Monday, November 9, 2015

American Biography - The diary & sad life of Mary Wright Cooper (1714-1778) of Oyster Bay, NY


On July 13, 1769, Mary Wright Cooper wrote in her diary, "This day is forty years sinc I left my father’s house and come here, and here have I seene littel els but harde labour and sorrow, crosses of every kind. I think in every repect the state of my affairs is more then forty times worse then when I came here first, except that I am nearer the desierered haven."

Mary's family had long been a part of Oyster Bay. Her ancestor Peter Wright was called the Father of Oyster Bay. Originally inhabited by the Matinecock Indians, Oyster Bay was founded by the Dutch in 1615.  When the Dutch settled there, they named the area for the rich beds of shellfish that flourished in the surrounding waters.  



In 1653, English colonists Peter Wright, Samuel Mayo and the Rev. William Leverich came from Cape Cod and settled near Oyster Bay Harbor.  During the colonial era, Oyster Bay had a reputation as a hotbed of smuggling, and it was Captain Kidd's last port of call before sailing to Boston, where he was arrested, transported to London and hanged .

Mary's parents, William Wright (1680-1759) & Elizabeth Rhodes (1689-1734), had been born on Long Island. Mary had 7 siblings, 3 of whom died young: John Wright (1707-1750); Ann Wright (1710-died young); Elizabeth Wright (1712-1733); William Wright (1715-died young); Sarah Wright (1719-1780); Elizabeth Wright (1723-1770); and Caleb Wright (1730-1752). 

Mary was married, before her last 2 siblings were born. Although Mary's mother died when she was 20, she remained close to her father and remembered his death years later.  Mary Wright was only 14, when she married Joseph Cooper (b 1705) in 1728, in St. George's Chapel, Hempstead, Long Island, New York.

By the age of 18, she had her first child. Mary Wright & Thomas Cooper had 6 children: Elizabeth Ann Cooper (1734-1755); Martha Cooper (1737-1749); Esther Cooper (1744-1778); Mercy Cooper (1750-died young); Caleb Cooper (1754-died young); and Isaac Cooper (1756-died young). Mary was especially touched by the death of her baby son, Isaac.

Mary began her diary at age 54, continuing from 1768-1773, while tending the family farm & providing meals & rooms for travelers along their busy road, with her husband at Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York.  Her diary entries are often brief & cryptic, but they do give us an insight into the hardships, both emotional and physical, experienced in everyday life working on the land. They also give us a glimpse of the impact of faith on their lives, as many looked to the teachings of English evangelist George Whitefield (1714-1770).



Whitefield briefly served as a parish priest in Savannah, Georgia in 1738; visited the colonies 7 times; & died at Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1770. He was one of the chief movers of the Great Awakening & the Methodist movement. The adoption of his methods at church meetings by the Baptists was responsible for their schism into the New Lights, who followed him, and the Regulars, who adhered to the old way & disparaged revivals. Mary's diary covers the height of his American years.

1768
October the 3, Tuesday. Dear Lord, bless the day to us and prosper the worke of our hands. A fine warm day. Ms. Weekes com here to make my gown.

[October 5] Wednsday. A very warme rain most of the day. Sent wheate to mill...


[October 11] Tuesday. Like for rain. Wee are much hurried drying appels. Extreeme high wind this night but no rain.


[October 12] [We]dnsday. Fine clear day. Much hurried drying appels...


[November 17] Thirsday. A fine clear and still day...Evening. I am much tired cookeing and washing dishes. Evening Epreham went home with the girls but come bak again.


November the 18, Friday. A fine warm day with a south wind. Ester and Epreham is gon to Huntan Town to carry my coverleds to the weaver...


November the 20, Sabbath. A very grevous storme of rain and snow. It has beene a tiresom day to me. It is now bed time and I have not had won minuts rest today.


[December 23] Friday. Very cold with a north west wind that blows the snow all day. We are cleaning the house. I am tired almost to death.


[December 24] Saterday. Very cold. I am tired almost to death. Rachel (wife of Mary's nephew) is gone to town. We are a lone. I am drying and ironing my cloths til allmost brake of day. This evening is the Newlights’ Covnant meeten. I am thinking of the events of tomorrow with greate delight. O Lord, prepare us to selebrate the day of thy nitevity and o my Savour be neare to them that shall commorate thy dying love the day ensuing.


December the 25, Sabbath. Christmas. A fine clear day. The sun shines warm. Oh, may the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. Peter Underhill gave out the breade and wine this day to some whose hearts the Lord had touched. Though I sat in the meeten with great delight, yet I came home with a heavy hearte. I went to meeten in the slay with Whippo and come home with John Wright and Nicolas and their sister Anne Crooker (children of Mary's brother John)...1769...
[January 7] Saterday. A fine clear and still morning with white frost on the ground but soone clouds over. Some hail but soone turns to a small rain and mist. Sister gone home. Evening. O, I am tired almost to death waiteing on visseters. My feet ach as if the bones was laid bare. Not one day’s rest have I had this weeke. I have no time to take care of my cloths or even to think my thoughts...

[February 12] Sabbath. Something cold still. I hoped for some rest but am forst to get dinner and slave hard all day long Old George Weekes here. Hannah and Edd Weeks here...

Febeaury the 19, Sabbath. Fine warme and still as yesterday and more so. I went to the Newlig[ht] meeten with greate delight and offer my self to be a member with them. seemed to be very glad but I was sudingly seased with a great horror and darkeness. E think darkeness as might be felt. O, my God, why hast thou forsaken me. Thou knowest that in the sinsarity and uprightness of my hearte I have done this, moved as I did belive by Thy spirit. Evening, I came home before the worship began, most distrest.

[February 20] Moonday. Fine warme weather. O, I am in greate darkness still...

Feabery the 26, Sabbath. A storm of rain with a north east wind. The wind and rain cease by the midel of the afternoon. I feel dul and distrest and did not go to meeten...

[M]arch the 12, Sabbath. Much warmer and like to be a fine day. O, I am trying to fit my cloths to go to meeten in as much distres as my heart can hold. Am. L. and Eb Colw. came here. I am forced to get diner and cannot go to meten atall. Alas, how unhappy and meresabel I am. I feele banished from God and all good...

[April 14] Friday. Some clouds and wind, cold. Easter (Mary's daughter who had separated from her husband & returned home to live) gone from home on some buisness. Tabthea come here. Our people (slaves) quriel with her and Semon Cooper turned her out of doors and threw her over the fence to my greate grief and sorrow...


April the 16, 1769. Sabbath. Clear but a cold west wind. The sun shine bright to my sorrow, for had it hid his face it might have hid sorrow from my eyes...


[April 19] Wednsday. Like to be a rainey day but clear in the afternoon. I am unwell and up very late.


[April 20] Thirsday. O, I am so very sik so that I cannot set up all day nor all night. Very cold snow some hours in the day.


[April 21] Friday. Clear but cold. I feele much beter all day. Evening, I am sik again.


[April 22] Saterday. Clear but cold. O, I am sik all day long. Up very late but I have got my cloths iorned. Endurstres. (Industrious)...


[May 3] Wednesday. A fine clear morning. The early songsters warbling their notes and all nature seemes to smile, but a darke cloud hangs continuly over my soul and makes the days and nights pass heavily along.


[May 4] Thirsday. A fine clear morning. I went frome hom on some buisness. Come home disopinted.


May the 6, 1769, Saterday. A fine warme day. Cleare and pleasant. I a hurred, dirty and distresed as ever.


[May 7] Sabbath. I am much distrest. No cloths irond, freted and tired almost to death and forst to stay at home.


[May 13] Saterday. Much hard worke, dirty and distrest. This night is our Covnant meeten but I cannot go to my greate surprise. Sister comes here this night much distrest about her sons. We seeme to have little or no sence of any thing but our troubels.


May the 14, Sabbath. Very hot weather. We went to meeten senceles dull and sleepe.


[May 15] Moonday. Very hot. We began to cleane house much hurried.


[May 16] Tuesday. Exceeding hot. Linde here. Evening. Peter here. We are all very dul and lifeless. Oh Lord, direct our ways...


June the 1, 1769, Thirsday. A most vemant cold north east wind. We all went to the Quaker meeten where a multitude were geathered to here a woman preach that lately come from England, and a most amebel woman she is. Tex: “Of the leaven put in three masuess of meal...”


July the 13, 1769, Thirsday. This day is forty years sinc I left my father’s house and come here, and here have I seene littel els but harde labour and sorrow, crosses of every kind. I think in every repect the state of my affairs is more then forty times worse then when I came here first, except that I am nearer the desierered haven. A fine clear cool day. I am un well.


August the 1. New moon this morning. Tuesday. A fine clear cool morning. I feele much distrest, fearing I shall hear from some of my credtors. Afternoon, I have done my worke and feele something more comfortabl. I went to Salle Wheeler’s to meet Ester and Salle but am sent after in greate hurre. Ben Hildrith is come here in a littel boate with two men with him. I am up late and much freted them and their two dogs which they keep att tabel and in the bedroom with them.


[August 2] Wednesday. The first I hearde this morning was Ben’s dogs barking and yeling in the bed room. They did nothing but drink them selves drunk all the day long and sent for more rum.


[August 3] Thirsday. The wind is not fare to go home, so they cary the girls to town in the boate. Ben behaved like a blackgarde soundrel and as if he had been hurried by the devil


[August 4] Friday. They set sail to go home to my great joy, and I desier I may never see them here again. I greately dread the cleaning of house after this detested gang.


[August 5] Saterday. A fin clear cool day. Much hard worke cleaneing the house. An old Indian come here to day that lets fortans and ueses charmes to cure tooth ach and drive away rats. O Lord, thou knowest that my soul abhors these abominations. Lay not this sin to my charge. On Thirsday I had an extreme pain in my back and hip so th I could not go with out cryin out...


August the 20, Sabbath. Like for rain but the shower went by us. I and Ester went to meeten. Some Indans and one Black man com from Montalk. Ben Jethrow and Siah Baman preach all day long and while late in the night. I and Ester come home alone very late in the night. I fell in the Brook. I am tired and very much distrest...


[August 23] Wednsday. A fine clear morning with a cold north wind. My hearte is burnt with anger and discontent, want of every nessesary thing in life and in constant feare of gapeing credtors consums my strength and wasts my days. The horrer of these things with the continued cross of my family, like to so many horse leeches, prays upon my vitals, and if the Lord does not prevent will bring me to the house appointed for all liveing. Salle Burtis here...


August the 27, 1769, Sabbath. Very gretely hurred getting this company a way to the Greate Meten. I went to the Nigh light meeten to here a Black man preach. Felt nothing but distres. Very greately tired and freted, walkin home so fast.


[August 28] Moonday. Clear weather but not a fair wind for New England. Up late this night. I am much distrist and know now what to dow. O Lord, lead my ways and let my life be in this sight. Docter Wright come here this day.


August the 29, Tuesday. We are hurred to set said for New England, very greately against my will. The tumulting waves look frightfull. But thro infinate mercy we came safe to Mr. Hildrith house in two hours wheare we weare recived with many welcoms and used with the utmost kindness by all the famaly. Cloudy and like for rain every day this weeke but none come except some small showers, not more than due. Nothing remarkabel except that we had the heavyest bread I have ever seene. Mr. Dibel come to se us and said that he was going to change places with Epnetus for the nex Sabbath. After he had talked against Mr. Whitefield as much and something more than we could well beare to, he left us and we saw him no more. One day we went into the woods together...


[September 30] Saterday. Very high north east wind. Very cloudy most of the day. Afternoon changes to a south wind. We are very busie cooking for the work men. Evening, they eate ther supper. The more parte went away. Some stay to dance, very greatly aganst my will. Some anger about the danceing. Some time in the night come up a shower of rain and thunder. Easter and Salle was frighted very greatly and come down. Easter like to have fits.


October the 1, 1769, Sabbath. West wind and like for fair weather. Simon Cooper quarel very greately about Ester dancing. He got in a unxpresabel rage and struck her. I am going to meeten but no not how to get over the Broock, the tide is so high. I come to meeten just as they ware coming out of the house. I did not stay to the evening meeten and yet come home sometime in the night...


November the 9. This day is ten years since my father departed this life.


November the 12. Sabbath. Some small rain this morning tho it did not rain hard, yet hendered me from going to meeten. Salle and Lidg here most of the day. Clears at evening with a very harde north west wind. I and Ester went to the night meeten. We had a comfortabel meeten, but coming home the tide was high and the wind extreeme harde but throw mercy we got safe home. I went to bed very cold. We had little or no fier...


November the 19, Sabbath. Very cold, frose hard last night. We are hurreing to meeten. Siah Baman and Melat Peter is com to town. I come to town just as the meeten was out. I went to se Rebeca Weekes. Evening, we went to meeten to Phebe Weekes’ house. Siah Bamon tx: “Except ye eate the flest of the son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” Peter Undrill tx, of Abraham’s sarvant sent to take a wife for his master’s son. A very greate number of peopel was thare. I am Frances come home but the girls staid all night. We had a very happy meeten...


[December 13] Wednsday. Clears with a most frightfull harde west wind. Grows extreeme cold and freses hard all of a suding. This day is thirty seven years since my dear and amible sister Elisabeth departed this life...


1771

[January 24] Thirsday. A fine clear still morning with a white frost. This afternoon is 3 weeks since Easter and those with her took the small pox...

Febeaury the 1, 1771, Friday. Clear but a harde west wind. The Lord has brought my daughter home to me, well of the small pox. What shall I render to the Lord for all his mercys?


[February 2] Saterday. I an unwell and much aflected for fear of the small pox. I had envited some of my friends to come here to se Ester and dade17 would not let me have a turkey to roast for supper and I am so affected and ashamed about it that I feele as I should never get over it. I got to bed feard and distressed at 1 or 2 a’clok in the mornin


Feb. the 3, 1771, Sabbath. I waked up frighted much about the small pox. Fine clear weather, a west wind but not cold. Esther thought the people would a fraid of her, so we did not go to meeten. Nico and Anne went from here this morning but John all day long.


March the 10, Sabbath. This surprising storme continues yet and encreses. The hail cesses this this morning and floods of rain pores down with frightfull gusts of wind which blew away parte of the kitchen. We have hardely a dry place in the house. I suffered much this day with the wet and cold, and am up all night...


May the fifth, 1771, Sabbath. Very cold with a west wind. I went to town and found Ester in the Cove. I took her with me. We went by the New Lite meeten and so along til we come to the Quaker meeten ho[use] where we went in and hear so[me] poor preaching. O Lord, grant some lite to these poore benighted peopel. I spoke with those that I wanted to so we come back and went to the New Lite meeten and then home at night. O, I sik with the cholic. We had some showers of rain as we went...


1772

[June 27] Saterday. A fine clear pleasant day and Ester went to the Quaker meeten. one woman preach, tx: “He come to his own, but they recived him not, but as many as recived him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God.” One man preach, another woman prayd. O Lord, is not this peopel ignorant of the greate and needfull doctrine of the gospil? O thou that has the residue of the spirite, I pray the, enlitein these that set in darkness...

[August 9] Sabbath. A fine pleasant day. We hurred to meeten and a very happy meeten we had. The Christans seemes full of exersise. Five Negor men gave them selves members to the meeten.


October 15, Thirsday. Clear and warme. I went from home to carry a letter and tea cittel to Jet’s boate that is loading above Eel Creeck. I went to March Coons, to Robersons, to Prock Coon’s. I stayed a littel while att each house and then sot of with old Mrs. MCoon and Prock to find the way home. Prock wint with me to Cove Brook. We tramted up high hills, crosst woods and barran fieds, crost a find orchard full of appels, and at last arived at Cove Brook where Prock left me. In my way home I met Cus John Wright who had been in persute of the same boate. When I come home I found Bille Wright and Josh Hammon waiteing for the boate to take them in. They are going to Yorke. Jest after sundown come Jet and Ben Hawx in persute of the boate. They are going to Yorke, two...


[November 24] Tuesday. Very warme still. Dade is gon to carry the hogs to Townsend Parrish. Salle and Bette Burtis went to Docter Potter to day to take the small pox. O Lord, have mercy on them, are they not some of thy redeemed ons? Reveal thy love to them, heal thier souls and bodys and bring them home to thier mouring mother in helth and safty. New moon at 7 a’clok this night, north east wind and some littel snow but very warme. Jerushe and Sarah MCoon here. Abb Colwell here...


Christmas, December the 25 day, Friday. Warme, the sun shines bright and warme. I and Salle hurred away to meeten and staide to the night meeten. A very great white frost and very cold coming home.


[December 26] Saterday. North east wind and rain but not cold. Ruth and some man to be baptised at Samuel Townsend’s. I hurred a way on horse back with out any saddel, but they was gon before I got thare, so I come home in the rain and did not go down to meeten. I hearde they had a very greate meeten and 12 people offered to the church.


[December 27] Sabbath. Cloude and some small rain, very mude. A very greate meeten, some much afected, others crying out aloud. Salle unwell, I carred her to Josh Hammon’s. Ester gon to Whippo’s. His wife is unwell. Some small rain and very darke. I come home alone and had no hurt or fright thro mercy...


1773

[January 13] Wednsday. Fine clear weather, not very cold. I and Salle are going to the night meeten. I went to se Daniel parish. He told me he had a sight of me and tho I had done many things that ware good in theme selves, yet I was not in the spirite of the Gospel. O Lord, known to the is the case of every soul which thou hast made. If I have had no saveing grace all this while, but have been deciveing my self, O Lord, the gift is thine and not in my power. O Lord, now let me share with a number whome thou delitest to bless...

[March 24] Wednsday. A fine clear warme day. I felt heavy harted and so distrest that I colud hardely set up about Uncel and Aunt. After Ester was gon to se Uncel about five a’clok this afternoon the Lord met with my soul in mercy and told me that thier departed souls should mount on the wings of saraphs to the relms of etarnal day, and that thier weathered limbs should have their dusty bed like the bounding robe and made parfet in thier Savour’s righteousness. Immortal youth and beauty mount to meet their redeemer in the clouds of heaven...


May the 8, Saterday. A cold south wind. Ester and Polle come home this morning from meeten. To day is thirteene years since I parted with my son Isaac. O, sorrow and loss unspakabel...


June the 29, Tuesday. South west wind, cloude, some thunder and a fine shower of rain this after noon and a bright rain bow appeared some thing longer then uesal which raised my thoughts to the bright relms of day. I longed to se that head once crowned with thorne, that dean parson treated with scorn and cruelty for sinful me. The dasling luster of his face I faint. I can find no word to express my ideas, my greatest vews seeme to be of my Jesus seated on a throne of glory in the bright relms of etarnel day. The pleaseing luster of his eyes out shine the wonders of the skys. In raptures and sweet delight I fell a sleep. O, that my last moments may be like these...


[September 12] Sabbath. A stormy wind and some rain in the fore noon. I and Ester went to meeten the afternoon but very few peopel at meeten. I feele much distrest to se the dissolute state of the New Lite church which but few weekes past was greate and a florishing peopel. Why is it forsking and dissolate the Lord only knows. I and Ester come home in the rain...


October the 4, Monday. A fine clear warme day. My harte is full of anguish for the deplorabel state of the Newlite church. O Lord how long?...


[October 8] Friday. Warme weather. I and Ester much talk about the New Lite church...

Note: Brother John Wright married Zervia Wright, daughter of Edmond. Brother Caleb Wright married Freelove Coles, daughter of Wright Coles. Sister Sarah Wright married John Townsend, son of John Townsend. Sister Elizabeth Wright did not marry.


NB. About slaves in Oyster Bay. The Oyster Bay Historical Society has a Bill of Sale for a Slave Girl in the town in 1721.
Deed of Sale from Thomas kirby to David Vallantine for a negro Wench.
Know all Men by these Presents That I Thomas Kirby of Oyster-bay in Queens County on Nessau Island within the province of New York Yoeman, for and in considration of the Sum of Fifety-Pounds of good and Lawful Currant Money of New York to me in hand paid by Nathan Coles and David Vallantine both of Oyster bay in ye county, Island &Prov i nce aforesaid, Yoemen, where of I do hereby - acknowledge the Receipt, and am therewith fully Satisfied and contented; have Bargeined Sold Lef t over and Delivered and by these Presents do Bargein Sell and Deliver unto they the Seid Nathan Coles and David Vallantine one Negroe girl aged about two years called by name Peg, and one Bessy. The said Negroes - to have ant to hold to ye proper use and behoove of them the - Said Nathan Coles and David Vallantine theirs Executors - administrators & Assigns forever, and I the Seid Thomas Kirby for mySelf my Heirs Executors Administrators the Said Bargained Negroes unto the Said Nathan Coles and David Val lantine their Heirs Executors Administrators and Assigns - ageinst all and all Manner of Persons Shall Warrant and - forever Defend by these Presents In witness whereof with the Delivery of the Said Negroes I have hereunto Sett my hand & seal this tenth Day of January in the Year of our Lord Christ one thousand Sevenhundred & twenty one, two, and in the Eigth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George of great Britain France, & Ireland King & C.
See: National Humanities Center, 2008


George Bradford Brainerd (American, 1845-1887). Camp Fire, Oyster Bay, Long Island, ca. 1872-1887

Manuscripts of the 1721 Slave Bill of Sale and of the Diary of Mary Wright Cooper, located at the Oyster Bay, New York Historical Society.

The Diary of Mary Cooper: Life on a Long Island Farm, 1768-1773, ed. Field Horne (Oyster Bay, New York, Historical Society, 1981)



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