Alexander Macomb

From Jefferson County NY Wiki

Alexander Macomb, Sr.[edit | edit source]


Alexander Macomb was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1748 and his family, led by his father John, a merchant, immigrated to Albany, New York.

When they were old enough John sent his sons William and Alexander to Detroit to start a fur trading house.

On May 4, 1773, Alexander married Mary Catherine Navarre. By 1776, the brothers purchased Grosse Ile. Alexander was a Loyalist sympathizer during the American Revolution, and the two brothers traded with British and Native Americans, trading supplies for furs. After the war Alexander Macomb moved to New York City and became a land speculator and shipping magnate, and purchasing land in many places in the new US. In 1788, he built a magnificent home, which in 1790 was leased to become the president's home, occupied by George Washington.

The Americans gained control of what became Jefferson County through the 1788 Treaty of Stanwix. On June 22, 1791, Governor Clinton and the Board of Land Commissioners began a plan on getting Northern NY settled. Northern New York was organized into six Great Tracts, and auctioned in New York City. Alexander Macomb, the merchant at the head of a company of land speculators comprising himself, William Constable, and Daniel McCormick; cast the winning bid for all six tracts, totaling 3,670,715 acres at about eight cents an acre.

Map 1791

Macomb's Purchase (as it became known) included all of Northern New York, minus the St. Lawrence Six Towns, the Military Tract and Penet's Square. It was the largest land purchase in America until the Louisiana Purchase.

But Macomb went into bankruptcy due to sales on this property being too slow. Constable sold large parts of the property to other people in the state and went to France to talk to James Le Ray, thinking the French Revolution might cause many of the French to move to America. Le Ray invested in land, trying to get back money his family had lost while helping the Americans.

But Macomb had defaulted on the payment for the purchase the following year; and in 1792, his company's holdings were divided among his creditors who made good on the deal. Townships were surveyed in 1796-1799, setting the stage for further settlement.

Macomb served in debtor's prison during the Panic of 1792 with over $300,000 in debt. He was never able to regain his large fortune.

Six of his sons served during the War of 1812. His son Alexander Macomb, Jr., was a hero at the Battle of Plattsburgh and later was commander in chief of the United States Army.

Macomb died in Georgetown, District of Columbia, in 1831.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Jefferson County Pioneers

Notable Personalities Living and Dead