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Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett


Margaret Agnew Blennerhassett, wife of Harman Blennerhassett, was born in the northern England town of Bishop Auckland in 1771. She lived from 1800 to 1806 in a grand 16-room mansion she and her husband had constructed on an Ohio River island near present Parkersburg. The Blennerhassetts attempted to bring refinement to the rugged frontier country. Margaret, a poet and skilled hostess, entertained her guests with music and dancing, readings in French, and recitations from Shakespeare. Tall and athletic, she was an accomplished horsewoman and strong enough to walk the 12 miles to Marietta. In 1805, she returned from Philadelphia with the smallpox vaccine, which she used to inoculate her own children and the children of local families. Following an ill-fated alliance with Aaron Burr, she and her family were forced to flee their island home in 1806. Margaret died in poverty in New York City, June 16, 1842. She and her son, Harman Jr., were reburied on Blennerhassett Island in 1996.

Written by Debra Conner


  1. Swick, Ray. An Island Called Eden: An Historical Sketch of Blennerhassett Island near Parkersburg, West Virginia, 1798-1807. Parkersburg Printing, 1996.

  2. Conner, Debra. Margaret's Ghost: And Other True and Tragic Stories of Blennerhassett Island. Parkersburg, WV: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.