As my family enjoys a quiet President’s Day at home, I’m reminded of one of my favorite George Washington stories. The “sweet” account was originally printed in the Sunday School Advocate in 1917.
During the summer of 1780, the War for Independence was raging and American soldiers were in desperate need of a victory. George Washington and his weary troops were stationed just outside of Philadelphia, where it was believed an attack by the Red Coats was imminent. A few miles away was the humble Crabtree family farm, home to a young Quaker girl, Charity. She and her brother had become orphans when her beekeeping father, a Patriot, died in service.
Soon after, Charity’s brother also left and joined the American forces. Charity was not without her own patriotic devotion, just read how the Sunday Advocate describes her: “Despite her prim Quaker ways, no eyes could spark with greater fire at the mention of freedom than those that smiled so demurely above her white neckerchief and plain gray dress.”
Charity was determined to keep her family’s farm in working order during her brother’s absence, so she tended the honey bees as her father would have. The Crabtrees kept bees near the front of their farm in skeps, or the baskets that are traditionally thought of or drawn in historical or folk images, not the Langstroth boxes used most commonly in America today. One day while out with her bees, she heard the pounds of a galloping horse. A wounded man dressed in citizen’s clothes approached her. When the horse stopped in front of Charity, the man fell out of his mount. Charity helped move him to a grassy area as he conveyed the secret of an attack approaching Washington and his troops.
He gave her instructions to take his horse and the message to General Washington. As she prepared to go, more thundering horse hooves neared. Cornwallis’ army had her cornered before she knew it, but the quick thinking girl reached for a stout stick and beat the top of her bee skeps, then threw the stick at the soldiers. The angry bees attacked in the direction of the stick, giving Charity enough time to escape.
She was successful in relaying the message to Washington, and it is reported that he later said to Charity, “Neither you nor your bees shall be forgotten when our country is at peace again. It was the cackling geese that save Rome, but it was the bees that saved America.”
Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, daughter, and beekeeper who does life in Owensboro. Her first novel, The Bird and the Bees, is a Christian contemporary romance set to be released in April 2020. Visit her at wordslikehoney.com.