History's Women: Early America: Elizabeth Maxwell Steele - Patron Saint of the Revolutionary PeriodElizabeth Maxwell Steele
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
1733 – 1790 A.D.

Mrs. Elizabeth Maxwell Steele, widow of William Steele, of Salisbury, Rowan County, N.C., was a devoted patriot of the Revolutionary period and an eminent Christian woman noted for her public spirit and her benevolence. By her first husband, named Gillespie, she had one daughter who married Rev. Samuel McCorkle, and a son, Robert Gillespie, who was a captain during the Revolution. By her second husband she had one son, General John Steele.

“She was living in Salisbury, near the corner of Main and Council streets during 1781,” says a sketch of her life read before the first annual conference of the State D.A.R. “She was at the time landlady of the principal hotel in the place. It was at her house on the evening of February 1, 1781, that the ‘Fabius of America,’ General Greene, after a hard day’s ride in the rain, remark, and stepping forward with alacrity, said: ‘That I deny; that I most particularly deny. In me, General, you have a devoted friend. Money you shall have and this young gentleman, I am certain, will not leave you without a companion as soon as his own humane business is completed.’

“When she had prepared refreshments for the exhausted General, Mrs. Steele proceeded to fulfill her promise about the money. Taking him to an adjoining apartment, she laid before him her store of gold and silver pieces and generously filled his pockets, giving him at the same time many kind and encouraging words.

“General Greene’s stay was short, but before leaving the house he took from the walls of one of the apartments a picture of George III, which had come from England as a present from some member of the Court to a member of an Embassy, a connection of Mrs. Steele, and with a piece of chalk wrote, ‘Oh George, hide thy face and mourne [sic],’ and replaced it with the face to the wall.”

The picture with the writing, both uninjured, was still in the possession of descendants of Mrs. Steele and her daughter, Mrs. McCorkle, in Charlotte, a few years ago.

Mrs. Steele died in January, 1790, generally lamented. The Salisbury Chapter D.A.R., which bears her name, has placed a bronze tablet in the building now standing on the site of her tavern.


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.

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