How Could He Sell the Feather Beds to George Washington?

in about Warren

Date: August, 17, 1775

Author: Miss Mercy Scollay

[To Dr. Dix, posted from Watertown, Massachusetts]

“I look upon the promise made my friend of writing him by first opportunity too sacred to omit, tho’ I’ve nothing yet of any consequence to say – My journey down [from Worcester] was safe and my little girls [Joseph Warren’s orphaned children Elizabeth Warren and Mary Warren] less fatigued than I should have imagined from the heat of the day – I got to Mr Savages before 5 oclock found all friends well and heartily rejoiced to see me – was too much fatigued to go further till Wednesday when I came to Watertown where I’m now pening this – My first inquiry was for Mr Hancock whom I was lucky eno’ to find – I told him that I had learnt since I came down what was doing with the few effects my poor friend [i.e. fiancé Joseph Warren, deceased] was possess of out of Boston – that John W[arre]n had sold every feather bed to General Washin[g]ton and for ought I know every thing else – that his picture so valuable to those who esteemed the original was somewhere near Roxbury the looking glasses that was brought out of town with it were (through carelessness) broke to pieces and I supposed all that was in their hands would share the same fate – Mr H[ancoc]k appeared much affected by my relation. Said his [Joseph Warren’s] brother had no right to doo those things without proper authority and would certainly be called to account for those proceedings – he advised me not to go to Cambridge as the confusion of the town would distract me – that he was going himself there – would see the young gentleman [probably Dr. John Warren] and without letting him know he had seen me, or heard any thing would enquire what he proposed doing, and on his return would talk further on the subject – I’m now waiting to know what was the result of the conference as Mr. H[ancoc]k is returned, and will not close my letter till I can give you an account – I imagind when at Worcester that I should doo great things when I came here but find (like every thing in this life) disappointment wrote on all high raised expectations – noise and tumult reigns here with a high hand, and instead of seeing people look dejected with the dire calamities that are impending over our heads they appear like frolic coming to commencement – My melancholy countenance is a novelty in this Place and I find I must not exhibit it with the freedom I could in my little retreat the beauties of which are greatly enhancd since I came to this seat of dissipation  alas my friend every thing appears with a different affect to me now and the sight of my friends gives a keener edge to my grief – like a jaundice eye all things receive the same taint, and the soothing tenderness of my belov’d relations cannot dispel the gloom – I yesterday saw my sister Lowell who is come to settle here, and had not my mind been depressed with my own misfortune I should have esteemed it one of my happiest days – I have a letter from papa [who voluntarily stayed in Boston and, as chief Selectman, was a go-between besieging Patriots and British within occupied Boston] dated the 2d of August he condoled with me in the loss of my friend but mentions no particulars, tho he might without danger as the letter came by a friend and seald –I can yet learn no accounts that I think authentic, tho’ the general voice is against me – pray Heaven I may some time or other be able to acquiesce in the receivd opinion or else be confirmed in my own hopes and ardent wishes – Papa writes me that he has obtained leave to see after the poor prisoners {i.e. Patriot wounded prisoners taken by the British during the battle of Bunker Hill], and my dear Mama performs the office of an assistant with him visits them every day, sees they are clean and well nursed.  They think it their Duty to continue in town while they can be serviceable, but mean to quit it when they can doo no further good – I’ve not been to Roxbury and believe I shall not attempt it, as I hear the shot from Boston the day before yesterday, reachd beyond the Meeting house some way – if that is the case, I think my dear little girls too valuable to risque for the sake of seeing those who care so little for them.

I’ve seen the two Mr Adamses [Samuel and John] Mr Hancock and [Reverend] Dr [Samuel] Cooper but find nothing can be done respecting the children till a judge is appointed and I cannot hold them one moment after the relations claim their right –I have likewise seen their uncle [Dr.] John [Warren and] found him a good deal touchd with my letter he says his mother after she came from Worcester declar’d her mind more fully about having the children brought down that he had wrote me on the subject and in answer to my letter – that next week was pitch’d on for removing them from Worcester – but hoped they will not be moved so soon – You will see Mr Hancock [back in Worcester] ‘tis probable by the time this reaches you and he can tell you that I’ve not been idle in regard to my little charges – I promised Mr. Hancock to meet him at Worcester next Tuesday therefor shall set off Monday morng Early for my little Hideing place thankfull to quit those scenes of noise and confusion which for some days I have been emergd in – I hope this will meet you and your amiable wife in the enjoyment of every blessing that can be bestowed on the deserving – ‘Twill always be an animating consideration to me however unhappy my future days may be that you and yours are rewarding according to the favours you’ve bestow’d on others – God All Mighty bless you and soon take from this World of trouble your unfortunate Friend.

M Scollay

I hope my two little Boys [Joseph Warren IV and Richard Hooton Warren] with Sarah are well, remember me kindly to them, all my friends and relations beg to be kindly rememberd to you and your wife, and thank you for your benevo kindness to me – once more Adieu.”

Source: Mercy Scollay Papers (1775-1824), Cambridge Historical Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Commentary: Her fiancé Dr. Joseph Warren dead for just two months, Miss Mercy Scollay ventured, with Warren’s orphaned daughters Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ and Mary ‘Polly’ in tow, to Massachusetts Provincial Congress headquarters in Watertown. She  called on influential Patriots whom she knew, sought custody of Warren’s orphans, and may also have offered her services as a Patriot writer. She was disappointed in her quest.

A nicely written elegy by an anonymous feminine hand was published by Edes and Gill press as a broadside in Watertown, around this time. The latter will be published on this website in a future posting as a newly attributed piece possibly written by Mercy Scollay.

Miss Scollay was appalled by what she found in Watertown  – a surprisingly festive mood just weeks after the shock of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Further, her almost-brother-in-law Dr. John Warren – Joseph’s youngest brother, former medical apprentice, and now a Continental Army physician – had sold Joseph’s feather beds to George Washington. John Warren had other plans for his brother’s orphans, plans that did not include Miss Scollay.

Mercy Scollay thought of going, but did not proceed, onward to the center of provincial and Continental military activity in Cambridge or to the Warren family farm in Roxbury.  Her sojourn in Cambridge was from Thursday, August 17th into Monday, August 21, 1775.

Previous post:

Next post: