In 1790 a new Collinwood was under construction, with the help of family friend Peter Bradford. He was eagerly looking forward to its completion, as both of his sons were soon to be married: Barnabas to Josette du Pres of Martinique, and Jeremiah to Millicent Collins, a cousin of theirs from New York. He had also recently arranged for Phyllis Wicke, a governess from Connecticut, to tutor his youngest children. None of these plans worked out as expected.
Phyllis Wicke never appeared, instead Victoria Winters arrived in her place. Although skeptical of her story, he took Victoria into his employment on a trial basis.