Elizabeth was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Duncan at Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1750. The Duncans were born in Scotland, moved to Ireland and then to the British colonies in America. They settled in Lancaster, which is known in modern times for the Amish community and lush green farms and hillsides.
Elizabeth enjoyed growing up in the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. In the spring she played with the lambs and picked flowers. But childhood ended early for Elizabeth; her father died when she was six years old and her help was needed for the family. She grew to be a strong and lovely woman.
At twenty-five she met a man who would sweep her off her feet ; she married her beloved Samuel Porter. As a member of the Virginia militia, Samuel was one of the men responsible for patrolling the roads and trails to keep travelers safe from Indian raids. The British had enlisted the Indians to attack settlers on the western frontiers of the colonies.
The winds of war began to blow across America.
Samuel, Elizabeth, their two children, her mother, brother and other family members were captured by Indians in 1780. It is thought that British soldiers were with them because they were not scalped. The attackers took all of their stock and possessions.
They were marched and carried over 600 miles to Detroit. Elizabeth had to work hard to keep her little children quiet so they would not be killed by their captors. She was pregnant with her third child. Sometimes she was permitted to ride, she sat with her feet in water for hours and hours. Samuel was sentenced to die. The men were placed in stockades and pens and nearly starved to death.
Elizabeth was put to work cooking for the British officers. After preparing a meal, she saved scraps of bread and meat and smuggled them out in the dishwater. She placed the tub of water near Samuel’s prison. He was able to reach through the bars and get the food. Her act of courage probably kept him alive.
Elizabeth, her children Margaret and Hugh and her mother were marched as a prisoners of war another 700 miles from Detroit to Quebec, Canada.
On January 7th, in the bitter cold of a winter that would become known as the “little Ice Age,” far from her home, Elizabeth gave birth to baby Samuel. She was a captive of the British and Shawnee Indians because she believed in freedom.
Her husband Samuel suffered as well in the confinement of the prison camp. 8 of 10 American prisoners died in the hulls of British warships. He did not know what had become of Elizabeth, their baby or the other two young children.
Many people sacrificed much for the cause of independence. Some sacrificed everything.
Elizabeth took care of baby Samuel and little Margaret and Hugh the best she could. She sang to them the Celtic lullabies her mother had sung to her.
She told them the Bible stories she had learned as a child. Tales of Moses leading Israel to freedom; of brave Joseph and how Daniel’s life was spared.
She would have loved to have been home when Spring came. She would have loved to have worked in her garden with her children and enjoyed outings with her friends. Because the cause of freedom had meant so much to Elizabeth and Samuel; she had no home to return to.
Samuel was a hard worker and tried to be helpful. His execution was stayed by a British commander who took a liking to him.
The price of independence was very high. When the war ended and freedom was won, Elizabeth, Samuel and the others were released and made their way back to Virginia and to each other.
Samuel’s trials did not end with the war. An American officer accused him of treason because the British did not execute him. Tried again, he was cleared of wrongdoing. Elizabeth and Samuel had three more children. Their lives were filled with joy and sorrow and their sacrifice blessed their family for generations.
Elizabeth lived 95 years. She died and was buried in Jackson County, Missouri where a marker and plaque were placed to honor the memory of this heroine of the American Revolutionary War. Elizabeth’s legacy is celebrated today by the Daughters of the American Revolution organization with chapters that have been named for her.
During Elizabeth’s lifetime, the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Revolutionary War fought, the Constitution was written and ratified, Joseph Smith was born, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized and Joseph Smith was martyred. It was a most important era in the history of the world.