Page images
PDF
EPUB

opposing the divine will itself to have done anything to hinder it.

Look in any of the Congregational hymnals in common use to-day and you will find one or more hymns by Elizabeth Scott. She had written poetry of a religious turn almost all her life, and in the library of Yale University is the manuscript collection of her verses that she brought with her to her New England home, a portion, twenty-six in number, having been copied out for preservation in Norwich the week before she left that city for the last time. Some of these verses show a rather depressed mental state, due perhaps to the malady now called nervous prostration to which Miss Scott, in spite of her vivacity, seems to have sometimes succumbed; others lead one to think that if the poetess had lived in a different period—in the Elizabethan days, for instance,--she would have written verse of a more worldly tone.

In the spring or summer of 1751 they sailed for New England. There has been until recently in existence a letter of Rector Williams describing the hardships of that voyage, and though I have never seen it, its contents are a matter of family tradition. They had a rough and perilous experience. When off the New England coast, storms drove them southward and, drinking water giving out, they were obliged to issue in its stead a quantity of English beer which Mr. Williams was importing. Early one morning they were nearly shipwrecked on the island of Antigua, but got safe ashore, where they were compelled to remain until the following spring. It was not until April, 1752, that Colonel Williams brought his wife to his Wethersfield home. Here she was heartily welcomed, and if there had been any astonishment or regret at what might justly have seemed Mr. Williams's precipitate action, it was soon drowned in the affectionate regard in which this gracious and interesting woman soon came to be held. Indeed there is much to be said in defense of Mr. Williams's course in this matter. They undoubtedly loved one another; it was necessary for him to return to New England; why should they risk another journey

-a journey that in those days was more formidable than now? They were both somewhat advanced in life, and waiting and separation by three thousand miles of ocean might not be as appropriate as would have been the case with younger persons who had years to spare and to whom possible accident or illness might not have meant so much. At all events. the haste of the marriage was soon forgotten in the wisdom of the choice, and the expressions of affection for Mrs. Williams in such contemporary family correspondence as survives are indubitable proofs of the love that the writers bore her. In her husband's house, which stood nearly on the present site of the Robbins dwelling in Wethersfield, shaded by the trees Rector Williams, as he is most frequently called, planted with his own hands, some of which are standing to-day, Elizabeth Williams made her home, having the walls of her bedroom and little oratory that opened from it covered with the same .pattern of paper that had ornamented her chamber at Norwich. And here she lived for three happy years.

oversea

Of these last years of Mr. Williams's life I must speak briefly, and indeed there is little need of trespassing much further on your patience, for he had now reached a position of such general esteem and honor that affairs went smoothly with him and the incident and interest of earlier days is lacking. It appears that the claims for expenses in the abortive Canadian expedition were partially paid, but I cannot find that any definite rulings were given in the matter of the furlough or that the English government bothered greatly with questions of detail in the end. For some of the expense, at least, a lump appropriation was made that was apportioned among the colonies, Connecticut's share falling far short of the amount claimed.*

On his return Mr. Williams was re-elected a deputy from Wethersfield and served in 1752, 1753 and 1754, in 1753 acting again as speaker of the lower house. He also was one of the commission to adjust the boundary dispute with Massachusetts ; and at the May session, 1754, he, his partner William Pitkin and his former commander at Louisburg, Roger Wolcott, were appointed delegates to the Colonial Assembly at Albany, where Franklin's plan for the union of the colonies was rejected, the Connecticut delegation strongly opposing the scheme. Here Mr. Williams doubtless met Judge William Smith, one of the New York delegates whom I shall mention again in a moment.

*Since this paper was read the writer has learned that the Lenox Library in New York has obtained a letter of Mr. Williams to his brother, dated from his lodgings in Welbeck Street, London, May 26, 1750. This letter states that Parliament had granted half pay for the last year of his regiment's service. This statement seems to be confirmed by a manuscript memorandum in the Massachusetts Historical Society Library entitled "Expences of Intended Expedition against Canada” which appears to be a report of the allowance finally made showing that Connecticut

In the spring of this year a growth had appeared under his jaw to which he at first paid little attention. But with the coming of cold weather the trouble increased and developed into a cancer. It was treated as effectively as was possible in those days, Mr. Williams, accompanied by his wife, taking a journey to Lebanon to consult a physician there, and in the hope of bene fit from the change. But it was useless. They returned to Wethersfield and there, on July 24, 1755, he died, and legend has it that sounds of heavenly music were heard as his spirit passed.

His widow continued to live in Wethersfield for a time. As the years went on it is said she was sought in marriage by several suitors, Colonel Pitkin among others, and I have been loaned a copy in Ezekiel Williams's handwriting of a curious letter from him in reply to one from a friend of the Judge William Smith of New York, who was a delegate to the Albany convention. This friend had enquired on Judge Smith's behalf concerning Mrs. Williams's disposition regarding matrimony and Ezekiel Williams's reply was evidently judged not too discouraging, for Judge Smith presented his addresses. He was a distinguished New York lawyer, judge of the superior court, member of the governor's council, a deeply religious and a cultured man, fond of reading Hebrew, French, Greek and Latin. He was a graduate of Yale and had been tutor there until two years before received, in addition to the above half pay, full pay for the officers and men from June to October 31, 1746, and also reimbursement for clothing, arms, ammunition and stores,-the whole amounting to £17,191. 15s. 81d. These data are given from copies of the above MSS. in the Library of the Connecticut Historical Society.

Rector Williams's administration began.* The match was a desirable one in every way, and after Mrs. Williams had consulted her brother-in-law, Solomon, on the matter, she accepted the proposal. They were married May 12, 1761, and until Judge Smith's death, which occurred in November, 1769, Elizabeth lived in New York. But in 1770 or 1771 she returned to Wethersfield to the house of Rector Williams's nephew, Ezekiel, who seems to have loved her as a son, and here on June 13, 1776, little more than a fortnight before the signing of the Declaration of Independence that separated forever her adopted home from her own country, she died; and here, beside the husband who had brought her to the new world, she was buried.

Such is the story of Elisha Williams. It is a story that was ended a good many years ago, and many things have happened to the country and the world since he was buried in the old Wethersfield church-yard. But merely because it is all past and gone-a tale that is told-it does not seem that it should be entirely neglected. Memories of this sort, these traditions, this history, have a distinct value for us to-day. It seems to me that with all the sterling qualities of our Puritan days we had not so much of refinement and adaptability—so much of the softer social graces and of personal charm—that we can afford to neglect those examples of these qualities that flourished in a rather alien atmosphere. “The Honble, Colul Elisha Williams," minister, soldier, justice, diplomat, and rector of Yale College let us think of him sometimes, if only because in an age of good men, he added a charm to piety, in a time of somewhat narrow views he was broad, versatile and a champion of civil and religious liberty—in the old phrase, he was “a man of parts."

* For information concerning the family of Judge Smith, see New York Evening Post for June 8, 1901. See also Yale Biographies and Annals, vol. I, pp. 207-211.

THE REDDING LOYALISTS

By Miss REBECCA D. BEACH

[Read May 18, 1903.)

One of the largest associations of loyalists in New England was formed in Connecticut, in the lovely hill country of Redding. The ancient town is one not easy to visit. The nearest railroad station is Stepney. Here you may be fortunate enough to find a complaisant farmer who will give you a lift of six or eight miles; up and down some of God's own hills, very little made over by man; but then, you must know whether you want to go to Redding Center, Redding Ridge, West Redding, or just—Redding

But never mind your avowed destination, you are sure to find yourself torn by a sudden new desire to reclaim and rehabilitate some dear old forlorn skeleton of decay, where gaping walls disclose a glorious big fireplace, and the literal “lean-to” is a mass of riotous roses. Yet, you are torn also when you pass the tumble-down barn or hovel with its crop of alien and dirty children,-black or white, the outer coating is the same and the equally dirty and alien chickens; though these have already caught the trick of rushing across the road right under your horse's nose, in the most approved New England fashion. You wonder where the congregations come from to attend the well-built meeting-house in every hamlet, but you do not wonder where those congregations have gone, if you count the frequent graveyards with their slanting stones and tangled briers; and, if you choose to risk the poison ivy too, you may perhaps decipher on those weather-worn stones the name you bear.

But it is not always all like this. Though there are many dark corners in Connecticut—too many times when you cannot

« PreviousContinue »