Mary Bartlett was the wife of Josiah Bartlett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. [See my post on November 8, 2010 for information on Josiah.] There is not much known about her youth. Her father was Joseph Bartlett; he was a soldier at Haverhill in 1707 when he was captured in the French and Indian War, carried into Canada, and held for four years.
Mary was one of ten children born to her parents. She was 24 years old when she married her cousin, Josiah Bartlett, in January, 1754. She was described as being “an amiable girl, well grown and, for the times, well educated.” She was later described as being “a lady of excellent character and an ornament to society” (Wives of the Signers – The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. pp 10-11).
Josiah was a “rising young physician” in Kingston, New Hampshire, when Mary and he were married. He was already quite famous for his success in treating a throat distemper called “black canker” that spread rapidly. Mary spent the first ten years of her married life as the wife of a popular and prosperous young country doctor. He was a man of strict integrity and sound judgment who was also democratic, kind, and well thought of by his fellow citizens.
Josiah and Mary were parents of twelve children, eight of whom grew to maturity. Three of their sons became physicians and were interested in public affairs, and four of their daughters left descendants.
Josiah took an early interest in public affairs and soon was appointed to several positions of honor and profit He became the head of a “Committee of Correspondence” and was in constant communication with Samuel Adams and other patriots of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Dr. Bartlett was elected as a delegate to attend a general congress in Philadelphia. He received warning that he should stop his “pernicious activity.” When he didn’t cease, his house was set on fire and burned to the ground.
Mary Bartlett was described as being “the closest friend and counselor of her husband,” and “the true helpmeet, always the ready and sympathetic friend and judicious adviser” (p 12). She supporter her husband in his patriotism. When their home was burned, she took her children to their farm, which she took care of in order to set him free to devote himself to public duties. Josiah was able to build a new home on the site of their burned home, and it was described as “a fine old-style New England mansion, that still stands” (p 13). Mary gave loving and helpful support to her husband and wrote many letters. None of the letters to her husband or her children included any word of regret, complaint, or pity for herself.
Mary died in their new home in Kingston in July, 1789, when she was approximately 59 years old. Josiah died at age 66 in 1795 soon after leaving the office of governor of New Hampshire.