Margaret (Peggy) O'Neal (who preffered to be called Margaret) was born in 1799 in Washington DC. She was the daughter of William O'Neal, who owned a thriving boarding house and tavern called the Franklin House in that same town. It was frequented by senators, congressmen, and all politicians. She was the oldest of six children, growing up in the midst of our nation's emerging political scene. She was always a favorite of the visitors to the Franklin House. She was sent to one of the best schools in Washington DC, where she studied English and French grammar, needlework and music. She also had quite a talent for dance, and was sent to private lessons, becoming a very good dancer. At the age of twelve, she danced for the First Lady Dolley Madison. Visitors of the Franklin House also commented on her piano playing skills.
During Margaret's teenage years, there were many rumors circulating about her romances. The stories included one of a suitor who swallowed poison after she refused to return his affections, one of her being briefly linked to the son of President Jefferson's treasury secretary, and one of her botched elopement to a young aide of General Winfield Scott. As the story goes, she accidentally kicked over a flowerpot during her climb down from a bedroom window, which woke her father, who promptly dragged her back inside.
When Jackson first met Margaret at the age of 24, he took an immediate liking to her. The tavern had been recommended to him by his close friend John Henry Eaton, who would later marry Miss O'Neal and cause quite a scandal. Jackson's wife, when meeting Margaret a year later, was equally taken with her.
Margaret married a navy purser named John Bowie Timberlake. They had three children together, one whom died while still an infant. When John was gone at sea, John Eaton entered the picture again, escorting Margaret on drives and to parties. The rumors flew around town of Margaret and Eaton's supposed affair,...
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