“I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house”

ELIZABETH DRINKER noted on 20 July 1778: “Grace Galloway turn’d out of her House this forenoon, and Spanish officers put in. . . . ”

After the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, GRACE GALLOWAY had stayed behind—her Loyalist husband Joseph had fled with their daughter Betsy—in the hope of preventing their house “Trevose,” or the Manor of Bensalem (pictured in the previous post,) from being confiscated. A vain hope as it turned out. Charles Willson Peale, the Commissioner of Forfeited Estates, was determined to seize the property of accused traitors, the sale of which would yield him a five percent commission. Here is Grace Growden Galloway’s account of what happened as noted in her diary.

Wednesday . . . [June 17, 1778] this evening parted with my dear Husband & child. . . .

This day Thursday the 18th the American Troops came into Town.

Friday the 19th was warn’d by peal [sic] that he must take possession of my house for the state. . . .

[July] Tusday the 21st . . . about 2 o’clock they came—one smith a hatter & Col Will & one Shriner & a Dutch Man I know not his Name—they took an inventory of everything even to broken China & empty bottles. . . . they told Me they must advertise the house I told them they must do as they pleased but till it was decided by a Court I wou’d not go out Unless by the force of a bayonet but when I knew who had a right to it I should know how to act. . . .
Accordingly I did so & a little after 10 oclock they Knocked Violently at the door three times; the Third time I sent Nurse & call’d out myself to tell them I was in possession of my own House & wou’d keep so & they shou’d gain No admittance. Hereupon which they went round in the yard & Try’d every door but cou’d None Open, then they went to the Kitchen door & with a scrubbing brush which they broke to pieces, they forced that open—we Women standing in the Entry in the Dark they made repeated strokes at the door & I think was 8 or 10 Minuets before they got it open. When they came in, I had the windows open’d; they look’d very Mad. Their was peel, smith, the Hatter & a Col Will a pewterer in second street. I spoke first & told them I was Used ill: & show’d them the Opinion of the Lawyers. Peel read it: but they all despised it & peel said he had studied the Law & knew they did right. I told them Nothing but force shou’d get me out of My house. Smith said they knew how to Manage that & that they wou’d throw my cloaths in the street. . . .

Wenesday the 22 . . . Sent for Mr. [John] Dickison last Night & he told Me he wou’d look over the law to see if I cou’d recover My own estate & this evening he came & told Me I cou’d Not recover dower & he fear’d my income in My estate was forfeited likewise & that no tryal wou’d be of service: but advised Me to draw up a peti’on to the Chief Justice Mccean [Thomas McKean] for the recovery of my estate & refused a fee in the Politest Manner, but begg’d I wou’d look on him as My sincere friend . . . so I find I am a beggar indeed. I expect every hour to be turn’d out of doors & where to go I know not no one will take me in & all the Men keeps from Me. . . .

[August] Saturday the 8th . . . Peal & Will came to let Me know that I must go out a Monday Morn: for they wou’d give the spaniard [Don Juan de Miralles] Possession. . . .

Thursday the 20th [Her lawyer William] Lewise sent me word that I must shut my doors & windows & if they wou’d come to let them Make a forcible Entry. Peel & Will went over the House to see Nothing was Embassell’d [embezzled] & Locking Up the things at last Smith went away. . . . after every Mortifying treatment I was tiard [tired] & wanted to be turn’d out. Peel went upstairs & brought down My Work bag & 2 bonnets & put them on the side table; at last we went in the Entry to sit. . . . two of the Men went out & after staying some time return’d & said they had been with the council & that they had done right & must proceed. I did not hear this myself but the rest of the Women did. Mrs [Molly] Craig asked for My Bed but they wou’d let Me Have Nothing & as I told them acted entirely from Malice: after we had been in the Entry some time Smith & Will went away & Peel said the Chariot was ready but he would not hasten me. I told him I was at home & in My own House & nothing but force shou’d drive me out of it. He said it was not the first time he had taken a Lady by the Hand, an insolent wretch . . . as the Chariot drew up Peel fetched My Bonnets & gave one to me the other to Mrs Craig: then with greatest air said come Mrs Galloway give me your hand. I answer’d indeed I will not nor will I go out of my house but by force. He then took hold of my arm & I rose & he took me to the door. I then Took hold on one side & Looked round & said pray take Notice I do not leave my house of My own accord or with my own inclination but by force & Nothing but force shou’d have Made Me give up possession. Peel said with a sneer very well Madam & when he led me down the step I said now Mr Peel let go My Arm I want not your Assistance. He said he cou’d help me to the Carriage. I told him I cou’d go without & you Mr Peel are the last Man on earth I wou’d wish to be Obliged to. Mrs Craig then step’d into the Carriage & we drove to her house where we din’d.

By the law of coverture when a woman married any property she brought to the union belonged to her husband unless a prenuptial agreement had been drawn up. Even though the house Grace Galloway lived in had been inherited from her family, according to the law her Loyalist husband was the owner, and it was therefore subject to confiscation.

In the Words of Women Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) 124-125. Original source: Raymond C. Werner, “Diary of Grace Growden Galloway,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 55, no. 1 (January 1931) 36. 40-41, 51-72.


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