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Mrs. Abigail (Bartholomew) Paine:
The first woman within Windham county territory of whom we know anything [more than basic data of name, date of birth, marriage, (children) is Mrs. Abigail Bartholomew, second wife of Samuel Paine. After the Woodstock colony had gotten in their first plantings of corn
in the summer of 1686, they looked about for a miller, and invited William Bartholomew of Branford to fill this important office. This
stalwart pioneer had passed through a number of exciting experience, and while living in Hatfield in 1677 had suffered the horrors of Indian
invasion, and saw his young daughter Abigail, then five years old, carried away captive. The story of capture, suffering, and escape was
still fresh in memory, when, ten years later, she came with her father’s family to take up her abode in the plantation of New Roxbury. It was the year after the close of King Philip’s war, when there was less thought of immediate danger. At about eleven o’clock in the morning when most of the men were at work in the fields, the savages burst in upon the settlement, killed twelve persons, wounded five, set all the houses on
fire, and with seventeen prisoners, beat a hasty retreat. All but five of the captives were women and children. One man escaped to report their
probable destruction. All attempts at negotiation were foiled. The little party was hurried on over the bleak country, up rivers and lake,
arriving at Canada in wintry weather. They were the first New England captives who had been forced to travel through this dreary wilderness.
Two of the husbands of the captured women immediately bestirred themselves to procure their release. Obtaining a commission from the
government of Massachusetts and tardy help from New York, they toiled northward, mostly by water, carrying their canoes upon their backs from Lake George to Lake Champlain. On January 6, 1678, they reached Chamblee, and found the prisoners at Sorell and vicinity. They then went on to Quebec, where they were civilly entertained by the French Governor, terms of redemption agreed upon, and a guard allowed them to
Albany. On April 19 they started on their return journey. Arriving at Albany May 22, they sent messages to those “loving friends and kindred at Hatfield,” who for seven anxious months had wearily waited for tidings:
“These few lines are to let you understand that we are arrived at Albany now with the captives, and we now stand in need of assistance,
for my charges are very great and heavy: and, therefore, any that have any love to our condition, let it move them to come and help us in this
strait. Three of the captives are murdered, old goodman Plympton, Samuel Russell, Samuel lFoot’s daughter. All the rest are alive and well,
namely, Obadiah Dickinson and his child, Mary Foot and her child, Hannah Jennings and three children, Abagail Allis, Abigail Bartholomew, goodman Coleman’s children, Samuel Kellogg, my wife and four children, and Quintin Stockwell. I pray you hasten the matter, for it requires great haste. Stay not for the Sabbath, nor shoeing of horses. We shall endeavor to meet you at Kinderhawk. Bring provisions with you for us.
Your loving kinsman, Benjamin Waite.” As soon as possible a company was fitted out to meet them as arranged. They rode through the woods to Westfield and soon all reached home in safety—the day of their arrival the most joyful day that Hatfield had ever known. The ransom of the captives cost about two hundred pounds, which was gathered by contributions and carried forward by “the pious charity of the elders, ministers and congregations of the several towns.” A daughter of Mrs. Jennings, born in Canada, was named Captivity.
We may well believe that the presence in Woodstock of a young woman who had passed through such an experience would excite great interest. Indian alarms were frequent in those days. Again and again the anxious inhabitants were forced to repair to the carefully-guarded garrisons. A trembling fugitive, whose husband and children had been butchered upon their own hearth-stone, brought the news of the terrible massacre at Oxford. And all through these troubled years our Abigail served as a perpetual object lesson, showing to mothers and children the reality of the peril that threatened them. She married first, Joseph Frizzel, and later, Samuel Paine, and lived to repeat to many children and grandchildren the story of her marvelous captivity and escape.

Mrs. Esther Grosvenor:
Mrs. Esther Grosvenor, of Pomfret, comes down to us as a very distinct personality. Her husband Mr. John Grosvenor, having died soon
after completing negotiations for the Mashamoquet Purchase, Mrs. Grosvenor was much more concerned with business interests than most
women of her day. Her name stands first upon the list of those receiving allotments of the Purchase, and she was naturally very prominent in
division and distribution of the large estate. Born in England, she brought with her strength of constitution and dignity of character. A
troublesome squaw once invaded her kitchen, demanding immediate supply of food, and even attempting to snatch the boiling meat from the kettle. Mrs. Grosvenor held her back with her broomstick till her son Ebenezer came to the rescue with more effective weapon. Like other women of superior station she was very helpful in care of the sick, and was viewed as a mother by the whole community. She retained to old age her vigor and habit of authority, and insisted upon walking to attend church service till within a short time of her decease.

Mrs. Mary Utter:
In striking contrast with this “Colonial dame” [i.e. Mrs. Esther Grosvenor] is the first woman whose voice comes down to us from
Brooklyn. A beautiful track of land directly south of Mashamoquet was purchased by Sir John Blackwell in 1686, as agent in behalf of a number of English and Irish Dissenters, with expectation of founding a colony upon it. Capt. Blackwell also received from Connecticut a grant for a township, including his purchase, which was to be laid out as a separate town or manor, by the name of Mortlake. King William’s accession in 1688, and the religious privileges now granted in Great Britain frustrated all these plans. Blackwell returned to England, and his purchase was left neglected till after his death in 1713 his son conveyed it to Jonathan Belcher, of Boston, who entrusted Capt. John
Chandler, of Woodstock, with its survey and division. The tract was still in native wildness, save for one small clearing taken up by a
squatter, Jabez Utter. To him Chandler granted at first a deed of premises for his labor and expense “in building, fencing, clearing,
breaking up, improving and subduing” the same. The probable reason why this bargain was not carried out, and for the non-appearance of Jabez in the subsequent expulsion is found in New London court records, wherein at just this date we find him arraigned for horse stealing, and sentenced to return the horse and pay the plaintiff ten pounds, also to pay the County Treasury forty shillings, or be whipped ten stripes on his naked body, etc.
Mary, the wife of Jabez, was a woman of spirit and held on to her home with a woman’s tenacity. When the sheriff came to demand possession of the premises, she barricaded doors and windows and held on. All efforts failing to move her, young John Chandler was sent to effect ejection. The story of the siege is told by Mary herself in very vigorous English. She gives the names of some twelve or fifteen young
fellows from the neighboring towns who aided in the raid, bringing with them drums, clubs, axes, and all needful implements. Upon her utter
refusal to grant possession they proceeded to tear down her fences, batter the house with stones and clubs, set up ensigns of divers colors,
drink to the health of King James, committing, she says, “Many high and heinous enormities, treasons, profanities, and grievous wickedness.” After carousing all day they had an interval of quiet till towards morning, when “they revived their noise, marching round the house, beating drums, and singing psalm tunes,” perhaps imitating the siege of Jericho, and then young Chandler made proclamation: “now we have gotten the victory; now the day is ours,” and raising poles against the house, three of the leaders vaulted upon the roof, came down through the chimney, opened the door and let in the sheriff. Even then the resolute mistress refused to yield possession, and had to be violently dragged out and flung down backward out of the door; but at last, late in the afternoon, “they drove me away from my home and drove my children with me into the wilderness, and set a guard about me, and left us there to perish without any shelter but the Heavens,”—but still with life enough to make her way to a justice, and make pitiful complaint as “his Majesty’s distressed, forlorn subject.” Certainly no modern Brooklyn matron could use her tongue more effectively than this first woman resident.

Mrs. Mehitabel Chandler Coit:
Some pleasant glimpses of early home life in Windham county come to use from the diary of Mrs. Mehitabel Chandler Coit, of New London, whose husband, Thomas Coit, was brother of Plainfield’s first minister, Rev. Joseph Coit.
She writes:
“June 18, 1707. My husband and sister Sarah and I went to Stonington, and brother Joseph Coit was married to Experience Wheeler. June 21. We came home again.”
Mrs. Coit was the sister of Capt. John Chandler, of Woodstock, daughter of Dea. John Chandler. When fifteen years of age she notes:
“May 31, 1688. My father, with his family, went to live att New Roxbury, afterwards called Woodstock. Feb. 8, 1689. Hannah Gary born,
the first child that was born in Woodstock. April 18. The Revolution in Boston. June 25, 1695. We were married.”
This diary was maintained through life, and while noting prominent events, and the business ventures of her husband—a pioneer
ship-builder—it is mainly taken up with domestic details, the birth of her six children and childhood mishaps:
“June 14, 1706. Billy Coit fell into the cove and was almost drownded. March 10, 1708. Martha Coit’s foot burnt with a warming pan.
April 29. A plank fell off the stage upon Thomas Coit and struck him down but gott no grate mater of hurt. Aug. 12. Mr. Vryland’s vessell was
burnt upon the stocks, and John Coit’s foot was burnt.”
A visit at Woodstock in 1726 gives us a peep into inside life; those minor domestic details left out from general history, and, therefore,
all the more valuable:
“May 19. I set out to go to Woodstock, and before we got to Bowlses it rained a smart shower and we fain to go in there for shelter. When
the shower was a little over we sat out again got to Norwich, stayed at Lathrops that night and had fryed veal for supper. Friday we dined at
Cady’s and had beef and pork and herbs; began to be very weary. I rid behind Sam Morris most of the way; got to W. a little before night,
almost tired to death. Sabbath day. Went to meeting; come home very weary. 22. Half dead still but went to brother Josephs a foot (just over
the line in Pomfret). 23. Came back again; made seven calls on the way and so to brothers very wear (Capt. John Chandler’s, South Woodstock).
24. Electon day:--We went up to town; seeing trayning; went to dinner at Coz. Johns. Billy and his wife there too; sister, cousin Hannah, Coz.
Billy’s wife and I called at James Corbin’s, Mr. Dwights, Jas. Bacons, Jabez Corbin’s, Dea. Morris’s and Mr. Carpenters and so home; same day coming home sister fell down and brake her arm; they sent for Parker (Dr. Morse) to set it. 25. Rainy weather; I went to Mrs. Holmes’ she is not married yet; at night Mr. Dwight and his wife and Mr. Morris here to see us; sister very bad with her arm. 26. A bright, charming morning; in the forenoon I read in the Turkish history; P.M., brother, Coz. Hannah and I went to Sam Morris’ (New Boston), had trout; to Coz. Billy’s, and drank syllibub; came home wery and dull; a pain in my face; I hate to ride; the horse started three or four times; I wisht to be at home. 28. I went to meeting on foot; the test: “Happy are the people that are in such as case” (I could not think myself happy if I was in his people’s case). 29. Brother John went with me to West Hill; we went to Marcy’s, Paysons, Coy’s and Wrights. 30. I set out to come home; brother Chandler came with me as far as change; brother Joseph camewith me as far as Plainfield, there we met sister Abigail Coit; we went to dinner there, stayed an hour or two, then set out for Norwich; brother coit came with us as far as Quinnebaugs; then we came over in a cannow; we sail over Shituckett alone; came to Norwich about dark; lodged at Lathrops. 31. Got home about 10 o’clock, not very wery; found all well except the garding, and this was overrun with weeds; so much for Woodstock.”
To those familiar with the Woodstock of that date, this gives a very pleasant picture, naming all the old families and showing the neighborly
intercourse that existed. Unpleasantness then rapidly culminating between Rev. Josiah Dwight and his people called out Mrs. Coit’s
disparaging comment. “Coz. John” was the youth who figured in the expulsion of Mary utter. The wife of “Cousin Billy,” then newly married,
Jemima Bradbury, was a lineal descendant of Massachusetts Winthrops and Dudleys, and one of the most cultured women of her time, especially noted for her interest in natural science.

Mrs. Hannah (Wilson) Spalding:
Few lives have more of the element of tragic romance than that of the pioneer woman of South Killingly, Mrs. Hannah (Wilson) Spalding. Her husband, Jacob Spalding, of Plainfield, inherited a right on the Owaneco Purchase, and was the first to take possession of a Killingly section. His adventures and exploits in connection with the Indians are well known. Mrs. Spalding’s prowess in routing a noisy band attempting to force their way through the window, by striking the leader on the mouth with an enormous beef-bone, is handed down by admiring descendants. Jacob Spalding was killed instantly—thrown from his cart on Black Hill—leaving his widow and two children in comfortable circumstances. Mrs. Spalding was an unusually attractive person, of fine presence and character. To the great disgust of friends and relatives she gave her hand in a few years to an adventurer, who had figured among the Scotch settlers of Voluntown, under the name of Girk. To Mrs. Spalding, he confided that his real name was Edward Stuart; that he was a lineal descendant of the royal line, sharing the exile of the banished King. His appearance and manners confirmed this story, which was also vouched for by Rev. Samuel Dorrance and other prominent settlers of Voluntown. Mr. Dorrance performed the marriage ceremony, and Edward Stuart reigned in the Spalding mansion. There was much talk among the neighbors of his fine clothes and lordly air. His linen was so fine that it could be drawn through a ring; his gilded rapier was of astonishing beauty and workmanship. He spoke French with great fluency, and had great skill in fencing. The only child of this marriage was a daughter, named Mary in honor of the ill-fated Queen. Soon after her birth, Stuart went abroad for a year, in which he was supposed to have taken a part in uprisings in England. After his return he persuaded his wife to sell the farm she held in her own right, and with the proceeds prepared for another venture. His proceedings were at this time considered so suspicious that he was forbidden by the town to harbor “one Sherrod,” and for several days before his final departure he maintained “a guarded secrecy,” and then stole away by night. From Baltimore he wrote to his wife that he was about to make one more effort to retrieve his fortunes and whatever he might gain “it would not be too good to share with her.” This was the last ever heard of Edward Stuart. The date of his disappearance tallies remarkably with that of the first concerted attempt by Charles Edward to regain the thrown of Britain. Very extensive preparations had been made for this invasion, but a great storm scattered the fleet and wrought great destruction in life and property. If Edward Stuart was what he claimed to be, he met the fate of many of his associates. Mrs. Stuart survived but a few months. Her health had been greatly affected by the talk and suspicion of her kindred and neighbors, and the estrangement and opposition of her children. Mary Stuart grew up a beautiful girl, strongly resembling her father in manner and personal appearance, but the Stuart destiny pursued her. The farm that would have come to her having been pre-empted by her father, she was forced through life to struggle with poverty. Marrying when young, William Earl, of Brooklyn, their home and its contents were destroyed by fire in the middle of a winter night, the family barely escaping with their lives, wading barefoot through deep snow. Hoping to repair this loss, Mr. Earl enlisted in the unfortunate expedition to Havana, and died of yellow fever. Mary supported herself and her two sons till her marriage with a young carpenter, David Dodge, and then enjoyed a few years of comparative comfort and happiness. But with the Revolutionary War new trials came. Her two Earl boys, fine, spirited young men, were early induced to enlist, and both died of exposure and disease. Mr. Dodge sunk all his property in the manufacture of Continental wagons; Mary Stuart’s
health and nerve were completely shattered by all that she had passed through, and her remaining days were clouded by sickness and poverty.
The children of her second marriage were a comfort and support. Her daughter, Mrs. Sprague, of Hampton, was a woman of unusual character and piety, ad her son, David L. Dodge, after a manly struggle, succeeding in founding that mercantile house in New York, still represented by his grandson, William E. Dodge.

Mrs. Mary (Whiting) Clap:
Among the second generation of Windham women, those born and reared within the county, non have left a more precious record than Mary
Whiting, daughter of Rev. Samuel Whiting, of Windham. Marrying the successor of her father in the ministry, Rev. Thomas Clap, at the age of fifteen, she proved more than equal to the position, lovely alike in person and character. Her early death deepened the impression made by
her. More than thirty years after her decease, Dr. Daggett writes:
“She had a beautiful and pleasant countenance; was a woman of great prudence and discretion in the conduct of herself and all her affairs;
was diligent, and always endeavored to make the best of what she had; the heart of her husband could safely trust in her. She was kind and
compassionate to the poor and all in distress. She was adorned with an excellent spirit of humility and meekness; did not affect to put herself
forward in conversation, but chose to speak discreetly rather than much, but was always free, pleasant and cheerful in conversation with every
one. She exceeded in a most serene, pleasant temper and disposition of mind, which rendered her very agreeable to her husband and all her
acquaintance: and though he lived with her almost nine years in the connubial state, yet he never once saw her in any unpleasant temper,
neither did one unpleasant word pass between them on any occasion whatsoever.”
The timeworn gravestone still bears record: “She was of a most amiable disposition, the delight and crown of her husband, an ornament
to her sex and pattern of every grace and virtue. She for a long time expected death with a calmness and serenity of mind, and met it with
great joy and satisfaction. She lived greatly desired, and died universally respected, Aug. 10, 1736, in the 24th year of her age.”

Miss Anne Hall:
First in Connecticut, and in point of time one of the first women in this country, to gain public recognition as an artist, was Miss Anne
Hall, of Pomfret and New York. She was only preceded and equaled as far as we can ascertain by Misses Anna C. and Sarah M. Peale, granddaughters of the distinguished artist, Charles Wilson Peale. There have been local women artists in some of our large towns, but none that gained more than a provincial reputation, or were honored like Miss Hall by election to membership in The National Academy of Design.
Miss Anne Hall was no untrained phenomenon. Like the Peale sisters she inherited artistic tendencies. Her father, Dr. Jonathan Hall, of
Pomfret, and his father, had been lovers of art, and, unable to gratify their own aspirations, were eager to foster their manifestation in
little Anne. Figures cut from paper or moulded in wax at a very early age showed great merit. A box of paints from China enabled her to
gratify her love for coloring and reproduce birds, flowers, fruit, and whatever caught her childish fancy.
When a very young girl she accompanied an elder sister to Newport, the home of the Mumfords, her mother’s family. Here she was permitted to take a few lessons in oil painting and drawing from Mr. Samuel King, the teacher of Malbone and Washington Allston. Mr. King also instructed her in the art of applying color to ivory. Returning to her Pomfret home she practiced diligently in these various lines, and had the privilege of further instruction in New York city under the skillful teaching of Alexander Robinson, secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts. With such opportunities for cultivating native genius it is no wonder that Miss Hall achieved so high a rank among the artists of her time. Her first success was in copying from the old master. Like Hawthorne’s Hilda she possessed that sympathetic insight which enabled her to catch and reproduce the very soul of the original. Her brother, Charles H. Hall, of New York, supplied her with good pictures to copy. Copies of Guido’s pictures were executed with a force and glow of coloring that won praise from experienced critics.
In character and person Miss Hall was exceptionally lovely—a bright and shining light that cultured society which distinguished Pomfret in
the early part of the century. A foreign visitor at one of her fashionable assemblies gave verdict—“That Miss Hall’s dress and demeanor
would have done credit to any court in Europe.” She had the literary accomplishments of her time, some of her poems long living in
remembrance. But above all she shone in beauty of character—“her life a lofty striving after the highest ideal, which she exemplified in every
act and word.” Her ready kindness and sympathy, her willingness to devote her artistic skill to memorials of departed friends, was very
noteworthy. Cherub faces of children long passed from earth are still held as priceless treasures in many households.
But it was not till after her permanent removal to New York city, about 1820, that Miss Hall’s fame became fully established, especially
in her chosen line of miniature painting on ivory. Dunlap characterized her work as of the first order, combining exquisite ideality of design
with beauty of coloring. He notes especially her groups of children, “composed with the taste and skill of a master, and the delicacy which
the female character can infuse into the works of beauty beyond the reach of man.” Some of these groups received the rare compliment of
being sent abroad to be copied in enamel, and thus made indestructible. Miss Hall excelled in rich coloring, and in those finishing touches that add so much charm—flowers in the hands of her women, wreaths twined about her cherub children, were marvels of grace and beauty. Among many distinguished subjects, she had the honor of painting one of the especial celebrities of the time—Garafilia Mohalbi. This lovely Greek girl was taken captive during the war with the Turks, and ransomed in 1827 by a Boston merchant and brought to this country. It was this picture exhibited at the National Academy that brought Miss Hall her election to membership, and the engraved copy was widely known and admired. As market value in our practical days is often made a test of artistic merit, it may be noted that some of Miss Hall’s groups were
appraised at five hundred dollars, which was considered an extraordinary price for a native artist to receive.
Unaffected in character by her distinguished success, Miss Hall remained modest and retiring, never seeking praise or notoriety.
Struggling artists from her native country gained ready access to her studio, and found her ready with sympathy and counsel. Our late artist,
Mr. Sawyer, spoke of her with enthusiastic admiration, as one far in advance of the ordinary range of womanly attainment. She died at the
home of her sister, Mrs. Henry Ward, New York, in 1863,having just passed her seventieth year. In the marvelous development of modern art,
especially among women, this first woman artist in our State should not be overlooked, and it is hoped that a fitting memorial ma sometime be
prepared, with reproductions of those faces and groups which won such fame and favor.

Medical Women; Mrs. Hannah Bradford, Mrs. (Holmes) Edmonds, Mrs. Anne Eaton:
Many of the early women of Windham county far exceeded modern practitioners in the extent and variety of their medical practice,
though experience with them took the place of training and diploma. Mrs. Hannah Bradford, of Windham, was one always ready to meet the call of sickness and suffering. The Mrs. Holmes (of Woodstock) whom Mrs. Coit reports as “not married yet,” did in time select for her second husband Mr. Edmonds of Dudley. Previous to this marriage she had devoted herself to nursing, and it is said that in “the great snowstorm” of 1749 her services were in such demand that she was taken out of a chamber window and carried through the drifts many miles to distressed patients. Another woman very widely known as midwife, nurse and physician, was Mrs. Anne (Woodcock) Eaton of Ashford, whose practice rivaled in extent the most popular physicians of our day. It is said that during the prevalence of a spotted fever she was scarcely off her rounds, day or night, riding up occasionally to her own doorstep, inquiring for the health of her own family, snatching a bit of food and hurrying off again.

Religious Women; Mercy Wheeler:
During the “Great Revival” of 1740, women came decidedly to the front of the separation from the stated churches. Their varied and incisive
excuses for refusing to attend worship at the town meeting-house and withdrawal from church, show great fertility of invention as well as
devotion to principle. Some of them even went such lengths as to indulge in what was called by a Separate brother “the cussed practice of women speaking in public.”
Probably no woman in the county was so widely known in her day as Mercy Wheeler of Plainfield, in connection with her very remarkable
“faith cure.” Few cases of this kind are so well attested, or reported with such minutiae of process. She was a respectable young woman of good family, and her disabled and suffering condition was perfectly well known to the townspeople. For a nubmer of years she seemed to have lost the use of the lower part of her body—her ankle bones ‘loose and separate so that a string was needed to keep her feet in proper
position,” and the power of speech had been at times taken from her. Her mind during this period had remained clear and tranquil and especially open to religious impressions. The revival of religion, for which she had longed and prayed, was a source of great joy to her. Hearing of the wonderful things done throughout the land she queried in her own mind whether the Lord would not send deliverance to her, and awaited a meeting to be held in her own house, with trembling hope. But when, after the services of prayer and preaching no change came, a cloud of darkness came over her till the word of God came to her with such force—“If thou wilt believe though shalt see the glory of God now”—that she seemed to go out of herself and all human agency, into the hands of God alone. At that instant a thrill passed through her frame—“a racking, a working in every joint, as if she were with hands drawn and compressed together,” and then to the utter amazement of minister and people, who had known nothing of the exercises of her mind, the bedridden woman, who for sixteen years had not stood upon her feet, walked up and down the room, crying “Bless the Lord Jesus who has healed me.” The cure so suddenly effected was permanent. Hundred of people who had seen the crippled invalid now testified to the completeness of her cure. The next Sabbath she rode three miles to the house of worship, and thenceforth was able to engage in all the ordinary duties of life. This wonderful story made a great impression at the time throughout the Colony. Dr. Benjamin Lord, of Norwich, was especially interested in the case and published his sermon preached at a special service of thanksgiving held in Plainfield, with affidavits from well-known residents as to Mercy’s previous and present condition. This pamphlet passed through several editions and was widely circulated at home and abroad, even exciting interest and attention among Christians in England. All this notice and notoriety had no effect upon the simple, humble-minded Mercy, who proved the reality of her religion by faithful performance of everyday duties—“a living example of faith, fortitude, love, and unshaken constancy in religion.”

(The above Windham County Women of Olden Time” taken from Historic Gleanings in Windham County, Connecticut by Ellen Larned, 1899)


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