Who was Eliza Hamilton Holly?
Eliza Hamilton Holly was the second daughter and the seventh child of American statesman Alexander Hamilton, one of the “Founding Fathers of the United States.” Eliza lost her father at age 4, when the latter was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. She married Sidney Augustus Holly, a merchant in New York City. The couple had no children. Throughout her life, Eliza remained quite close to her mother, who saw reflections of Hamilton in Eliza. Eliza and her husband lived with her mother at ‘The Grange,’ now known as the ‘Hamilton Grange National Memorial,’ in Manhattan, New York City, and later in a Manhattan townhouse that is presently called the ‘Hamilton-Holly House.’ Following Sidney’s death, Eliza continued to live with her mother and entertained imminent guests such as President Millard Fillmore and New York Senator William H Seward. She and her mother also dined with President Fillmore and his wife, at the ‘White House.’ It is believed that following her mother’s death, Eliza exercised her influence and quickened the creation of Hamilton’s biography by John Church Hamilton, her brother. Eliza died at the age of 59.
Childhood & Early Life
Eliza Hamilton was born on November 20, 1799, in New York City, New York, US, to Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. She was their seventh of their eight children and their second daughter. Her mother was a co-founder and the deputy director of New York City’s first private orphanage. Her seven siblings included her elder brothers, Philip, Alexander, Jr., James Alexander, John Church, and William Stephen; her elder sister, Angelica; and her younger brother, Philip (also called “Little Phil”).
Her baptismal and marriage records showed her name as “Eliza.” Her mother, Elizabeth, was also known as “Eliza.”
Eliza did not keep well as an infant, and this bothered Hamilton as a father. Once, when Elizabeth was not at home and Hamilton was spending time with his children, he wrote about Eliza, stating that she pouted, played, and showed off her capricious nature.
Her happy family went through a sudden crisis when her father got into a duel with the erstwhile Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr, on July 11, 1804. The duel resulted in Burr shooting and mortally injuring Hamilton and thus ending a long and harsh rivalry between the two. Hamilton was taken to William Bayard Jr.’s house, where he breathed his last. His wife and children, including the 4-year-old Eliza, were present at his bedside at the time of his death. Little Eliza was not part of the funeral procession of her father and stayed back with her mother, her sister Angelica, and brother Philip.
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Marriage & Life Beyond
On July 19, 1825, she married Sidney Augustus Holly, a merchant in New York City. The couple had no children. Sidney was one of the eight children of David Holly, a large landowner from Stamford, Connecticut. Sidney’s family had descended from the earliest settlers of Stamford, dating back to 1642. The family was quite noted in the local business and government spheres.
Eliza was close to her mother and remained so throughout her life. In a letter written in December 1832, Elizabeth expressed that Eliza resembled her father in many ways. Elizabeth also mentioned that her doting daughter did not know how significant she was in her mother’s life and that she also had a kind heart, much like her father. Elizabeth added that the more time she spent with Eliza, the more she found Eliza to be like her father.
Before 1833, she and her husband lived along with Elizabeth at ‘The Grange,’ also known as the ‘Hamilton Grange Mansion,’ in Manhattan, New York City, the only home ever owned by Hamilton. Currently, the mansion stands as the ‘Hamilton Grange National Memorial’ and is enlisted in the ‘US National Register of Historic Places.’ It is regarded as a ‘US National Historic Landmark’ and a ‘US National Memorial.’
Eliza and Sidney lived with Elizabeth in a townhouse at 4 St. Mark's Place, in the East Village area of Manhattan, from 1833 to 1842. The townhouse is presently known as the ‘Hamilton-Holly House’ and was purchased by Eliza’s brother, Col. Alexander Hamilton Jr., for $15,500 from British-born real-estate developer Thomas E Davis in November 1833. The funds for this purchase came from a simultaneous sale of ‘The Grange’ by Elizabeth to Davis for $25,000. Alexander Hamilton Jr. and his wife, Eliza Knox Hamilton, also lived there with Alexander’s mother, sister, and brother-in-law. The ‘New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’ designated the building as a landmark in October 2004.
Sidney died on June 26, 1842. The same year, Eliza relocated with Elizabeth to 63 Prince Street, a house in Lower Manhattan that was earlier inhabited by President James Monroe and Samuel L Gouverneur. Eliza continued to look after her mother, who by 1846, was suffering from short-term memory loss.
In 1848, Eliza relocated with her mother to a house on H Street in Washington, DC. This house was quite close to the ‘White House.’ While living there, the two ladies played hosts to several prominent personalities, such as President Millard Fillmore, New York Senator William H Seward, and General Winfield Scott. The two ladies also had dinner at the ‘White House,’ along with President Millard Fillmore and his wife, Abigail Powers.
Eliza lost her mother on November 9, 1854, in Washington, DC. Her mother was 97 years old then. It is believed that following her mother’s demise, Eliza exerted her influence and hastened the production of her father’s biography by John Church, her elder brother. According to reports, John Church was chastised by her for taking a long time to come up with the biography. Their mother had been eagerly waiting for the biography and had once stated, "Justice shall be done to the memory of my Hamilton.”
On October 17, 1859, Eliza died in Washington, at the age of 59. Her final resting place was the ‘Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’ in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where her elder sister, Angelica, was interred in 1857 and her brother James Alexander Hamilton was buried in 1878.