Thursday, January 22, 2015

Revolutionary, Aunt Penny!

      Although I never pursued it, I always knew I qualified for membership in the D.A.R. Three of my four grandparents are descended from documented Revolutionary War soldiers.
     But I just discovered this week that there's a D.A.R. chapter in New Jersey that's named for one of my ancestors.
      I was searching the Internet for some information on Penelope Hart and I wasn't having much luck. I vaguely remember reading that she had disguised herself as a man during the Revolution but I couldn't remember why and I couldn't seem to find the story.
      None of the web pages that came up on my Google search had the information I was looking for, but I noticed an image that popped up. It was a newspaper clipping of some women showing quilts. I couldn't read the copy but I could see it was  from the Trenton Evening Times, the same area where Penelope lived. When I ran my cursor over the picture I could see the image title:1933 Penelope Hart D.A.R.
     I found the website for the D.A.R. chapter. Turns out the Penelope Hart Chapter of Pennington, N.J., merged with the General David Forman Chapter in Trenton in 1993. But the site provides the story of Penelope's work during the Revolution.
     Penelope was the youngest daughter of my ggggggreat granddaddy William Merrell who you met in last week's installment. He was the one "killed with lightning."
     Penny was born in 1734 in Hopewell Township just north of Trenton, N.J. When she was only 16 she married Thomas Anderson and bore him at least four children. After he died in 1768 she married a widower, Ralph Hart, who was a cousin of John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
      During the Revolution the British soldiers were looking for the signers and hounded anyone who was related to them and might provide information of their whereabouts.  John Hart and his cousin Ralph were hiding in the swamp. Penny avoided the soldiers by disguising herself as a man, avoiding the main roads and never spending more than one night in the same place.
       According the the website, Penny's Revolutionary experiences are mentioned in the book Hopewell Valley Heritage by Alice Blackwell Lewis:
 She was required to carry water and food to her lonely husband, but more often the need was to carry these things to the hunted Signer, John Hart. This patriotic man survived many hardships because of the brave woman who put fear aside and came to his aid when others would not have dared venture out because of the lurking enemy, always ready to capture any suspicious person.

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