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Mary Trumbull Williams


Wife of William Williams

Mary Trumbull, second daughter of "Brother Jonathan" Trumbull, War Governor of Connecticut, was married, in 1771, to William Williams, one of the most prominent citizens of Lebanon, which town he had represented for many years in the General Assembly. She was twenty-five years old at the time of her marriage and was a handsome, educated, and accomplished young woman of excellent family.

It seems to have been a most advantageous mating. Mr. Williams was a successful and prosperous business man and also held the office of Town Clerk as well as Member of Assembly. He took his bride to a handsome home, not far from the big house of his father-in-law, which was to be known during the Revolution as the "War Office." Jonathan Trumbull was the only Colonial governor to remain true to the cause of the Colonies, and patriots from all parts of New England came to consult with him and lay plans for future action.

To few women of the Revolutionary period was it given to stand in such close relation with the great men who were supporting the cause. Her public-spirited husband, who had for years watched the gradual encroachment on the rights of the Colonies by the British ministry and who, through his association with British officers during the time he served in the French and Indian War, had come to know the contempt in which they held the Colonies and their rights. Moreover, he was the trusted son-in-law of Governor Trumbull who was in constant correspondence with Samuel Adams and the other patriots of Massachusetts, and the confidant and adviser of General Washington. More than most women of her time, Mary Trumbull understood the condition of affairs during the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence, and we may be sure that it was a proud day for her when her husband was elected a delegate to Congress in 1775.

He was then colonel of the Twelfth Regiment of militia. He promptly resigned as he could not possibly attend to the duties of both positions. He seems also to have realized that it was no holiday occasion that he was entering upon; he closed out all his business leaving himself entirely foot free to attend to public affairs. And in all these actions we are told, he was loyally upheld and supported by his wife whose patriotism and public spirit were equal to his own. Throughout the entire war their home was thrown open to soldiers, and during the winter of 1781 they gave up their own house to the officers of a detachment of soldiers stationed near them, and took other quarters for themselves.

The following anecdote is related: At a meeting of the Council of Safety in Lebanon, near the close of 1776, when the prospects of our success looked dark, two members of the Council were invited to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Williams, Benjamin Huntington and William Hillhouse. The conversation turned upon the gloomy outlook. Mr. Hillhouse expressed hope and confidence. "If we fail," said Mr. Williams, "I know what my fate will be. I have done much to prosecute the war; and one thing I have done which the British will never pardon--I have signed the Declaration of Independence; I shall be hanged."

"Well," said Mr. Huntington, "if we fail I shall be exempt from the gallows, for my name is not attached to the Declaration, nor have I ever written anything against the British Government."

"Then, sir," said Colonel Williams turning upon him, "you deserve to be hanged for not doing your duty."

Three children were born to Mary Williams and her husband: Solomon, who was born January 6, 1775, and who died in 1810, in New York; Faith, born September 29, 1774, who married John McClellan of Woodstock; and William T., born March 2, 1779, and who married his cousin, Sarah Trumbull.

The death of Solomon Williams was a great blow to his father who died within a year, his last words being the name of his son. Mrs. Williams survived her husband nearly twenty years, dying at Lebanon in 1831.

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 100-103. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)


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Last modified January 5, 2004