The SAR Magazine

Summer 2018

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

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Page 32 of 63

SUMMER 2018 33 "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. • • • "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.' — poem by Annie V. Cuthbertson, published in Turner's Public Spirit, Jan.15, 1898, Ayer, Mass. "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. "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 voice and 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." It is not clear if the two men arrested that night ever served time for their alleged crimes, and there is no definitive proof that the documents they were carrying were indeed "treasonable papers." According to the book, History of the Town of Hollis, the men, and many of their associates, were deemed suspicious numerous times in the months that followed but were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing due to a lack of evidence. When Thomas Cummings was indicted on a new charge shortly after, he fled the country with his brother, Samuel, and Leonard Whiting's brother, Benjamin, following shortly behind. Their estates were later confiscated, and they all died in exile. The Daughters of the American Revolution have a chapter in Massachusetts named for Prudence Cumings Wright. At the gravesite of Sarah Hartwell Shattuck in the "Old Common Bury" at Groton is a plaque placed by the same D.A.R. chapter honoring her service to our nation in the earliest days of the American Revolutionary War. It reads: "Sarah Hartwell Shattuck Lieut Company of Women Who Captured a Tory Carrying Dispatches to British Army Boston 1775" Captain Job Shattuck was my fifth-great grandfather; and his erstwhile Goodwife Sarah (aka Lt. Sarah Hartwell Shattuck) was my fifth-great grandmother. — David M. Lamb, Iowa Society, SAR Grave of Sarah Hartwell Shattuck, "Old Common Bury," Groton, Mass.

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