Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Ghost at The Frederic Remington Art Museum

The Frederic Remington
Art Museum
This art museum is located in Ogdensburg, in northern New York. It is haunted by two notable ghosts, my favorite spirit in residence is a lady by the name of Elena (Ameriga) Vespucci.

It was said she was won in a card game . . .

George Parish
George Parish, the nephew of one of Ogdensburg’s leading citizens, Daniel Parish won a usual prize in a poker game from John van Buren, the son of President James van Buren.

Van Buren had lost $5000 in this game, so he wagered Ameriga his female companion and Parish accepted this bet and won.

Elena Vespucci
Elena Vespucci was born in Italy in 1804. She was a direct descendant of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci—America’s namesake.

She was a headstrong child, so her parents sent her to live in a convent, Le Signore della Quiete in Florence for 14 years. She received an excellent education.

Lady Companions
At the age of 17, her parents introduced her to the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. She took her older sister’s name, Ameriga and lived in the palace as a demoiselle de compagnie, a lady’s companion to the Grand Duchess.

Ameriga inspired by the French Revolution and bored joined a secret society, connected to the Mazzini Italian Nationalist movement committed to gaining back Italy’s independence. In 1832, she took up arms disguised as a man.

She was wounded, and her identity was discovered. While recovering she refused to give the names of her, “comrades-in-arms” for two years, so she was banished from Italy.

She was an heiress but impoverished. Her family embarrassed by her conduct disowned her. She had married when she was young, but her husband died in one of Italy’s many revolutions.

Prince Ferdinand
She then became a mistress to a series of lovers. While in Paris she was the mistress of Prince Ferdinand, the son of King Louis Philippe.

In 1938, noble friends provided her with references as she left for North America. She traveled from Washington D.C. to New York then on to Boston.

Ameriga’s spirited personality and her dark-haired beauty captured the eye of several notable Americans, including Senators Benton and Webster.

In 1841, she applied for American citizenship, hoping to gain an entrance into American society, however, it was denied when Prince de Joinville a brother of Prince Ferdinand recognized her.

She was then obliged to return to her former way of life to survive, after several lovers she attached herself to John van Buren where she found herself placed as a wager in a poker game.

When George Parish won her, she met the love of her life at age 37.

The mansion as it looked when
George Parish owned it.
She became Parish’s mistress and the two moved into his mansion, which later became The Frederic Remington Art Museum.

Ameriga Vespucci 
The ladies of Ogdensburg shunned her for living in sin. But these were the best years of her life.

Sadly, George left the mansion in 1860, having inherited the title of Baron of Senftenburg in Bohemia, leaving “Madam Ameriga” as she was known, behind.

George returned, after settling his estate in Austrian only to send Ameriga to Paris where he arranged to give her a modest house and income. This broke her heart.

Ameriga threw a goodbye party for the neighborhood children. Their mothers attended only because they were curious and wanted to see inside the mansion.

She lived with her sister until her death in 1866. George, after taking a second mistress, an American widow, died in Venice on his honeymoon in 1881.

So did Ameriga Vespucci’s spirit travel back to the home in New York where she loved and lived happily with Parish?

Quite a few people believe this. One notable encounter with Ameriga’s ghost happened when a local psychic medium, Freda Gladle and her friend, Donna Wright visited the mansion in 2015.

They communicated with a female ghost who told them firmly, “I was not won in a poker game.”

Instead, this spirit told them she had lost money during this game and then had quit having no money left to bet.

Examples of Remington's work.
The mansion today is the Frederic Remington Art Museum, his widow lived in this house from 1915 until 1918. This museum displays several of Remington’s Western sculptures and oil paintings.

Remington’s ghost is seen at the museum as well as several other spirits. I will share their stories in a future post.

References include St. Lawrence County Historical Association publication, The Quarterlyand Walter Kellogg’s book Parish’s Fancy which can be bought on Amazon.

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