Alexander Macomb, Sr. (1748 - 1831)

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Birthplace: Ballyclare, County Antrim, Ireland
Death: Died in Washington, D.C., United States
Managed by: Erica Howton, (c)
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About Alexander Macomb, Sr.



In 1755, Alexander emigrated to Albany, NY with his parents John and Jane Gordon Macomb,brother William and sister Jane. He and his brother subsequently migrated to Detroit, where on May 4, 1773,Alexander married Mary Catherine Navarre. In 1776, he and brother William purchased several islands in the vicinity of Detroit, including Grosse Ile. In 1785, he moved his wife and 8 children to New York City and engaged in shipping and land speculation in New York and elsewhere. He built a fine home for them at #7 Broadway. In July 1787 their daughter Anne Phister died at age 12. His beloved Catherine died there Nov. 17, 1789. I have spent much time seeking her burial place in NYC, to no avail. There is no record of reinterrment from NYC to Georgetown. ". . .history of the Presbyterian Burial Ground of Georgetown. . .was in use between about 1802 and 1887. In 1907 it was converted into the playground now known as Volta Place Park. Some remains were moved to other cemeteries,. . ."

Alexander moved to his country place at Broadway and 230th St. in King's Bridge where son Robert and family lived. He rented his #7 Broadway home to the French Ambassador. In Feb.1790 it was briefly the 1st "White House" of Pres. Washington before the Federal Capitol was moved to Philadelphia that summer.

In 1791, A. Macomb, Sr., bought 3,670,715 acres at about one shilling (one eighth of a dollar) an acre, on St. Lawrence River, including all the Thousand Islands that belonged to New York. This tract is known as "Macomb's Purchase" and later became Jefferson County. On July 11 of that year, he married Jane Marshall Rucker at Trinity Church in NYC. They had 7 children, all born in NYC.

Negative financial surprises plagued him, at one time landing him in debtor's prison in NYC. By 1822, they were living in Washinton, DC in a home provided by the seventh child of his first marriage,Gen. Alexander Macomb (FindaGrave #12936).

Alexander, Sr. was buried in Georgetown 1831 and was reinterred at ANC, with his second wife, Jane Marshall Rucker Macomb on May 12, 1892. A number of other family members were moved at the same time and rest in adjacent or nearby plots. His, son General A. Macomb, was buried at the Congressional Cemetery in June 1842 with his first wife Catherine Macomb Macomb; she had been reinterred from Georgetown Presbyterian Burial Ground to his vault.

-------------------- Alexander Macomb (1748–1831) was a prosperous American merchant and land speculator, who purchased nearly four million acres from New York after the American Revolutionary War. A Loyalist sympathizer, he operated from New York City after the war. Before the New York purchase, he had speculated on land in North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia. He was unable to sell the New York land fast enough to meet his debts and never regained his fortune.

In Detroit, Michigan during the American Revolution, Macomb and his brother William continued their fur trade with British and Native Americans. They traded supplies in exchange for furs.

After the war, Macomb moved to New York City, where he became a successful land speculator and shipping magnate. He purchased large tracts of land in Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina for resale. In 1788, he built a city house on Broadway. In 1790 the US government leased the New York City house to serve as the second presidential mansion, occupied by George Washington after the first presidential mansion on Cherry Street proved too small.

In 1791, Alexander Macomb purchased the largest tract yet, from the State of New York, 3,670,715 acres (14,855 km²), since known as "Macomb's Purchase." The tract included much of northern New York, along the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario, including the Thousand Islands, at a cost of about twelve cents an acre. It was land which the state took control of after the British ceded their and Iroquois lands to the United States. Four of the six Iroquois tribes had been allied with the British.

The purchase was divided into ten large townships. From this purchase are derived the deeds for all the lands that are now included in Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Franklin counties, as well as portions of Herkimer and Oswego counties.

Macomb's enterprise was a failure; contrary to his expectations, sales of land did not keep pace with the due dates for payments. During the Panic of 1792, which further depressed land sales, Macomb was taken to debtor's prison with over $300,000 in debt. He never regained his fortune. Some land speculators later made money from their turnover of New York lands.

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Alexander Macomb, Sr.'s Timeline

July 27, 1748
Ballyclare, County Antrim, Ireland
March 7, 1774
Age 25
April 3, 1782
Age 33
Detroit, MI, USA
December 28, 1783
Age 35
Detroit, Wayne, MI, USA
September 9, 1797
Age 49
New York, United States
December 3, 1802
Age 54
New York, NY, USA
January 19, 1831
Age 82
Washington, D.C., United States
Age 82
Arlington, Arlington, VA, USA