Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Mary Alvis Draper 1719 ~ 1810


Mary Draper, who was the wife of Captain Draper of Revolutionary fame, deserves to be classed with Putnam and Stark whose rough-and-ready and instantaneous response to their country's appeal has become a matter of historic tradition. When the news reached Connecticut that blood had been shed, Putnam, who was at work in the field, left his plow in the furrow, and started for Cambridge without changing his coat. Stark was sawing pine logs without a coat; he shut down the gate of his mill and began his journey to Boston in his shirt sleeves. And Mary Draper, from her farm in Dedham, Massachusetts, was not one whit less active in her patriotic zeal. When the first call to arms sounded throughout the land, she exhorted her husband to lose no time in hastening to the scene of action; and with her own hands bound knapsack and blanket on the shoulders of her only son, a stripling of sixteen, bidding him depart and do his duty. To the entreaties of her daughter that her young brother might remain at home to be their protector, she answered that every arm able to aid the cause belonged to the country. "He is wanted end must go. You and I, Kate, have also service to do. Food must be prepared for the hungry; for before tomorrow night hundreds, I hope thousands, will be on their way to join the Continental forces. Some who have traveled far will need refreshment, and you and I, with Molly, must feed as many as we can." This speech has not come down to history with the sententious utterances of great generals and yet it was the basis of homely action that was of inestimable succor in the starting of that terrific struggle for liberty. Captain Draper was a thriving farmer; his granaries were filled and his wife's dairy was her special care and pride. All these resources she made contribute to her benevolent purpose. Assisted by her daughter and the domestic, she spent the whole day and night, and the succeeding day, in baking brown bread. The ovens of that day were suited for such an occasion, each holding bread sufficient to supply a neighborhood. These were soon in full blast and the kneading trough was plied by hands that shrank not from the task.

At that time of hurry and confusion, Mary Draper realized that none could stop long enough to dine, so she prepared to dispense her stores even as the men hurried along to join the army. With the aid of a disabled veteran of the French wars, who had been a pensioner in her family, she erected a long form by the roadside; large pans of bread and cheese were placed upon it and replenished as often as was necessary, while old John brought cider in pails from the cellar, which, poured into tubs, was served out by two lads who volunteered their services. Unquestionably if it had not been for this aid to the weary patriots, many of them, who, under the influence of strong excitement, had started without rations of any sort, would have fallen by the way, exhausted from want of food.

Then, ere long, after the battle of Bunker Hill, came the startling intelligence of a scarcity of ammunition, and General Washington called upon the inhabitants to send to headquarters every ounce of lead or pewter at their disposal, saying that any quantity, however small, would be gratefully received. Now, it is difficult at this day to estimate the value of pewter then, as an ornament as well as an indispensable convenience. The more precious metals had not then found their way to the tables of New Englanders, and throughout the country, services of pewter, scoured to the brightness of silver, covered the board, even in the mansions of the wealthy.

Mrs. Draper was rich in a large stock of pewter, which she valued of course, as an excellent housewife would, but also much of it was precious to her as the gift of a departed mother. But the call of General Washington reached her patriotic heart and she delayed not obedience, thankful only that she was able to contribute so largely to the requirements of her suffering country. Nor was she satisfied with merely giving the material required. Her husband before joining the army had purchased a mold for casting bullets, and Mrs. Draper herself now transformed her platters, pans, and dishes into balls for the guns of the Continental Army. Such was the aid rendered by this woman whose deeds of disinterested generosity were never known beyond her own immediate neighborhood.

Who shall say that such an example of moral courage and self-sacrifice was not equal to the bravest deeds of the soldiers of the Revolutionary War, and that the report of the heroism of Captain Draper's wife exercised a more powerful influence over Captain Draper's men than all of his importuning to them to stand firmly by their guns in the cause of freedom.

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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