Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Rebecca Sanford Barlow


Rebecca Barlow was the daughter of Eli Nathan Sanford of Reading, Connecticut by her marriage to Aaron Barlow she became the sister-in-law of Joel Barlow, the poet, philosopher and politician who, it is believed, owed much of the formation of his mind and character to this wife of his elder brother. Much of his time in early life was spent in the society of this sister-in-law, who was a woman of strong mind, and he has admitted that he wrote the "Columbiad" and other works under her inspiration.

When the stirring scenes of the Revolution began, both brothers felt called upon to act their part. The husband of Rebecca Barlow entering the service of his country was in a short time promoted to the rank of colonel. His military duties requiring long absences from home, the young wife was left in the entire charge of their estate and of their helpless little ones. At one time a rumor came that the British army was approaching and would probably reach her town that very night. The terrified inhabitants resolved on instant flight and each family, gathering together such of their effects as they could take with them, left the village and traveled the whole night to reach the only place of refuge available. Mrs. Barlow could not carry away her children and to leave them was out of the question. She therefore remained to protect them or share their fate in the deserted village. No enemy, however, was near, the groundless alarm having been excited by the firing of some guns below.

The story of Mrs. Barlow's heroism in remaining alone in the village when the attack from the British was expected reached the ears of bluff General Putnam, then in command of a brigade of American troops in the vicinity. It is said that feeling a curiosity to make the acquaintance of a woman whose character so met with his strong appreciation, he took a stroll over the fields toward her house, wearing the clothes of a countryman, his ostensible errand being a neighborly request that Mrs. Barlow would be kind enough to lend him a little yeast for baking. Without ceremony he entered the kitchen, where the matron was busily engaged in preparing breakfast, and asked for the yeast. She had none to give, and told him so each time his request was repeated, without stopping her employment to look at the face of her visitor. It was not until after his departure that she was informed by her old black servant who it was who had asked the favor with such importunity. "I suppose," was her remark; "had I known him I should have treated him with rather more civility, but it is no matter now." General Putnam came away from the interview declaring that she was the proper material for the matrons of the infant nation.

A few years after the war ended Colonel Barlow with his family removed to Norfolk, Virginia, where he subsequently fell a victim to the yellow fever, and after the burial of her husband and daughter Rebecca Barlow returned to her former home in Connecticut, where she died at an advanced age. Some of her sons have rendered important services to their country as statesmen. The youngest, Thomas, accompanied his uncle Joel, when serving as Minister Plenipotentiary at the court of France, as his secretary, and after the death of his uncle, in the winter of 1813 escorted his wife who had been left in Paris, to America. The remains of the Minister were brought with them and placed in the family vault at Washington.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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