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Women's History Month 2023 - Prudence Cummings Wright

Started by Mrs. Smith, March 18, 2023, 03:09:14 PM

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Mrs. Smith

Good morning, and welcome to the Project Appleseed annual series in honor of Women's History Month.  Every week in March we showcase a different extraordinary woman in Revolutionary War history.  Thank you for joining us!

You can find earlier editions at the Women's History Month Series Post Guide

This week's submission comes from the desk of Florida's JustKim.  Huzzah!!!

Prudence Cummings Wright was born Nov. 26, 1740, the daughter of Prudence and Samuel Cummings, she had two sisters and three brothers.  Prudence was a patriot inside and out.  However, two of her brothers, Samuel and Thomas, were Loyalists to the King. 

She married another patriot, David Wright, in 1761. They lived in Pepperell, Mass, about 20 miles northwest of Concord. David had joined the militia as a private. The town of Pepperell was loyal to the democratic ideals of the Patriots. There was not a Tory within its borders, more than could be said of most towns. When the women of Pepperell heard of the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, they burned their tea in front of the meetinghouse.

It is said that shortly after Prudence's young son, Liberty, died, she made a visit to the home of her parents.  While there, she overheard her brother Samuel talk to his friend Leonard Whiting, a British army officer, about passing information to the British. Prudence returned to Pepperell and gathered the women of the town. She organized 30 or 40 of them into a militia called ‘Mrs. David Wright's Guard.'  Prudence was elected as their leader, and she appointed Sarah Shattuck as her lieutenant. The women dressed in their husbands' and brothers' clothing and carried whatever weapons they could find including some old muskets left behind by the men of Pepperell, but mostly farm implements such as pitchforks. 

On the morning of April 19, 1775, when word came that the Redcoats were coming, towns near Boston were arming to meet them. About 9 o'clock on the morning of April 19, 1775, a messenger arrived in Pepperell with news of the fighting at Lexington and the advance of the Redcoats toward Concord. The colonel of the local militia rode out, leaving orders for the Pepperell men to meet him at Groton. All of Pepperell's able-bodied men were enrolled in the militia and ready to respond to the first call. The women were no less ready, the anxious heart of the wife and mother knew what it would mean if fathers and husbands left the homes and farms. The women were organized and ready to defend their town. It was on the main north road, and it was possible the returning British would choose that route on their return to Boston.  If they did, the women were determined to defend their homes by any means possible.

The British army did not follow the north road, but her husband and the other members of the Pepperell Militia had orders to march to the Siege of Boston in the aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. 

The women patrolled the roads leading into town, and guarded Jewett's bridge over the Nashua River, the only way through Pepperell.  Any Loyalists would have to cross it on their way to Boston to deliver messages. The "Guard" assembled one night a few days after April 19, 1775, when they heard that British messengers would be passing through.  The road was 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.

The women waited at night in silence, shielding the lantern until two horsemen approached.  Prudence burst upon them with lantern bright demanding to know their identity and business.  One of these men was Prudence's brother Samuel.  Samuel, recognizing his sister's voice, immediately lowered his pistol.  The other man, Leonard Whiting, pushed forward thinking he couldn't be stopped by a bunch of women.  He found himself to be wrong.  Both men were dragged off of their horses and searched.  They were found to be carrying "treasonable papers."  There the prisoners were detained for the rest of night before being taken to Groton and the Committee of Safety in the morning.

Prudence's Lantern, photo courtesy of Wendy Cummings

The committee gave the two men their liberty once they promised to leave the colony. It is said that Prudence never saw Samuel, her favorite brother, again.
The women's militia disbanded after that exciting night.

The town couldn't pay the women for what they'd done until the town meeting on March 19, 1777. Then Pepperell voted to pay Wright's guard for their service. They referred to the volunteer ladies' militia as "Leonard Whiting's Guard."

The meeting minutes from the Town Council's decision to pay the Guard for their services.

Prudence Cummings Wright died Dec. 2, 1823. Jewett's Bridge has been replaced several times, and a covered bridge now stands at the crossing, along with a stone marker memorializing Prudence Cummings Wright.

Jewett's Bridge

Wright is considered a Daughter of Liberty due to her role in the American Revolution and has a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution named for her. The DAR placed this marker at her grave in 1908.

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