Mary (Porter) Edwards, 1748-1782.

Mary Edwards Center Church Crypt


She was the wife of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards (the younger), and daughter of the Hon. Eleazar and Sarah (Pitkin) Porter.

Her husband Jonathan Jr. (1745-1801) as a child went to school with the Stockbridge Indians and learned their language diligently. In his later life, he published a treatise on this language. He graduated from Princeton in 1765 and in 1776 he was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel. Three years later he was ordained as pastor of the White Haven Church in New Haven, a dissenting group from First Church. In 1795 Edwards was dismissed, ostensibly because the Society could not sustain him, but there were differences of doctrine between him and some of the members. The White Haven Church and the Fair Haven Church (north of First Church) combined to form United Church and built a new edifice in 1812, the present one.

When Capt. Benedict Arnold and the Second Company of the Governor’s Foot Guard proposed to march to Boston to help their compatriots, they were blessed by the Rev. Mr. Edwards. That was on April 22, 1775. Edwards was a leader against slavery after the Revolution and helped organize the Emancipation & African Improvement Society. In 1799 he became president of Union College in Schenectady and served until his death. (This is a classic case of having lots of material on the man but little on the woman. On her gravestone we learn that Mary was “amiable and excellent.”)

Mary Edwards was a prominent member of the community as her husband was also, of course, the son of the elder Rev. Johnathan Edwards, who is still considered to this day to have been “America’s most important and original philosophical theologian.”  

My own research shows that what we do know about Mary Edwards largely pertains to her demise, alluded to in her final epitaph (the only stone in our crypt which mentions cause of death).  According to one source (1892), 

She had been riding into the country, on horseback, and had stopped at the pond to allow her beast to drink, when it is supposed it waded into the pond beyond its depth and both the horse and rider were drowned.  The sad event greatly excited the community and when Mrs. Edwards was buried in New Haven she was followed to the grave by the largest procession that had ever been seen in that town.

An 1882 source reports she was drowned “while sitting alone in a chaise, the horse plunging into a mill-pond.”

She was 34.  Her tombstone reads:

In Memory of
Mrs. Mary Edwards
the amiable & excellent
consort of the Rev’d
Mr. Jonathan Edwards
& daughter of ye Hon’bl
Eleazar Porter of
Hadley, who riding
out in a carriage
was accidentally drowned.

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