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‘Cunning Crafty Wile’
JAMES GIBBONS, Comic Poet, Suspected Barmaid Molester, Innkeeper and Owner of a Runaway Barmaid, Would Have Her Again

The following poem was featured in an early book in this series, but is a must inclusion in this volume, so has been annotated from another perspective.

December 14, 1769

The Pennsylvania Gazette


BETWEEN the sixth and seventh day,

Of last ninth month, ran away,

A Servant, that from Ireland came,

Catherine Waterson her name;

She thick and clumsey made you see, [1]

Pretends a tayloress to be, [1]

She about 5 feet 4 inches high,

Very apt to swear and lie. [1]

Of a down look; complexion dark, [1]

In her face much pock mark. [1]

As also very long black hair,

Which she clubbbehind did wear;

Two striped petticoats she had,

One bird eye ditto, very bad, [1]

One striped linsey jacket she,

With two check aprons, bore away,

Two handkerchiefs about her neck,

One a flag, the other check;

Her hose blue worsted; clocks of white,

And stuff shoes, as black as night.

She also had, tho'not her own,

A very good large silver spoon,

Which was stamped with C.

Hall On the shank, near to the bole.

Worsted pincushion that knit,

With D. G. on one side of it,

Which was round, incompass tight

With a band of silver bright;

And as one end did the other pass,

With a loop it fast was,

A chain of silver to the same,

When borne away by this dame,

Who is very artful to deceive, [1]

And an answer quick will give;

As I have been inform by one

Who stop her as away she run,

Tho'by a cunning crafty wile [1]

She did him so much beguile.

Or at least prevail upon

Him, so much as to get along,

And south eastward she did steer,

Of her since that I cannot hear,

Tho' shortly for work she must call,

As her money, if any, was but small, [2]

And to pawn that spoon or pincushion,

She would be backward to begin.

Therefore I desire with whome she be,

He may think of himself and me, [3]

And safe secure her in some Goal,

That I may have her without fail,

Then the above reward to him fare,

With reasonable charges, I secure.

And lastly, it behoves me to tell

In what part of the province I dwell,

Which to do I will not defer,

It is in the county of Lancaster,

And somewhat more will be expected,

Which I had almost neglected,

That is to declare my name,

Therefore I subscribe the same,


*P.S. One of the aprons home made, the other bought; the home made apron remarkable, having a breadth and near a half in width, and the half breadth pieced with about a quarter at top, to make it long enough; her shifts, tho'not mentioned above, had remarkably long wide bosoms, all of coarse ozenbrigs, without any necks.


1. These are all common invalidating claims made by owners to such a degree one wonders if we are not reading slander, and also one notes that more servants than not have survived the small pox plague.

2. As with the owners of negro lifers, servant masters made it a priority to minimize available money in order to thwart an escape. Also, the theft of stolen goods was one of the only ways available to track and identify these people.

3. Due to high mortality in childbirth and the high number of children expected of a colonial mother, and the fact that men and boys were preferred for labor, the gender ratio was out of proportion and it seems women depended almost entirely on pairing up with men, before or after their escape, to gain their liberty.

A Bright Shining Lie at Dusk

A Partial Exhumation of the American Dream

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