A trip to Boston to buy clothes all the way from New London was no small matter in 1726, as Martha Coit well knew.
Martha Coit was born in New London, Conn., on April 1, 1706, the third daughter of Deacon John Coit, a shipbuilder, and Mehetabel Chandler, a woman of strong character and religious conviction.
Three of Mehitabel Chandler Coit’s great-great-granddaughters compiled a book of her diary and Martha’s letters, called Mehetabel Chandler Coit: Her Book, 1714. The family editors concluded Martha was ‘a character’ — lively, energetic and determined. (She also wasn’t much of a speller.)
Martha, who seemed to have had many suitors, married the serious Daniel Hubbard, a Yale graduate, when she was 25. They had six children. Daniel died in 1741, and Martha kept a store in New London to support her family.
According to family tradition, she bought goods from Thomas Greene in Boston. He angered her friends by saying he was going to New London because she owed him money, and he was going to ‘take the body.’ They forgave him when he brought her back to Boston as his wife in 1744.
Thomas and Martha Coit Hubbard Greene had four children together, but only two survived to adulthood. Greene was a merchant prosperous enough to commission John Singleton Copley to paint portraits of him and Martha. Family legend had it that Martha was so charitable poor people used to run after her carriage in Boston.
As a young woman, Martha traveled to Long Island, the Isle of Wight (now Gardiner’s Island) and Boston, where her mother grew up. There she visited her extended family and friends. In those days, the journey to Boston was long and arduous.
When Martha was 20, she made the journey to Boston to buy clothes (‘close’). On May 15, having just arrived, she wrote this letter to her mother:
Boston May 16
I have nothing to right, but only to tell you I got Down very well by Saterday noon not very much tire’d found Mrs. Slaughter very well She had got home but the Saterday before, I was received with as much kindness as was possabel I have not concluded what Close to git yet, have not been out of the gate yet So cant recommend the place before I have seen it. I Long to see you all very much already but Liz : I die to See, I’ll right every Opportunity have not seen ant Coit yet Jonathan Came to see me, I am Your Dutifull Daughter