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Last Updated April 14, 2021
Prudence Wright's Bridge Guard with the captured Tory spy.
In the conflicting rumors in April 1775, the people of the town were expecting a company of men to pass through it to join the enemy, or possibly some messengers with dispatches. It was a time of uncertainty and confusion. It was this uncertainty that led the women of the Bridge Guard to disguise themselves as men and under the cover of darkness surprise an unexpected militia in order to capture dispatches of the enemy. The report on the battle of Lexington Green and Concord came to town. The women knew that their men had helped chase the British and were engaged with other minutemen near Boston. Spies were reported as passing between the British in Canada and Boston. One direct route ran through Pepperell (at the time called Groton West Parish).
A few days after April 1775, word was sent from house to house in Pepperell for the women to assemble. They determined that no foe to the cause should pass through town, if they could prevent it. The assembly numbered between thirty and forty women. (Unfortunately, the muster roll of the Guard was not preserved.) The Guard elected Prudence Wright as commander of their company. Their rendezvous was Jewett's Bridge over the Nashua River, the place where a person coming from the north would be obliged to cross. Soon after nightfall, horses were heard approaching, but instead of the force of British expected, only two horsemen approached, Leonard Whiting and Samuel Cumings. The men were seized and searched, and dispatches from the British were found. The prisoners were taken to Groton to the Committee of Safety. After delivering their prisoners into custody, the Guard disbanded. The Guard was paid seven pounds, seventeen shillings and six pence by the town for their actions."
Source: Shattuck, Mary Lucinda Parker. 1912. The Story of Jewett's Bridge. 3rd Printing: April 19, 1964, entitled Prudence Wright and the Women Who Guarded the Bridge.
Prudence Wright's Gravestone
The Prudence Wright gravestone is located in the Walton Cemetery, 8 Park Street, Pepperell, Massachusetts.
"In Memory of
The Captain of the Bridge Guard
Wife of David Wright
Born November 26, 1740
Died December 2, 1823
Erected by Prudence Wright Chapter
Prudence Wright wrote this document on November 4, 1770.
In November of 1889, this marker of polished granite was first erected near the Pepperell Covered Bridge by a great, great granddaughter of Prudence Wright, Mrs. H.A Pevear of Lynn, Massachusetts, to commemorate the heroic act of her ancestor.
"Near this spot a party of patriotic women, under the leadership of Mrs. David Wright, of Pepperell, in April 1775, captured Leonard Whiting, a Tory who was carrying treasonable despatches to the enemy at Boston. He was taken prisoner to Groton and the despatches were sent to the committee of safety at Cambridge."
(Prudence Wright stone photo courtesy of public domain)