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, March 26, 2012

A Look at Revolutionary Roxbury

This month I stumbled onto the blog Fort Hill History, created by Jason Turgeon to explore the history of that part of Roxbury.

As the posting “Roxbury During the Siege of Boston” explains, the area took its name from the hill fortified during the siege. Turgeon writes:
The lower fort stood until 1836, when Alvah Kittredge was building his now-famous house and decided to remove some of the ramparts. While the work was underway Aaron Willard, who with his brother Simon dominated the American clockmaking scene and started the industrialization of Roxbury, stopped by and told Kittredge about a day 60 years earlier when he had helped to dig the lower fort. Willard, then a 16-year-old fifer, had slept at his workplace and been rudely awoken by a 24-pound cannon ball tossed by the British into his newly constructed earthen wall. He pointed out the spot where he thought the ball must have landed and Kittredge’s workers were actually able to find the ball! It remained in the Kittredge family as a souvenir, and perhaps it still remains somewhere in a Roxbury basement.
That anecdote appeared in Francis S. Drake’s The Town of Roxbury (1878). Drake also printed the sketch of the fort above, saying it came from Josiah Benton’s powder horn. I recently examined two other powder horns from the siege, and I suspect this was more a representation of the fort than an accurate plan. Those curved, tapering surfaces were darn hard to draw on.

Fort Hill History also offers a round-up of local maps drawn on flat surfaces, probably more carefully matched to scale.

Turgeon in turn pointed to Walking the Post Road, an online account by Gary Denton of Jamaica Plain about following the old routes to New York. Lots of photographs of old milestones, including the many set up by Massachusetts judge Paul Dudley.

1 comment:

Derek "A Staunch Whig" Beck said...

This is quite interesting, thanks for sharing!