(HOST) During Women’s History Month, VPR is honoring Vermont women and their remarkable stories – told by Vermont women who are notable in their own right. Today commentator Deborah Clifford talks about Ann Story – a Vermont pioneer and a larger-than-life legend.
(CLIFFORD) An old Vermont settler reminiscing about Ann Story, called her “a busting great woman who could cut off a two-foot log as quick as any man in the settlement.”
Most of what we know about this remarkable woman comes from oral tradition rather than more conventional sources, and tradition tells us that Ann Story first headed north in the summer of 1774 from Preston, Connecticut to Salisbury with her husband Amos and their five children. But before the Story’s had even moved into the snug cabin built by Amos and his oldest son Solomon near the banks of Otter Creek, tragedy struck. The two were clearing land to plant crops when Amos was killed by a falling tree.
A less stalwart woman would probably have turned around and gone back to Connecticut, but not Ann Story. Instead, she and
her children moved into the house and began planting crops.
At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775, many other settlers left Vermont, but Ann Story stayed. She was eager to help the Green Mountain Boys. So she volunteered her services as a spy. “Give me a place among you, and see if I am the first to desert my post,” she is said to have told them.
One day in spring of 1776 Indian raiders burned the Story cabin down. Despite the old settler’s remembrance of Ann as a powerful woman, this account tells us that the new cabin was built with poles because Ann and the children were not strong enough to cut down heavy trees for logs.
Then there was the day one of the Story boys came across a pregnant woman crying in the woods. She had been captured by Indian raiders who left her behind when she couldn’t keep up with them. The Storys took her in. When her baby was born its cries attracted the attention of a Loyalist spy who confronted Ann demanding that she provide him with information about the Green Mountain Boys. Even as he pointed his rifle at her she bravely faced him down saying “I have no fear of being shot by so consummate a coward as you.” The Loyalist spy left without obtaining any information, while Ann noted carefully which way he went. Then she tore a sheet out of the family Bible, scribbled a quick note of warning to the Green Mountain Boys, and sent Solomon off with it. The Loyalist and his fellow spies were captured and later imprisoned.
It was Ann’s bravery and quick wit, not her brawn, that made her a hero. These qualities also helped her to turn what might have been a disaster for her and for Vermont into a triumph.
Though the conventional historical sources may be sparse, she was clearly a woman who inspired powerful memories.
Deborah Clifford is a biographer and historian. Our music is by Vermont singer/songwriter Elisabeth von Trapp.