Courting in Colonial Days

By Katherine Bergholtz

With Valentine’s Day approaching, the William Hickling Prescott House at 55 Beacon St. wanted to share some colonial love stories about the Prescott family to warm your hearts. Both of the stories are against all odds!  

The shorter of the stories involves both Col. William Prescott and his grandson William Hickling Prescott.  In 1775, Col. Prescott led the Minutemen to fight against Capt. John Linzee of the Royal Navy in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Later, Prescott’s grandson (William Hickling Prescott) would wind up marrying a Linzee descendant, Susan Amory. 

Double Sided Fan (1850-1860), NSCDA MA Costume

Apparently, those shells Captain Linzee lobbed at Bunker Hill were not enough to keep the young Susan Amory and William Hickling Prescott from eventually joining hands on Prescott’s 24th birthday – May 4, 1820.

At their wedding, Susan’s uncle presented Captain Linzee’s sword to Prescott to show unity between the families. The two swords of Col. Prescott and Capt. Linzee are crossed and mounted on a plaque that is on display at the Massachusetts Historical Society. A copy hangs in the Prescott House. Neither grandfather attended the wedding as they died prior to 1800.  However, they were most likely toasted at the wedding and asked for their blessings from above.

Also, even further back in Prescott history is Jonas Prescott, who was Colonel William Prescott’s grandfather. The love story of Jonas and Mary is told in the book “Prescott Memorial”  (Boston, 1870) by  Dr. William Prescott, a distant relative to William Hickling Prescott.

Jonas and his love interest Mary Loker defied all odds and efforts of Mary’s parents. 

Mary was from a wealthy family who were somewhat aristocratic in their notions and being their only daughter, they had their hearts set on her marrying a lawyer. 

Well, Mary and Jonas Prescott had developed a strong attachment and apparently felt were better suited for each other. Jonas was a blacksmith. Mary’s parents devised their course of action to dissuade this relationship.  Prescott was forbidden to enter their house and the two were not permitted to even speak.  Window grates were put up on the windows and when the parents thought there was any conversation between them, Mary was locked in. 

The grates and locks were not enough to deter Mary and Jonas.  As Prescott describes in his book, “Jonas took opportunities when the cold night wind blew and the pelting storm raged, when no listener could overhear their soft whisperings, to place himself beneath her grated window and there enjoyed sweet company with his beloved Mary.” 

When Mary’s parents did find out, they resorted to place her in a secluded spot under the care of a faithful and watchful guardian. Chocksett, then a frontier settlement, now called Sterling adjoining Groton where they lived, was chosen as the place for her to go. 

Jonas searched in vain, until one day in Chocksett he was inquiring of some young men if they had any pretty girls in their neighborhood. They told him that day there was to be a quilting event and later that night a dance with the girls and he was invited to join in. Prescott cheerfully accepted and on arriving at the cottage where the seamstresses were assembled, whom should he find there, but, his beloved Mary! 

“This was indeed a happy venture.  Concealing as well as they could, their former acquaintance, they took the opportunities to be partners in the dance and made assignments for future meetings.  Having thus fortunately discovered the place of banishment, he renewed his visits, until her parents, finding it out, took her home. She was then sternly told, she must reject the blacksmith and receive the addresses of the lawyer. 

She resolutely replied, she would “never marry anyone but Jonas Prescott.”  The Lokers reply was, she would never then be entitled to any of their property. So, it happened, a marriage without a dowry.

The Prescott Memorial states, the marriage took place before even the most common utensils for housekeeping could be procured. She brought into the marriage a two-quart kettle and her washtub, the shell of a large pumpkin.

“From this affectionate and happy pair sprung the doctors, warriors, civilians, statesman, jurists and historians, noticed in the genealogical record and memoir, with numerous other descendants.”  

Thank goodness love prevailed with Jonas and Mary!  

There is no argument that love has been in the air since the beginning of time and quite often has beat all odds! 

The William Hickling Prescott House is an historic house museum.  It also serves as the headquarters of The National Society of The Colonial Dames in the Commonwealth of MA. Due to Covid-19 it is not open to the public.  Visit the Prescott House website for updates as spring progresses at  nscdama.org/william-hickling-prescott-house/ or follow them on Facebook. 

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