Samuel Adams was married to two different women named Elizabeth. He married Elizabeth Checkley, daughter of Rev. Samuel Checkley of the New South Church in Boston. Rev. Checkley was a life-long friend to the father of Samuel, and both families were happy when Samuel and Elizabeth decided to married. The Adams and Checkley families were actually connected by marriage during the previous century.
Elizabeth was 24 years old when she married Samuel in October 1749. Her daughter described her as being “a rare example of virtue and piety blended with a retiring and modest demeanour and the charms of elegant womanhood” (Wives of the Signers – The women behind the Declaration of Independence, 60).
Here is an interesting story: Elizabeth Checkley’s mother was the “daughter of Rev. Benjamin Rolfe, minister at Haverhill, at the time of the `Sack of Haverhill’ by the Indians in 1708. In this fighting the minister was killed, together with about one hundred other persons, and many more were carried away. According to Drake’s History of Boston, a maid-servant in the employ of Rev. Mr. Rolfe saved the two little daughters of the minister by her bravery and presence of mind. She overheard the Indians breaking into the house and, springing from her bed, took the two little girls, Elizabeth and Mary, aged respectively nine and eleven years, and hurried them into the cellar where she secreted them under two large tubs. They were not found, though the savages ransacked the whole house. It was one of these little girls, Elizabeth, who afterward became the … mother of Elizabeth Checkley who married Samuel Adams” (Wives, 60-61).
Samuel and Elizabeth were blessed with five children, but only two of them lived to maturity, Samuel, Jr., and Hannah. Elizabeth died on July 25, 1757, less than 8 years after their marriage. The following notation was apparently written by Samuel after the death of his wife: “To her husband she was as sincere a friend as she was a faithful wife. Her exact economy in all her relative capacities, her kindred on his side as well as her own admire. She ran her Christian race with remarkable steadiness and finished in triumph! She left two small children. God grant they may inherit her graces!” (Wives, 61-62).
Samuel, age 42, married Elizabeth Wells, age 29, on December 6, 1757. She was described as being “cheerful and sympathetic; always a faithful and loving wife to Samuel Adams and a tender mother to his motherless children” (Wives, 62-63). Elizabeth apparently showed great loyalty and patience with Samuel and endured hardships in order for him to practice politics. Even though Samuel was born into a wealthy family and inherited the family’s estate, his devotion to the cause of liberty left him less than wealthy. Elizabeth’s ability to do fine sewing and Hannah’s talent with embroidery made it possible for the family to live in comfort. Hannah married Captain Thomas Wells, the younger brother to her stepmother.
The last days of Samuel and Elizabeth were made more comfortable due to a $6,000 claim against the government by his dying son, Samuel, Jr. Samuel died in 1803, and Elizabeth died about five years later.
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