Mary Alvis Draper
Patron Saint of the Revolutionary Period
Mary Alvis, of Dedham, Mass., married for her second husband Moses Draper and lived her life out on a farm on the high-road leading from Dedham to Boston. Moses Draper died in January, 1775, three months before the battle of Lexington. At the time of that battle, Mrs. Draper was fifty-six years old and the mother of six children. Her eldest son, Moses, aged thirty-one and married, at once joined Captain Moses Whiting’s first Roxbury company of minute-men and became lieutenant. Three of his four brothers took their places in the ranks, and the mother had a struggle to prevent her youngest boy, only thirteen years old, from joining his brothers. The days were busy with war-like preparations and Mrs. Draper was filled with patriotic zeal.
When the call came for the minute-men and volunteers to mass at Roxbury Neck, she realised [sic] that there would be hundreds of footsore and hungry patriots pass her door on their road to the front and this opened up a way for her to aid the cause. She would feet these hungry volunteers, or as many of them as she could. She had two large outdoor ovens, each capable of supplying bread for a neighbourhood [sic], and her granaries were well stocked. With the aid of her daughter and her youngest boy she set to work.
Immense mixing boards were built, fires were lighted, dough was kneaded, and soon the ovens were turning out great batches of odorous brown bread. With the help of a disabled veteran of the French and Indian War, who had been long in the family, tables were built by the roadside and these piled high with bread and cheese, while the boy brought pails of cider from the cellar. All day long the hungry volunteers poured by on their way to the front and many were the blessings called down on the head of Mary Draper by the footsore and hungry Continentals as they paused to snatch a hasty lunch. When her own supplies began to run low, Mrs. Draper called upon her neighbours [sic]. These responded and the good work was carried on for several days, until the need for it was passed.
Soon after, came the battle of Bunker Hill and word came of the scarcity of ammunition, General Washington issued an appeal to the inhabitants of the country for powder, lead, or pewter, saying that any contributions, however small, would be gratefully received. Mrs. Draper had a good deal of pewter, which she valued highly, not only for its intrinsic worth, but because most of it came from her mother, but she never hesitated. Within a few hours, her pewter treasures were transformed into bullets for the muskets of the Continental soldiers.
Nor did the patriotic helpfulness of Mary Draper end with dispensing brown bread, cheese, and cider to the hungry soldiers and melting up her teapot and platters for bullets. As winter approached, it became evident that unless private contributions were forthcoming it would be impossible to supply the army with clothing. The domestic cloth, prepared for the family, as was the custom in those days, was cut up and fashioned into coats and small clothes for the soldiers, the family sheets and linen were made into shirts, and hundreds of pairs of stockings she and her daughter knit for the same purpose.
Mary Draper died in 1810 and in the old Dedham, Mass., which bears her name, has photographs of the old house and one of the door-sills.
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.