Faith Robinson Trumbull
Wife of Jonathan Trumbull, Painter of the Declaration of Independence
1718 – 1780 A.D.
Faith Robinson was only seventeen years old when she became the wife of Jonathan Trumbull of Lebanon, Connecticut. He was a promising young lawyer, who had been educated for the ministry, but had taken to the law instead and had already, at the age of twenty-seven, risen to a prominent place in the Colony, being a member of the legislature and in receipt of an ample income.
The young woman was the daughter of Rev. John Robinson of Duxbury and a great-great-granddaughter of John and Priscilla Alden, of Plymouth Colony. Her mother was Hannah Wiswell, daughter of Rev. Ichabod Wiswell. When Faith was five years old, her mother and elder sister took passage from Dusbury on a coasting vessel for Boston, but were wrecked in a storm and both were drowned. The body of the mother was washed ashore, six weeks later, at Race Point, Cape Cod, and identified by a necklace she wore. This necklace, a treasured heirloom, is still in possession of her descendants. After the death of her mother, the care and education of the little girl fell to her father, and under wise and loving training, she developed into a gracious, high-minded young woman, more than ordinarily well educated.
Six children were born to Faith Trumbull and her husband, between the years 1737 and 1756, and in nothing more than in the character of the children she reared, is the nobility of the mother shown. Joseph, the eldest son, was the first Commissary-General of the Continental army. The second son, Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., became Paymaster-General of the Northern Department of the army under Washington, to whom he later became first aide and private secretary; after the close of the war, he held many public offices, being a member of Congress, United States Senator, Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, and for eleven years, Governor of the State. David, the third son, while he rendered less conspicuous service than his brothers during the Revolution, served more continuously, as he was his father’s private secretary, a Member of the Council of Safety, and at one time was Assistant Commissary-General, under his brother. John Trumbull, the fourth and youngest son, was a noted artist. His fourth great pictures devoted to national themes, the Declaration of Independence, the Surrender of Cornwallis, the Surrender of Burgoyne, and the Resignation of Washington at Annapolis, were purchased by Congress for thirty-two thousand dollars, and are now hanging in the rotunda of the capital at Washington.
In early infancy John Trumbull was a victim of convulsions, and the physicians said that he would either die in infancy or become an idiot, but when the child was about nine months old, Dr. Terry, a prominent physician and friend of the family, discovered that the convulsions were caused by the improper joining of the bones of the skull. Under his direction, Mrs. Trumbull would separate the bones with her fingers and force them into their proper place. This treatment was repeated many times a day and proved successful and “Mrs. Trumbull, by thus anticipating modern surgical practice by more than half a century, saved the life of her son while the world gained a great painter.”
The Trumbull home in Lebanon became, during the Revolution, a very famous place. It was known as the ‘Lebanon War Office,’ and was the headquarters of Governor Jonathon Trumbull and the Connecticut Council of Safety. There were more than eleven hundred meetings held in this building, and at one time or another, nearly all the distinguished generals of the Continental Army and their French Allies were entertained. General Washington was a frequent visitor to consult with Governor Trumbull, whose advice he greatly valued. It is said that General Washington’s frequent remark: We shall have to ask Brother Jonathan about that,” gradually spread through the camp until in time, “Brother Jonathan” became a synonym for the typical American as “John Bull” was for the typical Englishman.
Faith Trumbull was not permitted to enjoy the triumph that came with the close of the struggle and for which she and her husband had striven so long and earnestly. She died in June, 1780, aged sixty-two years, and was buried in the family vault at Lebanon.
Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.