Alice Kollock Green
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
“Being well Opined of the Prudence and Economy of my well beloved wife Alice Green, I give and bequeath unto her all my estate, both real and personal, whatsoever and wheresoever the same may be found, to be held by her and her assignees during her natural life and to be made use of as she may think proper, without impeachment of waste and without Let or Molestation of any person or persons whatsoever.”
This time-stained old document which was probated in Bucks County, Pa., in 1796, is a tribute not only of affection, but of the appreciation of her executive and business ability paid his wife by Captain John Green. Naming his son and three sons-in-law, all active in business and professional life as co-executors, he nevertheless made her control and use of his estate absolute. But as he drew his will old Captain Green undoubtedly recalled the troubled days of the Revolution when during his enforced absences she had managed his affairs with great success and upon one occasion made sacrifices for him that threatened herself and growing family with absolute want.
Alice Kollock was the daughter of Lieutenant Jacob Kollock and granddaughter of Colonel Jacob Kollock, who had served through the French and Indian War and was a member of the Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania for more than forty years prior to his death in 1772. The Kollock family was one of the oldest in the lower counties of Pennsylvania (afterward Delaware), having settled there as early as 1686. Of her girlhood little is known except that she was educated according to the customs of the time, had her “seasons” in Philadelphia where her immediate family were members of Christ Church and intermarried with the Swift and White families and with the Livingston family of New York. She was married in Christ Church, in June, 1765, to Captain John Green, commander of a trading vessel owned by the great mercantile house of Willing, Morris & Co.
Later, Captain Green was given an interest in the “ventures” he carried, and finally cam to command his own ship. His absences from home were frequent and often protracted. Consequently the care of the little family and the management of their property were left almost entirely to the young wife. That her “prudence and economy” were equal to the task was shown in the steady advance n the family fortune, the education of the children, and the gradual increase of his interests in ventures until he walked the deck of his own vessel.
Then came the Revolution, and one of the first to receive a commission in the Pennsylvania State Navy was Captain John Green, October 10, 1776. Naval records of the Revolution are very inadequate, partly because the Colonies acted independently in fitting out boats and records were scattered and lost, and partly because of the destruction of other records by the burning of the capital by the British in 1814. So of Captain Green’s official life little is known during the first two years of the war. That he was transferred from the State to the Continental Navy in 1778, and was at St. Bordeaux, is shown by the John Paul Jones MS. letters in the Library of Congress; that he was again in the State service in 1779 is known by the Pennsylvania Archives; and in command of the ship Nesbitt, which was captured by the British, and captain and crew taken to the infamous Mill prison at Plymouth, England. The treatment of American prisoners there was notoriously bad. They were half starved, deprived of medical attendance and medicines as well as every comfort, unless they had the ready money to buy what they wanted or to bribe their keepers. Word of this came to the ears of Alice Green and she was half wild with anxiety.
“What can be done to help him?” she asked of an old sailor friend of her husband.
“I do not know,” he replied, “but I was never in any place that money wouldn’t get me most anything I wanted.”
Her response was prompt and to the point. Her patriotism was as unfaltering as his own, and her sympathies were aroused for all the Americans who were being starved in the British prison. All that she had saved was turned into gold. Into the fund went the possible future livelihood of herself and family. To this she added her jewelry, even her rings and other belongings, retaining only the bare furnishings of her home. How this money was got to Captain Green is not known, but with it he was able to alleviate the sufferings of his own crew and to aid many others, giving them gold in exchange for their Continental or Colonial scrip which was worthless to them.
How Captain Green escaped from the British prison is not known but it is quite possible that Mrs. Green’s gold helped to turn the key of his prison. Anyway he was in France in the latter part of 1779, without a parole, as is shown by letters that passed between him and John Paul Jones in December of that year. Captain Green returned to America in command of the Duc du Lausan, a twenty-gun ship purchased by the Colonies from France. The ship brought gold to pay troops in America and was convoyed by the Alliance, Captain “Jack” Barry. It was on this trip, off the coast of Cuba, that the last naval engagement of the Revolution was fought. The Alliance captured the British ship Sibyl, only to be forced to release her as the British fleet closed in, the Dic du Lausan having made her escape in the meantime by Captain Barry’s orders.
Not until his arrival home did Captain Green and his wife realise [sic] the real extent of the sacrifice they had made. The Continental currency had so deteriorated in value that a granddaughter of Mrs. Green, who lived with her in her declining years wrote: “Grandma has whole drawers full of paper money which she lets me have to play with.”
But with her “prudence and economy” the wife of Captain Green had pluck and there was no time wasted in repining. A few weeks spent in getting acquainted with is family and he was again pacing the deck. In 1783, Robert Morris of Philadelphia and certain New York men fitted out a vessel for a “Venture to China,” and while the New York men chose the super-cargo, Mr. Morris offered command of the ship Empress of China, to Captain Green, who selected his brother-in-law, as executive officer, and, carrying a “leave of absence” from naval service, issued through Morris, he sailed from New York, February 22, 1784. While in New York, before sailing, Captain Green became a charger member of the Society of the Cincinnati. On this voyage the Empress of China carried the American flag into Chinese waters for the first time, and the return voyage was memorable because of being made by way of the Straits of Sunda, with a direct course for home after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, thus shortening the usual trip by several months, and arriving in New York in May, 1785.
A few years later Captain Green retired to his country place on the Neshominy Creek, near Bristol, Pa., leaving the command of his ship to his son-in-law, Captain Walter Sims, whose home, “China Retreat,” was about two miles from his own. Both houses are still standing.
Captain Green died in 1796, but his wife lived until 1832, surviving not only her husband but the sons and sons-in-law named with her as executors of his will. She was buried beside his remains in the St. James Churchyard in Bristol.
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.