“A Revolutionary Struggle”

Mary Baker Eddy’s Connections to the War of American Independence

  • Stacy Teicher Khadaroo

“Science is absolute and final. It is revolutionary in its very nature; for it upsets all that is not upright,” Mary Baker Eddy told a national gathering of Christian Scientists in Chicago just a few weeks before July 4, 1888. “Christian Science and the senses are at war. It is a revolutionary struggle. We already have had two in this nation; and they began and ended in a contest for the true idea, for human liberty and rights. Now cometh a third struggle; for the freedom of health, holiness, and the attainment of heaven.”1

As the Leader of this “third struggle” for freedom, Mrs. Eddy had a keen appreciation for those who fought for her country’s independence and ideals. Within a few years of the 1890 founding of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mrs. Eddy’s friend Martha Cilley urged her to join the patriotic group. Mrs. Cilley, the daughter of one of Mrs. Eddy’s childhood ministers, was the DAR’s state regent for New Hampshire.2

Mary Baker Eddy, shown here in 1889, joined the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1890s and displayed her framed membership certificate in her homes. Longyear Museum Collection.

Mrs. Eddy did apply, naming as her patriot ancestor her paternal great-grandfather Joseph Baker. She did not know the details of his role in the Revolutionary War, but she wrote that he had been commissioned as a captain and had surveyed land in New Hampshire. What later became clear was that Joseph Baker had become a captain years before the Revolution, but both he and her grandfather of the same name had served the cause, qualifying her for the DAR.3

Capt. Joseph Baker

Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Joseph Baker, Mrs. Eddy’s great-grandfather, married Hannah Lovewell in 1739. The couple built a homestead on land that Hannah had inherited in what would later become known as Pembroke, New Hampshire.4

Left: 1747 petition signed by Mrs. Eddy’s great-grandfather Joseph Baker. Image courtesy New Hampshire Division of Archives and Records Management. Right: 1758 appointment of Joseph Baker as captain of the foot company under Col. Zaccheus Lovewell. Image courtesy New Hampshire Historical Society.

In 1747, Joseph Baker joined other Pembroke settlers in signing a petition requesting that the colonial governor of New Hampshire provide protection for the new settlement after several raids by Native Americans.5 In 1758, he joined other New Hampshire men in the Crown Point expedition (on what would later become the border between New York and Vermont) as part of the French and Indian War.6

First page of a copy of Mary Baker Eddy’s application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Longyear Museum Collection.

As tensions brewed over British rule, the people of New Hampshire grew tired of appealing to London, and the desire for self-government grew. But some remained loyal to the British, so in 1774, in response to a call from the American Continental Congress, Pembroke voters elected Captain Baker to a Safety Committee, “to Carefully observe and Look to the Behavier [sic] of all Persons within their Limits” and to publish the names of any found to be disloyal to the Revolutionary cause.7

That same year, rebels drove the British away from Fort William and Mary in Piscataqua Harbor at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, lowering the fort’s British flag and taking gunpowder and other supplies.8

The following spring, on April 19, 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord sparked outright war. As men from both Massachusetts and New Hampshire rushed in droves to help defend against the British (see article about Gen. Benjamin Pierce and the Baker family here), New Hampshire delegates gathered two days later at the Third Provincial Congress in Exeter to respond to the events. They voted unanimously to name a leader for the men who had gone to fight. It was a timely decision, as the Committee received a letter from Massachusetts on April 23 indicating that about 2,000 men from New Hampshire had come bravely to assist, but needed field officers.9

As of April 25, Captain Baker represented the town of Pembroke at the Third Provincial Congress.10 The next day, the representatives voted that each town would store its share of biscuit flour and pork for emergency use and would “Engage as many men . . .  as they think fit to be properly Equipt & ready to march at a minute’s warning on any Emergency.”11

A year later, the New Hampshire government required white males above age 21 to sign a loyalty oath, or “Association Test.” It was a precursor of sorts to the national Declaration of Independence, which would come that July. The signers of the oath in New Hampshire, who included Captain Baker, promised: “WE WILL, TO THE UTMOST OF OUR POWER, AT THE RISQUE OF OUR LIVES AND FORTUNES, WITH ARMS, OPPOSE THE HOSTILE PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH FLEETS AND ARMIES AGAINST THE UNITED AMERICAN COLONIES.”12 They stood ready to be called into battle at any time.

Two grandfathers, two patriots

Captain Baker’s son and namesake Joseph Baker married in 1762, when he was about 22, and moved across the river from Pembroke to Bow, New Hampshire. There he built the farmhouse where he and his wife, Maryann McNeil Moore Baker, would raise their children, including Mark, born in 1785. Mark would inherit the house and raise his family there, too. He and his wife, Abigail Ambrose Baker, had six children, the youngest of whom was Mary.13

This 1790 plan shows the outlines where Fort Washington was built on the island labeled ‘B.’ Joseph Baker, Mrs. Eddy’s grandfather, served there in 1779. Image courtesy New Hampshire Historical Society.

As his father did in Pembroke, the younger Mr. Baker signed the Association Test when it circulated around Bow in 1776.14 A few years later, in 1779, he would serve as a “matross man,” a coastal artilleryman, at Fort Washington in Piscataqua Harbor.15

That earth and stone fort was built in 1775 on Peirce Island, one of three small forts designed to keep the British from getting through the narrows of the Piscataqua River near Portsmouth. The matrosses were prepared to shoot at any enemy vessels. In October 1775, they managed to capture a British ship that accidentally headed toward Portsmouth instead of Boston, intercepting nearly 2,000 barrels of flour intended for British troops. The flour not only fortified Portsmouth soldiers, but a large portion also made it to George Washington’s troops in Boston.16

Nathaniel Ambrose, Mary Baker Eddy’s grandfather on her mother’s side, also signed the Association Test in Pembroke and served as a soldier during the Revolutionary War. He was captain of the Sixth Company of Col. Joseph Badger’s regiment of militia men in 1776 and marched to New York later that year under Col. Daniel Moor.17

Surrender of Gen. John Burgoyne, by John Trumbull. Leading up to the 1777 surrender, Mrs. Eddy’s grandfather Capt. Nathaniel Ambrose served in Saratoga on the American side. The painting was placed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in 1826. Image courtesy Architect of the Capitol.

In 1777, Captain Ambrose helped defend a garrison at Ticonderoga, under Lt. Col. Ebenezer Smith.18 He earned a little over three pounds for that mission. But he earned five times that amount in the fall, when his company of volunteers joined the Continental Army under Gen. Horatio Gates in Saratoga, New York. British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered in Saratoga in October, a turning point that protected New England from being cut off from the rest of the colonies.19

“A child of the Republic, a Daughter of the Revolution”

On Sept. 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris formally ended the Revolutionary War. Less than 100 years later, the U.S. endured the severities of the Civil War to prevent a split in the union. In 1865, that war drew to a close, and the ratification of the 13th Amendment officially ended slavery.

The very next year, in 1866, Mrs. Eddy (then Mrs. Patterson) found healing and a new sense of Life as God with her discovery of Christian Science.

By the time she joined the DAR in 1892, she had founded the Church of Christ (Scientist) in Boston, but had moved back to Concord, New Hampshire a few years earlier.20

“I have one innate joy, and love to breathe it to the breeze as God’s courtesy,” she later commented in honor of New Hampshire’s “Fast Day,” which was renamed “Patriot’s Day” in Massachusetts to commemorate the Revolutionary War. “A native of New Hampshire, a child of the Republic, a Daughter of the Revolution, I thank God that He has emblazoned on the escutcheon of this State, engraven on her granite rocks, and lifted to her giant hills the ensign of religious liberty — ‘Freedom to worship God.’”21

Two images of the West Room at 400 Beacon Street in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where Mrs. Eddy displayed her Daughters of the American Revolution oak-shield plaque (left) and certificate of membership (right). Longyear Museum Collection.

In 1893, when a DAR committee wanted to cast a bell for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and tour it around to sites significant to United States history, Mrs. Eddy supported the idea. She asked The Christian Science Journal to print the committee’s letter, announcing: “It shall ring at sunrise and sunset; at nine o’clock in the morning on the anniversaries of the days on which great events have occurred marking the world’s progress toward liberty; at twelve o’clock on the birthdays of the ‘creators of liberty;’ and at four o’clock it will toll on the anniversaries of their death.”22

Mrs. Eddy contributed to the fund and displayed a small replica of the bell at her Pleasant View home in Concord, and, later, at 400 Beacon Street, her home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She also put up her framed membership certificate and a plaque from the DAR.23

During the final class she taught in 1898, Mrs. Eddy wore a beautifully jeweled DAR pin given to her a few years earlier by Effie Andrews, a Christian Scientist from New York who attended the class.24 “Few things earthly could give me more pleasure than the insignia of the ‘Daughters’ which you named,” Mrs. Eddy had written when Mrs. Andrews, a fellow member of the society, offered to send her the pin engraved with Mrs. Eddy’s membership number. The letter continued, “I have longed to meet with them [the DAR]. But I have so much to attend to that none else but I can do. I have to sacrifice all these worldly pleasures.”25

Right: Portrait of Effie Andrews, C.S.B., by Susan Ricker Knox, 1919. Longyear Museum Collection. Left: The DAR pin that Mrs. Andrews gave to Mrs. Eddy. © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection. Original image and artifact in The Mary Baker Eddy Library. Used with permission.

On Independence Day in 1902, Mrs. Eddy sat in her swing on the upper veranda at Pleasant View and spoke to her student Anna B. White Baker about freedom according to Christian Science. “Thinking of our flag, this comes to me,” she said, “that the motto emblazoned on the escutcheon of Christian Science is, ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’ free from the domination of evil. We are governed by God, He is our only governor. We are not governed by evil. Now in this lies your freedom.

“The independence of the Christian Scientist can be won only by turning away from seeking independence in mortal mind, for matter is but the substratum of mortal mind,” she continued. “My forefathers landed on Plymouth Rock in search of religious liberty, and I have steered the ship of Christian Science, standing at the helm and at the rudder and doing most of the work, and I have landed on the Rock of Truth. We must fight for our freedom. It will not do to sit down and dream or sleep, and expect to win, but we must fight and strive. We must strive, for Jesus said, ‘I say unto you, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”’”26

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  1. Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and the Senses,” Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, 99, 101. This is a slightly edited version of an account of her comments published in The Christian Science Journal 6 (August 1888): 217-223.
  2. Mary Baker Eddy, Application for Membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (copy with annotation), Longyear Museum Collection, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts (hereafter referenced as LMC). Martha’s signature appears on the application as Mrs. Jacob G. Cilley. (Martha Bouton Cilley was the daughter of Rev. Nathaniel Bouton.) The application was approved in 1892. Longyear Museum has Mrs. Eddy’s framed certificate of DAR membership, dated 1893. Mrs. Eddy later wrote: “In 1894, I received from the Daughters of the American Revolution a certificate of membership made out to Mary Baker Eddy, and thereafter adopted that form of signature, except in connection with my published works,” Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, x. Click here to read “Women’s History Month: Mary Baker Eddy Joins the Daughters of the American Revolution,” from The Mary Baker Eddy Library, Boston, Massachusetts, hereafter referenced as MBEL.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy, Application for Membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, LMC.
  4. Hannah Lovewell’s land was part of the Suncook grant from the Massachusetts Bay colony. Nathan Franklin Carter and Trueworthy Ladd Fowler, History of Pembroke, N. H.: 1730-1895, Vol. 2 (Republican Press Association, 1895), 13. Sibyl Wilbur, The Life of Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966), 5. Jewel Spangler Smaus, Mary Baker Eddy: The Golden Days (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1966), 25-26. “Man of His Time,” Longyear Foundation Quarterly News 3 (Fall 1966), available online here.
  5. State of New Hampshire Division of Archives and Records Management, Suncook petition for more protection, May 26, 1747.
  6. He was also commissioned as captain of a foot company in the regiment of Col. Zaccheus Lovewell, his wife’s uncle. Appointment of Joseph Baker Capt. of the Foot Company, 1758, 1997.533.61, New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, N.H. Chandler Eastman Potter, The Military History of the State of New-Hampshire, from Its Settlement, in 1623, to the Rebellion, in 1861 (Concord, McFarland & Jenks, 1868), 198-204 and 228-233, available online here.
  7. Carter and Fowler, Vol. 1, 116.
  8. Sheldon S. Cohen, “Captain Thomas Pickering: New Hampshire Patriot and Seafarer,” Historical New Hampshire 69 (2016): 85-87.
  9. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 7, 452-454.
  10. Ibid.
  11. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 7, 462.
  12. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 30, 108-110. Carter and Fowler, Vol. 1, 119-120. As required, the committee also reported the names of the nine men in Pembroke who did not subscribe to the declaration.
  13. Carter and Fowler, Vol. 2, 13-15. Smaus, 170. “Man of His Time,” Longyear Foundation Quarterly News 3.
  14. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 30, 17-18.
  15. Revolutionary War Rolls, New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 15, 692-93.
  16. Cohen, 88-90. It is not clear whether the Fort Washington matross men were involved in any battles during Joseph Baker’s service, but he was among the soldiers who signed a petition to the New Hampshire government in Exeter on June 14, 1779, pointing out that they were owed money and that their pay was no longer adequate. Prices had gone up, they wrote, “to such a Degree that your Petitioners cannot without the Utmost Horror & concern view the dismal prospects before them.” They appealed for the government to save their families from “inevitable destruction.” Revolutionary War Rolls, New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 15, 692-93.
  17. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 30, 108-110. Revolutionary War Rolls, New Hampshire State Papers Vol 14, 296-97. Carter and Fowler, Vol. 1, 124, online here. In the fall of 1776, Daniel Moor’s troops were under Samuel McConnell, whose mission to reinforce troops in New York is referenced in Potter, 291-292.
  18. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. 15, 133-134.
  19. Ibid., 392-393. See this description at UShistory.org
  20. In September 1892, with the reorganization of her Church, its title was changed to The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
  21. Mary Baker Eddy, “Fast Day in New Hampshire,” Christian Science Sentinel 1 (April 27, 1899), originally in the Concord Monitor and later reprinted in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, by Mary Baker Eddy, 339-341.
  22. The Christian Science Journal 11 (May 1893): 63, later reprinted in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, 303-306. The Journal’s editor noted after the letter, “Mrs. Eddy is a member of the above organization, having been made such by the special request of the late Mrs. Harrison, wife of the ex-President, who was at that time the President thereof.”
  23. Boston Sunday Globe, Jan. 6, 1895, later reprinted in Pulpit and Press by Mary Baker Eddy, 48, mentions the DAR certificate at Pleasant View. At Mrs. Eddy’s house in Chestnut Hill, the certificate and plaque were displayed in the West Room, according to LMC records and photographs. See also, “‘A Thrilling Tone’: Mary Baker Eddy and the Columbian Liberty Bell,”  MBEL article available online here.
  24. Sue Harper Mims, “An Intimate Picture of Our Leader’s Final Class,” We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition Vol. 1 (Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 2011), 291.
  25. Mary Baker Eddy to Effie Andrews, Nov. 19, 1895, L10650, MBEL.
  26. Anna B. White Baker, “Happy Memories of Mary Baker Eddy,” We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition Vol. 2, 323-324.