Marriage is for better or worse but, for Catherine Van Kleffe, marrying Anglican Simon Searing in Hertfordshire, England would redefine challenge and adventure. Catherine was a remarkably tough lady, leaving the comforts of an established community with substantial homes, markets, and friendships, to fearlessly board a tiny ship, spending the next few months without privacy, without sanitation, with disease and deprivation, only to land in the Puritan-run New Haven Colony in 1640. Here she energetically went about setting up a household for her growing family in the Stamford area. However, her hardships were not over. After four years, just when life seemed to be stabilizing, Catherine packed up a second time and with several other families journeyed some 75 roadless miles around the edge of Long Island Sound to homestead in unbroken land out in what became Hempstead on Long Island. No cabin, no plowed fields, no help awaited her, only forests and natural meadows and unexpected, sometimes fearful encounters with Native Americans. Catherine’s formidable spirit was the key to her family’s success in carving out her final home, raising at least three sons and supporting her husband’s community and domestic endeavors, before her untimely death. However, she had weathered more upheaval in her short 36-year life than any other twenty women living back in Hertfordshire. The indomitable American spirit came from Catherine, and other pioneering women like her, allowing this immigrant’s progeny a true chance to thrive in this harsh New World.
American Pioneer Chronicles:
Colonial Women: the heart, sweat, soul—the foundation of our Nation
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