The life of Penelope Van Princes Stout (c1622-1732) is steeped in romantic legend.So well-known and seemingly fanciful is the traditional account of her violent ordeal and subsequent rescue that it is often not easy to ascertain what is indeed fact and what belongs more properly to the realm of fiction.
Some claim she was of Dutch origin, while others assert that she was of English stock, the daughter ofa Baptist preacher from Sheffield who had fled to Holland, perhaps for reasons of religious persecution.All seem to agree, however, that she was born in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, though there is still some divergence with regard to her date of birth (1602? 1620? 1622?).The very name “Van Princes” is controversial.Variously rendered as “Van Princes,” “Van Princis,” “Van Princess,” “Van Prinzis,” “Van Prinzen,” “Van Princen”and even “Prince,” it is thought by some to have been her maiden name, while others assume it to be the surname of her first husband.The former, however, is sometimes identified instead as “Thompson” or “Thomson,”while others insist that she was born a “Kent” or “Lent.” Still others maintain that “Kent Van Princes” was instead the legal name of her ill-fated first spouse.
The facts of Penelope’s life are hard to come by for another reason as well.Unlike her husband, who was a public figure and, by virtue of his gender, much more visible with regard to legal questions, Penelope Van Princes Stout, except in the matter of her fabled tribulations, appears to have been an essentially private individual.According to the subsequent accounts of family members who knew her, she always wore a scarf or headdress to cover the marks of her terrible head wound.Nonetheless, it is reported that she did not hesitate in later years to display the prominent scars she bore on her abdomen to many a family member who professed interest in her predicament.
I do not feel it necessary here to recount in detail the facts of Penelope’s shipwreck, assault, and captivity.Suffice it to say that there are a number of regional and local historians who have taken it upon themselves to do so throughout the years with varying degrees of success.Most of them, indeed, do a much better--and more thorough--job in that regard than I could hope to accomplish within the confines of this posting.Several such works are even available on line, in full or in part, as are likewise numerous websites that quote or paraphrase them.One such website is http://helpokc.com/penelope-stout.shtmlhttp://helpokc.com/penelope-stout.shtml.Another is http://genealogy.patp.us/penelope.shmhttp://genealogy.patp.us/penelope.shm.There are many, many more.Following is a tentative chronology of the life of Penelope Van Princes Stout that, I think, will at least provide an outline of the various events that have been proven to have occurred, along with those that have been attributed to her but remain undocumented.For it, I have relied heavily on on-line sources but have drawn as well from a number of published works.Admittedly, it is sometimes difficult to tell fact from fiction in any given case.Perhaps we shall never be able to do so with any degree of certainty.(A separate posting will be devoted to the life of husband Richard Stout.)
Penelope Van Princes Stout:Chronology
About 1622: Born, Amsterdam, Holland
About 1640: Married;sailed with husband for the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam (later NY), but the ship was stranded at Sandy Hook, off the coast of what is now Monmouth Co., NJ;attacked by hostile Indians;husband was killed, along with the ship’s crew, while some passengers managed to escape;Penelope was partially disembowled and a portion of her scalp was removed;she was left for dead but survived by taking refuge in a hollow tree for several days;found alive by passing Indians, with whom she subsequently lived for a yr. or two;befriended by her rescuer, an elderly Indian man, who had nursed her back to health;eventually taken by her captors to New Amsterdam and released, or found and ransomed by European settlers who had heard of her plight and resolved to save her from captivity
1644/1645: Married Englishman Richard Stout, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1645: Birth of son John, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1645/1646: Birth of son Richard, Jr., Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam(10 Mar.)
1648: Birth of son James, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1648: A “Pennelloppey Prince” mentioned in conjuction with the household of one Thos. Applegate (Sep., Gravesend Town Bk., vol. 1);this is also the yr. when some sources claim that Richard, Penelope, and children were among those who made an early (but ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to colonize the NJ coast
1649/1650: Birth of daughter Mary, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1651/1654: Birth of daughter Alice Deliverance, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1654: Birth of son Peter, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1655: Received a furtive visit from her elderly Indian friend who warned her to flee with her family immediately to the safety of the New Amsterdam fort as there were plans for an impending Indian attack on the outlying settlement where they lived(mid-Sep.;this account is offered particularly by those who claim that the Stouts had been part of an earlier attempt [about 1648] at colonizing the NJ coast, which most instead put at the later date of 1663/1664)
1656: Birth of daughter Sarah, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1660: Birth of son Jonathan, Gravesend, Long Isl., New Amsterdam
1663/1664: Moved with husband and children from Gravesend to what is today Monmouth Co., NJ,where, with others, they founded the first permanent European settlement at Middletown
1667: Birth of son David, Middletown, Monmouth Co., NJ
1668: With husband and others, met to organize the first Baptist church in NJ
1669: Birth of son Benjamin, Middletown, Monmouth Co., NJ
1690: Lot on Hop River, Monmouth Co., deeded by husband Richard to son Benjamin “for the Joynture of my Loving wife Penelope”(30 Aug.)
1732: Died, Middletown, Monmouth Co., NJ