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Mary Bartlett

1734-1789

Wife of Josiah Bartlett

"The wife of Governor Bartlett, the signer, was Mary Bartlett (a cousin), of Newton, N. H., a lady of excellent character and an ornament to society. She died in 1789," wrote Levi Bartlett, a descendant of the signer, nearly a century after her death.

Not much more of her youth than this can be told. Her father, Joseph Bartlett, was a soldier at Haverhill, in 1707, where he was made captive by the French and Indians, carried to Canada and held four years.* Mary Bartlett was one of ten children born to Joseph Bartlett, and she was married to her cousin, Josiah Bartlett, in January, 1754. He was a rising young physician at the time, in the town of Kingston, N. H., and had already attracted favorable attention by reason of his success in the treatment of a throat distemper, known as the "black canker," which had broken out with uncommon virulence. Mary Bartlett was then twenty-four years old, an amiable girl, well grown and, for the times, well educated. For the next ten years, her life was that of the wife of a popular and prosperous young country doctor. His skill as a practitioner was accepted. He was democratic, kindly, and fast growing in the esteem of his fellow citizens. Always a man of strict integrity, sound judgment, and marked public spirit, he early began to take an active part in public affairs. He was made a civil magistrate and soon after given command of a regiment of militia. In 1765, he was chosen representative to the Provincial Legislature from Kingston. Though Governor Wentworth had appointed him to several positions of honor and profit, Dr. Bartlett felt called upon, almost from the first, to oppose vigorously some of the Governor's measures in the Legislature especially those pertaining to the land grants, a vast system of official peculation that was one of the great evils of the administrations of both the Wentworths. By 1774, the aggressions of the Governor, and the policy of the British Ministry which he was trying to carry out, had grown so burdensome to the people that Dr. Bartlett and a few other leaders found themselves in almost open opposition. He was still a member of the Legislature and in that year we find him at the head of a "Committee of Correspondence," which was in constant communication with Samuel Adams and other patriots of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Then Dr. Bartlett was elected delegate to "a general congress to be held in Philadelphia." This brought down upon him the wrath of Governor Wentworth and his Tory adherents. His appointment as Justice of the Peace was revoked and his commission as Colonel of militia was taken from him. Soon afterward his house was set on fire and burned to the ground, after he had received warning to cease his "pernicious activity."

During all this period, Mary Bartlett had been the closest friend and counselor of her husband. Just as he had consulted her over his troubles as a young physician, helping to bear the home burdens of his patients and personal friends in their little community, so now he consulted her about the greater troubles and dangers that menaced the country. And always she was the true helpmeet, always the ready and sympathetic friend and judicious adviser. Her patriotism was as ardent as his and burned with as steady a flame, and when their home lay in ruins and the family were driven to seek shelter and safety elsewhere, she took their numerous brood and retired to their little farm, which she managed thereafter, leaving him free to devote himself almost entirely to the public business. Between these public duties Dr. Bartlett found time to rebuild, on the site of his ruined home, a fine old-style New England mansion, that still stands. In all her letters to her husband and her children, there is not one word of regret at his course or pity for herself, left alone to bear the double duties incumbent upon her; no complaints, only a spirit of loving, helpful sympathy in all his acts.

Mrs. Bartlett died in their new house in Kingston, in July, 1789, and her death was a great blow to her husband, who was at the time Chief Justice. The following year he was chosen President of New Hampshire, which office he held until 1793, when he was elected Governor, the first the Commonwealth ever had as an independent State. He declined re-election and died shortly afterward in the sixty-sixth year of his age, broken down, according to his own declaration, by grief and the double duties and responsibilities imposed upon him since her death.

Twelve children were born to Dr. and Mrs. Bartlett, of whom eight came to maturity. Three sons, Levi, Joseph, and Ezra, followed in their father's footsteps and became eminent physicians, and all three of them took considerable interest in public affairs, holding not a few positions of honor and responsibility. Of the daughters, Mary, who married Jonathan Greeley, Miriam, who married Joseph Calef, Rhoda, who married Reuben True, and Sarah, who married Dr. Amos Gale, were the only ones to leave descendants.

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 10-14. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

* [From page 149] In 1707, Joseph Bartlett was drafted and sent with others to Haverhill to defend the town against an expected attack of French and Indians from Canada. August 29, 1708, about 160 French and 50 Indians attacked the town and set fire to several buildings. Mr. Bartlett and others were in a chamber of Captain Wainright's house from the windows of which they fired upon the enemy. They were informed that their only safety was in surrender. Mr. Bartlett secreted his gun in the chimney above the fireplace, went down, asked for quarter, was bound, and carried to Canada where he re-mained a prisoner until he was redeemed. After a captivity of four years he returned. He afterward visited Haverhill and found his gun where he had secreted it. It finally came to his grand nephew, Richard Bartlett of Amesbury, Mass., who carried it while a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Richard brought the gun back with him from the Revolution and it was afterward blown to pieces by some boy celebrating Fourth of July. Levi Bartlett (author of this sketch) collected the fragments in I879, and riveted, and wired the gun together and deposited it in the rooms of the New Hampshirc Historical Society where it may still he seen."

 
 


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