One of the mysteries of great importance that Boston 1775 has poked through is the term “Mount Whoredom,” used by British officers in 1775-76 to describe a promontory west of Boston Common. That area became the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Beacon Hill.
As Christopher Lenney and I tracked down, there was a landmark of the same name in greater London, near the Royal Artillery training ground. So was that name brought across the Atlantic by the British officers themselves? Or was it local?
Recently a Boston 1775 commenter alerted me to this entry in the diary of Judge Samuel Sewall back in 1715:
Monday, Augt. 8. Set out at 11. at night on Horseback with Tho. Wallis to inspect the order of the Town. Constable Eady, Mr Allen, Salter, Herishor Simson, Howel, Mr John Marion. Dissipated the players at Nine Pins at Mount Whoredom.So Bostonians were referring to Mount Whoredom many decades before the Revolution, and it was already a site of iniquity—of sorts. On this night the worst behavior the Puritan authorities found was “Nine Pins.” (Make your blood boil? Well, I should say!)
Benjamin Davis, Chairmaker, and Jacob Hasy were two of them. Reproved Thomas Messenger for entertaining them.
I’ll also quote a letter from Samuel Blachley Webb to Silas Deane, dated 16 Oct 1775:
in my last I mentioned the building the flat Bottom Boats which are now almost compleated and the men are daily exercising in them, such as learning to Row—paddle—land & clime a precipice & form immediately for Action,—they behave much beyond expectation,—this exercise will be of great service if ever we land on the shore of our Enemies, which it seems they much fear as they have hall’d up another Frigate in the Bay back of Mount WhoredomThis amphibious-landing training came a few months before my earlier example of American commanders using the term. Finding additional examples from 1775 will show the name to be even more established in America.
So what’s the full story of Boston’s “Mount Whoredom”? Was that hill:
- named for a similar hill near London? (London certainly has a livelier night life than Puritan Boston.)
- the inspiration for naming the hill in London? (The Boston usage is documented earlier, after all.)
- named after a common term for a red-light district throughout the British Empire? (In that case, there should be more examples out there.)