Six months after the trial and Mehetibal’s extraordinary ride to appeal for mercy to save her husband’s life, the King’s pleasure was known. From London, The Earl of Shelburne wrote a letter dated December 11, 1766, to Sir Henry Moore, the Royal Governor of the Province of New York. The letter concluded, “I have laid before the King your letter of the 11th of October, recommending William Prendergast, who was sentenced to death for treasonous practices and riots committed in Dutchess County, to the Royal Mercy, and His Majesty has been graciously pleased to grant him this pardon, relying that this instance of His Royal clemency will have a better effect in recalling these mistaken people to their duty than the most rigorous punishment.” In the meantime, Poughkeepsie officials were completely unsuccessful in finding someone willing to act as hangman for the Prendergast execution. Prendergast returned home to the base of Quaker Hill as a hero.
In 1771 William and Mehetibal acquired “absolute fee” ownership to their land. Prendergast then grew wealthy as a lumberman. During the American Revolution, Prendergast remained loyal to the King. The Prendergast’s eldest son, Matthew, was a lieutenant in the British army on Long Island. William and Mehetibal fared far better than their neighbor John Kane, who was basically run out of town. In the fall of 1778, none other than George Washington took his office in John Kane’s home. Soldiers encamped all around the Prendergast farm. The Prendergasts remained on the farm until after the war. Perhaps patriots excused his loyalty to the fact that King George III granted him a pardon, or maybe they considered that he had performed his duty during the Anti-Rent Rebellion a decade earlier.
William, Mehetibal, and their 13 children felt the Hudson Valley was becoming too crowded. They left Quaker Hill and Pawling after 35 years. They first moved to Tennessee, but stayed for just a few years, before moving again, this time to western New York. Their son James founded Jamestown, New York. William died on February 14, 1811, at the age of 84. Mehetibal died on September 11, 1812, at age of 74. They are buried in a small family graveyard on what was their farm near Chautauqua Lake.
In my research, I came across four different spellings of our heroine’s first name: Mehitable, Mehitabel, Mehetibel, and Mehetibal. I chose last one and used it uniformly throughout these articles. I may be wrong in my choice. Regardless, by the actions of this remarkable lady, she has earned the title “The Heroine of Quaker Hill.”
Editor’s Note: The staff of The Pawling Record would like to extend our gratitude to Town Historian Robert Reilly for providing this series of articles. We hope readers have enjoyed learning about an important piece of our town’s history. To read previous installments of “The Heroine of Quaker Hill,” visit PawlingRecord.org online and click on “Lifestyle.”
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Read PART 5