My Foremother Penelope Stout Was Slashed by Indians and Held Her Intestines in with Her Hands –
Penelope (Van Princis) Stout probably should have died after being shipwrecked and attacked by a hostile tribe, but she refused to submit to death and lived to be over 100 instead. She is sometimes known as “the Mother of Middletown” or “The First Lady of Monmouth County, New Jersey,” and a commemorative coin was even minted in her honor.
You can see photos of the coin in this post on TheLostGrandmother’s blog.
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One Tough Gal
I might be personally biased, but I often believe women are much tougher than men, especially when it comes to illness or injury, and this gal was definitely a tough one.
Penelope was a daughter of Baron Van Princis. She married John Kent around 1640 in the Netherlands. The couple got on a ship to travel to New Amsterdam as newlyweds. The ship was wrecked as it reached the coast of New Jersey. John Kent was not well enough to travel after the shipwreck, and Penelope refused to leave him alone when the rest of the party who had washed ashore decided to travel farther inland.
Left alone near the shore, the young couple was attacked by hostile Indians who killed John and greatly injured Penelope. They scalped her, fractured her skull, slashed open her shoulder and abdomen, and left her for dead. While shoving her intestines back in with her hand and holding them there, she managed to find refuge in a hollow tree where she survived by eating stuff from the inside of the tree for several days.
She was eventually discovered by a couple of Indians. One wanted to kill her, but another threw her over his shoulder (which is what you see on the commemorative coin), took her to the village, sewed up her wounds, and nursed her back to health. The Indian friend later took her to a European settlement where she eventually married former sea captain Richard Stout who was 40 while she was only 22.
Penelope went on to have a large number of children. Apparently, her reproductive organs were not damaged in the attack. At one point the Indian who had nursed her back to health came to warn Penelope of a planned attack on her village. Richard did not take the report seriously, so Penelope loaded her children in a boat and paddled away from the settlement.
Penelope’s actions made her husband reconsider, so he gathered the other men who sent their wives and children away in canoes. The men hid outside the village and waited for the attack which came that night. The Indians were armed only with bows and quickly turned to leave, but Richard demanded a meeting where his people agreed to buy land from the Indians.
During his lifetime, Richard was the largest landowner in their group of settlers. He and Penelope founded a church and before their deaths were able to deed about 1800 acres of property to their children and grandchildren.
Some sources say Penelope lived to be 110, but others dispute this claim and state she was only 100. Regardless, she was a remarkable heroine and definitely one tough gal.
Some sources also say Penelope is the ggggg-grandmother of Abraham Lincoln, so she not only survived an Indian attack, saved a village, and founded a church. We can give her indirect credit for the end of slavery in America, right?
Books about the Life of Penelope Van Princis Stout
Penelope’s story has been recorded many times. There have been a number of books written about her.
Penelope: A Novel of New Amsterdam by Jim McFarlane
Penelope – A Woman of Courage by Loretta Merrell Ekis
Penelope: The Story of the Half-Scalped Woman–A Narrative Poem (Contemporary Poetry Series) by Penelope Scambly Schott
As Good As Dead: The Penelope Stout Story by Paula E. Phillips
This list of books is far from conclusive. You can find additional books about Penelope Stout on Amazon.
Emma Luella (Stout) Niccum: Of Hardy Stock
The following is a beautiful portrait of my great-great-grandmother Emma Luella (Stout) Niccum at the age of 19. She is the great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Penelope Van Princis Stout.
Emma Luella Stout was born in 1869 shortly after the Civil War. She married James Niccum, and they raised a family in Delaware County, Indiana. You can find their memorial here on FindAGrave. Their son Rollie Otto Niccum was my great-grandfather. Otto Niccum was mentioned in my prior post Celebrating Grandma Merrimen (Niccum) Bentz.
I often wonder if Emma Luella Stout knew her foremother Penelope Stout was one of the most fascinating women in American history.
Other Resources on the Life of Penelope Stout:
- Penelope Van Princis Stout Memorial at FindAGrave
- History of American Women – Penelope Van Princis Stout
- Descendants of Founders of New Jersey – Penelope Van Princis (Kent, Stout)
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