by Carol Kaplan.
Andrew Jackson Pageot was born a child of privilege: he was named for his godfather, the President; his mother was heir to a wealthy Nashville estate; his father was the son of a diplomat. This baby’s future was bright. How then did it come about that he lies in an unmarked grave, his burial place lost to history?
The first (and only) Catholic wedding ceremony held in the White House took place November 29, 1832. The groom was Alphonse Pageot, secretary of the French Legation and brother-in-law of the French Minister. The bride was Nashvillian Mary Anne Lewis, daughter of Major William Berkeley Lewis, a friend and political appointee of Andrew Jackson. The Lewises’ Nashville home was called Fairfield, set on an estate not far from City Cemetery. Today’s Fairfield Avenue was originally one of the lanes leading to the residence.
Although Mary Anne and her half-siblings William Henry and Margaret Adelaide grew up in relative comfort, they all suffered early losses. William B. Lewis’s first wife (Mary Anne’s mother) was Margaret Lewis, the daughter of W. Tyrrell Lewis and owner of Fairfield. Margaret died at Fairfield in 1816, when Mary Anne was about 12. The mother of the other two children was William B. Lewis’s second wife, Mary Adelaide Stokes, daughter of U.S. Senator Montfort Stokes. Mary Adelaide died in May 1823, leaving behind “an infant son [little William Henry was not yet two] & daughter five days old.”
After their marriage, Mary Anne and Alphonse Pageot lived in Washington, D.C., in a house provided by her father, William B. Lewis, who wrote a friend, “I go to housekeeping with them.” Their son, Andrew Jackson Pageot, was born the following year and christened at the White House. The Rev. William Matthews of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church officiated, as he had for the wedding of the baby’s parents.
As a diplomatic family, the Pageots moved often between the United States and France. Major Lewis returned to Nashville, where he had to face yet another loss, that of his son, William Henry, who died August 30, 1842, “in the twentieth year of his age,” Major Lewis’s youngest child, Margaret Adelaide, who was said to be the most beautiful young woman in Tennessee, had married George Washington of Wessyngton Plantation in Robertson County that same year. She herself died at the age of 21 in November 1844, three weeks after the birth of her only son, William Lewis Washington.
When the Civil War began, William B. Lewis remained loyal to his country and active in local politics. On December 14, 1864, the night before the Battle of Nashville, as Federal troops dug entrenchments in Fairfield’s front lawn, U.S. Major T. J. Morgan stayed in the house, occupying the room that Andrew Jackson had always been given. As a loyal citizen, Lewis would eventually receive compensation from the Federal government for the damage to his property.
Two weeks after the Battle of Nashville the family suffered another tragedy. On January 11, 1865, this notice was published in the Nashville Daily Union:
“Died, on Monday morning, the 9th inst., at the residence of his Grandfather, Major William B. Lewis, Andrew Jackson Pageot, Esq., son of Hon. A. Pageot of Paris France, and Mary Ann, his wife. He died from an acute attack of the heart, after only an hour’s illness, in the 32nd year of his age. His funeral will take place this morning, at 11 o’clock, at the residence of Major Lewis. Hacks will be waiting at W. R. Cornelius’ on Church Street, at 10 o’clock this morning, to take out friends and acquaintances who desire to attend the funeral.”
Where was Pageot buried? He has an interment entry in City Cemetery records, but no location is indicated. In 1843 Major Lewis had purchased a 40×40-foot lot in section 5 for $80.00. Who, if anyone, was buried on this lot? Not Major Lewis, who died in 1866. He and others of his family, along with their tombstones, were removed to Mt. Olivet in 1890 from “the old family burying ground.” Whether this burying ground was on the Fairfield estate is yet another mystery. The property was sold at auction in 1867, and by 1890 St. Margarethe’s Hospital occupied the location.
None of the removal records lists the name of Andrew J. Pageot. Was he originally interred with other Lewis family members and then, having been buried without a marker, simply forgotten? Does the partial record at City Cemetery exist because undertaker Cornelius merely assumed he would be interred there?
The old PBS series History Detectives insisted that “no secret is safe.” Is the secret of Andrew Jackson Pageot waiting to be found someday? (2010)
Sally Thomas died during Nashville’s 1850 cholera epidemic. In 1908 her tombstone could still be found, but by 2005 it was no longer standing. In 2009 a replacement tombstone for Sally Thomas was dedicated in a well-attended ceremony at City Cemetery.
Previously published in Monuments & Milestones, the Nashville City Cemetery newsletter.