Grace Growden Galloway

Loyalist wife who fought to protect the family property
Joseph Galloway

“Drawing of Joseph Galloway.” By Thomas Emmet circa 1885.

For most women in late eighteenth-century America, making a personal choice of sides in the Revolution proved impossible. Under the laws of coverture, even women of social prominence usually lost control of their property to their husbands when they married. This complete financial dependence required many women to simply accept the political decisions made by their husbands, and cope with the consequences as best they could. Such was the situation for Grace Growden Galloway of Philadelphia. When Grace’s father died in 1770, his fortune amounted to 13,000 acres and £113,478, which he divided evenly between Grace and her sister, Elizabeth Nickleson. According to the laws of coverture, however, it was Grace’s husband, Joseph, who gained control over the vast wealth. Had Grace enjoyed legal control over her own inheritance, she might have avoided the years of anguish and torment which resulted from her husband’s decision to become an active Loyalist.

Born in the early 1730s, Grace was the daughter of Lawrence Growden, a prominent Quaker planter in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and a successful politician. Lawrence Growden expected his daughters to marry within the elite of society. On October 18, 1753, Grace married Joseph Galloway, a lawyer then prominent in Philadelphia, from a wealthy Maryland Quaker family. In their private life, Joseph and Grace’s marriage often proved difficult, as each possessed an overbearing personality. Grace bore four children, including a daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in 1758. The other three children died in infancy. Their public life stood in marked contrast, however, to the private difficulties of their marriage. The connection between the Growden and Galloway families immediately vaulted the couple into the highest echelons of Pennsylvania society. Grace enjoyed social preeminence in the most affluent circles of Philadelphia’s elites, while Joseph became one of the most important politicians in pre-Revolutionary Pennsylvania.

In 1757, Joseph Galloway was elected to the Provincial Assembly by the Quaker faction. He presided over the House as Speaker from 1766 until 1775, and effectively dominated Pennsylvania politics for a decade. Initially Galloway supported the American cause and was elected as a delegate to the first Continental Congress in 1774.  He advocated a compromise plan of union which he believed would preserve the peace, but it was defeated by one vote.  When the question of independence was first raised, Joseph sided with the Loyalists, honestly believing that Pennsylvania’s welfare was best served by remaining within the British Empire. He consequently lost his hold over the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1775, at which point Benjamin Franklin strongly urged his friend to join the Patriot party. Joseph remained adamant, however, refusing to budge from his position. Finally, in December 1776, Elizabeth, then only eighteen years old, and her father fled from Philadelphia to the British Army. Joseph became a civilian advisor to General Howe, and an active British supporter. Like many other Loyalist wives, Grace stayed behind in the hope of protecting the family’s property.

On September 26, 1777, General Sir William Howe, with three thousand British troops and several hundred American Loyalists, occupied Philadelphia. Howe made Joseph the civil commissioner and superintendent of police for the city. Grace, who had been living on Trevose, one of the family’s country estates in Bucks County, joined her husband in early 1778. General Washington allowed her to pass through American lines to reach her family in Philadelphia. The reunion proved short-lived, as the British army soon departed the rebel capital. On June 17, 1778, Joseph and Elizabeth left for New York with the evacuating British army, now under General Clinton. Once again, Grace stayed behind.

The years of 1778-1781 proved extraordinarily trying for Grace. Left alone to defend the family’s fortunes, she found herself in a city where mass arrests, confiscation of property, and execution of traitors became the order of the day. On July 21, 1778, Patriot inspectors inventoried Grace’s home, “even to broken china and empty bottles.” Fearful that her property would be seized, Grace exclaimed that unless a court decided otherwise, she would never leave “unless by the force of a bayonet.” She then sought the legal support of Benjamin Chew, but found his advice to quit the house unacceptable. Not knowing where to go, or on whom she could rely for help, Grace neared a point of despair, and concluded that “all hope is over.” Through August of 1778, Grace continued the fight to keep her house. The Continental Congress tried to place a Spanish merchant in the dwelling, but Grace refused to leave. Worried about a forced entry, she appealed to General Benedict Arnold, the commandant of Philadelphia. Arnold “kindly sent a guard.” Finally, on August 20, Charles Willson Peale led a protesting Grace out of her house.

The City of Philadelphia

“The City of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania.” Artist unknown, engraved circa 1801.

In the fall of 1778, Thomas McKean, the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, ordered the seizure of the Galloway estates. Denied access to her properties, Grace drifted between the homes of friends, living out of one room. She found no comfort at the Craig home during the fall of 1778, or at the Morris home where she remained during and after the winter of 1778-1779. After Elizabeth and her father left for England on October 17, 1778, Grace grew even more despondent. By November she began blaming Joseph for her situation, writing that “his baseness has pulled down me and my child with him.” In December more bad news arrived. Trevose, her Growden family estate in Bucks County, had been seized and sold away. Grace had hoped that she would be able to keep Trevose and rent the property as other Loyalist wives had been allowed to do with their estates. After spending a “wretched Christmas” almost entirely alone, Grace became violently sick on January 1, 1779. Without any news of her daughter, Grace lost much of her spirit, and sank deeper into her illness.

On March 7, 1779, Grace finally received confirmation that Elizabeth had arrived safely in London. Grace’s spirits soon improved, and by late March, she was speaking “very freely of the present government.” She defiantly told her visitors that the Patriot authorities “robbed me and others to support a set of low people, to the disgrace of their state, and that I wanted to converse with no more Whigs [Patriots].” The fight to keep any of her properties effectively ended the following month. An advertisement in The Pennsylvania Gazette and Weekly Advertiser for April 14, 1779 reported that “the real estates late of Joseph Galloway. . . and others” were “forfeited to the use of the Commonwealth by the attainder of the said persons, and every of them, for high treason, will be speedily sold by public auction.” Yet Grace accepted even this turn of events without embarrassment. She proclaimed to a “whole Whig party” on April 20 that she “was the happiest women in town, for” she “was still the same and must be J.G.’s [Joseph Galloway’s] wife and Lawrence Growden’s daughter, and that it was not in their power to humble me, for I should be Grace Growden Galloway to the last.”

Crowden Mansion, Bensalem Pennsylvania

Growden Mansion in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

In June 1779, Grace received shocking news about the activities of her stepmother, Sarah Growden. Sarah Growden secured a “maintenance” for herself from the provincial Assembly, and received an annual annuity of £650 from the Growden, now Galloway estates. Sarah feared losing her income, however, when the loyalist properties were sold at auction. To prevent the loss of her annuity, Sarah enlisted the services of Andrew Robeson, a Philadelphia lawyer who took legal action to gain ownership over three of the family estates: Belmont, Richilieu, and King’s Place.  Sarah’s actions upset Grace, who had not been able to secure a “maintenance” for herself, and she asked Ned Penington, another Philadelphia lawyer, if Sarah’s attempt to gain control over the Growden, now Galloway estates had any legal justification. In the uncertain days of the Revolution, where forfeiture and seizure of property were commonplace, Penington did not have a simple answer to the question. Instead of protesting the matter further, Grace decided that she “had no inclination to raise disputes,* and concluded that “rather she [Sarah] had it than others.”

Through 1780 and 1781, the Galloway lands were finally liquidated at auction, with most of the proceeds going to pay for construction of the University of Pennsylvania. It became more and more difficult for Grace to find people willing or even able to smuggle letters to her daughter through New York and then to England. Even after the American victory at the Battle of Yorktown, Grace found that smuggling letters to England proved almost impossible.  Eventually, she resigned to stop sending letters, and simply copied them into her notebook. The removal of this last ounce of comfort in her life proved too much. Deprived of her husband, her daughter, her friends, her home, and nearly all her worldly possessions, Grace Growden Galloway died just before sunset, on February 6, 1782.

Primary Source Documents: Grace Growden Galloway

The following passages are taken from Grace Growden Galloway, Diary of Grace Growden Galloway, (New York: The New York Times and Arno Press, 1971).

July 21 [1778]: About 2 o’clock they came–one Smith (a hatter), Col. Will, one Schreiner, and a dutchman (I know not his name). They took an inventory of everything, even to broken china and empty bottles. I left nurse with them, called Sidney Howell, and sat at the door with her. Mrs. Erwin and Mrs. Jones went about with them. I had such spirits that I appeared not uneasy. They told me they must advertise the house. I told them they may do as they pleased, but ’till it was decided by a court I would not go out unless by the force of a bayonet. When I knew who had a right to it I should know how to act . . . I sent for Ben[jamin] Chew. He came but thought I talked too high to those men, ‘tho he himself had advised me to say all I did say, except for the part of the bayonet . . . He [Chew] tells me I can’t stay in the house. Yet on my saying “Where should I go?” never offered to take me in; nor did Molly Craig, who was here, and Peggy Johns. Not one has offered me a house to shelter me . . . Oh God, what shall I do? There is no dependence on the arm of flesh; nor have I hope in this world nor anything to rely on. I am afraid how my child and husband came out of New York. All hope is over.

July 28 [1778]: Owen Jones and his wife invited me to come to their house if I was turned out. [Charles Willson] Peale came to tell me I must give three-hundred [pounds sterling] a year or move out of my house. I told him I would go out. Sent for [William] Lewis [a lawyer]; he and Mr. Chew concluded I should claim my own estate. I am in better spirits.

August 20 [1778]: . . . [Charles Willson ] Peale said the chariot [carriage] was ready but he would not hasten me. I told him I was at home and in my own house and nothing but force should drive me out of it. He said it was not the first time he had taken a lady by the hand. An insolent wretch; this speech was made some time in the room. At last he beckoned for the chariot . . . As the chariot drew up Peale fetched my bonnets and gave one to me, the other to Mrs. Craig. Then with the greatest air, said, “Come, Mrs. Galloway. Give me your hand.” I answered, “Indeed I will not; nor will I go out of my house but by force.” He then took hold of my arm. I rose and he took me to the door. Then took hold on one side, looked round, and [I] said, “Pray take notice. I do not leave my house of my own accord, or with my own inclination, but by force. And nothing but force should have made me give up possession.” Peale said, with a sneer, “Very well, madam.” When he led me down the step I said, “Now, Mr. Peale, let go of my arm. I want not your assistance.” He said he could help me to the carriage. I told him I could go without, and “you, Mr. Peale, are the last man on earth I would wish to be obliged to.” Mrs. Craig then stepped into the carriage and we drove to her house, where we dined . . . I was much distressed in the afternoon when I reflected on the occurrences the day, and that I was drove out of my house destitute, without any maintenance. . . I am just distracted, but glad it is over.

August 22 [1778]: I hear Becky Shoemaker has agreed to go out of her house quietly.  The Quakers take care of her, but I may shift for myself.  I am very vexed . . .

Nov. 25 [1778]: I supped by myself. I want to write to my dearest child but cannot. Have such dreadful thoughts of her being dead that I have no peace, and am determined to go to her in the spring. As to myself, I am happy and the liberty of doing as I please makes even poverty more agreeable than any time I ever spent since I married. But my child is dearer to me than all nature, and if she is not happy or anything should happen to her, I am lost. Indeed I have no other wish in life than her welfare . . .

Dec. 2 (1778): Jo Thornton came to bring me cider, and told me Gill was to have my place Trevose. Not withstanding, I have given up all. I found this stroke hurt me very much, as I always thought they would have let me rent my own as they have done others. But now I see they are cruel as the grave and never to be satisfied. My mind is more discomposed than usual . . .

Dec. 23 [1778]: The weather very cold and bleak. I fear my wood will not be got down. I am now quite overcome at being kept out of my estate, for I am like to want everything.

Dec. 25 [1778]: It snowed and was extremely cold . . . Sat by myself the whole afternoon and slept. Am so unwell can hardly keep up . . . After Supper Debby [Deborah Morris, a friend Grace stayed with in 1778] came in with her work. I am quite sick of seeing patching; her company this way is disagreeable. Spent a wretched Christmas indeed. Nothing diverting, and am ill.

May 15 (1779): . . . Young Ben Chew brought a Mr. Milligant to see me. He is going to England. I desired him to tell J.G. [Joseph Galloway] all we had was gone, and how his estate was taken away. I sent for Owen Jones [a lawyer]. He came and drank tea with me and told me it was no matter how the estate went, for if J.G. returned he could recover it all. I told him it was nothing to me, for I never would have any of J.G.’s estate and I gave him my reasons why, but reflected as little as possible on J.G.

July 31 [1779]: . . . If I could but be with my child I should be easier. As I went down the alley first one of my garters came off, then the other. I am superstitious enough to fear it bodes me no good. Oh, that I could hear from my child and J.G. Oh Howe [General Sir William Howe], how I detest thee. This month is now ended and I am as much at a loss whether to go [to England] or stay [in America] . . .

Unsent letter from Grace Galloway to her daughter, Elizabeth, late 1781.  (Taken from Elizabeth Evans, Weathering the Storm: Women of the American Revolution. (New York: Paragon House, 1989), 237-239).

I write but seldom, as little as possible. My whole heart is absorbed by you. Nor can I form a wish on earth beyond your welfare from time to eternity. I am yet in Philadelphia where I have neither been permitted to live in peace, and as I never meddle in politics, I hope never to give any just reason of offense.

I have not been in a situation of walking abroad for more than a year past, and I sit in my room as ignorant of all the grand bustle of life as any recluse or pious person in this or former ages; my quilt and a few books when I am free from pain employs my time. I care little for the world, but all good people I love and by such only am I desirous to be esteemed. I petitioned the council for a longer stay in Philadelphia, as I then was in too low a state of health to undertake a journey to New York, and with the interests of Mr. Thomas Barclay and Doctor Jones’s affidavit they have let me remain till this time. Nor shall I remove of my own accord. At the time when I was going to be sent away I received a note importing that a letter of mine was of some ill consequence, and in what way I am at a loss to imagine. This, added to my trouble, embarrasses me, as my mind was at that time sinking under a want of health and spirits, and to be sent away without a friendly hand to help support me made it almost too hard. Cold comfort I received.

The letter I sent by Major West. He came in just as I was going to seal it; but, as I knew not how to direct it to you, he advised me to direct it to another person and told me he would seal it and send it under cover to your papa if he had not an opportunity of delivering it himself. I thought it best to remain silent for I know not how to guard every expression so artfully; ill minds may pervert it.

You ask me how I live. I cannot now answer that question, but only assure you that I neither borrow nor am dependent on anybody. Nor will the state allow me one farthing. If my furniture had not all been taken from me perhaps I may have been induced to keep house. But furniture is not to be got–kitchen utensils in particular–but at such excessive prices that no common people could afford it. Nor do I think things here will ever be low again. We have lost all . . .

. . . I now know little that will entertain you. The young and gay are too much taken up to visit people in affliction, and I have nothing to recommend me to their attention. Indeed, my dear, I am not like the same person in any thing but my unbounded affection for you and my solicitude for your welfare.

For Further Reading:
Julian Boyd, Anglo-American Union: Joseph Galloway’s Plans to Preserve the British Empire, 1774-1778 (1941).

Elizabeth Evans, Weathering the Storm: Women of the American Revolution (1989).

Robert Alotta, Another Part of the Field: Philadelphia’s American Revolution (1991).

William Nelson, The American Tory (1992).

Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America (1995).

Maya Jasonoff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (2012).