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Dorothy Quincy: The Girl Who Heard First Gun Fired For Independence
by [?]

A small, shapely foot clad in silken hose and satin slipper of palest gray was thrust from under flowing petticoats of the same pale shade, as Dorothy Quincy stepped daintily out of church on a Sabbath Day in June after attending divine service.

John Hancock, also coming from church, noted the small foot with interest, and his keen eye traveled from the slipper to its owner’s lovely face framed in a gray bonnet, in the depths of which nestled a bunch of rosebuds. From that moment Hancock’s fate as a man was as surely settled as was his destiny among patriots when the British seized his sloop, the Liberty.

But all that belongs to a later part of our story, and we must first turn back the pages of history and become better acquainted with that young person whose slippered foot so diverted a man’s thoughts from the sermon he had heard preached on that Lord’s Day in June.

Pretty Dorothy was the youngest daughter of Edmund Quincy, one of a long line of that same name, who were directly descended from Edmund Quincy, pioneer, who came to America in 1628. Seven years later the town of Boston granted him land in the town that was afterward known as Braintree, Massachusetts, where he built the mansion that became the home of succeeding generations of Quincys, from whom the North End of the town was later named.

As his father had been before him, Dorothy’s father was a judge, and he spent a part of each year in his home on Summer Street, Boston, pursuing his profession. There in the Summer Street home Dorothy was born on the tenth of May, 1747, the youngest of ten children. Evidently she was sent to school at an early age, and gave promise of a quick mind even then, for in a letter written by Judge Quincy, from Boston to his wife in the country, he writes:

Daughter Dolly looks very Comfortable, and has gone to School, where she seems to be very high in her Mistresses’ graces.

But the happiest memories of Dorothy’s childhood and early girlhood were not of Boston, but of months spent in the rambling old mansion at Quincy, which, although it had been remodeled by her grandfather, yet retained its quaint charm, and boasted more than one secret passage and cupboard, as well as a “haunted chamber” without which no house of the period was complete.

There we find the child romping across velvety lawns, picking posies in the box-bordered garden, drinking water crystal clear drawn from the old well, and playing many a prank and game in the big, roomy home which housed such a lively flock of young people. Being the baby of the family, it was natural that Dorothy should be a great pet, not only of her brothers and sisters, but of their friends, especially those young men–some of whom were later the principal men of the Province–who were attracted to the old mansion by Judge Quincy’s charming daughters. So persistent was little Dolly’s interest in her sisters’ friends, that it became a jest among them that he who would woo and win fascinating Esther, sparkling Sarah, or the equally lovely Elizabeth or Katherine Quincy, must first gain the good-will of the little girl who was so much in evidence, many times when the adoring swain would have preferred to see his lady love alone. Dorothy used to tell laughingly in later years of the rides she took on the shoulders of Jonathan Sewall, who married Esther Quincy, of the many small gifts and subtle devices used by other would-be suitors as bribes either to enlist the child’s sympathies in gaining their end, or as a reward for her absence at some interesting and sentimental crisis.

Mrs. Quincy, who before her marriage was Elizabeth Wendall, of New York, was in full sympathy with her light-hearted, lively family of boys and girls. Although the household had for its deeper inspiration those Christian principles which were the governing factors in family life of the colonists, and prayers were offered morning and night by the assembled family, while the Sabbath was kept strictly as a day for church-going and quiet reflection, yet the atmosphere of the home was one of hospitable welcome. This made it a popular gathering-place not only for the young people of the neighborhood, but also for more than one youth who came from the town of Boston, ten miles away, attracted by the bevy of girls in the old mansion.