A Physically Disabled Daughter of Liberty?

in about Mercy Scollay

[To Mrs. Dix of Worcester, Massachusetts]

Boston December 10th [1776]

Tell your good Mama Ive seen the people about the cake pans but as she did not tell me how many she wanted I did not chuse to take them till I hear from her – they have about a dozen and half – she spoke a dozen certain; and if she will have the others added I suppose I can procure them – I cant purchase any orange collard silk for sister Duncan tho Polly and [I] have both tryd for it – I was greatly disapp[o]inted at not seeing your two Brothers when they calld – it was the only time I had been out, from my coming home – as to your madcap of a sister Betsy tell her I would be angry with her if I tho’t it worth while – but will endeavor to pay her in her own coin – tell Hannah to wear the hankerchief I left with her for I cant get a better in the room of it – tell her likewise that Ive had the pleasure to set very close to her Cousin Miss C—s and find by sad experience that the air of Boston has not taken away her perfume – tell your brother Duncan Mama would esteem it a favor if he would let her have 4 or 6 pound of the same to which I had at two dollr pr pound – you know he promised me 6 pound at that same price if I wanted it – I suppose this will find you all assembled to keep Thanksgiving together – I shall be partly with you in prayers and wishes for your happiness while together and when separated kiss your dear little ones for me, and be sure to let me know when Polly knows where her shoes is – remember me in the kindest manner to your husband and your father Mother Brother, Sister, and everyone you love – This family join me in affectionate regards to you and yours – Believe me ever with the sincerest attachment Your

M Scollay

You must not expect such a ong letter from me again this winter for my fingers are now stiff with the cold –should be glad of my crutch with the spear on it if you have an opportunity to send it, – once more adieu.

Source:  Mercy Scollay, manuscript letter to Mrs. Dix dated December 10th [1776].  In: Mercy Scollay Papers 1775-1824. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cambridge Historical Society.

Commentary:  Eighteen months after her unofficial fiancée’s demise at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Miss Mercy Scollay was back in Boston. Living at her parent’s house as before the Siege, wartime life in Boston was considerably different and harder than it was prior to the Boston Port Act and the outbreak of hostilities.  One bright spot was a continuing, candid correspondence with Mrs. and Dr. Dix, her former hosts when she was a refugee in Worcester. In this letter Mercy wheels and deals in kitchen pans and sewing supplies.  She offers playful criticism for a mutual acquaintance’s use of perfume. The identity of the pungent Miss C—s is unknown to me.

Mercy desires that a sharpened crutch, presumably for use perambulating on winter ice and snow, be returned to her from Worcester.  This suggests that she faced a condition mildly limiting mobility – perhaps a congenital club foot or an improperly healed old fracture. Mercy suffered a surgical foot amputation as an old lady within a year of her death in 1826. That surgery and the need to get around with a “crutch with the spear on it” fifty years prior, may or may not have been manifestations and consequences of the same lower extremity condition.

Previous post:

Next post: