J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Priscilla Watson “being left a rich widow”

Yesterday I started quoting from Benjamin Marston Watson’s story in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register for 1873, describing how in the late 1720s Priscilla Thomas of Duxbury was courted by two men: Noah Hobart, the local schoolteacher whom she loved but who was still struggling to pay off college loans; and John Watson, a wealthy widower from Plymouth.

Not wishing to stand in the way of Priscilla’s good fortune, Hobart told her not to feel bound to him since he wasn’t sure when he would be in a position to marry. This is what happened next:
She then concluded to accept Mr Watson’s offer; and in a few weeks he married her [in 1729], & carried her to his home in Plymouth. In due time she bore him two sons, ye eldest, my great uncle William Watson; & ye youngest my grandfather Elkanah Watson; & soon after, in Septr. 1731, her husband died of a fever, and left his wife a handsome young widow, of about 25 years of age.
The gravestone of John Watson (1678-1731) appears above, courtesy of Sandra Lennox and Find-a-Grave. His death seems to leave the way clear for young Hobart, doesn’t it?
About ye same time that M’r Watson’s death occurred, the wife of Thomas [actually Isaac] Lothrop Esqr., one of their neighbours, died, leaving a young infant, w’h was frequently sent to Mr’s Watson to be nursed, she having also a nursing infant.

In ye meantime, Noah Hobart probably not having yet paid his college debts, did not now manifest any particular sentiments, or intentions in relation to her, perhaps also being influenced by ye contrast in their condition, she being left a rich widow.

The intercourse created between M’r Lothrop & Mr’s Watson by their mutual interest in his nursing infant, brought about a reciprocal interest in each other, & in due time he offer’d, & was accepted by her as her second husband. She lived with him happily for some years, & bore him three children, two sons & a daughter; viz. D’r Nathaniel Lothrop & Isaac Lothrop Esqr., of Plymouth, and Priscilla, married to Gershom Burr Esqr., of Connecticut; when M’r Lothrop died, & Priscilla became a widow for ye second time.
And here’s the gravestone of Isaac Lothrop (1707-1750). Priscilla actually bore him six children. And what had happened to her first suitor?
Noah Hobart, while ye incidents related in ye former chapter were occurring to Priscilla, having been settled in ye (Congregational) ministry at Fairfield, Connecticut, had married & his wife had died previously to the death of Mr. Lothrop. At a suitable interval, subsequent to these events, he concluded to make a visit to his first sweetheart & went to Plymouth, & again proposed himself for her husband.

She was very glad to see him, & received him very graciously; and much regretted that she could not accept his proposals, without breaking a promise that she had made to M’r Lothrop on his deathbed, not to marry while his mother lived.
Oh, come on!

TOMORROW: No, really—can this marriage be saved?