........ Conjecture, noun, the formation of judgments or opinions on the basis of incomplete or inconclusive information. Source: Encarta Dictionary

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Summary of What's Known about Penelope

Last week I listed the major sources of the stories about Penelope. Combining all threads produces the following summary of what we know about Penelope:

Penelope (whose maiden name was possibly Kent or Lent or Thompson or Thomson or vanPrincis or vanPrinces or vanPrincen or vanPrincess or van Prince or van Printzen) was born probably in the 1620s in either England or Holland to unknown parents who were either English or Dutch. Rumors suggest her father was a minister. In the 1640s at approximately 20 years of age, Penelope married either an Englishman or a Dutchman (whose name was probably Kent or Prince or vanPrince or vanPrincis or vanPrinces or vanPrincess or van Prince or van Printzen) probably in Amsterdam. Soon thereafter they sailed on a ship (name unknown) from Amsterdam to the Dutch West Indies colony of New Amsterdam possibly by way of the Caribbean island of Curacao.

Sometime in the 1640s somewhere in the Sandy Hook area of Raritan Bay (in what is now Monmouth County, NJ), Penelope’s ship (which might have the Kath/Kat/Cat/Cath which sank in 1648, returning from Curacao with a cargo of salt) ran aground or capsized in a storm or sank. Everyone except Penelope perished in the incident or else everyone except Penelope was killed by Indians after surviving the wreck or else everyone safely made it to shore except Penelope’s husband who was either injured in the wreck or had been sick on the voyage. If other passengers and crew survived the incident, they hiked to New Amsterdam, but Penelope refused to abandon her husband, who was too sick or injured to travel.

After the wreck, Indians attacked whoever was still there on the beach. If Penelope’s husband survived the wreck, the Indians killed him. The Indians mutilated Penelope (head injury and/or shoulder injury and/or partially disemboweled and/or scalped), and left her for dead. She managed to crawl into a hollow log or tree for protection and survived on the fungus growing on the rotten wood.

Later (perhaps a week), one or two Indians possibly with a dog were on the beach. Possibly they wounded a deer, which ran by Penelope’s log/tree with an arrow sticking out of it. Penelope called to the Indians to put her out of her misery. The young Indian (assuming there were two) was anxious to do so, but the older one prevailed. The older Indian carried the wounded white woman to his village near where the town of Middletown now stands. She recovered from her injuries.

Either Penelope lived with the Indians for many years, or else she escaped in a canoe, or else white men heard of her presence and rescued her, or else the old Indian delivered her to New Amsterdam for a ransom.

On 12 Sep 1648 (our only reliable date) in Gravesend, Long Island, colony of New Netherland, Pennellopy Prince testified in a slander trial about one woman milking another woman’s cow.

Penelope married Richard Stout, an early settler of Gravesend (on Long Island near Coney Island), who may have been 40 years old when they married in the 1640s (probably between 1642 and 1648). Richard was likely from Nottinghamshire, England, likely left home after an argument with his father possibly about a woman his father deemed unsuitable, and served in the English navy (possibly involuntarily) for probably seven years before being discharged in America (probably in New Amsterdam) about 1642.  "Octoberr 13th, 1643, Richard Aestin, Ambrose Love [London?] and Richard Stout made declarations that the crew of the Seven Stars and of the privateer landed at the farm of Anthony Jansen, of Salee, in the Bay, and took off 200 pumpkins, and would have carried away a lot of hogs from Coney Island had they not learned that they belonged to Lady Moody."
Penelope and Richard Stout had 10 children who lived to maturity and populated New Jersey.

At some point after marriage and by 1666 at the latest, Penelope and Richard left Gravesend and (with other settlers) founded the town of Middletown, NJ, near where the old Indian’s village was. At some point while she had young children (probably near Middletown but possibly in Gravesend), the old Indian warned Penelope that other Indians planned to attack her settlement. She could not persuade her husband of the truth, so she took the children away in a canoe (possibly provided by the old Indian). At her departure, her husband decided to be prudent, gathered the other settlers, and thwarted the attack before it occurred. Thereafter, the Indians and settlers lived in peace.

Richard Stout died as an old man (probably around age 90), his will being probated in 1705. Penelope died probably between 1712 and 1732 at an old age, which some claim was 110 years, at which time she had 502 descendants. She was buried somewhere in the Middletown area. Her numerous descendants recounted her adventures to their numerous descendants.

Penelope told her great grandson John Stout to reach into her apron pocket and feel her abdominal scar. John told this story to his granddaughter Helena Hoff, who told her granddaughter Therese Walling.



  1. Jim, enjoy your blog. Here is another take on Penelope, much confused I think.

    See Chapter 2 in this book:

  2. I did a Google Book search on william bushnell stout penelope and found "So Away I Went," indeed a rather novel version of the traditional story featuring French maiden Penelope la Princess shipwrecked in Virginia.

  3. I found this completely by accident. I am descended from Penelope Stout. Thank you for all your hard work.