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To the Memory of a
whose mortal sufferings terminated
on the 14th day of October 1816
Aged 23 years and 8 months.
This stone is placed here by her disconsolate
Husband in whose arms she sighed out her
latest breath and who under God
did his utmost even to soothe the cold
dead ear of death.
How loved how valued once avails thee not
To whom related or by whom begot
A heap of dust alone remains of thee
Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be
To him gave all the Prophets witness that
through his name whosoever believeth in
him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts.10th Chap.43rd verse
In Seymour's account, the Stranger had been a young, foreign woman with a tearful face and a pale complexion. The woman also seemed ill and troubled. The Stranger's male companion appeared inauthentic to the locals as her husband. True to form, the man quickly left after the Stranger was buried. The only person that the Stranger confided in was a local pastor.
Seymour's sources are not explicitly named. She implies that she took interest in the cemetery first and then began to ask questions about the interesting gravesite. This pattern of discovery closely mirrors her earlier poem. Furthermore, Seymour speculates that the tombstone inscription was written in a manner “strangely calculated to awaken interest and elicit sympathy.”
In September 1848, the Alexandria Gazette published a response to an article about the Female Stranger written in the Baltimore Sun. The Alexandria Gazette writer states that the woman who arrived was indeed a beautiful woman of a pale complexion and further elaborates on her grace and the admiration of those around her. The author adds that the man's surname was “Clermont," and that after his sudden departure, it was revealed that the $1500 in English currency he had used to pay his bills was counterfeit. Lawrence Hill, one of the men to whom the money was owed, purportedly confronted Clermont sometime later at Sing Sing prison.
Lawrence Hill was indeed a businessman living in Alexandria at the time. He sold his house in Alexandria in 1830, and moved to New York. He died of cholera in New York in the spring of 1849.
A reminiscence—Female Stranger, &c.
About the year 1818 a gentleman and lady put up at the old City Hotel, then kept by the late Jesse Brown. It is not remembered what name the gentleman passed by, and it was not the fashion, here at least, in those days, to keep a register. The gentleman was polished and polite; the lady was young and handsome. She was taken ill, and died after a short illness, after the kind attentions bestowed by some ladies, and especially one, Mr.s S., who was benovolence personified, and has, some years since, gone to her reward. A fine tomb was erected to the memory of "Female Stranger," over her grave, in the grave-yard of St. Paul's congregation, in the lot at the south-west corner of the intersection of the main crossroads. On the stone may still be read Pope's epitaph on an unfortunate lady—
"How loved, how honored once avails thee not, To whom related or by whome begot; A heap of dust alone remains of thee, 'Tis all thou art and all the proud shall be."
—But not withstanding the fine sentiment of his chosen epitaph, the gentleman was a cheat and a swindler. He drew a sterling bill of exchange to defray the expense incurred, which bill was cashed by an old firm here — Lindsay & Hill — The bill was returned protested. Some years afterwards Mr. Hill chanced to go into the New York State prison, and there, among the convicts, he saw the fine gentleman of the "tomb." The keeper allowed Mr. H. to speak to him.
"Mr. ------," said Hill, "the bill you sold us was protested." "Is it possible," said the chevalier, "then I will give you another."
As Mr. Hill did not expect a convict's bill to be honored, he left. The above facts are substantially true, as some of our fellow-citizens may remember.
The substance of the above has been published in town papers, occasionally, for twenty years past. We should be glad to see the proof upon which is is based. Bring up Mr. Hill and let him testify.
The Female Stranger. A special correspondent of the Philadelphia Press writing from Kansas City, MO.
Many years ago a citizen of Alexandria, in a weird but clever and interesting little book, published under the title of "Narrative of John Trust," gave to the world what purported to be the history of this "Female Stranger," and therein described her as "stately, yet graceful; her queenly form rose from the undulation which acknowledged my greeting. She seemed, indeed, the mold of form, the union of elegance and grace before undreamed of. Her eye, a diamond when she listened, flashed like a sword when she spoke. A Grecian nose, perfectly feminine in the softness of its outline, relieved the masculine swelling of the upper lip and made womanly the entire contour of her face. Her hair lay in its raven brilliancy as if it had been chisled upon her noble forehead. On such features repose wore an air of command and emotion took stateliness."
He describes her coming to Alexanderia at a time when the seeds of death daily brough her nearer the sleep eternal, and says "the ladies of the hospitable town were kind to her; they never asked her name or that of her family, for, said one of them, 'she is a stranger and sick—two letters of introduction from heaven.'"
That sounds so like the famous hospitality of Old Virginia that one wishes this narrative were true, and regrets, with a sigh, that is only a fancy sketch, in which the vivid imagination of the author converts the molehill of fact into the mountain of entertaining fiction.
The known facts relationg to the "Female Stranger" are but few and simple. At the close of the war I visited a great aunt of mine who was born, reared and lived at Alexandria, and was recognized society leader there in the good old days when all the balls and receptions of the National Capital were given in the then famous and fashionable city. She had seen the "strangers" and, perhaps, knew more of them than anyone living. One day, nearly thirty years ago, upon my return from the old cemetery, I took from the lips of this clear headed, venerable lady the following:
"In the early autumn of 1816, when this city was the best part of the District of Columbia, a gentleman and lady, supposed to be husband and wife, arrived at Alexandria and took a suite of rooms at the City Hotel, then our principal inn. I remember them well. The gentleman was traveled, scholarly, cultured; seemed possessed of ample fortune, and aside from an occasional hour with other gentlemen of elegant leisure, spent all his time with his wife.
The lady was tall and graceful, accomplished in music and literature, dressed with exquisite taste, had most beautiful hands and feet, a voice of marvelous richness and tenderness and conversed as one who under the world, its history, literature, philosophy, music, poetry and religion. Occasionally they appeared together on the streets, at church, and in their long evening walks.
Neither ever told their names or whence they came or why, nor do I remember that any questions were aasked, exclusive and aristocratic as our people then were. People were not so meddlesome or so curious as now, and while we really knew nothing of them, yey they were so kind and good, so gentle and refined that I think we all loved them. To us they were known simply as "the strangers." The lady always took her meals in her rooms, which in that day excited no comment here, yet there was one, and only one thing mysterious in her conduct — on all occasions she was heavily veiled; no citizen of Alexandria ever saw her face.
After some weeks the lady was taken sick. From the fact that the most eminent physicians of Alexandria and Richmond were called to see her we knew she must be dangerously ill. No one had vouched for her; she was not a native of the Old Dominion, but she was a stranger and she was sick. At that time I was about 28. You will know how to pardon the appararent vanity of an old lady of near four score, when I tell you that I then occupied a prominent social position, and at my suggestion several ladies of the old families went with me to the hotel, where we tendered our services and offered to do all in our power to releive and comfort her. We were assured both by the husband and attending physicians that nothing could be done, that all she needed was quiet and rest, but that night more than one prayer went up for the sweet voiced, veiled stranger. Well, I never knew just what her disease was, but in a few days she died and was quietly laid at rest out here in the old cemetery.
The husband left Alexandria a few days after her burial, without telling any on where he was going, and was never seen there afterward.
I think it was in the summer of 1817 that the flat marble slab bearing the strange inscription was put up over her grave in the night time, and if any one here ever knew by whom it was done the public never found it out.
Within a few weeks after this the landlord, in whose hootel the 'strangers' had been guests, received from some foreign country, just where he never told, a letter containing a draft for a good sum of money with specific instructions as to how a sufficient amount of the money should expended in erecting around the grave a brick wall, surmounted by a copestone, and that upon the stone should be erected an iron railing so high that no one could get into the enclosure. The money was expended as directed, and the top of the iron railing was about nine feet from the ground. Afterward, regularly every year until about 1835, money was received from the same source and spent in keeping the grave and enclosure in perfect condition. The remittances then ceased; the gentleman who had so long sent money was supposed to be dead.
2. One that has enjoyed popularity for some time, no doubt bolstered by the 1848 story from the Arizona Gazette, is that they were swindlers. Some even posit that the woman's death had been faked and that the grave is empty.
3. Another theory is a that one or both were English nobility who had apparently eloped, fleeing to America.
There is just one piece that troubles me. The fact that they never gave their names. Even con artists will give fake names. It's easier to get along with people over a long period of time if they know who you are or at least what to call you. Yet these people stayed in this town some 3 weeks plus (since that is how long it took for the girl to die) and no one managed to get their names? Even for being con artists that is strange.