Friday, October 24, 2014

Espionage & The American Revolution : one Long Island woman's story

Anna Smith Strong, known by her friends as Nancy, appeared to be another Tory sympathizer living in Setauket, Long Island during the American Revolution. In fact she was an American patriot.

Although not a member of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, she devised a method of signaling the American spies so they knew when it was safe to cross the Long Island Sound and get information to George Washington. 

How? She used her clothesline. Nancy would hang a black petticoat out to dry on the line to indicate that Caleb Brewster, an American spy, was waiting on the Long Island shoreline to take information back to General Washington in Connecticut.  Along with her black petticoat were white handkerchiefs. The number of handkerchiefs indicated which predetermined spot Brewster waited. 

Nancy was married to Selah Strong, a local judge who was later arrested for surreptitious communication with the enemy (meaning the American loyalists). He was taken to a prison hulk called the Jersey in New York Harbor, where hunger and disease were rampant. But Nancy, using her cunning, urged some of her Tory relatives, loyal to the King, to gain permission to visit him. She brought him food and later helped to gain his release so that he could flee to Connecticut. She remained in Setauket. It was until many years later that others learned of her role in aiding the Culper Spy Rig.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Long Island's first witch - Goodie Garlick

“Goodie Garlick is a double-tongue woman.”
      Elizabeth Gardiner Howell, 1657

            Elizabeth Garlick, an East Hampton (Long Island , N.Y.) townswoman, was accused of practicing witchcraft thereby causing the death of several infants and of having a “familiarity with Satan,” read court documents from her trial in May of 1658.
            Goodwoman (a term of address similar to Mrs.) Garlick or Goodie Garlick was married to the carpenter Joshua Garlick and was feared by the townspeople for her sharp tongue and for reporting improper behavior of her neighbors.

            Then in February of 1657 a 16-year-old girl, Elizabeth Gardiner Howell, became ill with fever after the birth of her first child. In her delirium she accused Goodie Garlick of witchcraft. Elizabeth Howell’s own mother, also ill with fever, told her to be quiet but a neighbor, Goodwoman Simmons, overheard the accusation.

            In the book – “Witches, Whales, Petticoats & Sails” by Barbara Marhoefer, she quotes what Howell allegedly said in her delirium. “A witch, a witch – now you come to torture me because I spoke two or three words against you…” She also allegedly said, “friends pray for me...”

            A few days later Elizabeth Gardiner Howell died. Local authorities called a special meeting and two women testified against Goodie Garlick. One woman, Goodwife Davis accused Goodie Garlick of killing her own child and others accused Garlick of murdering two other infants. Two women said they saw a pin in Elizabeth’s mouth (thereby indicating she had been bewitched.)

            At her trial in Connecticut she was found guilty “For which … according to the lawes of God and the established lawe of the commonwealth, thou deservest to dye.”

            But Lion Gardiner, the dead girl’s father and a powerful man who owned Gardiner’s Island, interceded on Goodie Garlic’s behalf. Goodie Garlic and her husband ended up spending the rest of their lives on Gardiner’s Island.

            For more information about Goodie Garlic look at the records at the East Hampton Historical Society or the Long Island Studies Institute at Hofstra University where I did extensive research for a play I wrote in 1996 called Silent History about famous women from Long Island.