Mrs. Elizabeth Dewey Follett
formerly of Windsor, Conn. Transcribed by
Jane Elizabeth Parker Ward
Annette Persis Ward
Now that we are so comfortably settled in our new home and have, as it were, put our old life behind us, I will close my old diary and begin a new one. We arrived early in September, selected the site for our house, and the settlers all with a hearty good will turned in to help get it ready before the cold weather should set in. How well they worked may be inferred by the fact that we were settled and ready to give our housewarming just one week
How I wish all the dear ones in "old Windsor" could look in upon us and see how cozy and homelike we are. It is a large hewed log house, with two rooms, each one having a huge fireplace in the end, and a loft high enough for a window in each gable-end; this is reached by a rude flight of steps, one degree easier than a ladder. In the loft are three beds where the two hired men and our older boys sleep.
Our hourehold goods were so carefully packed that they were not in the least injured, and I have them so arranged that I feel at times as though we were really still in the old Connecticut home.
The land in this valley is remarkable for its foretility, and the air of general thrift which pervades the settlement shows it. Our farm is on the left side of the river, bounded by it on one side. The house faces the stream, and is about fifty rods from it. I never tire of watching its ceaseless flow; and looking beyond at the overgreen summit of the mountain ridge. I could not wish to be in a more lovely spot and, had I my dear home friends with me, should call it a Paradise on earth. Our nearest neighbor is but one-half mile away, and the Fort two miles distant.
The Indians seem kindly disposed and friendly. Our greatest deprivation is the lack of news. It takes several days for the Post to reach us from Philadelphia. And now, just at this juncture, we are so eager to hear all that is going on at headquarters, that we get very impatient.
If the Mother Country is really bound to push us to extremities, I hardly think the roar and din of the strife can penetrate this peaceful valley. I hope the Colonies will never give up their rights, no! not if we have to drink raspberry leaves tea for twice the time we have done so, and never wear anything but homespun.
There are quantities of raspberries here, and the children and I in our walks gathered enough for a bountiful supply till they grow again.
My loom is set up in one corner of the kitchen, and I have nearly enough flax spun to commense a piece for household linen. I have last month woven a piece of goods for dresses for myself and children. It is blue and copper colored plaid. I think with a dress of that, and one of my silk aprons tied over it, I shall be dressed enough for any of the merry makings we have here; and I for one am willing to wear such until the end of my days rather than give up to our unnatural Mother.
The children are growing, and Martin is quite manly and thoughtful. He wishes he was a man so he could fight the Redcoats.
Our long winter evenings are spent (after the little ones are in bed) sitting around our capacious fire place. Martin and his sister with Charity, our handmaiden, on the settle in one corner, Husband and the men in front, and myself in the other corner with my little flaxwheel, its quiet hum, making an accompaniment to the reading which is generally, after the last Philadelphia paper has been read several times, accounts of the hardships and sufferings of the early colonists; varied perhaps by a lesson in arithmetic for Martin's benefit or practicing a tune for the next Sabbath's worship.
How calmly our days and weeks glide along, happy in each other's love, and in the performance of our duties. Yet serene as the prospect seems, I often for days together have the most gloomy forebodings. These times follow the arrival of papers which contain the debates in Congress, which is now in session in Philadelphia. Why
can't England give us our rights, and treat us as she should?
May 15th. Well the cloud has burst at last. This evening the postman arrived and before the papers could be opened he told of the first battle which had been fought at Lexington, Mass., on the 19th of April. He also told us that a British army was quartered in Boston. The Settlement is in a great state of excitement, the majority of the families are in favor of standing up for their rights; but some I am sorry to say are cowardly enough to want to submit. How any man with one grain of independence in his nature can be in favor of such a thing I can not understand. Husband says I must not be so outspoken, for these will be times to try one's souls. Well, there is one consolation, if I can't talk, I can write in my Diary, and it will tell no secrets.
June 21st. We received news today that when North Carolina heard of the battle of Lexington, they declared themselves independent of the Crown. This was done on the 21st day of May. How I do hope that all the other Colonies will join her, then England will see that we are determined, and in union there is strength.
The same paper brings the appointment of George Washington as Commander of the Army.
June 28, 1776. Almost a year has passed since I have opened my Diary. Our news has been so meager and we have seemed so far from the scene of strife, that we had almost been lulled into the feeling that there would be a settlement between the Crown and the Colonies; but there are now fresh rumors, that no attention has been made to our requests but instead, acts were passed prohibiting trade with the Colonies, authorizing the hiring of German soldiers, and sending 25,000 soldiers over here. I do hope the Colonies will now all be ready to declare their independence.
June 30th. The latest news is of a battle which has been fought on Bunker Hill near Boston. Our men fought bravely until their powder gave out, then they were obliged to retreat. Where will this all end, God only knows.
July 14th. The welcome news has come at last. We were declared free and independent on the 4th day of this month. Report says it was a wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten day in Philadelphia. The act was made known to the people by the ringing of the bell on the old State House, and in the evening there was a general illumination of the city. l am glad! oh, so glad! that this step has been taken, but when I think of what the consequences may be, to me and mine, I am a very coward.
Jan. 1, 1777. The news which reaches us from the outer world is full of excitement; occasionally we feel very much roused, and some of the young and vigorous ones are ready to start and join the Army, but on the whole we have passed a very peaceful six months. Our crops have been very bountiful, and we look at the labor of our hands and are satisfied with the results.
Charity and I are kept busy with our spinning of wool and flax, and weaving cloth for all our clothes; and were it not for this cruel war, how happy we should be.
Oct. 6th. Well, Howe, the British commander, has entered Philadelphia with his troops, now it begins to seem near, in good earnest. Our side is very much in need of supplies of every kind for their Army. What can we do? Money is scarce; but every Patriot should think of his country first, and himself afterward. We can patch our old clothes and send the new cloth to the Army. We can spin all the wool we can spare into yarn for socks, and let every minute be improved in knitting or sewing so that we have a supply on hand whenever we find they are needed.
Dec. 25, 1777. This is I think the blackest Christmas in all my catalogue of Christmasses. 'Tis true, sometimes the skies seem brightening. Burgoyne was obliged to surrender his army in October; but the Army, our Army, is in desperate straits. Made up as it is of such diverse elements, it is almost impossible to preserve order.
Washington took his army into winter quarters at Valley Forge the first of this month. When I read the accounts of their destitution, it makes my heart bleed. All the patriotic women in the settlement are working day and night weaving cloth and making it up into coats and pants. Those too old or too young to weave and sew, keep their knitting needles flying. Nearly every able-bodied man (Patriot) has gone, and every one who goes we fit out with a complete suit. Husband deliberated sometime as to what course he should take, but finally concluded he could help the cause on more by staying at home. We certainly need a few men of sound judgment left here to take care of the Tories, who I am sorry to say are quite numerous.
June 1, 1778. The untiring labors of Franklin in France, have at length led to our recognition by them as a nation. It seems to me that this is a great thing for us. We take our place as a nation among the other nations of the earth. So far this year there has been little more done than to hold our own. The British must begin to think there is something in us when we are able to do that against their superior forces. Will the end never come? Must our beautiful country still be ruined by the march of armies, and the blood of our best men continue to be spilled? How long, Oh! Lord, how long?
June 27, 1778. The sun has just set behind the mountain, and the heavens are still bright from its rays, altogether it is a perfect evening. As I sit here on the porch and feast my eyes upon the beauties of this lovely valley, and inhale the fragrance of the rose-scented air; a feeling of sadness creeps over me, a premonition of approaching evil. Why it should be so I can't tell, unless it is the fact, that there is a general distrust of the Indians, and there are I am sorry to say many Tories in our settlement. The most of our able-bodied men are in the Army, and should the Indians prove troublesome, we are helpless. For the sake of my little ones I trust all will be well.
Dec. 25, 1780. It has been a long, long time, dear Diary, since I have looked upon your pages. Of the horror and sadness which I have passed through since my last entry, I can not speak. A few facts I will put down, so that my descendants (should this ever fall into their hands) may have a truthful record. My fears, as expressed on the 27th of June, were more than realized. The next night saw my dear Husband torn from me, shot, by a Tory, a neighbor, as he was swimming the river; saw my children fatherless, our peaceful home a mass of smoldering ruins, our lovely farm despoiled, and ourselves wanderers in the wilderness. The united attack of the Tories and Indians was so sudden that we, being such a distance from the Fort, were not able to get there. Our men fought bravely but they were overpowered by numbers. Many, after they were taken, were tortured, but my dear Husband was spared that fate. While swimming the river to escape he was shot by a Tory. The Indians surrounded our house, and I supposed we were to meet the fate of nearly all who fall into their hands.
They came into the house and appropriated everything which struck their fancy. They took five of my featherbeds, ripped them open, and amused themselves watching the feathers fly. My best dresses and aprons, they tore into ribbons with which to decorate themselves. They took six fine horses and mounted them, but there must have been a tender spot somewhere in their hearts, for they gave me the poorest horse and the poorest featherbed, and let me make up a small package of clothing for the children. With these, myself mounted upon the horse, poor simple Willie behind me, and wee Jamie in front, we started, in company with others, on our journey of nearly two hundred miles through the unbroken forest to reach the nearest settlement. I wonder, when I look back to that time, how I ever endured that terrible ride. My brave boy, Martin, was my never failing comfort. I doubt not his hopeful courage in a great measure sustained me. He would carry the little ones by turn upon his back, and bathe and bind up their wounded feet; and by his cheerful energy infused hope into the whole party. After traveling one hundred miles, we were met by a party from the settlement at Bennington, Vermont, with wagons, who helped us much. My friends here ministered to our wants and gave us homes with them.
I sometimes feel as if it were all a dream, and I need but open my eyes to see our old home in all its loveliness, and hear the tones of my Husband's voice as in the days of yore. And this is only one of many heart-rending scenes through which the people of our Colonies have had to pass to secure our independence. And yet we are not free. We have had many reverses during the last two vean, enough to dishearten the bravest. Now the fighting is mainly in the Southern Colonies. I suppose it can not be lcng before either one side or the other will gain the decisive victory. We wait in almost breathless anxiety for everv scrap of news.
Nov. 28, 1781. We have just heard of the surrender of Cornwallis. This must virtuallv close the war.
Dec. 25, 1783. At last, at last! this cruel war is ended ! We are
in every deed a free and independent country. On the 3rd of September a Treaty of Peace was signed between Great Britain and the United States, and November 3rd our brave Army disbanded and the men are no doubt in their own home, celebrating this Christmas.
I sit here thinking, think at what a great price our liberty has been bought. Thousands of homes through the length and breadth of this country are (like mine) desolate tonight. Fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, have willingly given up their lives that this priceless boon might be ours.
My aching heart will turn to our dear home on the banks of the Susquehanna, where the brave life which was so much to me and mine, was given up in this cause, and as I realize that never more will my eyes again view those scenes, nor my ears hear the tone· of that loving voice; and, knowing there are thousands whose lot is mine, I ask myself, was not the sacrifice too great?
In my hopeful moods I look down the years, and in my mind's eye see all the wide tract of land between us and the Great river, under cultivation, and dotted over with cities and villages, inhabited by an enterprising, God-fearing people. I see the Nation growing in wealth and power; inviting to its hospitable shores the down-trodden of every nation under the Sun; and making progress in all that pertains to the best welfare ot man. Then, the answer comes from the depths of my heart, the sacrifice was none too great.
Should any of mv descendants read these few pages, may it have the effect of making them more fully realize the fact, that comforts, homes and lives were given up gladly; that they, though unborn, might enjoy in full measure this God-given right. And, should this tree of Liberty, planted in blood and watered by tears, ever need strong, right arm. to defend it, may the men among you be the first to step into the ranks and say, "Here am I," and the women bid you "Godspeed".
The Bulletin. Sons of the Revolution in the State of California. May-June, 1932. pp 2-6.