On Saturday, 4 Sept 2010, there will be a ceremonial reopening of the covered bridge in Pepperell, Massachusetts. One celebration will be a reenactment of something that reportedly took place at a predecessor to that bridge in 1775, soon after the start of the Revolutionary War.
The earliest description of this event that I’ve found appears in Caleb Butler’s History of the Town of Groton: including Pepperell and Shirley, published in 1848:
After the departure of Col. [William] Prescott’s regiment of “minute men,” Mrs. David Wright of Pepperell, Mrs. Job Shattuck of Groton, and the neighborng women, collected at what is now Jewett’s bridge, over the Nashua, between Pepperell and Groton, clothed in their absent husbands’ apparel, and armed with muskets, pitchforks, and such other weapons as they could find, and having elected Mrs. Wright their commander, resolutely determined, that no foe to freedom, foreign or domestic, should pass that bridge. For rumors were rife, that the regulars were approaching, and frightful stories of slaughter flew rapidly from place to place and from house to house.A footnote identified the detained man as: “Capt Leonard Whiting, of Hollis, N. H., a noted tory. He was in reality the bearer of despatches from Canada to the British in Boston.”
Soon there appeared one on horseback, supposed to be treasonably engaged in conveying intelligence to the enemy. By the implicit command of Sergeant Wright, he is immediately arrested, unhorsed, searched, and the treasonable correspondence found concealed in his boots. He was detained prisoner and sent to Oliver Prescott, Esq., of Groton, and his despatches were sent to the Committee of Safety.
Lorenzo Sabine reprinted Butler’s words without credit in his Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, the first attempt to compile information on Americans who had sided with the Crown during the Revolution. And since Sabine’s book was more widely distributed than Butler’s, a lot of subsequent authors cited Sabine.
TOMORROW: How the story grew.