History lesson: Love won — and lost — over poker

Love won - and lost - over poker
Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 6:06 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The son of a president, the brother of a baron, and the descendant of America’s namesake walk into a bar. This isn’t the start to a joke. It’s something that really happened.

EVANS MILLS, New York (WWNY) - Love can be a gamble. That’s a lesson one woman learned the hard way at the John Hoover Inn in Evans Mills many years ago.

It was a snowy January night in 1841 when John Van Buren, son of President Martin Van Buren, was traveling through Evans Mills with his mistress, Madam Ameriga Vespucci.

She was famously beautiful and the direct descendant of Amerigo Vespucci, the explorer for whom this nation is named. She met Van Buren after fleeing Europe, caught entangled romantically with the son of Louis Phillipe, the king of France.

The couple stopped at the Hoover Inn to escape the winter storm and that is where they came across George Parish II, the younger brother of a baron in Saxony.

The three got tangled in an intense game of poker where Van Buren lost round after round to Parish. After several drinks and $5,000 in bets, Van Buren had but one thing left to gamble: his beautiful woman, Ameriga, with whom Parish had been flirting all night.

Unsurprisingly, Van Buren lost that final round of cards.

Because Parish genuinely liked Ameriga, he offered to give Van Buren back the five grand he lost. That’s when Van Buren reportedly turned to Ameriga and drunkenly said, “You keep it. For when your beauty fades.”

So, they did. Ameriga went with Parish back to Ogdensburg, where they lived for 18 years in his home, which now serves as the Frederic Remington Art Museum.

However, they never married, and when Parish’s older brother died in 1856, his noble responsibilities fell onto Parish, and he had to go back to Europe to serve as baron. He had to leave Ameriga behind and marry a woman of nobility.

It was almost as if Ameriga was being traded all over again. It’s said she lived the rest of her life as a sad and lonely woman, and perhaps in her afterlife as well. Rumor has it her ghost still haunts the John Hoover Inn, where her life was forever changed so many years ago.

Information for this story was compiled thanks to the Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, the John Hoover Inn, and the book “Wicked Northern New York” by Cheri Farnsworth.