Special Gratitude I owe to a Lenni Lenape Chief and his tribe, because if not for his actions 376 years ago, I would not be here.
I discovered through my family genealogical research that my ninth great-grandmother, Penelope (Thomson) van Princes’ life was saved by an American Indian by the name of Tisquantum, Chief of a Lenni Lenape tribe, members of the Algonquian language family and now known as the Delaware. The year was 1643. Penelope and her first husband, Kent van Princes, had sailed from their home in Amsterdam, Holland, across the Atlantic to the new world, planning to settle in the New Amsterdam area. The ship encountered a storm along our Eastern seaboard and made a landing on the rocky shoals near Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The recorded story is that Penelope’s husband was deathly ill, and after the passengers made it to shore, the van Princes couple were left behind while the other passengers departed for the New Amsterdam Dutch settlement of what is now New York City. The following morning, three Indians, described with feathers sticking up from coppery, shaved heads, attacked the couple. The husband, in a semiconscious state, was unable to defend in any way and was killed with one blow of a tomahawk. Penelope was brutally attacked, partially scalped, a knife wound to her arm, and a deep slash across her abdomen which exposed her bowels. The Indians left her to die there in the dense woods not far from the beach.
A strong and determined young woman, she somehow managed to hold her bowels in her abdomen and in grief and pain, lay there in a hollowed-out tree for seven days, surviving on tree sap and fungi. On the eighth day she was discovered by Tisquantum and a younger Lenape. Tisquantum carried her back to their village, and there she was nursed back to health using what I would consider to be Shamanistic Native American medicine. Chief Tisquantum, said to have been named for a noble ancestor, knew a little English, and asked Penelope to teach him more English during her recuperation.
In 1644, Penelope married Richard Stout and they had ten children. Penelope lived to be 110 years of age. She and Tisquantum remained friends until his death. A monument and commemorative coin have honored her in Monmouth, New Jersey. The coin depicts Penelope and Tisquantum.