Penelope Stout
First Lady of Monmouth County and Founding Mother of Middletown, N.J.

One of the best known chapters of [Monmouth's] early history is the story of Penelope Stout, believed to be the first white woman to set foot on [Monmouth,] county, NJ soil.

During the first half of the 17th century - the exact date is unknown - a ship from Holland was wrecked on Sandy Hook. Among those aboard was Penelope Van Princis, whose husband had become ill on the long sea voyage. The passengers and crew reached shore safely, but hearing of an Indian attack they set out on foot for New York (New Amsterdam), leaving the sick man and his wife behind.

Smith's History of New Jersey, published in 1765, relates that a party of Indians found the couple and immediately killed the man. They then mangled the woman, and left her for dead. After hiding for several days in a hollow tree, Penelope was found by a friendly Indian who nursed her back to health. A rescue party found her and brought her to New Amsterdam - now New York - and a short time later she married an Englishman, Richard Stout.

Penelope and Richard later returned to New Jersey and had 10 children. The nameless Indian who saved Penelope Stout's life was a frequent visitor and friend. According to the tale, he later alerted the community to a potential confrontation with another band of marauding natives, probably from New York. Most accounts agree that Penelope lived to be 110 and had some 502 descendants at the time of her death, in either 1712 or 1732. Many of her descendants still live in the county.

Penelope's story is told at the Spy House Museum Complex in Port Monmouth, New Jersey.

Richard Stout, a son of John and Elizabeth (Bee or Gee) Stout, was born in Nottinghamshire, England about 1615. He joined the British Navy and was discharged at New Amsterdam, now New York, about 1640.

Richard was one of thirty nine people who founded a settlement at Graves End, Long Island, in 1644. That year, he married Penelope (Kent) Van Princin.

Penelope Kent was probably born about 1622 in England. Her father is believed to have been a Puritan Baptist Separatist who was banished from his church and who fled to Holland with his family. Penelope married a man named Van Princin in Amsterdam.

In 1640, Penelope and her husband took ship with a group of emigrants to America. The ship was wrecked at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Many of the passengers traveled overland to New Amsterdam, but Penelope husband was ill and could not travel, so they remained near the wreck site.

The little encampment was attacked by Indians, who killed Penelope's husband and left her for dead with a fractured skull, a hacked shoulder and a gash in her body that allowed her intestines to protrude. Penelope survived alone for several days until two Indian men came by. The older of the two carried her to his village and sewed up her wounds with a fish bone needle and vegetable fibers. Penelope recovered and lived with the Indians, doing squaw's work and sharing their life.

In 1644, a group of white men came to the Indian village and offered to buy the white woman that they had heard of. Penelope's captor asked if she wished to go with the whites and was permitted to do so.

In 1664, an Indian came to warn Penelope of a planned Indian attack on the settlement of Grave's end. The Indians did attack and the forewarned settlers were able to defend themselves and put the Indians to flight. Richard Stout walked into the open and demanded a parley.

After a conference, the whites and Indians agreed to a truce and a two day ceremonial to celebrate the treaty. The white agreed to buy the lands they had settled on and were never attacked again. The date of purchase from the Indians was January 25, 1664.

In 1668, Richard and his family joined with others in forming the first Baptist Church of New Jersey.

Richard's will was approved in October 1705 and is on file in the office of the Secretary of State at Trenton, New Jersey. Penelope died in 1732.

Unknown newspaper "The Story of Penelope Stout" copy found at Monmouth County Historical Association Library, 70 Court Street, Freehold, NJ 07728

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