The accomplishments of male ancestors are often recorded in land deeds and military records, but it's harder to find documentation for female ancestors. That's why I was particularly pleased recently to discover my ninth-great-grandmother survived an Indian attack, raised 10 kids and helped start New Jersey's first Baptist church in her kitchen.
In 1640, Penelope Van Princis was a blushing bride of 18. She was immigrating from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam (later known as New York) when her ship ran aground near the point that would become. Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Evidently the other passengers headed out on foot for New Amsterdam leaving Penelope and her feverish husband on the beach. Indians attacked, killing the man (John Kent in some versions of the tale) and leaving Penelope for dead. She had a skull fracture and was partially scalped. Her left arm was mangled and her abdomen so badly slashed that her intestines were exposed. She crawled into a hollow tree where she survived for several days. An older Indian found her and patched up her wounds with a fishbone needle and vegetable fiber thread according to some accounts. .
She lived in the Indian village about a year learning the Indian language and ways, until some white men came and took her to New Amsterdam. She married Richard Stout there in 1644. Stout started exploring the the area in New Jersey where Penelope had been shipwrecked.In 1648, he and eleven others purchased a large area in East Jersey from Gov. Nichols. The area became Monmouth County.
One day the old Indian who had saved Penelope came to warn them that an attack was being planned. Penelope and the other women packed up their children in canoes and left. Richard gathered the other men to prepare for battle. The Indians attacked at midnight but because the settlers were prepared and armed with guns, the Indians soon retreated. Richard and the Indians hammered out a peace treaty and on January 25, 1664, the settlers paid the Indians for the land. Gov. Nichols issued the Monmouth Patent guaranteeing them religious freedom.
In 1668, Richard and Penelope, along with other families, organized the state's first Baptist Church in Penelope's kitchen. Richard and his oldest son John were among the 18 charter members. They built a log cabin to house the growing congregation in 1688.Richard lived until 1705. According to some records, Penelope died in 1712 but most records claim she lived until 1732 which would have made her 110. (see dates on commemorative coin.) Family legend says Penelope always wore a cap to cover the scar from nearly being scalped and she had no use of her left arm.
Penelope's grandaughter, Penelope Stout Jewell, married my seventh great grandfather, William Merrell, about 1729.