Margaret Livingston Vetch
Stefan Bielinski

Born in Albany in 1681, Margaret was the eldest daughter of Robert Livingston and Alida Schuyler's nine children. With Alida a particularly active businesswoman and mother, Margaret could be expected to help out raising younger brothers and sisters.

In 1700, her family's landmark Albany home was the site of her marriage to Samuel Vetch - a recently arrived Scottish adventurer, distant relative, friend of her brother, and thirteen years older than the 19-year-old bride. Margarita Livingston VetchVetch's biography offers rare insight on their courtship. A year later, their only daughter, Alida, was baptized in the Albany Dutch church. Shortly thereafter, mother and daughter were painted by an unknown artist.

Although they were frequent guests at the Livingston Manor House and maintained her family's winter home in Albany, the new couple were given a "palatial residence" in New York City from where Samuel Vetch could pursue his sometimes-shady commercial interests. These ambitions included long and frequent absences which left Margaret alone in the large Manhattan house - often with good reason to fear that her husband had been lost at sea. During those years, she began trading and shipping - but not on the scale of her mother.

Vetch's business and public service took him to Boston and to Annapolis Royal. His family lived with him in those places while he was "home." But Vetch moved too often to accomodate any real family life. In 1706, Margaret gave birth to a son, the sickly "Billy," to a stillborn baby in 1713, and, in 1722 - at age forty-one, to an unnamed daughter who died in infancy.

Throughout the marriage, Vetch suffered disappointed ambitions and financial reversals. In 1717, he sailed to London and, against his wishes, was followed by Margaret and Billy - Alida being left with family in Boston. The Vetches stayed in England and nothing more was heard of their son.

Samuel Vetch's fortunes continued to decline until his death in debtors prison in 1732. His widow was stranded in England and troubled by creditors. With her daughter now married and her parents both dead, Margaret returned to New York. Utilizing her inheritance, she resumed trading, coddled her grandchildren, and lived on Manhattan until her death in the summer of 1758.



the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Margaret Livingston Vetch is CAP biography number 1069. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

The following is excerpted from G. M. Waller, Samuel Vetch: Colonial Enterpriser (Chapel Hill, NC, 1960), pp. 44-45. In March 1700, Margaret Livingston's uncle wrote to her father that he heard that Vetch "was making love to your daughter, Margaret." He added that "if any such thing be concluded with you, I wish them much joy." But the same person, who had actually witnessed the baptism of Samuel Vetch thirty-two years earlier, felt compelled to tell his brother "my positive advice that you do what you can to oppose it." But if the advice was "too late," then "nothing should be said about it at all."

Portrait believed to be Margarita Livingston Vetch (1681-1758) and her oldest child Alida Vetch (born 1701), painted about 1705 by an unknown artist. Collection of the Museum of the City of New York. This image is derived from G. M. Waller, Samuel Vetch, Colonial Enterpriser.

Margaret Vetch imported dry goods, rum, and wine and shipped out beaver skins. She resumed trading after Vetch's death. See Cynthia A. Kierner, Traders and Gentlefolk: The Livingstons of New York, 1675-1790 (Ithaca, 1992), 50-53, 61-63.

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first posted: 3/17/00; last revised 2/5/06