Rebecca Prescott Sherman

“Roger Sherman journeyed on horseback from New Haven, where he had moved after his wife Elizabeth’s death, to visit his brother Josiah, who was then settled over his church in Woburn, Massachusetts. Upon his departure, his brother accompanied him some little distance, when they stopped to say a few parting words. As they were bidding each other good-bye, there appeared on horseback a beautiful young girl. She was Rebecca Prescott, riding from Salem to visit her aunt, Josiah Sherman’s wife. Rather than conclude his visit, Roger Sherman rode back with her. Rebecca Prescott was the eldest child of Benjamin Prescott (1717-1778) and Rebecca Minot (1720-1761), and her younger siblings were Martha, James, Elizabeth, Mercy, Mary, and Benjamin. Her mother was the daughter of a magistrate in Danvers, Massachusetts, and her father was a merchant and justice of the peace. Rebecca’s paternal grandfather was the Reverend Benjamin Prescott, who for many years was the pastor in Salem.

Roger Sherman and Rebecca Prescott were married on 12 May 1763 by Rebecca’s grandfather at his home. According to the family, Rebecca had been engaged to a Mr. Curran, who had died before the marriage could take place. At her wedding to Roger Sherman she received a larger silver pepper caster from Curran’s sister Sarah, and Rebecca later named her youngest child after Sarah. Roger Sherman brought his bride back to New Haven, where they became the parents of eight children – five daughters and three sons, all but one of whom grew to maturity. Upon the young Rebecca fell the duty of caring for both her own children and Roger’s four surviving children by Elizabeth Hartwell.

Their son Roger graduated from Yale and became a merchant in New Haven, highly esteemed for integrity and benevolence. Martha Sherman married Dr. Jeremiah Day, who was president of Yale College for thirty years. Rebecca married Judge Simeon Baldwin, a member of Congress and judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut and also a member of the Peace Congress of 1861. After Rebecca’s death, Simeon married her widowed sister, Elizabeth, by whom he had one son, Simeon, who became a merchant in New York. Mehetabel became the wife of Jeremiah Evarts and mother of William M. Evarts of New York, senator, secretary of state, and attorney general of the United States. Oliver, a Boston merchant, died unmarried in Havana, Cuba. Sarah, the youngest daughter, was the wife of Samuel Hoar of Concord, Massachusetts, an eminent advocate esteemed for his integrity and ability.

By all accounts Rebecca was a lovely, intelligent young woman, blessed with a cheerful ready wit, a good horsewoman, and literate. Her husband once remarked that he disliked settling any perplexing matter without the benefit of the opinion of an intelligent woman. Another family story was that at a state dinner party, George Washington selected Rebecca to escort into dinner, incurring the jealousy of Mrs. John Hancock. Washington said he chose Rebecca because she was the handsomest woman in the room. Another family story was that she made the first U.S. flag in Connecticut after visiting Betsy Ross and sewing some of the stars on her flag.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “Women of the Constitution: Wives of the Signers,” by Janice E. McKenney, Daughters of the American Revolution, District of Columbia, 2012. (top) Image courtesy of Google Books, “The Journal of American History, Volume 3,” by Francis Trevelyan Miller, National Historical Society, “American Mothers of Strong Men,” by Mrs. Katharine Prescott Bennett, 1909

“Mrs. Hancock was greatly disturbed by this seeming lack of honor which she thought should have been given to her. Washington hearing of this remarked, ‘whatever may be Mrs. Hancock’s sentiments in the matter, I had the honor of escorting to dinner the handsomest lady in the room.’

This story was told the same niece by Roger Sherman and during the narration, Rebecca came into the room, exclaiming, ‘Oh Roger, why will you tell the child such nonsense,’ turning to her niece she said, ‘always remember that handsome is, what handsome does.’

Roger gallantly replied, ‘You looked handsome and acted handsome too, so I am making an example of you, surely you can find no fault with that.’

Rebecca had the proud honor of being the, ‘Mother of men,’ of great distinction. One daughter married Senator Hoar, one the wife of Gov. Baldwin of Connecticut, while a third married William M. Evarts. Surely the greatest honor that can be given to woman. -H. J. W.”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “The Liberty Bell, Sons of the Revolution in the State of California, Los Angeles, October, 1922

“From a political perspective, the last years of Sherman’s life must have been a cause for great satisfaction. He was an influential member of Congress, serving a country whose freedom he had helped earn under a constitution he had helped write. But on the home front all was not well. His first son failed at business, became an alcoholic, and was divorced by his wife. His second son ran Roger Sherman’s New Haven store into bankruptcy, abandoned his post as paymaster in the War for Independence, was divorced from his wife, and was dead by 1789. The third son succeeded only in contrast to his brothers; he served with honor in the War for Independence and as a surveyor, managing to fail only at business.

Fortunately, Roger’s daughters fared far better, and although Sherman could not know it, they helped create a legacy of which he could be proud. This is most evident in a short letter he received from his son-in-law on January 28, 1793:

‘Mrs. Baldwin is getting well fast – We have taken the Liberty to give the child the name of Roger Sherman & I hope he will be no disgrace to the person whose name he bears. I am with much esteem your dutiful son, Simeon Baldwin’

Roger Sherman Baldwin grew up to have a long career in Connecticut state politics, culminating in service as a U.S. senator and governor. However, he is best remembered for his spirited defense of captured Africans in the Amistad case. Sherman, the opponent of slavery, would have been proud…

Sherman was ill throughout the spring of 1793, and on April 15 he participated in his final public act – laying the cornerstone for South College at Yale. He died on July 23, 1793, and was buried with New Haven’s equivalent of a state funeral on July 25. Jonathan Edwards Jr. gave the eulogy, reflecting with some insight that Sherman:

‘could with reputation to himself and improvement to others converse on the most important subjects of theology. I confess myself to have been often entertained, and in the general course of my long and intimate acquaintance with him to have been much improved by his observations on the principal subjects of doctrinal and practical divinity. But his proper line was politics. For usefulness and excellence in this line, he was qualified not only by his acute discernment and sound judgement, but especially by his knowledge of human nature.'”
-Excerpt courtesy of Google Books, “Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republic,” by Mark David Hall, 2013

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