J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

John Moies, Boston retailer

Pvt. John Moies of the 14th Regiment was convicted of robbing a shop in 1769, as I described in my last two postings. He was sentenced to be whipped and sold into servitude for three years—and his commanding officer got the distinct impression that Pvt. Moies was pleased to get out of the army, even in such a painful way.

Moies probably went to work in Dorchester, then a town just outside Boston. He married Ruth Davenport there on 19 Sept 1771, and town records show "John Moies & his Family" settling in Dorchester that year.

On 3 March 1773, John Moies and Ruth Davenport showed up at Trinity Church, shown here thanks to Julie L. Sloan. It was one of Boston's three Anglican churches (Dorchester had none). The Moises brought two children they wanted baptized: John, born 16 Feb 1772 (or five months after the couple's marriage), and Mary Davenport, born 9 Dec 1772 (a surprising ten months after her brother).

Between 1774 and 1780, John and Ruth Moies had five more children baptized at Trinity. One, named James, died a day afterwards, only ten days old. Two others were named John, indicating that the couple's first two sons of that name did not live long, either. That leaves four children who might have grown to adulthood. John Moies also acted as sponsor at the baptism of another family's baby, Joshua Convers Hyde, in 1777.

Moies's name shows up as a taxpayer on Boston's 1780 "Takings" list, and in 1781 the town granted him a license to sell liquor as a retailer (as opposed to a tavern-keeper) at "the Head of Long Lane." Furthermore, in 1783 John Moies made out a deposition that stated:

in the month of March 1776 I was desired of John Andrews to go into Mr. Samuel Elliot's Store in Wilsons Lane and to watch there in order to prevent the British Soldiers then in town from plundering the goods in the store. When I first entered I found the floor covered near two feet deep with bound books, pamphlets, and books in sheets, very much torn and defaced. The books appeared to have been taken out of four or five trunks of boxes then standing on the floor, other boxes and bales of goods marked with Mr. Elliot's mark were broke open and scattered about the store
Thus, within seven years of Moies's sentence for theft, Boston shopkeepers trusted him to stop British soldiers from looting. (Not that he actually managed to do so.) Other records indicate he lived on Milk Street and, in 1789, served in fire engine company #7. A decade after being arrested in a British army uniform, Moies was an American citizen, working and raising a family in Boston even while the U.S. of A. was at war with Britain.

Moies died in Boston on 12 May 1789, aged forty-nine, his death recorded at Trinity Church. It looks like his son John moved back to Dorchester by 1798, having children there with his wife Mary.

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