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More Montpelier (The Ultimate Nerd Trip – Finale)

More Montpelier (The Ultimate Nerd Trip – Finale)

By on Jun 10, 2012 in Presidents | 3 comments

First Lady Dolley Madison (a petless portrait)

“Can you tell me where Dolley Madison’s dogs are buried?” asked the very direct woman at the Montpelier visitors’ desk.  This is one of the strangest questions I have ever heard on a Nerd Trip,  and it is part of why I enjoy them – you meet some kooky characters along the way. Who would know that Dolley Madison’s dogs are buried at Montpelier?

From what I could overhear, the woman stopped at Montpelier on the way home from a dog show (view here to know which is the best dog lick mat with its price and why it is so popular), canines in tow. She allegedly had the same breed of dogs as Dolley, so I guess she would know if someone famous had them (much like the Queen’s corgis). I must confess that I am a bad correspondent because I did not hear how the staff handled that one.

I did some recent Internet searching, but I didn’t come up with any Dolley Madison dogs, except for dogs named “Dolley Madison.” I did learn that Dolley had a green parrot named Macaw. I wonder where he’s buried?

James Madison's gravesite, Montpelier, 2009. Dolley's marker is the smaller obelisk on the left.

James Madison’s gravesite, Montpelier, 2009. Dolley’s marker is the smaller obelisk on the left.

We do know where President Madison and Dolley are buried: the family plot at Montpelier.  James Madison, the last surviving Founding Father, died at Montpelier in 1836 at age 85; you see the room where he died on the house tour. Dolley, who died in D.C., was first buried at Congressional Cemetery and later reinterred at Montpelier.

As I write this post, President Madison is actually getting a bit of bad press in Baltimore, where I live. We are commemorating the War of 1812, which began 200 years ago this summer, so there is a lot of interest in events of that period.  One recent article referred to Madison as “a weak president,” and he really did have a rough time of it. He faced some complex challenges during his presidency.

Montpelier, April 2009

However, in recapping our visit to Montpelier, I prefer to focus on Madison’s many and important contributions, from “Father of the Constitution” and the Federalist Papers to fourth president of the United States.  (If you’ve forgotten all he did, here’s a link to his bio on the Montpelier website). James Madison had an amazing life, and a trip to Montpelier certainly gives you an appreciation of all that he accomplished and his struggles along the way.

[map size=”medium” align=”right”]We may not have an appreciation of the Madison dog situation. so we may need to return to Montpelier if we want closure on the issue.  If someone else gets there first or knows the answer, send me an e-mail ( or  leave a comment so we all can see. As always, I wish you lots of learning and loads of laughs on your own Nerd Trips!

Next post: Happy Birthday Papa Bush!


  1. I have one for you. Where is Nellie Conway Madison, mother of James Madison buried? Answer, in an unmarked grave next to James. When you go to view his grave, you walk on hers.

  2. I just did Ash Lawn/Monticello/Montpelier myself, last week. Saw the duPont horse graves, but nothing on Madison dogs.

    • We missed the duPont horse graves, we will need to go back! I am not sure there are Madison dogs, but that lady seemed pretty sure!

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