Everyone has heard of the popular Broadway musical Hamilton, and many local residents were fortunate enough to see the touring production when it visited Pittsburgh this past January.
Did you know that one of the main characters in the show has a connection to the Beaver area?
Aaron Burr is a main character in the show, serving as the antagonist of the show against Alexander Hamilton. He was a man with a checkered political resume: a revolutionary war hero, US Senator, state Attorney General and eventually the third Vice President of the United States from 1801-1805. Before his term of Vice Presidency was over, he engaged in a duel in New Jersey with Alexander Hamilton even though duels were illegal there. Burr fatally shot Hamilton and was charged with multiple crimes, including murder. All charges were dropped but this incident did not help Burr’s already negative political reputation.
Despite the turmoil, Burr was able to complete his term of Vice President. Upon leaving office, it is alleged that Burr took action on his plan to create an independent country in the center of North America. Though officially Burr stated his intention was to farm land in the area now occupied by Texas, historians believe he had made connections with both the British and Spanish governments and was recruiting people to make his plan a reality. Some accounts say he had only 40 supporters, while others believe he had closer to 7,000 men.
We do know that Burr made his way to Pittsburgh in 1805 to start his voyage down the Ohio river. At that time, the upper part of Bridgewater was still known as Sharon, and was the scene of a part of Aaron Burr’s operations. From 1805-06 Burr had a number of boats built in Sharon for use in his expedition down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans. It is believed that he himself actually visited the spot to inspect the work.
The boats constructed for this expedition were similar in style to the old keel boats, but covered tightly for weatherproofing. Some called them “arks,” or “Orleans Boats.” The boats were sixty to seventy feet in length, and were capable of holding a large cargo.
Unfortunately, nothing remains of the boatyards today.
Burr was eventually arrested and charged with treason for assembling an armed force to take New Orleans and separate the Western form the Atlantic states. Burr was acquitted due to lack of evidence, but the arrest and trial had basically derailed any continued political future.