A story of patriotism and heroism from the archives. This transcript is from The Kim Power Stilson BYU SiriusXM 143 Radio show celebrating “Pilgrims, Pioneers and Patriots: The Builders of our Nation” (25 June 2014.)
Kim, Thank you for inviting me here today to have a little chat about the “Builders of our Nation” – Our heroes the Pilgrims, Patriots and Pioneers.
We’re getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July next week and Pioneer Day on July 24th. I thought it might be nice to share stories about these epic people who changed the world. We usually think about Pilgrims in the fall, but their contributions and part of the story of the rise of America might be considered around the birthday of our great country.
The dictionary defines a Pilgrim as “ one who journeys in foreign lands : wayfarer
one who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee
capitalized : one of the English colonists settling at Plymouth in 1620
When we talk about America, we might consider that some of the first “Pilgrims” were the English settlers in Virginia. Jamestown was established in Virginia and was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. William Kelso says Jamestown “is where the British Empire began,…Established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort” on May 4, 1607. This was an exciting time in world history. The Virginia Colony was named for Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII, who was called the “Virgin Queen” because she never married. At this time in England, there was a lot of religious conflict. You might remember that Elizabeth belonged to the Anglican Church that her father started, and had her cousin Mary Queen of Scots executed after a failed coup involving Spain and the Catholic Church. In 1603 as she lay dying, Elizabeth named James, the son of Mary and King of Scotland as her heir. So James came to England to inherit the throne and Elizabeth’s favorite entertainers, one of which you may have heard of: William Shakespeare who began writing for his new patron works like King Lear and Macbeth which included a reference to King James’s ancestor, Fleance the son of Banquo for you Macbeth fans. In addition to enjoying the literary works of Shakespeare, King James had another project going on, he was continuing the commission Elizabeth had started on an English translation of the Bible, which we know of as the King James Bible.
Back in America, several attempts to establish colonies had failed, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Another Colony upriver, the Berkley Colony was growing and was actually the site of the first Thanksgiving in 1619, the year before the Pilgrims arrived. But Jamestown served as the capital of the colony for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
The settlement was located within the country of the Powhatan Confederacy. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not very agriculturally savvy. Unfortunately their relations went bad and wars between the settlers and native Americans began .and this unfortunate situation will come into play again during the Revolutionary War. The mortality rate at Jamestown was very high due to disease and starvation, with over 80% of the colonists perishing in 1609-1610 in what became known as the “Starving Time“. About half of the Pilgrims died that first winter at Plymouth.
In 1608, the Virginia Company brought Polish and German colonists to help improve the settlement, as well as the first women. In 1619, the first documented Africans were brought to Jamestown. The following year, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.
Shakespeare retired in 1611 and died in 1616.James Fort in Virginia became James towne in1619. In 1699, the capital was relocated from Jamestown to what is today Williamsburg, after which Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, and today is an archaeological site.
KIM, Have you ever visited Colonial Williamsburg? American history buffs really need to go see the finesse and culture exhibited by the early colonists. So you have the British colonies established. Let’s jump ahead to 1750 to tell the story of one American Patriot. When we visited on St.Patrick’s Day, I told the story of one Irish-American family and their experience during the Revolutionary War.
Elizabeth Duncan was born in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1750 to Scottish parents who had emigrated from Ireland. When she was six years old her father died and her help was needed to keep the family alive. She grew up a hard worker and when she was 25, she fell in love and married Samuel Porter who had recently come from Ireland to America with his five or six brothers. Samuel had joined the Virginia Militia where he was assigned to protect settlers from Indian attacks. They moved to the Kentucky region which was then part of Virginia to build a homestead with several friends and relatives.
While there, the entire community was captured by Indians and it is thought British soldiers because they were not scalped. All of their livestock was taken and they were marched as prisoners of war to Detroit. Elizabeth was expecting their third child at the time. During the 600+ mile march, Samuel was forced to carry their little daughter Margaret and Elizabeth tried to keep their toddler son form making noise “lest their captors dash out his brains in front of his mother.” Although she was permitted to ride much of the way, she often spent hours with her feet in water. They endured abuse by their captors and nearly starved to death.
When they arrived at the prison camp, they were placed in stockades and pens like animals. Samuel was sentenced to be executed.
Elizabeth was assigned to cook for the British officers, which turned out to be a blessing. She was able to collected scraps of bread and meat and hide them in the “dishwater” tub which she placed near the building where Samuel was imprisoned so he could reach through the boards and get the food, probably saving his life.
Elizabeth and others were then taken over 700 miles from Detroit to Quebec, Canada where they remained prisoners of the British and Shawnee Indians. During the winter of 1780, which has been called a “little Ice Age” because it was so cold that the New York harbor froze and people could walk from Manhattan to Staten Island, Elizabeth and her children were north of New York approximately parallel to Vermont. It was there that her third baby was born.
Can you imagine living in those conditions? In all of the world’s history, the concept of freedom has been enjoyed by a relative few. The fight for a democratic government was so dear to the hearts of the people and so hard won, we don’t even know most of the sacrifices that were made by early Americans.
When the war ended, Elizabeth carried her youngest child and took the two others back to Virginia, about 1200 miles. If you can imagine a young mother, probably in rags with no money and three small children trying to get home, you wonder how they survived. You can see why it is imperative that we help the poor and struggling, as I’m sure people did for Elizabeth. Her home and all of her possessions were taken and she didn’t know if Samuel was still alive.
For a moment, fortune favored Samuel. The British commanding officer had taken a liking to Samuel and had stayed his execution. When the war ended he was free to return to Virginia to try to find out what had become of his family. But his luck didn’t last long. Because an American officer didn’t like him, Samuel was tried for treason by the Americans. Poor guy, he couldn’t win either way. He was acquitted and finally reunited with his Elizabeth and their three children. They started to rebuild their lives, a home and went on to have three or four more children.
While Samuel and his then four sons were building a house, they were once again attacked by Indians, but a band of wild dogs appeared and drove the attackers away. Another time Margaret and her sister Tabitha were going after water when they passed a group of braves hiding near a stream. For some reason, they left the girls alone. Samuel died and Elizabeth joined her sons in Jackson County Missouri where she died and was buried in 1845.
One of the interesting things about this story is that in Elizabeth’s day, she saw the rise of America and the signing of the Constitution of the United States. Joseph Smith was born on a farm in Vermont, the Church of Jesus Christ and priesthood power were restored to the earth and Joseph died, all within one lifespan. Elizabeth’s participation in the Revolutionary War, her sacrifice and courage have been honored by the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution.
God bless America and thanks to each of you who have sacrificed to make this freedom a reality.
My grandmother Vada Webb Layton used to make this incredible dill potato salad, here it is for your celebration!
Dill Potato Salad
8 large potatoes, cooked, cooled and diced
2 – 2 1/2 whole Claussen dill pickles, finely diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 C. low fat mayonnaise
1 C. low fat sour cream
1/3 C. pickle brine
3 TBSP. prepared mustard
2 tsp. dried dill weed + extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Place potatoes, celery and pickles in a large bowl. Blend dressing and gently fold into vegetables. Refrigerate; the taste improves if allowed to blend overnight. Just before serving, adjust seasonings and sprinkle with additional dill weed. Garnish with tomato roses and greens.
Makes 10 – 12 servings.