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Elizabeth Checkley Adams


Wife of Samuel Adams

Elizabeth Checkley, the first wife of Samuel Adams, "Father of the Revolution," was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Checkley, pastor of the New South Church in Boston. The elder Checkley and the father of Samuel Adams were life-long friends, and it is said that it was the influence of the elder Adams that secured the appointment of his friend to the pastorate. Consequently it brought satisfaction to both families when it was found that the young people had plighted their troth. They were married in October, 1749. She was twenty-four years old at the time and, as her daughter has written, "was a rare example of virtue and piety blended with a retiring and modest demeanour and the charms of elegant woman-hood."

The families of Adams and Checkley had been connected by marriage in the previous century, Captain John Adams having married Hannah, daughter of Anthony Checkley, first Attorney-General of the Province under the New Charter, and an ancestor of Rev. Samuel Checkley; Elizabeth Checkley's mother, was a Rolfe, daughter of Rev. Benjamin Rolfe, minister at Haverhill, at the time of the "Sack of Haverhill" by the Indians in 1708. In this fighting the minister was killed, together with about one hundred other persons, and many more were carried away. According to Drake's History of Boston, a maid-servant in the employ of Rev. Mr. Rolfe saved the two little daughters of the minister by her bravery and presence of mind. She overheard the Indians breaking into the house and, springing from her bed, took the two little girls, Elizabeth and Mary, aged respectively nine and eleven years, and hurried them into the cellar where she secreted them under two large tubs. They were not found, though the savages ransacked the whole house. It was one of these little girls, Elizabeth, who afterward became the wife of Rev. Samuel Checkley, and mother of Elizabeth Checkley who married Samuel Adams.

Five children were born to Samuel and Elizabeth Adams, only two of whom came to maturity, Samuel, Jr., and Hannah. Mrs. Adams died July 25, 1757. After this date in the family Bible there is written, in the hand of Samuel Adams: "To her husband she was as sincere a friend as she was a faithful wife. Her exact economy in all her relative capacities, her kindred on his side as well as her own admire. She ran her Christian race with remarkable steadiness and finished in triumph! She left two small children. God grant they may inherit her graces!"

Source: Wives of the Signers: The Women Behind the Declaration of Independence, by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder Press, 1997). Orignaly Published in 1912 as volume 3 of The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons). Pages 59-62. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)


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Last modified January 5, 2004