ON THIS DATE in 1776, a thirteen-year-old innkeeper’s daughter named Phoebe Fraunces saved the life of General George Washington — maybe. Many sources, including a 1980 People magazine article, have reported as fact that Fraunces discovered a plot to assassinate Washington during the early days of the Revolutionary War by poisoning the general’s peas. She informed Washington of the tainted veggies, he tossed them out the window, and chickens pecking at the peas fell dead.
In 1776, a Thomas Hickey was hanged for treason, but no Phoebe Fraunces can be found in the historical record — none of innkeeper Samuel Fraunces’s five daughters had that name. Some say she was an African American slave, but that, too, has never been confirmed.