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» Dominie Tetard, Tutor to  Theodosia's Children

Dominie Tetard, Tutor to
Theodosia's Children

Dominie Tetard was born in 1722 in Switzerland. He was educated at the University of Lausanne and ordained as a Protestant minister. He traveled to New York in the 1750s, served at a French church there, and then became a pastor in Charleston, South Carolina. The damp coastal climate affected his health, however, and he returned to New York in 1763, where he married the affluent widow Frances Elliston Dupuy, whose father, Robert Elliston, was the Royal Comptroller of Customs in New York and a vestryman of Trinity Church and whose first husband, John Dupuy, had been a physician.

Frances brought to the marriage a number of properties in New York City. Dominie Tetard sold them and bought a 60 acre farm in the Manor of Fordham, near Kings Bridge, where he opened the first French school in New York. One of his young pupils was Gouverneur Morris, who used the French he had learned in negotiations with France on behalf of the United States. When Richard Montgomery, one of Tetard’s neighbors in the Bronx, was put in command of the invasion of Canada in 1775, he had the Provincial Congress of New York appoint Tetard to the positions of chaplain of the New York troops and French interpreter to General Philip Schuyler at the rank of major.

It was during the ill-fated Canadian campaign that Tetard met Colonel Aaron Burr. When Tetard returned from the expedition, he found his home burned, his farm ruined, and his slaves gone. He nevertheless continued as a chaplain to the New York Continental line. He was not paid, however, and fell into extreme poverty. He spent late 1778 and early 1779 with Robert Livingston, who wrote to John Jay urging him to have Congress appoint Tetard as a translator or to some other paying position. The advocacy seems to have failed, and it is probable that at this time—perhaps through the acquaintance with Burr and perhaps with Burr's financial assistance—Tetard gained employment as a tutor for Theodosia's children at The Hermitage.

In 1784, Tetard became the first professor of French at Columbia College, a position he held until his death in 1787. He is buried in the cemetery at Trinity Church.

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