Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Widow's Story: Mary Ferree

Imagine seeing my name on a sign!
I just had to stop the car, jump out and get a picture
 in front of this antique store in Paradise, PA
when I visited there one summer!

Role models are so important for widows! When I was widowed I always wondered if I'd make it and how I'd survive so I carefully watched the widows around me. I tried to figure out if they were happy, and how they found contentment. Some days I needed to know how they made it through the day!

I looked for widows everywhere and found one who's name I share. "Ferree" was actually one of my great-grandmothers' maiden names, and there was a family legend that in early American history, a lady from France, Mary Ferree, received some land from William Penn.

What an amazing woman! She and her husband, Daniel, were wealthy silk merchants in France in the 1600's, but they were also Calvinist Protestants---a dangerous label at the time. Religious persecution flamed and the Daniel Ferree family had to flee for their lives to Strasbourg, Germany/Bavaria.

Along the way they adopted a boy who’s parents had been martyred. While living in Germany their youngest son was born, joining the 5 other children and the adopted boy. But then Mary Ferree’s husband died. She was a widow with 7 children, exiled from France to Strasbourg. How'd she do it?

After her husband's death she moved her family to Holland, and then to England! How'd she do that?! History doesn't reveal the details but I know it took enormous faith and pluck and God's provision! In England she met William Penn, received a grant and provision from Queen Anne, and then sailed for eleven weeks across the Atlantic to arrive in New York in 1710. (Guess what? No electricity or running water on board!)
This is a commemorative plate depicting
the welcome Mary Ferree received in 1712
fromTanawa, chief of the Paquaw Indians.
From the port of New York--remember it's only the year 1710, the United States of America doesn't exist yet!-- she traveled up the Hudson River to a French Hugenot community further inland. And in 1712 she and her family made their way to Philadelphia to obtain the title to their land.

Her land was in the wilderness 50 miles westward from Philadelphia. Once she got there she met peaceful Indians, lodged in the wigwams they offered . . . . and declared the countryside to be “Paradise.”

I was stunned by my ancestor-- her struggles, her faith, her life—and especially all she had accomplished as a widow!

But the best thing is that each of you has a role model. Look around! Here's where you may find her-- or him:
  • your family tree—maybe your mother, or an aunt, or grandma
  • a friend from your past---like a girlfriend, or a teacher, nurse or co-worker
  • Scripture--is there a favorite Bible character you really relate to?
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 (NIV)

Don't you just love this verse? I thank the Lord for everything "that was written in the past," and the people who wrote and lived it. God has given their stories to us for our endurance, encouragement and hope. Who are your role models today? I'd love to hear about them so mention them in the comment box, OK? What if you can't think of any? Ask God for some and stand back and watch. I'm sure He'll show you!


  1. I love this..what an incredible story about your ancestor. This makes me want to really dig into my past. I will say though, that my role model was my grandma. We lost my grandpa back in 1999 and I sat with my grandma quite a bit after he passed. After Kirk died, even in her bad health, she made sure she came over to my parents house to see me. I would go over and see her and sometimes we would just sit. Even though we had several years between us, we had something in common that will forever bind me to her. She was amazing and I miss her so very much!!

  2. I LOVE this story! A year after becoming a widow, I gathered 25 widows and widowers to share our stories in a book. I needed to choose a pen name. I chose Mary Lee Robinson, an amalgamation of 3 family members, all of whom were widowed twice. Those ladies, my grandmother, my step grandmother, and my cousin, are all excellent models of grace under pressure. I lean on them still.

    Mary Lee Robinson

  3. Grace under pressure--- your relatives exemplified and left you a wonderful legacy and beautiful pen name. Thanks for sharing!


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