|Meet the People - Calicia Allaire Tompkins Allaire|
Calicia Allaire Tompkins remains a bit of an enigma in the research of the Howell Works and the Allaire Family, yet she remains an integral part of the history. Little is known about Calicia’s early years. She was born 06 January 1811 to Noah Bishop Tompkins, a farmer, and his wife Sarah Tompkins nee Martine in Greenburgh, New York. We do know that Calicia had at least one brother, Andrew Martine Tompkins, who was born 03 January 1814 in Tarrytown Point, New York.
According to The Biographical History of Westchester County, New York, Andrew was, “reared upon a farm, attended a school at White Plains taught by John Hobbs, a noted teacher formerly of Connecticut, continuing in school until he was fourteen years of age, when he was bound to James P. Allaire, of New York, the great builder of steamboats, under whom he learned the trade of ship carpenter.”
Based on this information we can draw the conclusion that Calicia was most likely also raised on a farm near White Plains. Although we have no evidence to prove it, it is also quite likely Calicia attended school to some extent as a child. This hypothesis is based on two factors. One, Calicia was of Huguenot descent through her mother and the Huguenots firmly believed in equal education for both boys and girls. Secondly, James P. Allaire left Calicia in charge of the Howell Works properties during his later years, appointing her as a sort of manager. We also know Calicia could read and write, although no letters of hers have yet surfaced. We know this from the amount of letters James Allaire wrote her in his later years in which he frequently mentions receiving her letters.
The Biographical History of Westchester County, New York also describes the Tompkins family as “a very old family of Westchester County.” This is certainly true. Calicia, the first cousin once removed and future wife of James Peter Allaire, could trace her ancestry through her father’s line to the Mayflower and through her mother’s line to at least two of the great Huguenot families of La Rochelle, France: the Allaires and the Martines. On her father’s side Calicia was second cousin twice removed to the brothers Caleb and Daniel D. Tompkins. Caleb was a member of the New York State Assembly and a Congressman form New York. Daniel D. Tompkins was also a Congressman and State Legislator, as well as being governor of New York and Vice President of the Untied States under James Monroe.
The first records we have of Calicia in connection with the Howell Works Company, James Allaire or his family is when she was summoned to care for Allaire’s ailing first wife, Frances Duncan. Frances Duncan was not only James Allaire’s wife, but also his second cousin and second cousin once removed to Calicia as well. In the early 1830’s we know Calicia was living in the Allaire Household at 462/464 Cherry Street, not so much in the capacity of servant or poor relation, but more as an equal with the other family members. In early letters to her father, Maria Haggerty Allaire Andrews, daughter of James Allaire and Frances Duncan Allaire, appears to maintain a good relationship with her cousin Calicia, treating her as an equal. It should also be noted here that, based on what we do know of Calicia’s family background, she was born into a well respected and somewhat affluent family herself.
In the summer of 1832 New York was hard hit with an outbreak of cholera that had been brewing in Europe for the past year. Hardest hit among the city’s wards was the 12th ward, in close proximity to the East River and her Ports, where the Allaire Family lived. At the time most believed cholera to be a scourge upon humanity sent by God to purge the earth of the sinful and wicked. Days of public fasting and prayer were set aside during the outbreaks. New York City’s Rev. T. Gardiner Spring said in his 03 August 1832 sermon on the Day Set Apart in the City of New-York for Public Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, "Drunkards and filthy, wicked people of all descriptions, are swept away in heaps, as if the Holy God could no longer bear their wickedness, just as we sweep away a mass of filth when it has become so corrupt that we cannot bear it .... The cholera is not caused by intemperance and filth, in themselves, but it is a scourge, a rod in the hand of God ...."
Although a devout man, James Allaire was also a businessman, engineer, designer, merchant and artisan. Public belief as to the cause of the cholera outbreaks did not concern him as much as getting his family to safety did. Therefore he relocated his family, including Calicia, to the Big House on the Howell Works property. Calicia would remain there for the next 44 years until she left this earth on 02 October 1876. Although we have found no evidence to indicate it as yet, it is also quite possible that Calicia’s brother Andrew also joined the Allaire Family at the Howell Works when they evacuated New York. At the time he would have been a young man of 18 and only in his 4th year of apprenticeship to Allaire.
From this point onward a great many records exist with regard to Calicia and much is known. After the death of Frances Duncan Allaire, at the Howell Works, on 23 March 1836, Calicia remained in the household and apparently took over the duties of hostess. Allaire’s eldest daughter Frances Wilmot Allaire was living at 312 Fourth Ave. NY, NY with her husband Dr Stephen Roe and her social obligations afforded her little time to stay at the Howell Works for extended periods to fulfil the role. Maria Haggerty Allaire, James Allaire’s youngest daughter, was due to wed Thomas Andrews, Chief Clark at he Allaire Works, in June of 1836 and her time would be filled with wedding preparations and, after her marriage and second day travels, she herself would relocate to Andrews’ residence at 15 Rutgers Place in Manhattan. Most probably Calicia assisted Maria with her wedding plans.
Early letters from James Allaire to Calicia indicate she was charged with the duties of operating the any farms he owed in the Monmouth County area. She is instructed numerous times to “get on her (sic) horse and ride” to the various farms to conduct business on his behalf. He also discusses the work of some of the gardeners employed at the Howell Works, instructing Calicia on ways to deal with inferior grades of produce, what produce should be marketed in the Company Store for sale to the workers and what produce should appear on the Allaire Family’s own table. In his letters, Allaire also notifies Calicia of his upcoming visits to the Howell Works, instructing her on necessary preparations for his arrival, as well as discussing intimate details of his business dealings with her.
It was sometime after the death of Allaire’s wife Frances Duncan that Calicia developed a close, personal relationship with James Allaire, 26 years her senior. From the only known photograph we have of Calicia, we can tell that in her younger days she was quite attractive. Although apparently thin of lip; she possessed high cheek bones and forehead; well spaced, if not melancholy, almond shaped eyes; delicate ears and a well shaped nose; and most probably light auburn hair. Her eyes would most likely have been hazel in colour. We also know Calicia was possessed of a loving and nurturing spirit, sometimes to the point of overindulgence. In one letter Allaire chastises Calicia, by this juncture his second wife, for indulging their son Hal through her coddling.
Upon the death of his first wife Frances, James Allaire plummeted into a state of deep mourning and depression. In the early stages of his mourning he remained in solitude for weeks on end at the Howell Works with Calicia as his primary source of companionship and comfort. It was probably at this time Allaire most likely found himself physically attracted to the corporal attributes of the slender Calicia. Calicia’s maternal instincts to console her grieving cousin most likely superseded her own grief at the loss of Frances and the two probably found solace in comforting each other. It would have been during this period as well that Calicia would have inherited the duties of Mistress of the House. Her efficient manner and gracious hospitality as hostess would have impressed the businessman in Allaire.
For the next ten years Calicia’s duties at the Howell Works Company increased as her relationship with James Allaire grew closer. While there is no evidence supporting it, during the suit filed by Allaire’s children by Frances contesting his will, the relationship between Allaire and Calicia during this time was said to be more than platonic. Testimony given during the trial accused Calicia of using her sexual prowess to seduce James Allaire. It should be remembered here though, that during this period, based on letters between Allaire and his children, Calicia appears to have maintained a good relationship with the children of James and Frances. In one letter from Maria Allaire Andrews to her father, she begs his forgiveness for the way her husband, Thomas Andrews, treated Calicia on a visit to their home in New York.
On 17 October 1846 Calicia and Allaire were finally married. Calicia was 35, Allaire 61 years old. By this time the Howell Works Company was foundering and, while the Allaire Works in New York was still somewhat successful, Allaire had lost the backing of his chief financial supporter, the husband of his sister Maria, John Haggerty. On 05 October 1847, almost a year to the day after they were married, Hal, the only child of Calicia and James P. Allaire, was born.
Sometime in 1850 James P. Allaire was voted off the Bard of Directors at the Allaire Works and subsequently lost his Cherry Street residence, owned by the company. It was at this time he decided to retire and live the life of a country gentleman with his wife and infant son at the Howell Works Property. Fate would intervene, however, and John Roach, famous in his own right as a shi builder by this point, purchased the foundering Allaire Works an re-instated his former employer as a member of the Board of Directors. For the next eight years, until his death, Allaire worked for the company he founded. It is during this time that we get the greatest insight into his second wife Calicia through letters the couple wrote to each other.
Although Allaire Village, Inc has no letters written by Calicia in its possession, the tone of letters from Allaire to his wife give us a clear picture of what she was like as a woman. In one letter Allaire chastises Calicia for being too soft with their son Hal, telling her to let him sleep in the barn loft for a few days to stop his night crying. Other references by Allaire regarding the way in which Calicia was rearing their young son indicate she was a very loving and doting, if not over indulgent mother.
We also know Calicia had a keen head for business as Allaire left her in charge of operating the Works property and surrounding farms. Letters of instruction to his wife indicate Calicia possessed good managerial skills, a head for figures and a sense of business acumen. Although earlier evidence had painted a none to flattering picture of Calicia as an illiterate farm girl, we now know this is no true. Allaire’s sense of humour and mastery of sarcastic wit has, over the years, been misinterpreted to lead previous researchers to draw these conclusions. Allaire, an astute businessman, would not put such a person in charge of the only tangible resource left out of his crumbling empire. Subsequent letters too Calicia confirm her abilities to successfully manage the operations in her charge.
Calicia was, as well, an accomplished rider. Allaire continually instructs her to “get on her (sic) horse and ride over to…” this farm or that to attend to business affairs. She had a good knowledge of agriculture, as is indicated by Allaire complimenting her in several letters on the choices she has made for selecting the produce to be served on the family’s table. Calicia was also an accomplished pianist. This is evidenced by Allaire’s purchase of a piano for her. Initially he intended to buy a grand piano but such an instrument would not fit through the doors of the Howell Works home they shared. He therefore, was forced into buying an upright piano for her and in one letter reminisces about how he misses hearing the sound of her playing. In newspaper interviews and court documents after Allaire’s death, we also find Calicia was a congenial hostess, seeing to every comfort of her guests.
Calicia and James Allaire lived a relatively happy, if not sometimes troubled, existence together, as Allaire’s finances dwindled. But all evidence indicates the couple found happiness and true love in their relationship. Despite the financial hardships endured by the couple during their marriage, it would not be until after Allaire’s death when the real troubles would begin for Calicia and her young son Hal. Displeased with their father’s second marriage, three of Allaire’s remaining four children from his marriage to Frances would file suit against Calicia and Hal contesting the will left by their father.
After 17 years of court battles beginning in New York and ending in Freehold, New Jersey, the will was finally decided in favour of Calicia and Hal. By this time, however, most of the liquid assets of the estate were depleted and Calicia was left and exhausted woman. Rumours and accusations surfaced during the trial accusing Calicia of everything form poisoning Frances and James Allaire to using her sexual prowess to tempt him into marriage. Of course this was all unfounded and ultimately the courts sought to put an end to the matter.
Broken and exhausted, Calicia died after a long and painful illness at the Howell Works property on 02 October 1876, within two years of the court's decision. Calicia Allaire Tompkins Allaire was interred in the Allaire family Cemetery in New Rochelle, NY.