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, June 04, 2007

William Molineux: a Wolverhampton wanderer?

Because few historians have studied the Boston political organizer William Molineux as an individual, there’s not much information in print about his private life. Here’s all that I’ve been able to gather about his background, and I welcome more.

Massachusetts newspapers reported that Molineux died in October 1774 at the age of 57, which would mean he was born in 1717. As for where, the best clue I’ve found comes from Peter Oliver’s memoir:

There had lived in the Town of Boston, many Years, a William Molineaux, from Wolverhampton in ye. County of Stafford in England.
(Oliver wasn’t writing emphatically; he was following a formal style of the time that required underlining all proper nouns.)

Oliver detested Molineux and his politics, but on confirmable facts I find his memoir reliable, so I assume this statement is true. There was a prominent Molineux family in Wolverhampton in the mid-1770s. (How prominent? The city’s football stadium bears that name today.) Our Molineux probably commanded a certain amount of property because he seems to have arrived in Boston as a gentleman.

The earliest record of William Molineux in Annie Haven Thwing’s database about people in Boston is dated 10 Apr 1747, when he bought a house and land of Phillips Chamberlain on Orange Street in the South End. He was about thirty years old and already identified as a merchant.

William Molineux and Ann Guionneau married on 22 Dec 1747, according to Boston’s published town records. The presiding minister was the Rev. Andrew LeMercier, indicating that the ceremony was in Boston’s French Huguenot church, which disbanded the next year. (Its building was on the corner of School Street and what’s now Washington Street, present site of the godawful Irish Famine Memorial.)

The new Ann Molineux’s first name also appears in Trinity Church records as Mary Ann and Maryann, and her last name before marriage is spelled many ways: Guionow, Guineo, Guno, etc. When the she died on 12 Nov 1783, the Continental Journal (which described her as “amiable”) said she was 65 and the church said she was 63. So she was born around 1718-20.

No baptismal records from Boston’s Huguenot church survive, but I suspect Ann Gionneau was the daughter of Henry and Maria/Marianne (Fagget/Faget) Guionneau, who were married on 14 Mar 1707 by the Rev. Peter Daillie, a Huguenot minister who had come from New York. Real estate transactions identify Henry Guionneau as a merchant; he died in 1730. Trinity Church records say “The Widow Maryann Guioneau” died on 26 Mar 1771 at the age of 85, meaning she was born about 1686.

(I must note, however, that town records also say that on 16 Nov 1731 the Rev. Andrew LeMercier united “Maryan Guionow” with James Desbross as her second husband. Is this another woman of the same name? Or perhaps William Molineux’s future mother-in-law remarried but later returned to using her first husband’s surname.)

In 1748, William and Ann Molineux began having children. But before moving on to them, I’ll note one more member of the Molineux household. The merchant ran the following ad in the 15 June 1747 Boston Post-Boy (which remained his preferred advertising venue for the next several years):
Ran away from William Molineux of Boston, last Monday Night [i.e., 6 June], a Negro Fellow named Boston, about 20 Years of Age, of a middle Stature, had on when he went away, a light colour’d Cloth pea Jacket, a red strip’d cotton and linnen Jacket, and Leather Breeches: All Person are forbid harbouring or concealing said Fellow as they will answer it at their Peril: Whosoever will secure said Fellow, and bring him to said Molineux shall be rewarded for their Trouble.
(There are those proper nouns again.)

TOMORROW: Growing up Molineux.

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