The Legend of Tempe Wick

Temperance “Tempe” Wick is one of the most famous women of the Revolutionary War era in New Jersey.

Wick House as it looks today.The Wick family was relatively prosperous, and their house in Jockey Hollow near Morristown was commandeered as the headquarters for General Arthur St. Clair during the winter of 1779-80. Over 13,000 soldiers camped on its grounds.

Conditions were extremely harsh for the poor foot soldiers with freezing and starvation common fears. Incidents of soldiers stealing food and supplies from the local farms became routine.

Local legend says when out riding one day, which the spirited Tempe regularly did, she came across a group of Pennsylvania mutineers who tried to take her beloved horse, Colonel.

When it became obvious this is what they intended, Tempe seized the opportunity for escape when one of the soldiers momentarily took his hand off Colonel’s bridle. She smacked Colonel on the rump, and boldly galloped away. Desperate, the thieves chased her on foot, firing several shots.

Tempe was keenly aware the soldiers knew where she lived and the first place they would look for Colonel was the barn. When she arrived at the farm she led him up the stairs of her home, hiding Colonel in a second floor room. Legend has it she kept him there for several weeks. The soldiers, of course, never thought to look upstairs for a horse, and Colonel was saved.

Tempe is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown, New Jersey. Her adventure with Colonel is told on the weathered surface of her large burial stone.

Today Wick House is part of the Morristown National Historic Park.

Visitors say you can still see the faint imprint of a horse’s hoof on the staircase.

>>Read Frank Stockton’s full account of this legendary young New Jersey woman and her horse Colonel. pdf

We have published this story early in case you want to make a visit to Morristown part of your Independence Day celebrations. Happy 4th to horse lovers everywhere!

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