It was an evening in the first week in February, 1778. Supper was over in the house of Cornelius De Vries, which stood on Green Street, Philadelphia, and in that part of the town known as the Northern Liberties. Agatha De Vries, the elderly and maiden sister of Cornelius, had washed and put away the dishes and had gone around the corner to gossip with a neighbor.
The light shed from two copper candlesticks and from the fire made the sitting-room look very snug and cozy. In one corner stood a tall clock-case, flanked by a white pine settee and a chest of drawers. A spider legged writing-desk stood near the tile lined fireplace, over which was a row of china dishes—very rare at that time. The floor was white and sanded, and the walls were hung with a few paintings and colored prints.