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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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dr. Benjamin Church Has a Blog

I’ve spent most of the last several days polishing a draft of a chapter about Gen. George Washington’s intelligence activities during the siege of Boston. (Sixty-four pages isn’t too long for a chapter, right? 205 footnotes simply means I’m being thorough, right? Anyway…)

That chore makes me delighted to know about this blog entirely devoted to Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr. Edward J. Witek has been researching Church for years, and is now sharing some of his findings.

For example, he’s handled a topic I’ve had on my to-do list: What’s the source of the one and only and completely unconvincing portrait of Church (shown here)? A bigger mystery, of course, is why people keep reprinting it. It’s not even good-looking.

Witek also lays out the evidence about Church’s reported mansion in Raynham—or was it Bridgewater? Here’s a bit of Church’s political poetry, composed for Paul Revere. And here’s the start of a series about Scottish printer John Mein, one of the Boston Whigs’ most effective opponents. There are growing pages about medical practice and Freemasonry in eighteenth-century Boston.

I suspect that Witek and I might not agree on all Churchly topics because there’s so much murkiness in what the doctor was up to: espionage, sex, propaganda, money, &c. That leaves extra room for interpretation. But now there’s a central clearing-house for the mysteries.

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