March 9, 1938
Today I finally got down to going after the William Prendergast story . It is not an unknown story up here and there is a plaque on a rock, which was erected to his wife who possessed the very delightful name of Mehitabel Wing.
Just as we expected, the story is certainly in her. A preacher who gathered stories in these parts, by the name of Warren H. Wilson, known to the old timers as Dominy Wilson because he was a preacher, described her as “resolute.” She must have been a hellcat at least. As you know she put up a vigorous defense for husband basing it on the fact that he was “esteemed a sober, honest and industrious farmer, much beloved by his neighbors but stirred up to act as he did by one Munro, who is absconded.” The jury loved it even though they must not have believed it because Prendergast was a wild-eyed Irishman, erratic and impetuous. The State’s attorney was so up at her performance that he moved she be excluded from the courtroom. The court not only denied the motion but rebuked the State’s attorney for “so forgetting himself.” The trial took place in August and I gather that accounts of it were carried in the New York Mercury for August 18 and 25. Other dates which figure in the case are July 28 and Sept. 15, all in 1766. But she lost in the end and he was sentenced to be hanged in Jamestown, New York. Some members of the family neatly cut the hanging part out of the family history but it has been restored since then. All the members of the family are dead. But while they lived they did everything they could to cover up the story of William Prendergast.
Anyway, with the hanging six weeks off, Mehitabel, the resolute Quaker, obtained an audience with the Governor (Sir Henry Moore, Bart.) presumably in New York and returned Sept. first with a reprieve. She arrived in time to stop a company of men who were about to storm the jail to free her husband. Then came the pay-off. She wrote George III, and within six months got a pardon for her husband. As the Dominy put it “Six months later, George III, who required six years to be subdued by Washington, released her husband.”
I won’t go into any more detail because I managed to get the Wilson stuff into my hands and I’ll bring them down shortly. I believe there might be a couple of other stories in his book on Quaker Hill. I note the story of a bunch of Quaker boys and girls “skylarking” in the meeting house one night.
One of the girls dared one of the boys to look in the attic “for the Tories.” It was made merely as a joke. The boy took the joke and the Tories (an outlaw band of murderers, I believe, headed by Waite Vaughn (another good yarn)) opened the door and THEY WERE THERE. The outlaws, knowing the Quakers didn’t fight, made the boys and girls lead them to the store and wait around while they loaded up. Finally the blood of some of the Quaker boys refused to remain peaceful or non-resistant and one of them said “Seize the rascals.”
In the melee the girl who had done this recognized the leader of the band as someone they knew. He was so furious that he grabbed her. Don’t know if she died.
Read how Carmer and others told this tale!