Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The American Spy:
or Freedom's Early Sacrifice.
A Revolutionary Tale of New England,
Founded upon Fact.
by J. R Simms.
Albany: J. Munselll 78 State Street 1857.

Donated by Willis Barshied, Jr.


"The proud are always most provok'd by pride."-Cowper.

At the commencement of Yale College early in 1773, young Fitch and the Hale cousins graduated, all with deserved honors-Nathan, though scarcely eighteen years of age, bearing off the literary palm of the institution. It was evident that Samuel remembered with pleasure his visit in Coventry, as he needed little urging to accompany his cousin home from New Haven. Fishing parties, in which Job, and sometimes crazy John figured, hunting and riding excursions, etc., were enjoyed by him with peculiar zest at his second visit, which was protracted to several weeks, a part of which time he spent in Windham with the Fitch family.

One rainy day while Samuel was at his uncle's engaged "in a studied game of checkers with his charming cousin, who, instead of the invalid he had left her some months before, was now as healthy and as pretty a maiden as man could wish to see-ever sprightly without folly, and witty without sarcasm-a loud rap was heard at the door. On its being opened, a voice with a foreign brogue enquired-" Misthur Natan Ale lives here?"

" He does," said Nathan, who with a newspaper was poring over a debate on American grievances in the English House of Commons, and recognizing in the voice of the speaker his German friend Staudt, he sprang to the door, extended his hand and bade him welcome. John Casper Staudt was a man some forty years of age, of athletic form and good nature, natural gifts of a German ancestry; and seemed well fitted to endure the buffetings of life. Arriving in a north-easter, wet and chilly, at the house of his young friend, he was conducted into the kitchen to warm, where dinner was cooking over a fire which sent its oak and chestnut sparks in every direction from beneath the mantle-tree of an immense fire-place. The kitchen of nearly every New England farm-house, at this period, contained a piece of furniture called a screen-a bench with sides at the ends to rest the arms upon, and a back rising from the floor above the head of the person seated upon it. The kitchen screen usually was seen, particularly in winter, with one end against the wall near a corner of the fireplace, the other extending into the room so as to protect the fire if possible from the air of an outside door. Screens-upon which no little courting has been done ' lang-syne'-were sometimes furnished with a cushion of feathers, of which luxurious kind was the one under consideration. Divesting his person of a heavy pack, containing his wardrobe and numerous chemical implements, the money digger was given a seat upon the screen, and soon after served with a glass of cider-brandy and molasses ' to warm his stomach.'

The new guest on Prospect Hill remained there a fortnight, and often amused the Hale family and other visitors with anecdotes of his own life in Germany and America, not forgetting to tell how near he had been more than once to some of Captain Kidd's money, when a charm was unfortunately broken by the utterance of a single word, or the carol of a bird, and some sprite bore away the iron chest and its contents to-the Lord knows where. While in Coventry, in company with the Hale cousins and their friend Fitch, (who, with Miss Ripley, chanced to visit them during his stay,) with Job for a waiter and crazy John a hanger-on, he visited ' The Pool,' as there denominated. It is a spring in the easterly part of the town, issuing from beneath the south bank of the Willimantic, where that river separates the towns of Coventry and Mansfield. After a partial examination, the chemist pronounced the mineral properties of the pool to be iron. Taking a hasty survey of the ground around the spring, the soil being sandy and covered with white birch and alder of stunted growth, he said, " It wouldn't bay de cosht to work him-dere bees no mooch iron round here."

"I tell you the world goes round, ha, ha, ha, ha," responded a familiar voice to the last words of the German; and the party returned home, much pleased with their pedestrian excursion.

No member of the Hale family was more highly delighted with the honest German than Job; and it was really amusing to hear him attempt to instruct the former in his English pronunciation-evidently proud to meet a white man who spoke his own language worse than he did. The chemist endeavored to compensate the slave by instructions in gardening, by telling him how to manufacture and drink wine, how to proceed to obtain Kidd's money, if so lucky as to see a chest containing it, causing the negro's organs of vision greatly to dilate;-and also how to proceed, should he ever travel in Germany, a circumstance quite as likely to take place as his serial flight to the moon. Crazy John also became much attached to Job's particular friend, who seemed to appreciate his feelings better than most others did; and on visiting the Hale mansion one morning and learning that he had gone, not expecting to return, a tear was seen to moisten his eye.

Miss Hale and her friend Lucy, during the stay of the latter, were often delighted by Staudt's pleasing yarns; while he in return was half enamored with the sweet temper of the former, and the witty, candid conversation of the latter. After receiving more than one substantial evidence of generous regard from different members of the Hale family, and a keepsake from Lucy-a silken money purse of her own make-all of which he carefully stowed away in his mammoth pack, he left Coventry, manifesting for the kindness of his new acquaintances every demonstration of heartfelt gratitude-promising, if ever an opportunity was afforded him, to repay in some manner his kind entertainment. When he had mounted his pack, he took no little pains before starting, to shake hands with every member of the family, not forgetting Job, but to the young royalist who was still there, he, for some cause unknown at the time, did not extend his hand. It was noticed by several of the family, but as the slighted one did not speak of it, his friends did not think proper to. By some remark made by him after the German left, it was supposed he had in some manner intentionally hurt his feelings.

"While Samuel was on this his last visit to Connecticut, several social parties were made in Coventry and in Windham on his account, and he added numerous agreeable acquaintances to his former list; but of all his Windham county friends, Julia Rose was the favorite. He was more cautious if any thing than on his first visit about avowing his political sentiments; yet there were occasions when allusion was made to some patriotic movement it seemed impossible to avoid, which unconsciously drew from him evidence of his kingly predilection. On the day before he left, he made a confident of his charming' cousin, and revealed to her the fact that he had ventured certain tender proposals to Miss Julia, which were rejected, as he thought, with evident pride. He said she had refused his hand because of the difference in his and her own political sentiments, adding, that "he thought it ridiculous young ladies should even think of politics, much less be influenced, by them."

That not only Miss Rose, but thousands of other women in the Colonies, did investigate, and carefully, the political causes then agitating them, is a matter of notoriety worthy especial notice, as they exerted a powerful influence on the destiny of the republic. Whether the general reader will justify Miss Rose in rejecting a lover because he opposed measures she firmly believed he should advocate, we know not; but approve her course, however, since 'a house' especially in revolutionary times, 'divided against itself can not stand,'neither can that family waring in sentiment ever live happily. The political bias of the mothers and daughters of the Revolution, who espoused the cause of their suffering country, whose memory every true American should cherish, was a great, an indispensable wheel in rolling on the car of American Liberty.

Samuel treated at Deacon Hale's, with the generous hospitality extended in former days to guests in New England; not that we would intimate they were now treated inhospitably; but at the period of which we are writing, there was known far less formality than at present, which often savors of insincere professions of friendship-professions which extend courtesy and heartless sincerity, because it it fashionable to appear civil; although in the kitchen, the family visited may wish their parlor friends in Heaven, or almost any other place, so that they are rid of them. When the young royalist mounted his horse to proceed homeward, he did so, notwithstanding his attempt to conceal it, evidently displeased with all around him; even Job could not fail to notice his incivility, while attempting to place his feet properly in his stirrups. His leaving Coventry in such evident ill humor, was a source of no little uneasiness to Deacon Hale and his wife, until his love affair was made known after he left, by Elizabeth, who felt it a duty, as no injunction of secrecy was imposed, to relieve her parents' anxiety. He passed by his Windham friends without calling on them, and rode home, to use a vulgar phrase, 'with a flea in his ear,' or somewhere else; out of humor with every thing and every body republican; and safely arrived there, he was more strongly inclined than ever to promote royalty. Again at home, he entered his father's office as a law student, where for the present we will leave him.

Soon after Newton Fitch had received parchment evidence of scholarship, he began to read in a law office in Hartford; about which time Nathan Hale, to gratify the wishes of his friends, would have commenced fitting for the ministry, had not the difficulties with England increased with every eastern gale, and his country demanded his first service. Several things had occurred recently to prove the Americans determined in their opposition to tyranny, but none more so than the destruction of the British revenue cutter, Gaspee, in Providence river, which occurred just after Samuel's first visit in Coventry. This transaction also showed that they were actuated by principle, for when gold can not bribe, virtue retains an enviable seat. The act was one of such daring, that the British offered a large reward to discover the perpetrators: more than this; they promised full pardon to the informant if guilty himself, yet of the very many engaged, there was no Judas.

During the year in which the Hale cousins graduated, colonial assemblies began to take a bold stand against oppression, and in most instances were arrayed against their own governors. Those legislative bodies appointed committees to correspond with each other, and to further their designs, committees were organized in almost every town. Of the Coventry committee, young Hale was an efficient member. The principal object of the town associations, was the early spreading of important information. It will be remembered that printing presses were then few, and the means of communicating news by telegraph unknown in the land; while the advantages of steam power existed only in the minds of the scientific. Patriots not only did without India tea in accordance with their voluntary agreements, but in December of this year the Bostonians, to prevent a ship's cargo from being landed, dedicated it, with little ceremony, to old Neptune, to be served up to the sea-serpent, then in his teens, and numerous small fry assembled by general invitation. This lawless act of the Bostonians added fresh oil to the discordant flame, and Parliament soon after levied a tax on the town of Boston and removed its Custom House, to Salem. The climax of oppression, however was the provision made for the trial in England of American criminals.

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