Ladies of the Six and Twenty Club met Friday afternoon, July 29 at the historic red brick house on West Main Street with Theresa Rembert serving as hostess. P
resident Cindy Petrich called the meeting to order with members answering roll call with quotations. Secretary Mindy Henson read the minutes from the previous meeting and Marsha Wagstaff then presented the historical minutes from a July, 1997 meeting.
The leader for the afternoon’s program was Mary Driscoll, who introduced her club book for 2022, “The Pioneers,” authored by the famous American historian David McCullough. The book chronicles settling the Ohio frontier and is based on historical letters that have been preserved in the library at Marietta College.
For Mrs. Driscoll’s program, she chose to review the life of Margaret Blennerhassett, wife of the infamous Harman Blennerhassett who settled in the new western frontier in the late 1700s.
Margaret was born in England in 1771 and was educated in France, studying several languages and the arts. She then made one of the most fateful decisions of her life by marrying her uncle, Harman. Their marriage was considered incestuous by the church and by their families, so they sought a new life by sailing to America.
They settled in Marietta, a thriving town on the Ohio River. Harman had inherited his father’s large estate, well over $4 million in today’s currency, and the citizens of Marietta eagerly welcomed the young wealthy couple.
Margaret had great compassion for children and introduced the smallpox vaccine to children in community. She and her husband adopted a French son from Gallipolis which was the first known adoption in the Ohio Valley.
Her husband’s involvement with Aaron Burr’s conspiracy to form a new country in the western United States was the beginning of their downfall. After he fled in fear for his life, Margaret and their three children remained on the island while the Virginia Militia ransacked the mansion. Both financially and emotionally ruined, they attempted to farm a cotton plantation in Mississippi but failed. They moved to Montreal where he failed again as an attorney.
Margaret turned to writing poetry to support herself and deal with her heartaches. In one of her first published poems, “The Desert Isle,” she mourns and yearns for her beloved island home.
She eventually petitioned Congress for compensation for the destruction of their home but died in a New York City poor house before the funds were approved.
In 1992 the North Parkersburg Kiwanis Club decided to return Margaret to the island she adored. After an arduous four-year undertaking, they brought Margaret and her son Harman Jr. back to the island and buried them in a garden near the restored mansion in what is now, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.
After the meeting adjourned, the hostess graciously invited members to enjoy refreshing raspberry, peach and chocolate sorbet sundaes with accompanying toppings.