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A small pencil sketch, with the words, " Andrew Fresneau's House 1756. Cor. Pearl and Wall streets," which goes to prove that he lived there in that year, and a statement that he died in the same locality, are all the data we possess in regard to his later life. The house seems to have been a large and handsome one for that time, but when the family removed there from the vicinity of Bowling Green is not known; most probably it was when the tide of fashion began its northward march. Time has obliterated the date of his death from the vault in which he was most probably buried.
The fate of André's two sisters is very remarkable. Marie, the eldest, was two years older than Marguerite; and between the dates of their deaths, which we find in an old note-book, there was an interval of precisely two years; consequently both died at the same age, that of twenty-two years, and of the same disease, that of the heart. One died in October of the year 1736, the other in the same month of 1738.
A note adds that they were both beautiful; and that each died shortly before the time appointed for her marriage; the one, with a son of her father's business associate, Etienne Delancey; the other, to a member of the Desbrosses family.
Pierre Freneau married Agnes Watson in the year 1748. All that we know of this lady's early life is that she was twenty years of age at the time of her marriage, and that she was related to John Fanning Watson, the antiquary.
Thomas Louis died at the early age of three months, and François married Helen Provost, a relative of the Right Reverend Samuel Provost. Some writers have said the lady was his daughter, but this is not very probable, as François was many years older than Bishop Provost. She may have been his sister or aunt.
François had no children.
In Bishop Provost was united French and Dutch ancestry. His father was of Huguenot descent and his mother was Eve, daughter of Herman Bleecker. He was one of the first seven graduates of King's, now Columbia, College, New York City. His class was that of 1758. It is said that, although he was the youngest of all the graduates of that year, he carried off the honors. He afterwards entered Cambridge College, England, having for private tutor John Jebb, a scholar of great attainments, and one in favor of civil, as well as religious liberty. Provost was ordained in King's College, Whitehall; and, after his ordination, married the daughter of Thomas Bousfield, a wealthy Irish banker.'
Mr. Provost was appointed assistant minister in Trinity Church, but resigned in the year 1774 on account of his political sentiments. He was proposed as a delegate to the Provincial Congress, but declined it, as also the offer of chaplaincy to the Convention of 1777, which met to consider the great Constitution.
After the evacuation of the city by the British, in 1784, he was unanimously elected rector of Trinity Church, and was one of the Board of Regents of the University. He was appointed chaplain to the Continental Congress in 1785. He received the title of D.D. from the Pennsylvania University in 1786, and in the following year went to England for his consecration, which took place in Lambeth Palace.
In 1789 he was chaplain to the United States Senate and officiated in the services held in St. Paul's Church, New York, at the inauguration of Washington as first President of the United States. He was also one of the trustees of Columbia College. He
1 Mr. Bousfield's son Benjamin was a member of the Irish Parliament, and wrote an able reply to Edmund Burke's celebrated work on the French Revolution.
died of apoplexy in the year 1815, and was buried in Trinity churchyard. As a scholar, Bishop Provost was versed in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and German, and conversed fluently in French and Italian. It has been said that he translated Tasso into the vernacular. His sermons were full of character and force; he is said to have had no peer among American contemporaries. He was so indifferent to literary reputation that he never permitted his sermons to be printed.
In his funeral eulogy it was said of him that what he undertook was to be admired as glorious; what he performed, to be commended as profitable; and wherein he failed is to be excused as pardonable.1
Pierre Freneau resided in Frankfort Street after his marriage, and there his eldest son, Philip Morin Freneau, the poet, was born. In the year of Philip's birth, Pierre bought an estate of one thousand acres in Monmouth County, New Jersey, upon which he built a residence, naming it Mount Pleasant, after the residence of his grandfather in La Rochelle.
Here he removed when Philip was in his second year, and interested himself in the care of his increasing family and in the improvement of the estate. Some of the trees planted by him are still standing. Most of these were locusts, which formed a grove around the house. Here all his children except Philip were born, and their names were registered in his own handwriting, thus:
Philip Morin Freneau born Jan. 2d O.S. 1752
" April 5th "April 3d
Margaret Allaire Freneau" Feb. 27th
Pierre died in the year 1767, and was buried in the family vault in Trinity churchyard, along with his
parents and brothers and sisters. The vault has never since been opened for an interment.
It is most unfortunate that, owing, first, to the British occupancy of New York during the Revolution; secondly, to the disastrous fire of 1776 which destroyed Trinity Church; and thirdly, to the fact that a family burying-ground was laid out in Mount Pleasant,-the vaults of the family in the city were forgotten until it was too late to decipher the inscriptions.
Would that Old Mortality had lived in those days or that there had been some other to do his work!
"Aunt Allaire" dying in the year 1779, a buryingground was selected in a grove of locust trees, and named from that fact "Locust Grove Cemetery;" and she was laid therein. Her death was not entered in the old Bible until some years later. It is in Philip's handwriting and runs thus:
"1779 Aunt Allaire was the first buried in the Locust Grove, on the south side of my mother's grave.'
Mrs. Freneau did not long remain a widow. A few years after Pierre's death she married Major James Kearny, a member of the New Jersey family of which General Philip Kearny is a descendant.
It is probably not universally known that Keyport, in the northern part of New Jersey, was named from that family. It was at first called K-port, then Kearnyport, and finally it was spelled in the way it is at present. It is a singular coincidence that Philip's stepfather should also be the grandfather of his granddaughter's husband.
Major Kearny died a few years after his marriage, and left Philip's mother again a widow. She did not marry again. Her death is thus registered in the old Bible: "Died on the 18th of October, 1817, Agnes Kearny in her ninety-first year, born of Richard and Margaret Watson in the year 1727 April the twenty
third. She survived her first husband, Pierre Freneau, fifty years and one day; her second, James Kearny, nearly forty-five years. She was interred in Locust Grove, the family burying-ground, on the twentieth of October. Her funeral sermon preached by Mr. Dubois from the words in Rev. chapt. 14th, verse 13."
Of Philip and Peter, we will speak later on. Mary, the eldest daughter, was said by her brother Philip to be "as pure as an angel." She was said to be beautiful and accomplished, for those days. James Madison, afterwards president of the United States, and in early days a college, class, and room mate, as well as confidential friend, of her brother Philip in Nassau Hall, Princeton, told the latter, confidentially, that he admired her more than any woman he had ever seen; and, during his vacation visits to Mount Pleasant, formed an acquaintanceship that ripened into something more on his part. He made proposals of marriage to her, but, although she admired and respected him, she preferred to lead a single life, and could never be induced to alter her decision.
Mary lived to an advanced age, spending most of her time with her dearly loved younger sister Margaret, whom she speedily followed to the grave. Her brother Philip recorded her death in these words: "Mary Freneau, eldest daughter of Peter Freneau and Agnes Watson, died at Newburgh, New York State, on Thursday evening, Jan. 22d, 1829. This truly worthy woman was born in her father's house at Mount Pleasant, near Middleton Point, on the 10th of September, 1754, and at the time of her decease was well advanced in her 75th year. She was virtuous and innocent as an angel, and if there is any happiness in another life for the upright she certainly enjoys it. Farewell.
"By the attention and care of her relative John S.