Annis Boudinot Stockton
Wife of Richard Stockton, Lawyer and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
1736 – 1801 A.D.
Annis Boudinot, who became the wife of Richard Stockton, one of the most prominent young lawyers of New Jersey in 1762, was a woman of far more than ordinary intellectual ability and of a high character and patriotic spirit that made her a fitting companion for the man whose devotion to the cause of independence brought him to his death before his time.
She was of French Huguenot descent, her family coming to America soon after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1686. Her father, Elias Boudinot, was for a time a silversmith in Princeton and her brother, who bore the same name as their father, studied law in the office of Richard Stockton and married his sister, Hannah Stockton.
Richard Stockton was highly successful in the practice of his profession and had added materially to the large estate he inherited from his father, when he married Annis Boudinot and took her to “Morven,” his handsome Colonial home, near Princeton. “Morven” was known for its hospitality and as a gathering place for some of the brightest minds of the day. They were living here, when Mr. Stockton was elected to a delegate to the Continental Congress, and it was here that she performed a service which was made historic. When the British under Cornwallis came to Princeton in 1776, Mrs. Stockton secured and secreted a number of important state papers as well as the rolls and records of the American Whig Society of Princeton College, an act for which her name was added as an honorary member of the Society. Congress was then sitting in Baltimore and Mr. Stockton hastened home to conduct his family to a place of safety. He hurried them out of Princeton to Monmouth County, about thirty miles away, and then returning, went to spend the night with a friend, a patriot named Cowenhoven. That night a party of Tories came and arrested the two men. They were dragged from their bed at a late hour and half clad carried away and thrown into prison. Mr. Stockton was first taken to Amboy where he was confined in the common gaol [sic], suffering greatly from the cold. From there he was carried to the prison in New York, where he was most inhumanely treated. All the comforts and many of the necessities of life were withheld from him, notwithstanding the delicate condition of his health, and his high and honourable [sic] standing as a man. At one time he was left for twenty-four hours without food and then supplied with only the coursest [sic] and not enough of that. Through the efforts of Mrs. Stockton, Congress was informed of these facts, and General Howe was given to understand that unless Mr. Stockton received better treatment in the future, retaliation would be taken on British prisoners. His condition was somewhat improved after that, bit was too late. The seeds had been sown of the disease that was eventually to carry him to his grave. The British plundered his beautiful home, burned his splendid library and papers, and drove off his stock, much of which was blooded and highly valuable. The devastation of his estate, especially all that portion that could in any way be productive, taken together with the depreciation in value of the Continental currency, so embarrassed Mr. Stockton financially that he was obliged to apply to friends for temporary assistance in order to supply his family with the necessities of life. This caused a depression of spirits from which he never rallied and hastened the ravages of the disease that brought him to an untimely death in 1781, in the fifty-first year of his age.
Mrs. Stockton, who was three years younger than her husband, continued to live at “Morvern” until her son Richard was married, when she relinquished her home to him and took up her residence in the house at the corner of Washington and Nassau streets, Princeton. Her youngest daughter, Abigail, lived with her until her own marriage to Robert Field of Whitehill, Burlington County, a brother of the wife of her brother Richard. Richard Stockton left two sons and four daughters.
Annis Boudinot was well known throughout the Revolution for her patriotic verse. One of her poems drew a courtly acknowledgement from General Washington to whom it was addressed. Another, Welcome, Mighty Chief, Once More! was sung by the young women of Trenton while Washington was passing through Princeton on his way to his first inauguration.
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.