however, that had offspring.

All of her brothers and sisters also predeceased her, which was the single most important reason that she inherited so much of the Pollock family’s fortune. From her brother George alone, she inherited over 1,500 enslaved African American men, women and children.

Settling in New Bern

Several years after Thomas Pollock III’s death, Eunice married again.  Her second husband was Robert Hunt, about whom little seems to be known except that he was also from Elizabethtown, N.J.

I’m not sure if Eunice and Robert Hunt moved south together or if Eunice only relocated to New Bern after his death in the late 1780s.

... and actor Leslie Odom, Jr., at the Grammy Awards in 2016. He was Aaron Burr in the original cast of the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton."

… and actor Leslie Odom, Jr., at the Grammy Awards in 2016. He was Aaron Burr in the original cast of the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

However, she did ultimately move to New Bern, though I wouldn’t be surprised if she still continued to “summer” in New Jersey.

When she was in North Carolina, she sometimes stayed at the Pollock family’s winter estate, Runaroi plantation on the Roanoke River in Bertie County.

But more frequently, she resided at her first husband’s town house in New Bern, which is where Susan Johnson and her “Aunt Hunt” had tea that late November day in 1800.

Next time– more on Susan Johnson’s diary from New Bern, Fayetteville and Wilmington.

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