A Woman that Died of a Broken Heart at the Failure of the King's Cause ‒ How the Alsops Came by their Wealth ‒ Human Flesh and Blood of Less Value than that of Swine ‒ Four Cows that were Worth More than Three Human Beings
The Sunday Eagle of a recent date contained an interesting account of the Alsop mansion, in Newtown, which was supplemented by an interesting history of the Alsop family from 1661 to the present time. The Alsop house was the rendezvous of Cornwallis and Clinton, with their respective staffs, and the country round about was taken up with the army encampments, during the Revolutionary struggle. Richard Alsop himself was devoted to the cause of independence, while his wife was an ardent Tory and died of a broken heart at the failure of the king's cause. That Richard Alsop was ever more than one of the peasantry, or ever acquired that wealth which gave him position and some honor, was one of those accidents of fortune to which some are born heir. His childless uncle made him his sole heir, and thus has come down through many generations the name and character which has always played a prominent part in the history of this State. Richard Alsop kept strict account of his losses by the lusts and recklessness of the British, and it is safe to assume that he was profitably reimbursed. A page of his account books for twenty-four days in September 1776 is preserved, and it is a document of interest. It totals 320 pounds, 15 shillings.
Richard Alsop was designated "Richard F.V." Many of his children had military christenings, and some of them military funerals up the hill to the little cemetery on the farm, which is now a part of Calvary. The last one of his nine children was buried there in 1837. His companions were Robert Blackwell, Daniel Rapelye, Phillip Edsall, Thomas Lawrence, Daniel Lawrence, Jonathan Lawrence, Samuel Moore, William Furman, William Howard, Jeromus Remsen, Samuel Riker, Samuel Morrell and Jonathan Coe, all of whom, with Alsop, signed the document sent out by the Committee of Correspondence in 1774, and which led the British to be suspicious of Alsop; but trusting in the control his wife had over him, they probably regarded him as harmless. He never again did ought to give offense. John Alsop, the cousin of Richard, sat in the Continental Congress of 1774, and, being a distinguished man, royalty grieved over his defection. But both halted at an opportune period, willing to have their future shaped by events. The only child of John Alsop married Rufus King, who became distinguished in American history. Governor John Alsop King was born of this union, and several of the Governor's children have held positions of honor and trust. The second son of Rufus King (Charles) was a member of the legislature in 1813; from 1823 to 1845 he was editor of the New York American, afterward associate editor of the Courier and Enquirer, and from 1849 to 1864 President of Columbia College. He died in Italy in 1867. The present living John Alsop King was a Senator from the First District. Richard King, another son, is cashier of a New York bank. It was his son Richard who blew his brains out at the original family homestead in Jamaica recently. Miss Cornelia King, spinster, resides alone on the homestead, attended by a few servants. John Alsop, the second son of Richard Alsop, and the last to leave the old mansion, was the appraiser of the estate of Thomas Betts, a man very prominent in the history of Newtown, and who was the owner of many slaves at the time of his death. The inventory was filed in Queens County, with Surrogate Robinson, in 1804. It is interesting as showing the value placed upon human flesh and blood in the scale with horses and pigs.
While the slave girl Betty was rated as worth 8 pounds, three hogs were rated worth 10 pounds, and while the man slave Caesar was worth but 15 pounds, the bay horse was worth 20 pounds. The girl Poll was worth but 9 pounds while the mare was worth 12 pounds. Four cows were estimated at a greater value than the three slaves, Caesar, Poll and Betty. Richard Alsop made his will in January 1781. The form of the will affords an opportunity for contrast with the form employed in the present age. Now, all the appertains of a sacred character are the words, "In the name of God, amen." A century or more ago the form as shown by the Alsop will was:
In the name of God, amen. On the 3d day of January 1781, I, Richard Alsop, of Newtown, being in good health, sound mind and perfect memory, thanks be to God for the same, calling to mind the uncertainties of life, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this to be my last will and testament, in manner following: Imprimis, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God, who gave it unto me, and my body unto the earth to be buried in Christianlike and decent manner, nothing doubting but that at the general resurrection, my soul and body will be united again through the mighty power of God.
He gave his wife, Abigail, two slaves, a man and a woman, which she was at liberty to choose from the common stock. His son Thomas was born after the execution of the will, and that he might share equally in the estate a codicil was annexed. William Alsop, one of the descendants, now resides in Fifty-first street, New York. In his house stands the old London clock which struck the hour for Sir Henry Clinton to embark his troops for New York in 1776. Beside it hangs a cutlass worn by Richard Alsop in the first cavalry company of Newtown. There are also some china teacups, a sugar bowl and teapot used in the early history of the family. In 1812 Newtown Creek was regarded as a great naval station and the favored rendezvous of the officers was the Alsop mansion, which the greatest of British generals had occupied. John Alsop was the proprietor in 1812, and he kept open house for Commodore Reid Nicholson and Chauncey. In 1821 John Alsop filled the office of Supervisor of the town. The death of young Richard Alsop, in 1793, before he had completed his 25th year, is commemorated by a locket worked in his own hair. His sister Eliza is represented weeping over the tomb. Alsop is engaged in the lumber business in Florida. When the war broke out he espoused the Federal cause and his plantations were swept away and his slaves liberated. John Alsop, a brother, resides in the town of Huntington.