More about Mehetabel

  • 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)]

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).]

Continued