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Stories of New Jersey
The Story Of Penelope Stout
Period, prior to 1669.)

By Frank R. Stockton

Originally published in 1896
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

But Penelope had entirely different ideas upon the subject. She thoroughly believed in the old Indian, and was sure that he would not have come and told her that story unless it had been true. If her husband chose to stay and risk his life, she could not help it; but she would not subject herself and her children to the terrible danger which threatened them. She had begged her husband to go with her; but as he had refused, and had returned to his work, she and her children would escape alone.

Consequently she set out with the little ones, and with all haste possible she reached the place where the canoe was moored among some tall reeds, and, getting in with the children, she paddled away to New Amsterdam, hoping she might reach there in time to send assistance to Middletown before the Indians should attack it.

When Farmer Stout found that his wife had really gone off, and had taken the children with her, he began to consider the matter seriously, and concluded that perhaps there might be something in the news which the old Indian had brought. He consequently called together a number of the men of the village, and they held a consultation, in which it was determined that it would be a wise thing to prepare themselves against the threatened attack; and, arming themselves with all the guns and pistols they could get, they met together in one of the houses, which was well adapted for that purpose, and prepared to watch all night.

They did not watch in vain, for about midnight they heard from the woods that dreadful war whoop which the white settlers now well understood. They knew it meant the same thing as the roar of the lion, who, after silently creeping towards his intended victim, suddenly makes the rocks echo with the sound of his terrible voice, and then gives his fatal spring.

But although these men might have been stricken with terror, had they heard such a war cry at a time when they were not expecting it, and from Indians to whom they were strangers, they were not so terrified at the coming of these red men with whom, perhaps only the day before, they had been trading buttons for venison and beans. They could not believe that these apparently mild and easy-going fellows could really be the terrible savages they tried to make themselves appear.

So Richard Stout and his companions went boldly out, guns in hand, to meet the oncoming savages, and, calling a parley, they declared that they had no in- tention of resting quietly, and allowing themselves and families to be slaughtered and their houses burned. If the Indians, who had so long been their good neighbors, were now determined to become bloody enemies, they would find that they would have to do a good deal of hard fighting before they could destroy the village of Middletown; and, if they persisted in carrying on the bloody job they had undertaken, a good many of them would be killed before that job was finished.

Now, it had been very seldom that Indians who had started out to massacre whites had met with people who acted like this; and these red men in war paint thought it wise to consider what had been said to them. A few of them may have had guns, but the majority were armed only with bows and tomahawks; and these white men had guns and pistols, with plenty of powder and ball. It would clearly be unsafe to fight them.

So, after discussing the matter among themselves and afterwards talking it over with the whites, the Indians made up their minds, that, instead of endeavoring to destroy the inhabitants of Middletown, they would shake hands with them and make a treaty of peace. They then retired ; and on the following day a general conference was held, in which the whites agreed to buy the lands on which they had built their town, and an alliance was made for mutual protection and assistance. This compact was faithfully observed as long as there were any Indians in the neighborhood, and Middletown grew and flourished.

Among the citizens of the place there were none who grew and flourished in a greater degree than the Stout family. Although Penelope bore upon her body the scars of her wounds until the day of her death, it is stated, upon good authority, that she lived to be one hundred and ten years old; so that it is plain that her constitution was not injured by the sufferings and hardships of the beginning of her life in New Jersey.

Not only did the Stouts flourish in Middletown, but some of them went a little southward, and helped to found the town of Hopewell; and here they increased to such a degree that one of the early historians relates that the Baptist Church there was founded by the Stouts, and that for forty-one years the religious meetings were held in the houses of different members of the Stout family, while, at the time he wrote, half of the congregation of the church were still Stouts, and that, all in all, there had been at least two hundred members of that name. So the Baptist Church in Hopewell, as well as all the churches in Middletown, owed a great deal to the good Indian who carried poor Penelope to his village, and cured her of her wounds.

"History of New Jersey." S. Smith.
"History of New Jersey." J. C. Raum.
"Historical Collections." Barber and Howe.
"Story of an Old Farm." A. C. Mellick.


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