The recent headlines that appeared in an August 24 Washington Post article, and subsequently appeared in numerous newspapers throughout the area, read: "Aaron Burr-Villain of ‘Hamilton’-had a secret family of color, new research shows."


The article’s author, Hannah Natanson, wrote about Law Professor emeritus, Sherri Burr, a Princeton University graduate, who became a member of the Aaron Burr Association, described as, "a Maryland-based society of descendants and history buffs that works to understand and promote Aaron Burr’s life and legacy."


Following many years of research, Sherri Burr concluded that John Pierre Burr, from whom she descends, was a legitimate son of Aaron Burr. Sherri Burr also used genetic testing that found ties between her DNA and that of Stuart Fisk Johnson, president of the Aaron Burr Association and a Burr descendant as well.


What prompted local interest in the article is the paragraph that read: "the most compelling proof, however, may be the plot of land in Warwick, N.Y., that Aaron Burr bought and placed in John Pierre’s name so he could build a house, Johnson said. Members of the association unearthed the property deed outlining the transaction a few years ago."


Village of Warwick Historian Sue Gardner, who conceded she has received numerous queries since the article first appeared, can neither approve, or, disapprove this statement, but in her opinion the whole situation is, "much ado about nothing." An email sent to Johnson asking for the Deed Book and Page Number has yet to be received.


According to the article, Burr, while compiling information for a recent book, "Complicated Lives: Free Blacks in Virginia, 1639-1865." uncovered information that led her to conclude that her ancestor, John Pierre Burr, was indeed a son of Aaron Burr.


Reportedly, John Pierre Burr’s mother was a "woman of color", Mary Emmons, who hailed from Kolkata, India, and, as reported by Natanson, "came to the United States to work as a servant in the household of British officer Jacques Marcus Prevost and Theodosia Bartow Prevost, who --after a secret affair and Jacques Prevost’s death -- became the wife of Aaron Burr."


The article continues that, "when Theodosia married Burr and moved to a new home in New York in the early 1780s, Emmons followed her. That’s likely where she got to know Aaron Burr..." It is guessed that Burr’s first child with Emmons, Louisa Charlotte, was born about 1788 and John Pierre about 1792.


What prompts area residents’ curiosity, however, is not so much the biological biracial children as the question why would Aaron Burr purchase land for his son in Warwick, N.Y.? Were there any connections in the area?


There may have been. Records reflect that members of the Burr family were residing in adjoining present-day Vernon Township prior to the Revolutionary War. The 1774 tax ratable list shows Jehu Burr as the owner of 20 acres of land and eight cattle. The 1793 militia list shows a David Burr residing in Vernon. Also, records recorded in Newton show that on Oct. 26, 1793, Samuel Brooks, attorney for Aaron Burr, transferred land to Azariah Martin. The land is described as being located on the west side of Pochuck Mountain, beginning at a black ash tree on the northeast side of Spring Brook containing 63 70/100 aces of land that had been surveyed by Richard Edsall. In recent years, it was discovered that members of the Burr family may still own wood lots in the Pochuck Mountain.


Also, members of the Drew family say that, according to tradition handed down through the years, Aaron Burr served as an attorney for the Drew family. One deed reportedly transfers land from Joseph Edsall to William Drew for property located on present-day Price Road in Vernon Township.


Some members of the Burr family were members of the Amity, N.Y. Presbyterian Church and a few of them were buried in the church cemetery. .


Also, Aaron Burr was not only related to the Odgens but was raised by his uncle Timothy Edwards and his wife, Rhoda Odgen with two of the Ogden boys, Matthias and Aaron also raised by that couple. Would they have visited their Sussex County relatives?


Burr, in turn, would also have been connected with Orange County in several instances. As Col. Aaron Burr, part of his military services during the Revolutionary War, when attached to Col. William Maxwell’s Regiment, he was stationed at Smith’s Clove, in the Ramapo Mountains of New York State, an area that was viewed as vulnerable due to Tory and British raids, especially those raids carried by Claudius Smith and his gang. Burr also served at West Point.


Due to ill health, Burr resigned from the army. In the fall of 1780, he resumed his studies and part of that time he studied law with Thomas Smith, of Haverstraw, N.Y.


It was in May 1785, when Burr, then a prominent lawyer, would again appear in Orange County, N.Y. This time Burr, together with Alexander Hamilton, represented the hearings of the Wawayanda and Cheesecock Patents. The hearings, held in Yelverton’s Barn in Chester, NY., in May 1785, were held to resolve the boundary line disputes between the two patents.


The Wawayanda Patent dated back to April 27, 1702, when Indians of the Mistucky Village in Warwick deeded about 150,000 acres of their ancestral lands to investors for the sum of nine pounds of New York money, several kegs of whiskey, some trinkets and some red cloth. The Cheesecock Patent, which contained about 75,000 acres, was sold by the Ramapo Indians in 1704. Subsequently, both of these vast land grants received royal approval from Queen Anne. Also implicated in the trial was the Minisink Patent of Jan. 13, 1704.


As for the patent hearings, 51 men provided oral testimony about their understanding of the boundary lines between the patents. The six-month trial resulted in an addition of about 75,000-acres added to the Wawayanda Patent. As Chester and Warwick adjoin each other, is it possible that Burr visited Warwick or his relatives in nearby Vernon?


One hundred-eighty-three years have lapsed since Aaron Burr passed away on Sept. 1, 1836. After all these years, what had been faint whispers have burst into headlines relative to Burr and his two biological, biracial children. But proof is still waiting as to whether Burr purchased land in Warwick, N.Y. for his son to build a house upon and if he did so, the question remains, why? And, as Gardner suggests, does it really matter?


Jennie Sweetman is the history columnist for the New Jersey Herald. She may be contacted at jenniee@warwick.net.