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A SKETCH OF MERCY OTIS WARREN.
[Given before the Delaware County Chapter, Daughters of the American
Revolution, by Elsie Role.] For all the world, the story of the great women and the great men of history is a common heritage of aid and inspiration. Yet it is, I suppose, most natural that a people should take a deeper and more exclusive interest in the great names of their own country. If the aims and sacrifices of the revolutionary fathers aroused the helpful enthusiasm of the young Marquis de Lafayette how much more lasting is the impression upon us. For we live among their landmarks and enjoy, everyday, the benefits of their heroism.
But between ourselves and our ancestors a barrier seems to exist. The names of a Molly Pitcher and a Lydia Darrach belong to a more stirring epoch than our own. And those of us who have not chosen to enter the great world, would feel more in sympathy with that past age, if we knew more of the men and women who were quietly—but none the less truly—aiding to form our history.
That is particularly true of us, the women of to-day. We hear so much that we are “new women," that in some subtle way—always undefined and perhaps undefinable—we are “not the same” as our grandmothers, that we are almost ready to believe ourselves of quite a different nature. But it is the conditions that are changed. From a primitive and simple life we are grown into a more difficult and complex civilization. In comparison with the sudden shock of difference between their European culture and their first colonial homes, the women of those times would consider our growth an evolution. In reality, it has come with something of the suddenness of revolution. And as I feel sure that it is the conditions only that are changed, and that we have been very much the same children, and are very much the same women, as those of revolutionary days, I have thought that the story of an early American woman would interest you even as it
This woman, Mercy Otis, was born in 1728, in the Cape Cod country. And, says her best biographer, we may imagine her "quaint little figure like all the child-figures of the time, with long skirt and a close cap to protect her head from the searching cape winds that always fought their way into the bleak draughty farm-houses.” In summer, the little Mercy had her "task and her seam," and after them the far sweeter delight of out-door duties, the gathering of bayberries for candles and healing-salve, and the search for the wild cranberry of the Cape. And we know that in winter she must have sat by the sputtering candle and enriched her small mind by reading of the “Day of Doom” and the fate of
“ Children flagitious, And parents did them undo
By nurture vicious." Or, perhaps, as has been quaintly suggested, she read from "Cotton's Spiritual Milk for Babes" and learned from the Bay Psalm Book such cheerful child-lore as this:
“My heart is smote and dryde like grasse,
That I to eate my bread forget:
My bones unto my skin are set.
I watch and like a sparrow am on housetop solitarily.” Of course, Mercy, like the virtuous woman of the Proverbs, was taught to "look well to the ways of a household." And it was a tradition of the motherland that when, with her needlework and her housewifery, a woman sang a little, painted a little, and played a gentle gavotte on a tinkling harpsichord, her education was elegantly complete. But Mercy longed for books and loved the vicarious joys of her brother's broader education. The honors of college were not for the Mercy Otises of those days. There was no special privilege of education for a clever girl, no particular opportunity for a clever woman. And it was not till she was—for the time—a very old maid of twenty-six and engaged to James Warren that she made for herself, as she says, a "company of the right stamp, sociable, learned, virtuous, and polite." Then she and her husband became one with all the great men of that excited day. And she was even so broad minded as to accept the friendship of a certain Doctor Cooper, whose foolhardy love of learning led him to the forbidden study of the "dangerous and pernicious French language."
During the revolutionary period, Mrs. Warren wrote many dramas and poems, frankly partisan, and from a literary standpoint, eminently dull. It is not as a dramatist that she can be fairly judged. For she was not in any sense a literary dilettante and in her quiet moments her style was all the stilted tediousness of the age. But intensely moved by the revolutionary spirit, she wrote "in iron and in blood;" and she was eminently a strong pamphleteer. It is when she is interested, as she was in her History of the Revolution, and in her literary attacks on the British, in her ardent patriotism and her republicanism, that her satire is most incisive and uncompromising. Washington accepted the dedication of two of her dramas; and in her own day, the influence of her political writings was greater than we now dream.
It has been said of Mercy Warren that she is "the precursor of the type of American woman, a creature of fine nervous organization, cruelly beset at times by the vapours, unalterably brave, even stoical, ready for the emergency and prepared to stand with unmoved face in the van of battle."
A woman of rich domestic liie and of public effort, who believed that she was to be not less an American and a loyal citizen because she was a courteous hostess and a good mother. Her gentleness and force of character gave her influence over so many that some one said, “Those whom Mrs. Warren fails to persuade or convince, she charms or beguiles into silence and approbation.” And she is the woman, too, of whom a young son could say, “For seventeen years I have devoted myself to the every wish of my dear mother. But I have not done enough.”
Little is thought and still less is said of this gentle, strong, and noble lady of the Revolution. But fortunately for us, she is of those great women who have belonged so well to their own time, that in after years history has not forgotten them. And it must always be an inspiration to the Daughters of that Revolution that she encouraged, and to the other daughters of the land she loved so deeply, to see in Mercy Warren the first type of American womanhood.
OUR STRATFORD ANCESTORS.
GAZING through the vista of the past, a panorama of English scenes is unrolled before us. We behold green fields covered with the English daisy; Hawthorne hedges in full bloom; parks sacred to the deer and fox; peasant cottage and lordly castle. The scene changes: we gaze upon ruined homes and deserted firesides; the martyrs fires lighted by superstition; friend betraying friend; enemies exulting in triumph over crushed foes.
The panorama moves onward. Vessels are leaving the motherland, bound for the New World. They carry not only merchandise, but a goodly number of men and women of gentle birth, who have gone down to the sea in ships to escape from an intolerable persecution. After weeks of buffeting with the winds and waves our harbors are safely reached. Joyfully the weary voyagers step upon the land where they can worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. Cheerfully the castle is exchanged for the log cabin. The park for the forest filled with wild beasts, venemous serpents, and the treacherous Redskin.
Our ancestors and their wives formed a part of that band of brave men and noble women.
America, the “Eldorado,” became the scene of many conflicts with savage foe, beasts of the forest, sickness, privation, and death; but the faith which brought our ancestors to this land of promise, was like a guiding star, ever leading them toward the goal of secular and religious liberty.
In 1637 the Pequods, a tribe of Indians noted for their war. like propensities, became so aggressive that Captain Mason, with a band of ninety men from Connecticut, marched against them. Hartford contributed forty-two soldiers, Wethersfield eighteen, and Windsor thirty. In the three towns there were only two hundred and fifty men able to bear arms, yet more than one-third of this number volunteered to take part in this expedition.
After a long, weary, and tedious march, the little army reached the Indian encampment, near Groton, at break of day, upon May 27th. Surrounding it, they set it on fire. A terrible
scene followed. The Indians, if they escaped from the burning buildings, met death at the hands of their enemies; if they remained within the enclosure, they perished. It has been estimated that seven hundred Indians fell upon that battlefield. Many of the warriors who escaped, fled southward, reaching Cuphead (now Stratford); they were met by the Pequonnock Indians, who became their allies and hastened with them to Sasquo Swamp (now Southport).
The English followed them in hot pursuit; as the savages rushed into the morass, one of their number darting from behind a tree, caught hold of one of the soldiers; throwing him over his shoulder, he tossed him to a comrade. Captain Mason beholding the man's peril, followed them into the forest, but was unable to effect a rescue, as the Indian held the soldier as a breast-plate before him, but Captain Mason, by the sudden thrust of his bayonet, wounded the savage, who, with a howl of pain, dropped his prisoner, and disappeared. The Englishman lived many years afterward. The soldiers surrounded the swamp, which they slowly penetrated. The Indians lost so many of their warriors, that taking advantage of a dense fog, they made a break for liberty, but were repulsed, with great loss, and were soon obliged to surrender. Many of the warriors were sold. Two hundred of the women and children were sold as slaves. This act of cruelty upon the part of the whites was justly punished, for it compelled them to live in a state of terror for seventy-five years afterward. King Philip could never have consolidated the Indian tribes but for the hatred the white race inspired in the savage breast by their merciless treatment of the Pequods in 1637.
Roger Ludlaw, who was one of the leading spirits in this warfare with the Indians, was so delighted with the fertility of the southern part of Connecticut, that he determined to found a colony there. Upon his return, he brought such glowing accounts of the country to his friends, that a number of them resolved to emigrate to Unquawa (now Fairfield). In 1638 William Judson, our ancestor, emigrated to Cupheail. He was the first white man who settled there.
In 1639 John Curtis and Richard Booth, our ancestors, with a number of their friends, settled in Stratford.