Anna Smith Strong
Anna Smith Strong (1740-1812)br>
Anna Smith Strong was descended from colonial elites, and closely related to the other Culper Spy Ring members. Her husband was a leading Patriot judge, and their family controlled one of Long Island's manors, ancestral estates, much like those in England or certain Southern plantations. Most of the Long Island Manors were basically plantations, complete with slavery, in the early part of the 18th century. The status that accompanied both Anna's home and her husband's political appointment made her family a target of the occupying British soldiers.
Anna's husband Judge Selah Strong was arrested and imprisoned on the prison ships in New York harbor. Family lore claims Anna's wealthy Tory relatives helped Anna negotiate the parole of her husband. These relatives probably including Colonel Benjamin Floyd, who may have also assisted the Culper Spy Ring with emergency dispatches. During the Revolutionary War, prisoner exchanges organized by the armies were rare contentious events, and private citizens were often far more successful, particularly when dealing with social elites who had status and family members willing to pay bail or bribe money. In the Strong family's case, Anna was able to bribe British officials to parole her husband to Connecticut, where he stayed for the remainder of the war with most of his family.
Anna Smith Strong stayed behind to take care of the family home at Strong's Neck. Many women did this during the Revolution, since they were seen as non-combatants, and empty homes were subjected to greater abuse and destruction. However, with British soldiers in Setauket, Anna and her isolated home on Strong' s Neck were constantly at the mercy of the occupying army's temper.
Despite this, it is believed Anna Smith Strong used her the arrangement of laundry on her clothesline to signal the presence of Caleb Brewster, who may have also hidden on her property. Strong is not really referred to in the dispatches, although there are several references to her property and what the British movements around her home are. There is nothing to contradict her story, and when Washington toured Long Island in 1790, he visited with the rest of the Culper Spy Ring and included Anna Strong's family in his visits.
More documentation is needed to be certain of her role, but evidence only seems to support the local and family history claiming her role in the spy ring. Additionally, a British spy known as "Hiram the Spy" wrote about a woman who lived near Setauket working with the American spies in the area, which matched the description of Strong.
After the war, Anna and Selah were reunited, and they had another child named George Washington Strong. Their home survived the war safely, and the Strong Family remained there. Anna died in 1812 and is buried in the graveyard on Strong's Neck.