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The tragic love story of Harmon and Margaret Blennerhassett







The story of Harman and Margaret Blennerhasset is filled with romance, riches, poitical intrigue, adventure and tragedy.

Both Harman and Margaret were born in England. Since they were related, (she was his niece), the family became very upset with their incestuous union. He was 30 and she was 23 at the time of their marriage. Harmon was very talented musically and highly educated. But a dark cloud followed this couple.....

Harmon joined a secret society which was plotting a revolution to free Ireland from British rule. When the plot was discovered, he and Margaret were forced to flee to America.

The Atlantic crossing (1796) was not an easy one, but they finally arrived in New York along with servants, family heirlooms, scientific instruments, books, china, and everything else needed to set up housekeeping in the style to which they had become accustomed. They were determined to live the grand lifestyle they had enjoyed in the old country.

From New York they headed for Philadelphia and then across the mountains to Pittsburgh. But Harmon was anxious to put even more distance between himself and his enemies, so they went even deeper into the Ohio frontier to Marietta.

They soon found the location for the estate they planned to build. It was part of an island in the Ohio River. They proceeded to build their 7000 square foot mansion which took more than two years to complete. They decorated the mansion with fine furniture, works of art and carpets. What they didn't bring with them they bought, spending large amounts of money. They established formal grounds with exotic plants and trees. There were hothouses and flower gardens on a grand scale. All this when most of the Ohio valley residents lived in log cabins with dirt floors.

Things were wonderful for a few years. Harman pursued his scientific interests in his study wing and was also an entrepreneur, operating a store on the island and owning shares in others.

Margaret wrote poetry and was West Virginia's first published poet. She rode horseback around her island and gave cooking lessons to the local ladies. They gave lavish parties, formal balls, teas and salons for visitors near and far. The island was nicknamed "Paradise". To complete the picture, they had four children.

But their storybook lives were about to change....

The first sign of trouble came in 1805 in the person of Aaron Burr, who convinced Harmon to bankroll a scheme that would ruin them all. They were going to set up a separate country in the Southwest by seizing Spanish territory. Of course they were found out, and Harmon was forced to flee once again under the cover of darkness. A few days later, Margaret also fled with the children, never to see her beloved island again.

Harmon was arrested, indicted, and released. The family was reunited but under much poorer circumstances. They traveled down the Mississippi, and tried to run a cotton plantation, but failed. Meanwhile, their beautiful mansion accidentally caught on fire and burned to the ground (1811).

From then on they seemed cursed. They went to Canada, but Harmon was unable to find work, so they went back to England, where his health began to decline. He died in 1831. The poverty-stricken Margaret returned to America to visit her two sons and seek financial aid. But alas, her eldest son, an alcoholic had disappeared, and her youngest, a failed artist, died in poverty as did Margaret herself in 1842. She left behind no fortune or mansion. Just a romantic legend unparalled in American History.

A spooky ending?


It has been said that Margaret's ghost has been seen wandering the island throughout the years. A camper has reported smelling a woman's perfume and seeing a woman come out of the fog. After refusing his offer of coffee, she disappeared the same way she had come.... back into the fog. The next morning he discovered his books had been removed from his knapsack and stacked neatly into piles. Could it be that Margaret has come back to visit the grave of her infant that is buried on the island? Or maybe she just wants to see the new mansion that has taken the place of the one that burned to the ground. Could it be Margaret?.......What do you think?