Aunt Elizabeth in the dangerous employment of Revolutionary Spy -- Transcribed Directly from Stephen Wilson's Journal written in 1887:
When we were children, we had often heard father & mother conversing about startling incidents of the War of the Colonists against the British & heard father allude to a dangerous exploit of his sister. When the British held possession of New York and Washington’s forces lay at White-Plains, but we had never heard the full particulars of Aunt Elizabeth’s dangerous adventure within the British lines.
Long after the war she had married Enoch Holmes and lived in Providence township Lauzerne County, Pennsylvania at a place then called Capouse. Father and Mother were solicited to spend a winter in Uncle Holmes family & bring us children, three in number, with them. This father at length agreed to do -- So we all went & took up our winter quarters in that then wild & woody region -- but as Uncle’s house was large & roomy, though built of logs, as most houses were at the time, it was warm & comfortable & the children were delighted with the newness & novelty of our wild surroundings -- The Sunday before January court, father and Uncle Holmes went to Wilkes-B to attend court, father as a juryman & Uncle as a witness in some land trial. And they did not expect to be back till the next Saturday, as that Mother, Aunt, cousins, Benjamin, Eunice, Amy and us children were left to keep house and take care of ourselves as best we could in their absence. The Tuesday after father and Uncle had gone there came up a snowstorm the most frightful to us children, of any we had ever known. The wind blew furiously -- whistled and howled around the house and we expected every moment to see the logs of the house flying and scattering in all directions. Oh, it was awful to us yet Mother and Aunt went about their work calmly without seeming to heed the dreadful commotion of the warring elements outside. We asked Aunt if she ever experienced such a terrible storm as this: She said, “O yes, I have seen much worse, this is only a little flurry of snow and wind that will soon be over.” Much to our joy it was soon over before night we were gleefully sliding down the hill upon which the houses stood, on Cousin Benjamin’s hand sled and bravely tugging it up hill again to get another slide. We were at this juvenile sport till called to supper and had about forgotten our forenoon’s fright. After the storm had ceased, it began to grow colder but Cousin Ben had a large buck log on the capacious fire place and plenty of other wood to match and a rousing fire they warmed the sitting room and made every heart light and cheerful inside.
While it was growing colder and colder outdoors after Mother and Aunt had finished all their work that required standing around, they took their knitting and sat down by the fire, the children soon huddled around, we thought it would be a good time to hear a story from Aunt, for she was full of reminiscences of the great Revolution that had so gloriously changed our country from British colonies, dependent upon the whims and often arbitrary caprice of a tyrannical Monarch 3000 miles across the Atlantic ocean, to free and sovereign states, subject to no laws but those of their own enacting and those of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
We told Aunt Elizabeth we had often heard father and mother talk of her once being a spy for Gen. Washington, but we did not know the particulars and wished she would tell us. She said, “Well children you listen and I will tell you the whole of my adventure as a spy;”
“When the British captured New York in 1776 and the American forces under Washington had removed to White Plains, I had two brothers prisoners in N.Y., the elder David was a Captain and Uriah was an orderly Sergeant. My youngest brother, Elnathan, your father, went into the army the day he was 16 years old and before I tell you the story of my part in the war, I must tell you a little occurrence that your father was very proud of. A few days after he had enlisted, a Sergeants’ squad of twelve men of whom he was one was detailed to guard across roads where stood an old school house in which the Sergeant and his men took up their night quarters. After stationing one of their number at the corner of the roads to look out for any straggling enemy that might happen to pass that way, the rest of the squad had the hard floor to sleep on and as your father had not yet got hardened to that kind of bed, he was restless and could not sleep. So got up just before day’dawn, went out and told the Sentinel that he would relieve him for he could not sleep on the soft side of a board. The Sentinel gave him his old musket (that would not go off, or it it did would not hit a barn door five rods off) and went into the school house. Your father had not stood long at his post when he heard the clatter of horses feet and soon discovered a horseman coming towards him. When he came up within a few rode it was just light enough to see that the rider, who was jogging slowly along, had on the uniform of a British officer, who seemed to be more asleep than awake. Your father stood behind a post and the office did not see him till he sprang right before the horse bridle, grabbed the bridle-rein and shouted to the astonished red-coat to halt -- dismount and surrender or he would blow him through and then pulled the office off his horse in less time than I am telling this. The men in the school house rushed out and escorted their prisoner into their quarters. Your father was very proud of his first success in war. The horse and trappings were valued at one hundred and eighty dollars ($180) which according to the usage of war, belonged to your father -- but he never received anything for them -- and his prisoner in a few hours, made his escape, probably by the connivances of some of the men, who might have been tories and willing to take any fee the office might give for his escape.
Now after this digression you shall have my short revolutionary adventure. I have already told you the British had possession of New York, and Washington’s army lay at White Plains -- 25 or 30 miles from New York. General Thomas, an American General, was a prisoner in New York, but he had liberty to go anywhere in the city, as he had given his parole (or word of honor) not to leave the city until permitted to do so by discharge or exchange.
General Washington desired to communicate some important intelligence to him, but this could not be done without great hazard to the life of anyone who should attempt it. The utmost caution and circumspection would be required successfully to accomplish the dangerous mission. Our family then lived not far from Washington’s headquarters. One day, greatly to my surprise, I received a note by an American officer, from General Washington, politely desiring me to call at his headquarters the next day at 10 o’clock am. After reading, I told the officer I would call as requested. He left and I with a great deal of agitation and not a little fear, began to conjecture what in the world General Washington wanted of me. I could not imagine any cause for the request so politely made in his note. I showed it to father and mother, but they could not divine any cause and were as much astonished as myself. After thinking over the perplexing matter for some time, father said “Elizabeth, it may be possible that the General has in some way heard of expressions I frequently made to our neighbors before the war, of the wickedness of taking up arms against King George our rightful sovereign. I admit, I had strong tory feelings, but the moment I learned the King had declared war against us, that moment forever changed my love for my king to hatred for the tyrant, and as evidence of my patriotism, I have sent two sons to the army and the third will go the day he is 16 years old. But, my child, you must go and see what the General wants. The night following was a sleepless one to me but I rose early in the morning and dressed myself in my best attire and prepared for the dreadful ordeal.
At precisely 10 o’clock, I knocked at the General’s residence; a servant appeared at the door; I told him I wished to see General Washington, the General who was near heard my request and immediately came forward smiling, extending his hand remarking “This is Miss Wilson, I presume?” I replied in the affirmative “I am the one to whom this note is addressed,” showing him his note of the day before. “Walk in Miss Wilson and take a seat,” he said, “I am glad to see you, though I almost regret having invited you to me quarters in view of the dangerous enterprise that I desire you to undertake, “ and holding in his hand a half sheet of foolscape -- two thirds of which was written over.
He said, “ This paper contains a message of grave importance to the cause in which all our hearts if not our hands are engaged, which I wish to send to General Thomas, an American General now in the hands of the British, a prisoner of war in New York City and Miss Wilson, you have most favorably recommended to me as an educated intelligent young lady of caution prudence spirit and daring remarkable for your years and sex. On the account I wish to engage your service in conveying this message -- but it is a hazardous and dangerous undertaking for if you should be detected with it about your person, you would be hung or shot; for the British have no mercy on rebels, as they call us, and especially rebel spies.”
I relied; “General Washington, if you are willing to entrust me the secret of that message, I can convey its contents to General Thomas without the possibility of discovery, for I will commit it to memory and carry it in my mind where none but God can find it.”
The General looked a little surprised as if he had not thought of this device before, and said “I am willing to trust the secret to your safe keeping if you think you can commit it and rehearse its contents to General Thomas word for word as here written.” I replied if you will give me the message and 30 minutes by myself, I will convince you of my ability to commit it.”
The General handed me the paper, opened a door into another room and said “You can slide into that room and be alone as long a time as you require.” I went in, shut the door and commenced my task. In less than half an hour, I came out and handed the paper to the General, who was writing at the time and replied its contents to him three or four times over. He seemed highly pleased and smiling said, “Miss Wilson, you have every word in your head but do you think you can keep it through the ordeal you must pass?” I answered, “General, if you meet me five years from now and I cannot repeat every work, you may hang me for a spy.” He laughed at my (rasetiveness ??) and said, “ No, I won’t do that, but have you any plan for making your way through the pickets of the British lines?
I replied, “This is what I have thought of since I have been here and knew the object of my call. The country women with marketing of any kind are freely admitted into the City to sell or barter their stuff for what ever they may want. I will array myself in the common calico or linsey wool dress of a farmer’s daughter wearing my youngest brother’s shoes, a coarse shawl over my shoulders and a gingham sunbonnet on my head and thus attired, take a market basket on my arm with a couple of dozen eggs, a roll of two or three lbs. of butter, a couple cakes of home-made soap and probably some other little trifles that I may think of and I have no fear of being prevented from going where I please in the City. You have furnished me with the sheet and number of the house. I think I shall have no trouble finding it and if you had some little token that General Thomas would recognize as belonging to you, it might be of service to me in allaying any suspicion of deception in me that his fears might conjure up.”
The General remarked, “I see Miss Wilson that you are fully equal to the occasion and require no instruction as to your mode of operation from me and when you return, if you have anything to bring in the same way from General Thomas, I hope you will communicate with me, soon as convenient. As for the token, I have here a little gold pencil given me by a French officer, in the presence of General Thomas at his own house one day. You take it and I have no doubt the General will recognize it at once, for he examined it when it was presented to me, but will need a little money for expenses, which I will give you.”
“No, General,” I said, “I do not want any money from you now. If ever I take any, it will be when I take my harness off and not when I put it on.” He smiled and said, “Very well, do as you please Miss Wilson.” I then rose and said, “With your leave, I will now go home and make ready for the City.” He approached and took my hand. I looked up to him and repeated the message while he held it and he said, “Every word right, God bless you and bring your enterprise to a successful issue,” and he bid me “Good Bye.”
I returned home with a much lighter heart than I have carried from it.
When Mother saw me coming, she exclaimed, “Elizabeth, I am glad you are back again. I have been so anxious to know why General Washington sent for you.” “Well let me sit down and you and father sit beside me and I will tell you what the General wanted and all that passed between us. And so I did, telling them all I have told you. Father was rejoiced, for he was afraid Washington had received unfavorable impressions of his loyalty to the revolutionary cause.
The next morning early, I was on my way to the City and before noon, I approached the outer pickets of the British army. I stopped and asked permission to go into the city with my marketing. The guard stepped up to me, asked where I lived and what I had to sell. I showed him the contents of my basket and he said I could pass on. I did so, but before I got fairly into the City, another of the redcoats accosted me and asked several questions, all of which I answered to his satisfaction, I suppose, for he told me I could go on and that I would meet with no more detention. Another soldier who stood by the one who had put the questions and also examined my basket I overheard say, “There’s a good deal of patrician in the make up of that last marketwoman, had you not better call her back and question and examine her more closely?” “No, I think not,” said the first. “She is some farmer’s wench that feels proud of being in New York City and carries a high head.” Whatever pride I might have felt at the overheard expression of the one was very quickly abated by the not very favorable retort of the other.
I hurried along and soon found the street in which General Thomas lived and was not long in approaching his number. I went to the door and knocked. Presently the door was opened by a servant girl. I asked if General Thomas lived there. She said, “Yes.” “Is he at home?, I asked and she said “No!” “Is Mrs. Thomas?” “Yes, but she don’t want any marketing.”
“I have nothing to sell her, but I must see her.” At this she tried to slam the door in my face, which I prevented by placing my foot against it. She then went in and I heard her say “There is an imprudent country woman at the door who says she will not go away without seeing you.”
“Well, said Mrs. Thomas, I’ll go and see what she wants.” With a stern look she came to where I was standing, but the moment I said. “Madam, I have a message for General Thomas,” her face relaxed its sternness and she said, “You can hand it to me.”
“No ! Madam I can give the message to no one by the General himself.” At this, she invited me into a back room and told me to sit down while she went to call her husband. In a few moments, the General and his wife came in and I told him I had a message from General Washington. He stared at me and looked rather incredulous. I noticed his embarrassment and said, “ General Thomas, you know it would be death to me to be detected as a spy and this message of General Washington, for security from detection, I committed to memory and if you will take paper and pen and write down my words as I repeat them, you will have the message. And to disarm you of my suspicion of fraud on my part, I have here a little article handed me by General Washington to show you as proof of my honesty in this delicate affair.
He got paper and pen and commenced to write as I dictated. When he was through he looked the message over once or twice and seemed much surprised and delighted with its contents. He then began to converse. He wished to know my name, residence, etc. and how I got through the guards and what I had with me to disarm suspicion on my real character. I told him why I was dressed as he saw me and what I had in my basket. He was much pleased at my recital and told Mrs. Thomas I must be relieved of my pretende marketing and she could take the contents of my basket and pay me market prices for them, as they had use for them all and I must necessarily buy some articles to show the sentinels as I passed out of the city and, as I could not leave town till the morrow, I must remain his guest till ready to go. He supposed I had not dined, but tea would soon be ready and I must make myself perfectly at home. I began to make some apology in relation to my dress when he playfully said, “Now Miss Wilson, none of that. We know perfectly why you are in your present garb. It is exactly as it should be for the occasion and you are as joyously welcome as if attired in the richest of silks.” He then said he would like to send a return message to General Washington if I would take the trouble to hide it in the same secure place that I had the one brought to him. I told him to write it and I would try to commit it. With this, he complied and was writing tll called to tea. While at the table he said, “ I am afraid you will find it a hard task to deposit my message with the one you have delivered for mine is much longer than Washington’s.” I said, “It may take me a little longer but I can commit it.” He then remembered that Mrs. Thomas and he were going out for an hour after tea but on my account would give up the walk. I said, “By no means, General, go as if I were not here. I shall want some time to myself to master my task of committing your message to memory and by the time you return may have it all here (clapping my hands to my head). “That is so,” said the General, “and we shall only be a bother to you here.” “Eliza,” he said to his wife, “get ready and we will go and leave Miss Wilson alone till our return.” The General had finished his message which nearly filled a page of foolscap. He handed it to me and bade me “Goodbye” till they should come back. They were absent an hour and a half and when they returned, I handed the General his written message and repeated it to him. “That is admirable. You have it verbatim, my dear young lady,” said the General, “and now let us walk into the parlor.”
He led the way.
The first thing I noticed there was a piano, for they were not as common then as now, though father’s family would have thought they could not keep house without one and I fancied I was something of a proficient on the instrument. Mrs. Thomas saw me looking at the piano and asked me if I played. I said I did. She said she could not play. She had a niece living with her , who was now away for a short time. The piano was for her amusement and the she requested me to play. I sat down and performed some stirring patriotic pieces that were the rage at that time. General and Mrs. Thomas were delighted and extravagant in their laudation of my performance. The General then stepped to one of the front windows and, looking through the shutters which were partly closed, exclaimed “Miss Wilson, we shall soon have all New York in front of our house if you continue playing, only look out in the street and see the crowd. I discern some British officers by their redcoats who may not relish the patriotic pieces you have been playing.” “Well,” said I, “ They shall have something more agreeable to their taste” and struck up “God Save the King, Brittania Rules The Waves” and other British favorites. Then, after a few psalm tunes, I closed with Old Hundred. After lingering for some moments and hearing no more music, the crowd gave three cheers and dispersed very quietly. Their going was gratifying to the General and Mrs. Thomas as they were fearful that some of the pieces I had played in the hearing of the Red Coats might displease them and lead to trouble, but as they had all retired so quietly, their fears were dissipated and I was highly commended for what Mrs. Thomas termed “my masterly performance.” We then retired again to the sitting room and after partaking of some cake and wine, I was taken to my bedchamber.
The next morning after breakfast, I bade Goodbye to my kind hostess who very affectionately pressed me to visit them whenever I came to the city. I left them with my market basket on my arm, purchased a little sugar, tea and some other small matters and hastened homeward. I found no difficulty in passing the sentinels and towards evening, reached home. The next day I repaired to Washington’s headquarters and was received by him with congratulations on the successful issue of my mission. I repeated the return message of General Thomas. He wrote it down and said he had no doubt it was exactly as worded by his friend. As I was about to leave, he said, “ You must not go without dinner.” I had to comply with his orders and took dinner with the General and two other American officers. After dinner, the General offered me several gold pieces for my valuable services (as he called them) but I refused to accept them and said, “if my mission proves to be of any service to my country, I shall consider myself amply repaid, but if you will give me one of those small pieces as a present that I may have the pride of saying, in after many years, “This was given to me by General Washington, I will take the smallest.” “Most cheerfully will I do that,” said he, “and I only regret that I have not a more valuable keepsake to present you.” and handed me a Spanish pistole, worth about $ 3.60. This I have yet and would not take a great deal for it. And now, young folks, I have told you the whole story of my adventures as a spy. More in detail than I ever related it before because I thought you would be more interested in the incidents than in the final result.
Tale of Spying in Revolutionary Days Found in Wilkes -Barre Attic
(Newspaper article in the Wilkes -Barre Record, June 1956)
“A story of intrigue and danger dating back to the days of the Revolutionary War came to light recently among some old forgotten papers in the attic of a Wilkes -Barre home.
“Discovery of an old-fashioned copybook which contains a tale of spying for George Washington, written out in lead pencil, was made by the present tenant of a house on Academy Street, who turned the small packet of papers over the Frances Chase, 76 West South Street, a descendant of the people involved.
“Miss Chase reports she had heard the adventure of her grandmother’s great aunt Elizabeth Wilson but had not thought of it in some years, until the copybook came into her possession.
“Story, which follows, was written down about 80 years ago by Miss Chase’s great-uncle and was intended for a cousin who lived in Milton. Man who put the family story in writing was Stephen Wilson, who lived in the old ferry house at the Kingston end of the Market Street bridge. In addition to the Elizabeth Wilson story of spying, Wilson also preserved details of family history.
“Copybook traveled in its 80 years from Milton to Wilkes -Barre, and was last in the possession of Thomas Taylor, son of Judge Edmund Taylor, who was Miss Chase’s grandfather. Tom Taylor lived on Academy Street many years ago, and it was in what had been his home the story was found.
“As for the young Elizabeth Wilson who spied for George Washington, Miss Chase says she was about 19 years old at the time of the episode. Miss Chase writes: “My grandmother’s great aunt Elizabeth Wilson spied for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The British captured New York City in 1776 and the American forces under Washington removed to White Plains, about 25 miles further north. The American General Thomas was a prisoner in New York but was allowed to go anywhere in the city. General Washington wished to get some important intelligence to him, and that is how Great Aunt Elizabeth came into the picture, and tells the tale.”
General Seeks Aid
“Story from the old copybook reads as follows:
“The Wilson family lived not very far from General Washington’s headquarters. One day a young American officer brought me a note from General Washington, politely desiring me to call at this headquarters the next morning at 10. With a great deal of agitation and not a little fear, I showed the note to Father and Mother, and they were as much astonished as I was. Father, after thinking it over, wondered if it had come to the ears of the General that he had had strong Tory feelings before the war and talked to his neighbors of the ‘wickedness of taking up arms against King George, our rightful sovereign,’ but the moment the king had declared war against us he became a patriot and sent two sons to the army, and the third would go the day he was 16.
“The night following was a sleepless one for me, and I rose early and dressed myself in my best attire and prepared for the dreadful ordeal. At precisely 10 o’clock I knocked at the General’s door and told the servant I wished to see the General.
“The General, who was near, came forward, smilingly extending his hand and remarking, ‘This is Miss Wilson, I presume?’
“I gave him the note. He said, ‘I am glad to see you, though I almost regret having invited you to my quarters in view of the dangerous mission that I desire you to undertake.’ He held in his hand a sheet of foolscap, a third of which was covered in writing.
“ ‘This message I want sent to General Thomas, and, Miss Wilson, you have been most favorably recommended to me as an educated and intelligent young lady of caution, prudence and spirit. I wish to engage your services in conveying this message, but it is a hazardous undertaking, for if you should be detected with it about your person you would be hung or shot, for the British show no mercy to spies.’
“I told the General if he was willing to entrust it to me I could convey it to General Thomas without the possibility of discovery, for I will commit to memory. I took the paper and the General opened a door into an adjoining room and in less than half an hour I had memorized the contents and repeated them to him three or four times over. He seemed highly pleased.
“ ‘You have every word in your head but do you think you can keep it there through the ordeal you must pass?’
“ ‘General’ said I, ‘if you meet me five years from now and I cannot repeat every word, you may hang me for a spy;’ at which he laughed. (Great Aunt Elizabeth certainly had no mean opinion of herself) He then asked me if I had any plan to get into the city. I told him this was what I had thought of since I had known the object of my call:
‘The country women with marketing of any kind are freely admitted into the city to see or barter their stuff. I will dress in the calico or linsey-woolsey of a farmer’s daughter, wearing my youngest brother’s shoes, a coarse shawl and a gingham sunbonnet, I would take a market basket on my arm with a couple dozen eggs, a roll of butter and a couple of cakes of homemade soap and perhaps some other little trifles!
“The General smiled and remarked that I was fully equal to the occasion and needed no instructions from him.
“ ‘I have a token,” he said, ‘that I want you to give to General Thomas. It is this little gold pencil given to me by a French officer in the presence of General Thomas at his own house one day. He will recognize it at once, for he examined it when it was presented to me. And now you will need a little money for expenses!’
‘No, General,’ I said. ‘I do not need any money from you now. If ever I take any it will be when I take my harness off, not when I put it on.’
“As I was leaving he took my hand. I looked up to him and repeated the message.
“ ‘Every word right,’ said the General; ‘God bless you and bring your enterprise to a successful conclusion.’
“I returned home with a much lighter heart than I had carried from it.
“The next morning early I was on my way to the city and before noon I approached the outer pickets of the British army. I stopped and asked permission to go into the city with my marketing. The guard stepped up to me and asked what I had to sell. I showed him the contents of my basket and he said I could pass on. But before I got fairly into the city, another of the redcoats stopped me and asked several questions. All of these I answered to his satisfaction, I suppose, for he told me I could go on and that no one else would stop me.
Spy has Narrow Escape
“Another soldier next to him I heard say: ‘That last market woman does not look too much like a country girl, hadn’t you better call her back and examine her more closely?’
‘No, I think not. She is some farmer’s wench that feels proud to be in New York and carries a high head.’ which remark rather drew the teeth from the first one’s compliment.
“I hurried along and soon found the street in which General Thomas lived.
“I knocked on the door and presently a servant girl opened it and scowled when I asked to see the General and said he was not at home and Mrs. Thomas does not want any marketing.
“I told her I had nothing to sell but I must see her. She tried to slam the door in my face when Mrs. Thomas appeared. She looked at me sternly, but when I said I had a message for General Thomas she asked me to give it to her, but I hastened to tell her I could give the message to no one but the General himself.
“She took me into a back room and in a few moments the General and his wife came in. When I told him I had a message from General Washington, he stared at me and looked incredulous. I said; ‘General Thomas, you know it would be death to me to be detected as a spy and so I have committed the message to memory.’
“I have a little article handed to me by General Washington to show you as proof of my honesty’, and gave him the pencil, which he at once recognized.
“He then got paper and pen and began taking down the message as I repeated it.
“When he was through he looked the message over several times and seemed much surprised and delighted.
“He wished to know my name, residence and how I got past the guards.
“He told Mrs. Thomas to buy the contents of my basket and pay me market prices, as I must buy some articles to show the sentries as I passed out of the city. I must also be their guest for the night.
“I began to make some apologies for my get up. ‘None of that, Miss Wilson, you are more joyfully welcome than if dressed in the richest of silks.’
“He then went off to write a return message till we were called to tea.
“After tea the General and Mrs. Thomas went out for a walk and left me to memorize a much longer message. On their return I repeated the message and was complimented on learning it so quickly.
Playing Attracts Crowd
“We went into the parlor and the first thing I saw was a piano, for they were not as common as today, though we had one at home. At their request I played some stirring patriotic pieces that were the rage at that time.
“In looking out the shuttered window the General exclaimed: ‘We shall soon have all New York in front of our house, look out and see the crowd.’
“He thought, as there were many British officers in the crowd they might not relish my all American pieces, so I struck up with “God save the King”, “Brittania Rules the Waves”, and other favorites, closing with a few Psalm tunes and Old Hundred.
“After lingering for some moments and hearing no more music, the crowd gave three cheers and departed very quietly, which gave satisfaction to the General and Mrs. Thomas as they feared my American tunes might have displeased them and led to trouble.
“After partaking of cake and wine I was taken to my bed chamber.
“The next day I bade goodbye to my kind hostess who very affectionately pressed me to visit them whenever I came to the city.
“I purchased a little sugar, tea and some other small matters and hastened homeward. I found no difficulty in passing the sentries and reached home toward evening.
“The next day I repaired to General Washington’s headquarters and was received by him with congratulations on the success of my mission. As I was about to leave, he said I must not go without dinner and I sat down to dinner with the General and two other officers. After dinner the General offered me several gold pieces, but I suggested he give me one of the small gold pieces that I might have the honour of saying, in after years, it was given me by General Washington.
“The General then said he regretted not having a more valuable keepsake to give me, and handed me a Spanish Pistole worth about $3.60. Even today, I would not sell it for all the money in the world.
“Great-aunt Elizabeth later married, lived in New York State and died in Canada at the age of 98.
|Newspaper article in the Wilkes-Barre Record, June 1956
|Closer view of the June 1956 article
|the rest of the June 1956 article
|Stephen Wilson's journal from 1887
|The beginning of the account of "Elizabeth Wilson, the spy for
General George Washington" in the journal
Biography of Stephen Wilson.
He was born May 13,1802, the son of Elnathan Wilson and Elizabeth Baker (who came to Wilkes Barre, PA from Connecticut to run a mercantile store and hotel in Kingston, PA). He was one of 10 children.
He had a book binding and printing office in Milton, PA and was the editor of a weekly paper called “The Milton Ledger”. He lived in the old ferry house in Kingston, PA at the end of the Market Street bridge (Wilkes Barre). His children are Elle, Ann, Stephen and Kate Wilson. He died in 1891 in Columbia, PA.
He wrote this journal for his niece, Clara, in 1887