Mrs. Alvah Wright said her great-grandmother, Mrs. Nathaniel Sartell, was a personal friend of Prudence Wright. She also said that her grandmother told her that when she was a girl she often heard the women say that if you want to see some work worth looking at, get Mrs. David Wright to draw out the pattern, and Mrs. Nathaniel Sartell to quilt it, for Mrs. Wright is a fine limner, and Mrs. Sartell "very nice with her needle."
There is a sketch made by Mrs. Wright, in the historical collection in Groton. It is a copy of a picture of Washington taking leave of his mother, which is an evidence of her ability as a "limner." (See frontispiece.)
Somewhere among Prudence Wright's descendants, now living in the West, there is a genealogical tree of the Wright family made and filled out by her. Around this tree she painted in watercolors a border of flowers, angels and fairies.
At this period in church history in New England, it was custom for people seeking admission to its communion to write their "Relation" and submit it to the church officers for action. If it was accepted they were made active members of the church and could have their children baptized. This 'was a very important privilege, as unbaptized people were deprived of full franchise.
2 One hundred and forty-two years ago this month, Prudence gave her "Relation" to the church in Pepperell, and in due time was accepted into membership. The original document is in the possession of Prudence Wright Chapter, D. A. R., and bears satisfactory evidence of being both the composition and penmanship of Prudence Wright. The reproduction is about one-half the size of the original. Such documents bring into clearer light the religious thought of the times. Prudence was thirty years old, which was the average age when people made "Relations." The next month she presented her children then born-David, Prudence, Cumings, Mary and Wilks,
2. Prudence Wright was accepted into
the church in 1770.
forbaptism. Her husband was not a member of the church at this time.
PRUDENCE WRIGHT'S RELATION.
I have great reason to Bless God that I was Born in a Land of Gospel Light-But I have great reason to be Humbel before God and man, for misimproving such means of Grace as Ive Lived under the Good Education instructsion my Parents and minester and Schoolmasters gave me. But I refusd all and Chose rather Live a Light, Vain, Merry Life till God was Pleasd to bring sickness upon me and brought me Very Low and then I Began to think what would Become of me if I should Die. But as soon as I got well and got into Vain Company these thoughts soon wore off again- But God by his Providence would often be Puting me in mind of Death, Judgment and Eternity but it would soon ware off again- till my late sickness and some trouble, which made me Look in to my Heart to see if way out my sins which Caused God to send the Troubles on me and I find the sins of my Heart and the sins of my Life to be Exceding great so I tho't no one was ever so bad as I was and because they were commited against God I find I canot do any thing of my self with out the Spirrit of God helping of me; which I think that God by his Grace has shone me the Estate I am in by Nature and that their is no salvation but by Jesus Christ and that their is fullness
eno' in Christ to wash away all my sins if I do except of him as he is offered in the gospel- I take great satisfaction in reading the word of God and Gods worship are delightsome to me and secret Prayer-which was once burdonsome to me-I think I can say that I hate all those Vanites which I yusd to Delight inand that I now Acknowlige Christ to be gest such a Savour as I stand in need off which I hope that God by his goodness has inabled me to except of Christ and this ordnance which for this sum time I have had a great desiar to come to but dare not fear lest Coming unworthly-but God has shown me that it is my Duty to come in obedence to Christs command.
I dare not say my sins are Pardoned but I believe that Christ is the Son of God and that I must be Pardoned by his merits which I desire to rely wholy upon.
I beleve their are two Sacraments baptisam and the Lord's Super one I recd in my infentcy to the other I now offer myself. I beg your Axceptence of me and Prayers for me that I may walk acording to the Profession I now make that I may Not be a Scandal to Religon nor a Stumbling Block to others.
until the war cloud broke in April, 1775. At that time David Wright was in the prime of life, forty years old. His wife was thirty-five and they had seven children. In common with public spirited people they were merging all personal interests in one common interest, the public weal. George III, the implacable enemy of the colonists, came to the throne the year before Prudence was married. The stamp act was passed four years later. The New Whigs, the Democrats of their day and the people's party in England, opposed the Old Whigs, the Tories and George III. The king's party wished to make laws and tax the people according to the will of Parliament, which meant the will of the king and the lords. The New Whigs insisted upon a new basis for representation in Parliament. There were also two parties in the colonies. One party was in sympathy with democratic ideas and insisted upon representation for the colonies also as a basis for taxation. Pitt, Burke, Adams and Patrick Henry were quoted at every New England fireside.
The other party in the colonies was composed of those whose sympathies were with royalty, the traditions of the past, the established order. In this class were found the royal governors, the clergy of the Established church, and some of the people who were associated with the representatives of royalty either by ties of kindred, official position or social relations. Others, not a few, were Loyalists, because that for them was patriotism. These Loyalists in the colonies were often called Tories. Some of them supported the king because he was king, while disapproving his methods.
The Loyalists numbered in their ranks many of the most cultivated and influential men of the times, men of unquestioned integrity whose sincerity we can at least appreciate, time having placed us distant from the heat of contest, where we can calmly consider the strife that divided our ancestors.
Novem. 4, 1770.
In 1768, the parish sent William Prescott as "a com. to join with other towns about our threatened privileges," which grew to be the all absorbing interest of the people
How easy it is for us to see that the struggle of our ancestors was to secure English liberty. Our fathers took up arms to defend the rights of Englishmen against the tyranny of the king and his adherents. Mr. Pitt told his countrymen in vain, that the American controversy was their cause also. Burke's immortal orations against the war challenged admiration only. His masterly plea for conciliatory measures was made but one month before the battle of Lexington. The Declaration of Independence did not come until a year of fighting had confirmed the most far-seeing in the belief that separation was the step forward which must be taken.
Pepperell was loyal to the democratic tendency of the time. There was not a Tory within its borders, more than could be said of most towns. No doubt the marked personality of her "Patriot Preacher" here shows its influence.
When the matrons of Pepperell heard of the Boston Tea Party, they burned their tea before the meeting-house, so our grandmothers tell us. Probably Mrs. David Wright came down Park Street with her contribution.
"It is in this town that one of the first liberty poles was erected." "Few if any town of its size in the Commonwealth contributed so many men and so much blood in the war of the Revolution as Pepperell."
The opening months of 1775, found all her able-bodied men enrolled, under weekly drill, and ready to respond to the first call.
The women were no less ready, the anxious heart of the wife and mother would fain believe that rights would be secured without the baptism of blood, for they knew what it would mean if fathers and husbands left the homes and farms.
When the time came they met the crisis with a selfforgetfulness that matched the heroism of the men, they moulded the bullets and tied the cartridges around them,
they filled the powder horns and gave the men their Sunday coats which they themselves had spun, wove, cut and made, bade them Godspeed, and faced home duties.
They had no clubs or chapter of Daughters, these first Daughters of the American Revolution, to correspond with men's training companies, but they were actuated by the same unanimity of purpose and devotion to country, and they were not wanting in physical and moral courage. They needed the occasion only, to spring at once to active service minute women.
If the call required united effort, they too, would organize.
Groups of women from Hollis, Pepperell, Groton and neighboring towns were frequently together, for ties of kinship between these towns were much closer then than now. The women rode from town to town, but few of them "took a journey." The men went to Boston with ox-teams carrying the products of the farm, and returning brought supplies and the larger life of the town in touch with the mother-country.
There were afternoon gatherings of women who assembled to assist one another, or help some bride-elect in tying her comfortables and quilting her petticoats and bed covers. While their fingers wrought, they repeated the accounts of the last market day's experience of the men, told about their bleaching and dyeing, cheese making and meat curing, compared notes on butter, soap and candles, criticized some new finery in the square pews on the last Sunday, told over their treatment of children's diseases and how they carried their patients through a fever, admired their hostess' last drawn-in mat, a wedding present for her daughter, approved her doughnuts, and drank her hardhack tea. They expressed their opinion of King George and his Parliament, Lord North and the Tories nearer home, their eyes snapped, their thread snapped in
sympathy until Mistress Sartell warned them to be careful how they quilted.
I can see, too, a typical evening group in the last weeks of that fateful winter of 1775. It is in David Wright's living-room in their little home near Sucker Brook where it crosses Oak Hill road. David's long day's work ended with the chores, and now he sits in his arm chair watching David, Jr., who is cracking nuts, and his little Prudence as the child holds her arm before her face and turns the row of apples roasting on the hearth. His wife is tucking the three younger children into the trundle bed.
This same evening, John Shattuck, whose home was beside the block house on Park Street, looked across the supper table at his wife Lydia, and told her that he must see David Wright about Parson Emerson's wood, as it was high time that the last part of it was hauled. Thirty cords of wood delivered at the parsonage door, half in September, the remainder in mid-winter, was a part of the minister's salary.
Lydia put the ever-ready knitting work into a bag which she hung on her arm, and together they went to neighbor Wright's. When they opened the door, David and his son were peeling brooms. Prudence stood at her spinning wheel and little Prue sat on her stool before the fire with her cat in her lap watching the sputtering apples.
David and his wife put aside their work to welcome the neighbors, the children made their manners and retired to the corner. The men talked about the prospect of three or four weeks of sledding, and the women adjusted their knitting sheaths prepared to knit as they discussed household affairs. Presently Mr. Isaac Boynton dropped in from across the way. Later, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Blood came down across lots from Oak Hill. Mr. Blood's house stood on the spot where that of his great-great-grandson, Mr. David Blood, now stands.
They are soon interrupted by the arrival of Nehemiah Hobart
and his wife Rachel, on horseback. Nehemiah tells Lydia Shattuck the last news from down country, after they have all shaken hands. Nehemiah and Lydia are cousins, grandchildren of Rev. Gershorn Hobart, of Groton, and great-grandchildren of Rev. Peter Hobart, of Hingham.
Nehemiah is town clerk this year and "one of the leading men in public matters in Pepperell." He is also a member of the committee of correspondence, and naturally the men begin to discuss public affairs. They talk about the last training day and repeat what Colonel Prescott said to them; the women drop their household economy and listen. Mr. Hobart tells the company something of the committee work. Then they all join in rehearsing the points in Parson Emerson's last Thursday afternoon lecture, recalling also, the vigorous statements he has been making of late about the duty of a citizen.
It is a close circle about the blazing hearth, the mug of cider passes from man to man, the women's knitting needles flash in the firelight.
Last to join the company are Nathaniel Parker and his wife Ruth. He is a young man in the prime of life, thirty-four years old.
There is surprise when they appear, for Mr. Parker returned from Boston today and it is not custom to go neighboring on the evening of return from market, but there is reason, for Nathaniel brings a printed sermon that David told him last Sunday he wished to see.
On February twenty-first, the Groton company of "Minute Men," listened to a sermon from Rev. Samuel Webster, of Temple, N. H., preached before them by request of their officers. The Groton company did not wish their pastor to preach their sermon because he leaned too strongly toward royalty to please them. Mr. Webster uttered no uncertain words so the company requested him to permit its publication. On his way out or Boston, Nathaniel Parker drove through Queen Street, now Court Street, and
bought a copy at the printers, which Nathaniel Hobart Offers to read aloud. Mistress Wright places a little stand at his side with two lighted tallow dips upon it. Prue, with housewifely care, brings the snuffer, then hastens to the shelter of her corner for fear that her mother will remind her of bed time. The men listen with attentive faces, the women knit gazing into the fire. Here is a passage that shows the spirit of the preacher: "Lord North says that he will lay America at his feet, which is explained to mean obedience without reserve to the Mother Country, in plainer English to himself and this, compared with the manifest readiness of the new Parliament to second to the utmost of their power the designs of the minister, scarce leaves us even hopes-but from the unsearchable ways of Providence-but that we must e'er long hear the sound of trumpets and the alarm of war. Shall we then be idle, when, under God, we must depend only upon ourselves? Duty to God who commands us not to be servants of men forbids it. Benevolence to manhood who in opposition to the laws of nature and of God are almost divided into the ignoble characters of tyrants and slaves, forbids it! Gratitude to the nation that once taught us how to prize freedom, forbids it! Justice to our Fathers who so dearly purchased the blessing forbids it! Justice to ourselves and unborn millions, forbids it! My friends, I wish you and your country wishes you calmness of judgment and firmness of conduct in this hour."
Highly wrought must have been the feelings of people who listened to such words, knowing them to be prompted by the dangers of the present hour, dangers which might cost these men in this circle their lives if they were true to their convictions.
The women's hands lie idle in their laps, the fingers still closed mechanically over the needles, their gaze divided between the glowing bed of coals on the hearth, and the faces of the men. The men look steadily into the fire.
Young David feels a thrill of suppressed excitement which he does not understand and watches the company. The child, Prudence, forgotten by her mother, lies asleep on the settle with her cat in her arms. For a few minutes after the reader ceases no one speaks, the only sound to break the stillness comes from the cradle as it rocks slowly to and fro, moved by the unconscious action of the mother as she sits with her toe under the rocker. Her baby lies in it, him she has named Liberty, in the ardor of her devotion to country.
Does Nathaniel Parker see battle fields in the glowing coals? In four months he will be lying dead in the trenches on Bunker Hill, and his wife will be standing alone with her five children under fourteen years of age, facing her battle field. There will be seven other Pepperell men dead in those trenches. Jonathan Blood is to go from his door one day and no word will ever return from him to be cherished in his family, for he is to lie in an unknown grave.
The possibilities throw a shadow over these strong Puritan faces, which the ruddy glow on the hearth cannot lighten.
Presently, as if by mutual consent, the men look for their coats, the women wind the yarn on their balls, and thrust in the needles, while all talk of indifferent matters. These reticent New Englanders seldom give expression to their deeper feelings except as their actions testify to the strength of their convictions.
Prudence kisses the flushed face of her boy and puts her sleepy daughter to bed without a word of reproof, her lingering hand pressing the blanket about the child's shoulders.
David carefully covers the embers with ashes, placing the inverted shovel over the top to prevent them from flying into the room if a gust of wind should sweep down the chimney. Then he hangs the great brass kettle on the
Boston was conspicuous among English towns for the independence of its citizens, the protest against tyranny of the church was waxing earnest. At this time, Rev. Samuel Whiting, rector of the church in Lynn Regis, was a non-conformist at heart, and his preaching soon called out censure from his bishop. The Earl of Lincoln was Mr. Whiting's friend and interceded for him. Mr. Whiting resigned, was permitted to leave his parish, and soon after became rector of the church in Skirbeck, near Boston, where his brother was mayor, and his friend and relative, John Cotton, was rector of its parish church. While in Skirbeck he married his second wife, Elizabeth St. John.
Her pedigree is traced to William the Norman in two lines, and in her were united the lineage of ten sovereigns of Europe. The descent in England and America embraces twenty-eight generations. Oliver St. John, her brother, was Lord Chief Justice of England, under Cromwell. She had no sisters. Her mother was Sarah Bulkley, aunt of Rev. Peter Bulkley, of Concord, Massachusetts. "The Bulkley family," says Shattuck in his History of Concord, "was of honorable and noble descent from Robert Bulkley, one of the English barons in the reign of King John in the year 1216." Mrs. Elizabeth St. John Whiting was remarkable for her beauty, her dignity and her commanding presence. She received an education which in those days was rare among women.
While one branch of her family sided with the Royalists in England, her father was opposed to the royal cause. It is easy to see what discussions of royal prerogative and religious freedom must have been held in her home and must have entered as a prominent factor into the training of this noble lady. When she gave her hand in marriage to the staunch non-conformist clergyman it was to face unknown trials.
Rev. John Cotton was obliged to fly, and the Rev. John Whiting had no choice but to follow him if he remained in
crane and fills it with water-five pails full-Prudence will scour yarn tomorrow. She has drawn in a warp and will weave a web next week.
The long, low room is very silent now; Prue's cat creeps cautiously out of her hiding place behind the dresser and sits on the warm hearth, blinking at a glowing brand that was not covered; a star just over the chimney lies reflected in the kettle of water; the clock in the corner slowly strikes eleven.
In March and April the war cloud grew darker until men and women started whenever they saw a horseman riding rapidly and listened involuntarily when they heard a rifle shot.
The Loyalists were under watchful eyes, one rendezvous in this region was known to be Tory Tavern in Townsend Harbor, and there were Tories in Hollis. Poor Prudence, it must have been a sore trial for her to know that two of her brothers, Thomas and Samuel, were Tories. Capt. Leonard Whiting and his brother Benjamin, the first sheriff of Hillsborough County, were Tories, and Samuel Cutts Shannon, a lawyer recently come to town from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was of the same political party.
The "Alarm List" of Hollis contained the names of all able-bodied men, and it is thought that the order in which the names were written indicates social position in the town at that time. The names of Thomas and Samuel Cumings and Leonard and Benjamin Whiting are the first four names on the list. The pedigree and surroundings of the Whitings throw considerable light on their party affiliations. Rev. Samuel Whiting, the emigrant, was born in the city of Boston, Lincolnshire, England, where the family was living prior to the year 1333. His family was connected by marriage and consanguinity with several most ancient families. He was graduated from Cambridge University the year that the Pilgrims landed in America, 1620.
He probably met Annie Hall, the daughter of the Westford minister, while he was in that town before the French and Indian war. They were married April 23, 1761.
Rev. Willard Hall was also a Loyalist. He was born in Medford, March 11, 1703. He was the son of Stephen and Grace (Willis) Hall, and belonged to a family of distinction. He was graduated from Harvard College in the class with Richard Saltonstall and William Ellery. He married Abigail Cotton, of Portsmouth, N. H., in 1729. Mrs. Hall was probably descended from William Cotton, of Portsmouth, who came to America previous to 1657. Mr. Hall was called to the Westford church in 1727. From the beginning of the trouble with England, his troubles with his parish began.
On the Westford Town Records are these entries: "1774 July 14. Voted to be a day of fasting in this town and furthermore if Mr. Hall Decline the same, then to employ some suitable person to carry on the Solemnities of sd Day."
"Jan. 23, 1775. Pay to Mr. Jonathan Keep the sum of 1£-15-6-3 for what he paid Mr. Emerson for preaching our fast last summer."
"May 25. Voted that Rev. Willard Hall should give up his arms to the committee of Correspondence of this town."
In July, 1777, Mr. Hall's conduct was voted dangerous to the state by a large majority.
There were three Tories in Westford when the war broke out, two of them speedily repented. Mr. Hall remained a Loyalist to the close of his life, in 1779.
Benjamin Whiting married another daughter of Rev. William Hall, Grace Hall. They were married in Portsmouth, N. H., in 1770, by the Rev. Dr. Haven, of the Established church. It is easy to see what influences of heredity and surroundings made the Whitings slow to break with the established order.
Richard Cutts Shannon came from Portsmouth, probably
the ministry and expressed his convictions, and his brave, unselfish, high-principled wife encouraged him in his determination to do so.
Mr. Whiting refused to retain any part of his landed estate from which he could have reserved an annual income, severed all connections with a home endeared by hundreds of years of priceless associations, came to America, and soon after was settled over the first church in Lynn, the church being organized at the same time.
Mr. Turner, one of his parishioners, makes the following entry in his journal: "Ye town was called Lin in compliment to Mr Whiting who came here from Lin in old Norfolke. Before, wee were called Saugust wch wee did not mch like, some nick-naming us Sawdust. Most thought that ye name was a good one tho some would have it yt it was too short. But to such wee said then spell it Lynne ye change was made some fortie yeare and more agone (1637) and none now find fault."
Leonard and Benjamin Whiting were grandsons of Rev. John Whiting. Another Whiting in that generation was settled over the church in Concord. He married a daughter of Rev. John Cotton, of Hampton Falls, N. H., great-great-granddaughter of Rev. John Cotton, of Boston, England. These connections brought the family into touch with Governor Wentworth.
Previous to his settlement in Hollis, New Hampshire, Leonard Whiting was for a time proprietor of the inn in Littleton and owned an extensive estate there. He was a member of the town committee to frame resolutions concerning the non-importation of British goods, which were published in the Boston Gazette of March 12, 1770. Capt. Leonard Whiting received his commission during his service in the French and Indian war. He was at Crown Point and was present at the surrender of Quebec as captain of the Westford company. When the Revolution broke out he was an officer in the British army.
from the same social circle. He lived on "The Plains" in what is now Brookline, not far from the present school house there. Thomas and Samuel Cumings were probably influenced by their associations with Loyalists, which may also have deepened personal convictions. By whatever motives actuated, Loyalists were daily growing more conspicuous, and their social position more unpleasant in the glow of devotion to the colonial cause that surrounded them.
The gravity of the situation was the all absorbing thought on the training ground, in the church meetings, by the hearthstone as well as before the committees of safety and of correspondence.
By the first of March, the outlook had grown more gloomy, but then, as alway, the grief of a mother's heart bound her thought to her cradle. On the twelfth of the month little Liberty, Prudence Wright's child, died and his body was laid over in the old graveyard beside that of his sister Mary, who had died the previous July. Their graves are marked by a single slate tablet on which their names were cut. After her baby was gone, she went to her Hollis home for a few days. Her father was dead, two of her brothers and her sister Mary were living in their own homes.
Benjamin remained unmarried. He was in full sympathy with his sister Prudence, and was enlisted in Capt. Reuben Dow's company, Col. William Prescott's regiment. In the Hollis "Discriptive Roll," Benjamin is recorded as being light, five feet eleven inches in height and nineteen years of age. He fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, where he lost his knapsack valued at 1s8d, and his trumpline valued 8d. Later he served in a New York regiment at Trenton and at Princeton, and was promoted to a lieutenancy.
Spring was early in 1775. By the first of April the
frost was out of the ground in most places, and spring plowing well under way by the middle of the month.
Some snow banks still lay on the north side of stone walls, and there were dingy patches of ice in cold alder swamps. Roads were rapidly becoming firm, a fact to be fully appreciated by the nineteenth of the month. Streaks and patches of greenness on warm land marked the recent disappearance of water. Cowslips had already been served on the table, the first "green things" of the spring.
Children found May flowers in sunny sheltered spots,
"Half vent'rin liverworts in furry coats,
Blood root, whose rolled up leaves ef you oncurl,
Each on 'em's cradle to a baby pearl."
They had gathered "chink plums" on the edge of the forest and made willow whistles. Fruit trees were in full flower when the British came to Concord so a journal of the day tells us.
The women had brewed root beer from buds and roots gathered in their first tramps into the fields. Root beer was their one excuse for such tramps. Crows were cawing in the budding tree tops, and returning song birds, frogs, lambs, calves and the first chickens led proudly out by the hen that "stole her nest," all added a fresh interest to the life of field and farm yard into which the children entered with all their youthful enthusiasm and they work with a will too, many a task must be accomplished before school opens in June.
There was linen on the grass in every "forehanded" woman's door yard, for the very best time to bleach linen is when the fruit trees are in "blow." Men were mending fence, burning brush, and pushing forward the preparations for "planting time." There is a sense of freedom coming in the spring after a long New England winter- who can say how much of this spring life entered into the "minute men," and helped inspire them in the first departure
from home to the larger field on which they were to sow in blood, that coming generations might reap a priceless freedom? Sunrise saw the household at work; evening darkness put an end to the long day's toil, each like its predecessor until there came the day when "minute men" were called to sow in other fields.
Edmund Bancroft rode into town late in the forenoon of April nineteenth, bringing word that the British were coming, and that the towns nearer Boston were arming to meet them. Colonel Prescott mounted his horse at once, and leaving orders to have the Pepperell and Hollis men meet him in Groton rode away. The word flew over the hills, household cares, fields and flocks were forgotten.
"From many a peaceful haunt they come;
From homely task and rustic care,
Marshalled by faith, upheld by prayer."
They said good-bye and were gone.
The report of the fight on Lexington Green and at Concord came to town later. The women knew that their townsmen had helped chase the British and were now with other "minute men" near Boston, and that more serious action was imminent. Spies were reported as passing between the British in Canada and those in Boston. One direct road from Canada to Boston ran through Pepperell. For the women there was all the anxiety and dread uncertainty with none of the excitement of the assembled forces nearer Boston, but when they knew there was a possibility of doing something they seized the opportunity, and in the spirit that animated the "minute men," acted at once.
Word was sent from house to house in Pepperell, for the women to assemble. We know that some from Groton also responded. Hollis women may have been represented in the gathering. They determined that no foe to the cause so dear to them should pass through town, if they could prevent it. They elected Mrs. David Wright
as commander of their company. She chose Mrs. Job Shattuck, of Groton, as her lieutenant. This company has always been known as "Mrs. David Wright's Guard." Mrs. Job Shattuck's husband was in the engagement at Lexington and Concord and in active service until the close of the war. His name has passed into the annals of history as one of the greatest sufferers in Shay's Rebellion.
Mrs. Job Shattuck was Sarah Hartwell. Miss Edna Hall Tarbell qualified as a D. A. R. from these two ancestors, Mr. and Mrs. Shattuck, and Roxanna Wright Longley 3 from Prudence Wright. Both are members of Prudence Wright Chapter.
In the old grave-yard in Groton, under its pine trees, stands a time-worn slate stone bearing this inscription:
Mrs. Susanna Quailes was one of the Guard."
Dr. Samuel Green, in "Groton Historical Series," Vol. 1, No.5, tells us that Charles Quailes was the Groton baker in 1775. The bakery was at the corner of Main Street and Fagot Lane, and the sign announced:
There has never been wanting a Groton bakery on Fagot Lane since Samuel Quailes crowded fagots under his ovens.
Elizabeth Hobart, daughter of Nehemiah Hobart and
3. Deceased members.
Rachel, his wife, was seventeen years old when the women 4 were called to meet at Jewett's bridge. Her mother could not go so she sent her daughter. Elizabeth afterward became Elizabeth Hobart Heald.
Mrs. Jonathan Shattuck, who was one of the women to burn the tea before the church door, was another member of the Prudence Wright Guard. A great-aunt of Capt. Phineas Adams was another.
Unfortunately, the muster roll of the "Guard," if one was made, was not preserved. Tradition enrolls the women of this immediate neighborhood, between thirty and forty in number. We know that their uniform was their absent husbands' and brothers' clothing, and their accoutrements were the muskets left by the men-pitchforks and anything that could be made to do service. Their rendezvous was Jewett's bridge over the Nashua river, in Pepperell, the place where a person coming from the north would be obliged to cross, unless he forded the river.
The "Guard" assembled at dark one night a few days after the nineteenth of April, when they heard the rumor that British messengers were expected to cross the town. There were pine trees on one side of the river near the bridge, but no houses very near. The bridge at that time was an open one. The road, then as now, curved around high land on the north side so that the bridge was not visible until it was nearly reached by a person coming from the north. How long the women waited there was not remembered by our grandmothers in their story, but they were excited, so the story runs, as told by a descendant of Leonard Whiting, for when two horsemen approached from the north they heard the women's voices before they came in sight, and the captain's voice above the others. One of the horsemen recognized it as that of his sister, whose fearless, determined spirit he knew full well.
"Not one further step I ride!
One who rode with Whiting cried
'Tis my sister Prue! Alas,
She would never let me pass
Save when her dead body fell!
I turn back from Pepperell." *
4. This bridge was repaired and rebuilt several times, but was torn down in 1962 and replaced with a new covered bridge in 1963.
and from that hour her brother Thomas was never seen by his family or townsmen, so this tradition runs. Capt. Whiting being a military man, was not so much impressed by the voices of the women, and rode on into the midst of the "Guard" before he realized the nature of the force he had to face. The women surrounded him, seized his horse, and at the command of "Capt. Wright," compelled him to dismount and submit to search. In his boots were found treasonable papers.
The women marched their prisoner to the middle of the town, probably up Main street to the tavern kept by one Solomon Rogers. They were entertained-a substantial supper no doubt-and guarded their prisoner until morning, when they marched him to Groton and delivered him into custody. The papers were sent to the committee of safety at Charlestown.
Here is a slightly different version of the story as told by a descendant of David and Prudence:
Soon after her son Liberty died, Prudence went to her Hollis home, and one afternoon heard her brother Samuel, and Leonard Whiting make plans to meet a force of English and lead them to Groton. She succeeded in leaving Hollis without exciting their suspicion and returned to Pepperell, where she called together the women, who dressed in their absent husband's clothing and proceeded to the bridge near Jewett's fordway, prepared to defend it in the absence of their husbands and brothers.
*From a poem written by Annie V. Cuthbertson and published in "Turner's Public Spirit" of January 15, 1898, Ayer, Mass.
Soon after nightfall, horses were heard approaching, but instead of the force of British expected, only two horse men approached. Prudence, as chosen leader, ordered a halt. They turned to fly, but the women seized their horses. Leonard Whiting drew his revolver and was about to use it when Samuel Cumings made him lower it, saying: "I recognize Prude's voiceand she would wade through blood for the rebel cause." The men were dismounted and searched, and despatches from the British forces in the field, to the British General in Boston were found upon them. The prisoners were taken to Groton to the committee of safety, and the next day were given their liberty on condition that they would leave the colony. They departed in the direction of New York. Samuel Cumings never returned. Samuel was the favorite brother of Prudence, and his loss was a life-long grief to her.
At the time when Leonard Whiting was delivered into the custody of Dr. Oliver Prescott, a member of the committee of safety in Groton, his daughter Annie was twelve years old, and the doctor's son Oliver, of the same age. Some years later she became the wife of Dr. Oliver Prescott, Jr., who built for his bride the Jacobs house in Groton, where they lived until they removed to Newburyport.
Sabine, in his Loyalists of the American Revolution, Vol. 2, page 422, gives the arrest of one man, Leonard Whiting, at Jewett's bridge, where the women, under the command of Mrs. David Wright, were assembled, determined that no foe should pass it. He also states that rumors were rife that the regulars were coming.
In the Town Warrant of Pepperell for March 11, 1777, the third article reads as follows: "To hear the request of Leonard Whitings guard (so called) and act anything in reference thereto as shall then be thot proper."
In the town meeting called by this warrant, the following action was taken: "Voted that Leonard Whitings
guard (so called) be paid seven pounds seventeen shillings and six pence by an Order on the Treasurer."
Our grandparents tell us that Solomon Rogers entertained the Guard at town expense, in all probability this money paid the bill. This action of the town is its endorsement of the Guard and shows the estimate placed upon this service rendered to the colonial government. Only one other article was ever entered in a town warrant of Pepperell by women for action exclusively their own. March 11, 1898, the Prudence Wright Chapter, D. A. R, asked permission to erect a flag pole on the common, which request was granted.
After delivering their prisoner into custody the Guard disbanded.
"The women over field and farm
Kept faithful watch and ward;
Shielded the town from ev'ry harm,
Nor thought their duty hard.
They guarded bridge and forest wood.
These women fair and slight;
And for the right they ever stood.
At morning. noon and night.
The story of their gallant feat
Flew swift o'er hill and dell;
And "Reg'lars" then, cared not to meet
Prudence of Pepperell.
Their country's honor. in an hour
Most serious and grave,
Was thus upheld with grace and power.
By women true and brave.
And on the scroll where heroes' names
Appear in shining light.
With names our country proudly claims.
Gleams that of Prudence Wright." *
*From a poem written by Susan H. Wixon, of Fall River, and published in the "American Monthly Magazine," Nov., 1899.
All three died in exile. The estates of Samuel Cumings and Benjamin Whiting were confiscated.
Grace (Hall) Whiting, the deserted wife of Benjamin, was married to Burpee Ames, of Hollis, May 28, 1782. She brought to him four children under eleven years of age. By him she had one child, Burpee, Jr., and died soon after. Mr. Ames then married Widow Hannah (Pool) Cumings, who brought with her Thomas Cumings' three children under ten years of age. By Hannah, he had eight children. Sixteen children grew up in his family, children of two mothers, three fathers and four marriages.
Leanard Whiting and Richard Cutts Shannan did not antagonize their fellow townsmen to so great a degree. Richard Shannon put his property out of his hands to avoid confiscation. He was in Amherst jail in 1777, but in 1778, Hollis people sent him as a representative to General Court. Leonard Whiting was also in jail at Amherst on charge of "being inimical to the Rights and Liberties of the United Colonies." He took no active part in the war after the Declaration of Independence. His treason to the colonial cause, it appears, consisted in a soldier's loyalty to the government whose commissioned officer he was. He went to Cavendish, Vermont, where he spent the remainder of his life a respected and influential citizen. He was one of the founders of the New Ipswich Academy; also, a founder and trustee of Philips Academy, Exeter.
David Wright and Prudence, his wife, had eleven children. David, the oldest, was in the Revolutionary army near the close of the war. He married a woman from Dunstable, lived an Townsend Hill, and was buried in Brookline, N. H. Prudence lived unmarried and died when eighty-five, in Pepperell. Cumings went to Thompsan, Conn. Mary and Liberty 1st died in childhood. Devera married Nathan Cory, of Brookline. Liberty 2nd married Betsey Blanchard, and died in Nashua, N. H. Artemus married Prudence Cary, of Brookline, lived in Groton,
The men returned to their homes to repeat the words of Capt. Parker on Lexington Green: "Don't fire unless you are fired on; but if they want war, let it begin here," and the women told how they kept the bridge. Then the men and women planned for work at home, after which the men returned to camp, and those too old to shoulder muskets counseled the boys and put the remnant of their own strength into the care of their sons' families. Boys suddenly aged by new responsibilities stepped into the furrow and swung the scythe, women added to their cares those of their fathers, brothers and husbands.
Bleaching and dyeing, sheep shearing and planting, hoeing and haying went on some way, until the seventeenth of June came, when the keeping of the bridge was overshadowed by the defence of the breastworks on Bunker Hill.
Where Capt. Leonard Whiting was immediately after his arrest, does not appear on the records, but in March, 1776, the four men-Leonard and Benjamin Whiting, Thomas and Samuel Cumings-were summoned to appear before the committee of safety of the towns of Hollis, Dunstable, Merrimack and Litchfield. On their petition the case was transferred to the General Court then sitting in Exeter.
Capt. Reuben Dow appeared and filed the complaint. The accused appeared by their counsel. The complaint was not sustained and they were discharged. Events, however, soon proved the charges to have been well grounded. In June, Thomas Cumings was indicted before the Supreme Court, and gave bail for his appearance in September. In the meantime he left his family, a wife and three children under five years of age, and his country, and never returned.
Soon after, Samuel Cumings and Benjamin Whiting left their families and the state, and remained absentees.
only to the letter of her agreement, but also to the Spirit of the Gospel.
Voted, that, if the sd Prudence do not comply with sd Results or in some other way settle her difficulty with Brother Lawrence, previous to our next Sacramental Lecture, she be suspended from the special privileges of ye chh till she makes Christian satisfaction for her neglect."
Evidently the "Results" were in harmony with Brother Ephm position. Whether Sister Prudence, under threat of discipline saw matters ecclesiastical from their point of view, does not appear on the records, but it is open to doubt. Not long after this time the powers and government of the church became a vital question.
The controversy about infant baptism had begun, and the Baptists, although under the ban, had considerable influence. Prudence's youngest child, Daniel, born in 1783, was not baptized. Possibly a part of the ecclesiastical dispute between Sister Prudence and Brother Ephm Lawrence concerned the ordinance of baptism. The incident shows her fearless, independent spirit.
At the close of the war, David Wright changed his place of residence frequently, living in neighboring towns. He appears to have combined the occupations of cord wainer (shoe maker), and real estate agent. His grandson, John Hartwell, said he was a surveyor and laid out New Hampshire towns, naming Jaffrey, N. H., as one of them. From various deeds and tax lists, the following facts appear:
In 1781-2, he was a non-resident tax-payer of Hollis. In 1783-4, he was a resident tax-payer in Hollis. In 1785, both he and his son David were tax-payers in Hollis. In 1791, three hundred and fifteen acres of land in Dunstable were conveyed to David Wright, of Pepperell. Judge Parker, of Nashua, a great-grandson of David, has deeds in his possession showing two thousand two hundred acres of land in Brookline, N. H., held by David
and died in Milford, N. H. Daniel went to Norfolk, Va., and died at sea. Wilkes went to Newbury and followed the sea. Carolina Matilda married Samuel Hartwell. Her descendants lived in Ohio, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. The wide scattering of the family reminds one of the familiar lines of the old song:
In the records of the church in Pepperell, the following entry appears: On Dec. 11, 1788, "Chose Brother Ephm Lawrence our Revd Pastor & Dn Fisk as a Committee to wait up on Sister Prudence Wife of David Wright upon her with drawal from our Communion." It would appear that Prudence entertained opinions somewhat at variance with the Established Orthodox belief, and that when Brother Ephm Lawrence tried to show her the errors of her ways they had a lively discussion, but an outward submission was for the time secured, and Prudence promised before the church to conform her opinions to the decision of a committee of the brethren.
Five years later, December 17, 1793, this entry appears: "At a chh meeting regularly called to attend to the case of Sister Prudence Wright ye chh after addressing the Throne of Grace for light and direction in the business before them & deliberately considering the subject, came to the following Resolution Viz.
Whereas Sister Prudence, the Wife of David Wright, did promise and agree before this chh some time ago to submit all matters of dispute of an ecclesiastical nature subsisting between her and Brother Ephm Lawrence, to the hearing & Decision of five of their Brethren, but has since refused to comply with their Results & absented herself from our Communion contrary, as we judge, not
"They grew in beauty side by side
They filled one home with glee
Their graves are scattered far and wide
By mount and stream and sea."
Wright. These were proprietor's grants from Dunstable for the most part.
At one time, previous to the opening of the war, Prudence and David lived on the road to Oak Hill, going from Hovey's corner, near Sucker Brook. Poplar trees mark the site, the house was removed years ago. Some of the closing years of their lives they spent in Groton in the home of Samuel Hartwell, who married Carolina Matilda. According to church records they spent their last days in Pepperell. This entry appears in the records:
Some thirty years ago, Mrs. Sarah E. Pevear, of Lynn, a granddaughter of Prudence, erected a granite tablet near Jewett's bridge, bearing the following inscription:
In the conflicting rumors rife in April, 1775, the people of the town were expecting a company of men to pass through it to join the enemy, or possibly messengers with despatches. It is difficult for us to appreciate the confusion, uncertainty and excitement that would result, from their dependence upon chance reports of horsemen who gathered their information as they rode.
It was this uncertainty that led the women to disguise themselves as men, hoping, no doubt, if it became necessary to accomplish their purpose under cover of darkness and by the sudden sally of an apparently large and wholly unexpected body of militia, to put regulars to flight before they discovered their mistake. The duty of that night was to capture despatches and they did it.
It is to honor the courage of these Women, their husbands and brothers far away, their children asleep at home, they alone on the bridge in the silence and darkness awaiting they knew not what, that the Pepperell
In Memory of
The Captain of the Bridge Guard
April 1775 Prudence Cumings
Born November 26 1740
Prudence Wright chapter
D. A. R.
Died December 2 1823
"1819 May 22 David Wright ae 93 yrs. 9m. 1823 Dec 2 Widow Prudence Wright-old age 84"
The Prudence Wright Chapter has placed a tablet beside that marking the graves of Mary and Liberty Wright, bearing this inscription:
NEAR THIS SPOT A PARTY OF PATRIOTIC WOMEN UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF MRS. DAVID WRIGHT OF PEPPERELL, IN APRIL 1775, CAPTURED LEONARD WHITING, A TORY WHO WAS CARRYING TREASONABLE DESPATCHES TO THE ENEMY AT BOSTON. HE WAS TAKEN A PRISONER TO GROTON AND THE DESPATCHES WERE SENT TO THE COMMITTEE OF SAFETY AT CAMBRIDGE.
"They went where duty seemed to call;
They scarcely asked the reason why,
They only knew they could but die,
And death was not the worst of all"
Prudence Wright's Lantern
Chapter bears the name of their brave leader, Prudence Wright. As the men had done a few days before,