More about Mehetabel

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  • DiaryDiary

A native of the “fair and handsome country town” of Roxbury, near Boston, Massachusetts, Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758) was born into a family who were committed to the Puritan church yet who sometimes posed challenges to authority. (Her father, for example, was brought before the court for illegal liquor sales and for hosting disorderly parties, while two of her siblings were disciplined for inappropriate sexual behavior.) In 1688 Mehetabel and her family left Roxbury to help settle Woodstock, Connecticut, a frontier outpost offering land and opportunities but that also suffered from recurrent threats of Indian attack. The settlers’ “Garrison fears,” as Mehetabel’s sister Sarah described them, may have prompted Mehetabel, at the age of twenty-one, to follow her brother and his family to the seaport town of New London, Connecticut. There she met John Coit, a successful shipbuilder, whom she married in 1695. The couple had six children together and led a relatively comfortable existence until John’s death in 1744. Mehetabel remained a widow for the final fourteen years of her life.

  • DiaryDiary

For over sixty years Mehetabel kept a diary, one of the few such extant personal records maintained by a colonial woman. After Mehetabel’s death her diary was passed down through her family, and today it remains in private hands. In 1895 her descendants published a collection of her entries as Mehetabel Chandler Coit: Her Book, 1714; however, this volume does not include the wealth of additional material—such as poems, recipes, and medical remedies—included in the original manuscript. These features add greatly to the diary’s historical significance and to the telling of Mehetabel’s story. Some examples appear below.

Child of the sumer
Ch[a]rming Rose
no longer in confinment Lie
arise to light thy form disclose
Rival the spangles of the sky
the Rains are gon
the storms are ore.
winter retires,
to make the way
com then thou swea[t]ly
blushing flower.
com lovely stranger come away
the son [sun] is Drest
in beaming smiles
to give thy beauty
to the day
yong zephyrs wait
with gentlest gales
to fan [thy] bosom as thay play

Casimire [Mathias Casimirus Sarbiewski (1595–1640)]

to make a fine Drink
take 4 pounds of whitte
Suger, one quartt of lime
Guice; four Gallons of watter
and one Gallon of Rum,
putt 2 Cloves into each
bottle cork them well &
tye them down keep them
Cool in sand & in two or
three weeks itt will bee
fitt for your use.

for a cough
take ¼ [?] of figs an ounce
of sugercandy ½ a pint
of brandy, put it into
a cup let it stand a
while & it will be a
thick surrup

for the few Hours of Life
Alotted me
Grant me great god
but bread and liberty
I’ll ask no more
if more thou’rt plees to give
I’ll thankfully
that overplus Receive
if beyond this
no more be frely sent
I’ll thank for this
and go away content

[The above lines are from the essay “Of Liberty,” by Abraham Cowley (1618–67).]

to make suger Cake
take 1 pound of flower
1 pound of suger
3 qur of a pound of butter
6 eggs ½ a pint of Rose
Water, Rub the butter
and suger together
then put in the flower
and eggs & Rosewater
and then beat it a
little while

the tooth of a dead man
Carried about you presently
easeth pain.

  • PoemDiary

Mehetabel’s interest in keeping a personal record may have been influenced by her mother’s own writings. Elizabeth Douglas Chandler’s (1641–1705) sixty-four-page “Meditation, or Poem, being an Ep[ic?] of the Experiences and Conflicts of a Poor Trembling Soul in ye First Fourty Years of Her Life,” completed circa 1681 and housed in Yale University’s Manuscripts and Archives collection, is a remarkable literary effort that reflects a conviction that her experiences were of consequence and worth documenting. An excerpt from the poem, which describes Elizabeth’s evolving relationship with God, follows.

If of my Life I shou’d account ye age
the days and years of my poor Pilgrimage
the time I’ve Lived in this vale of tears
Doth now amount unto twice twenty years
In Wilderness I’ve wandred fourty years
I have Been often Lost and fil’d with fears
Much Like to Israel hath my Progress Been
For many Sore temtations I have seen
The Fiery Serpents oft my Soul hath wounded
Yet through Gods Grace I never was Confounded
But wth his Goodness I have Been Surrounded.
When as I meditate on what is Past
And Seriously my thoughts & Eye I Cast
Upon my Pathes my wandring feet have Trod
And on the Goodness of my Gracious God
My wandring muse doth Swim[?] in Contemplation
My Soul is filled full with admiration
And Cou’d I Butt my meditations Raise
I’de Sing a Song unto my makers Praise.