Moses Porter's probate

In 1752, Moses and Elizabeth Porter moved from Hadley center to their newly-built farmhouse. Three years later, Moses was killed while serving in the French and Indian War, England’s successful effort to evict France from North America. Elizabeth never remarried and lived at the house for the rest of her life. Initially, she managed the farm with the help of a relative, her daughter, and her slaves and servants. In 1770, her daughter Elizabeth married Charles Phelps. He managed the farm for his mother-in-law, eventually buying the property from her in 1794.

In 1755, the two miles separating the house from the town center represented a vast distance to Elizabeth Porter. Fears of Indian attack had subsided, but the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, created a new menace for a lonely woman living on the edge of civilization: deserters from the British army. She recounted her fears to Moses in letters he would never receive:

“I have terrible frites with men that deserted from the army as we suppose trying to break into the house in the night.” (August 9, 1755)

“...the men I spake of in a former letter…are yet very troublesome to us they milk our cows, devour our corn, destroy our garden and are often about the house in the night which you must think is distressing...” (August 29, 1755)

Her husband was killed in the skirmish at Bloody Morning Scout during the French and Indian War, and he would never read his wife's last correspondence. 

The inventory made when Moses died lists some of the land that Elizabeth Porter inherited, and all of the household goods. Other assets include an enslaved man and woman, Zeb Prutt and Peg. 

Colonial New England was a society of large families living on small farms. Owning land gave a man “independence” – meaning that he did not work for wages. His ability to provide his sons with sufficient land could determine their independence as well. Daughters did not usually receive land, but instead inherited “moveables” like the family furniture and household goods, and money in the case of Samuel Porter’s daughters. Moses Porter was a wealthy landowner. The Porters were one of several families along the Connecticut River Valley who were referred to as the River Gods. When Moses died, he held 300 acres of land, a legacy that would support five generations, though not exactly in the way he might have expected.

Elizabeth Pitkin Porter was a widow at 36. Also a wealthy woman, she remained a widow for 43 years. Unlike most young widows, she did not remarry, perhaps because her property gave her financial independence.

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