Marie Helene America Vespucci


avespucci.jpggparrish.jpgShe called herself "Countessa Helene America". She was born November 29, 1804 in Italy to Captain Amerigo Vincenzio and Leapolda Cappelli Vespucci. She was the third of six children. An aristocrat by birth and a direct descendant of Amerigo Vespucci for whom America was named. She was baptised Elena and took America from her younger sister whose name was Ameriga changeing the "G"for a "C" to make an impression on the people of America when she came here. Her parents described her as indocile and unmanageable. Elena spent 14 years of her young life in a convent to be educated. The convent was Le Signore della Quiete of Florence, Italy. At the age of 17 she was introduced into the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Her parents placed her into the service of The Grand Duchess as a "demoiselle de compagnie" There she lived amongst luxury at the Pitti Palace.

After the French Revolution out of boredom she joined a secret society to rid Italy of any foreign control. Then in August 1832, disguised as a man Elena fought in an uprising where she was wounded in battle with a sabre strike to her head, also a broken arm when the horse she was riding fell on her. She had fought with great bravery and gallantry but because of her disguise this has never been proven. A battle which young Louis Bonaparte also took part in. She spent two years recovering under her fathers watchful eye. She was then told to identify her associates or to be exiled from Florence,Italy. She found temporary Asylum from the Queen of France. But in 1839 with letters from the Queen she first came to New Orleans and traveled through out North America.

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The George Parish Mansion
The Countessa Helene America attended many parties with very important people such as Daniel Webster, Martin Van Buren, John Van Buren to name a few. She had dark flashing eyes, dark blue-black long hair and a warm smile which turned the hearts of many men. She was a mistress to many by then. Described in many ways as an adventuress, a great beauty and with her style and grace she caused a sensation where ever she went.

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Fredrick Remington Art Museum as it looks today
She then left America but soon returned on November 18,1841 on a steamer in Boston Harbor. Elena was still looking for a "small corner in America" As the legion goes she showed up one night in Evans Mills, Jefferson County, New York with John Van Buran where he proceeded to join into a card game. George Parrish of Ogdensburg was at that game in the Brick Hotel later known as the LeRay Hotel. When Van Buran had lost over $5,000.00 gambling and with only a gold coin left It is said his words were "I shall play you the Lady against my losses Mr. Parish.....on the toss of my last gold piece." And so that is how Madame Amerigo Vespucci became the mistress of George Parish. She lived with him in the Parish mansion for 18 years and from her letters she was very much in love with him. Although the women of Ogdensburg refused to associate with her because of her sinful living arrangements she was very content there. Whenever he had company or a party a Mrs James was the host to the ladies and he entertained the Gentlemen. Elena lived in the mansion from 1839 to 1859 until George went to Bohemia to settle an estate and became the Baron of Senftenburg. He then sent Madame Vespucci back to France. It is said she died there of a broken heart. When she left she had a large garden party for the children of Ogdensburg whom she dearly loved even some of the mothers showed up mainly to see the inside of the mansion. They tell she was seen sobbing her heart out as she left the mansion for the last time.

The mansion was then lived in between 1915 & 1918 by the widow of the western American painter Frederic Remington and became in 1923 The Frederic Remington Museum where today you can find not only his art work but a set of Belter Rosewood furniture that George Parish bought for Madame Vespucci and her only known oil portrait.

See Also

Famous Jefferson County Visitors