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A Little Magic

November 10, 2019

Brookgreen Gardens oak alley.

Theodosia Burr Shepherd was one of my town’s most famous residents. She was California’s first nurserywoman and a genius plant breeder.

When I heard the beautiful love song “Dear Theodosia” in the musical Hamilton, I started wondering about how Theodosia Burr Shepherd on the west coast got the same name as Aaron Burr’s beloved daughter, and it led me down a rabbit hole of history.

I learned the whole story of Theodosia Burr, from her mother to her, to other Theodosia Burrs like Hollywood silent-movie vamp Theda Bara and Ventura’s Theodosia.

I developed a PowerPoint presentation on the many Theodosias and gave the speech at Toastmasters over and over.


Today, I visited Brookgreen Gardens, a 9000 acre park about 10 miles from where I’m staying. It has a sculpture garden, zoo, gallery, and nature preserve.

They offer a number of tours during the day, and I got there at 2:15 and hopped on the 2:30 bus, not quite sure what I would see.

Halfway through the hour-long tour, the bus driver stopped and began explaining where we were. A few bricks from the foundation of an old home stood next to the bus. They were all that was left of the home of Joseph Alston and his wife. Theodosia Burr Alston. Dear Theodosia.


What is left of Theodosia’s home.

The tour guide relayed the details of Theodosia’s life, from her birth to her mother’s death when she was quite young, to her becoming one of the most educated women in the United States at the time, to her marriage to a South Carolina planter and her untimely death.

I could have told that story. I knew every detail. And yet somehow, completely unaware of where I was going that day – I thought I was going to a botanic garden – I was walking on the very land where Theodosia had lived.

I’m sure the tour guide was wondering why I began tearing up and nodding madly as she spoke. I finally had to tell her. There is no history I know as well as that of Theodosia Burr Alston.

Into every life a little magic must fall. Today was one of those days.


The inscription on Theodosia’s memorial where her husband and son are buried. 


The Joseph, Theosdia and Aaron Burr Alson memorial (the graves are underneath the crypt.

  1. November 11, 2019 11:55

    That song always make me teary. It captures the sweetness of fatherhood so well. I am so happy you stumbled upon this place by surprise.

    • November 11, 2019 13:53

      Me too! It is the most tender love song to children. I think I was meant to be there!

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