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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Sunday, October 16, 2016

“How the Cambridge Alarm Led to the Concord Fight,” in Cambridge, 20 Oct.

Last March I spoke at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site about “The End of Tory Row.” That talk was about that Cambridge neighborhood in the early 1770s, defined by one extended family of wealthy Anglican sugar-plantation owners. Their comfortable community came to an abrupt end on 2 Sept 1774.

On Thursday, 20 October, I’m returning to the Longfellow–Washington site to tell the next chapter of that story: “How the Cambridge Alarm Led to the Concord Fight.” Like the story of the “Tory Row” neighborhood, that narrative also involves extended family networks. The Road to Concord includes a dive into the family of young Samuel Gore, including his brothers-in-law Thomas Crafts and Moses Grant, to see why they became ready to rebel. But there are other families I could have traced out the same way.

Let’s take George Trott (1741-1780), a jeweler and goldsmith in Boston. Trott and Crafts were both members of the “Loyall Nine” who organized the public protests against the Stamp Act in 1765. Trott became the second-in-command of the train, Boston’s militia artillery company, while Crafts was the third-ranking officer.

Trott married Ann Boylston Cunningham (1745-1810), daughter of James and Elizabeth Cunningham. Her youngest sibling, Andrew (1760-1829), was the teen-aged assistant to South Writing School master Samuel Holbrook in September 1774. That’s when the train’s four small brass cannon disappeared, two of them from a building right next to the school. Coincidence? I doubt it. (I’ll describe who removed those cannon and how in my talk.)

By early 1775 those four brass cannon had been smuggled out of Boston to Lemuel Robinson’s tavern in Dorchester. Robinson (1736-1776) was an obvious choice to hide those guns. He was the captain of the militia artillery company for Suffolk County outside Boston, and he was active in the Whig movement. He put Liberty Tree on his tavern sign and hosted Boston’s Sons of Liberty at a big dinner in 1769.

Was there a family connection between Trott and Robinson? Robinson was raised in Dorchester by his maternal grandfather, Thomas Trott (1685-1762). George Trott’s father was also named Thomas Trott (1705-), a blacksmith of Boston. Genealogists have had trouble sorting out or connecting those families, though.

Robinson’s wife was born Jerusha Minot in 1734. Her brother named John (1730-1805) had a son he named George—i.e., Lemuel and Jerusha’s nephew—in 1755. A tradition in Roxbury published as early as 1835 credits a George Minot, son of John, with helping to smuggle two of the train’s four cannon out of Boston. Coincidence? Well, I’m not so convinced by the Minot stories, but if he was involved I’m sure the Robinson-Minot family network played a role. (A Dawes-Williams family network was definitely involved in moving cannon, as I’ll explain.)

My talk at the Longfellow–Washington site, 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, starts at 6:30 P.M. (Stretches of Brattle Street open up for free parking at 6:00.) We’ll have copies of The Road to Concord for sale and signing afterward. To reserve seats in the carriage house, please call (617) 876-4491 or email reservationsat105@gmail.com.

1 comment:

Marshall Stack said...

There is a book entitled, 'The Treat Family: a genealogy of Trott, Tratt, and Treat for 15 Generations" that mentions a Thomas Trott living in Dorchester between 1644 and 1698. He had a wife named Susan and several children. Perhaps George Trott is somehow related to Thomas, who in turn is a descendant of either Matthias or Richard Treat, Richard being the father of Robert Treat, governor of Connecticut. Just a theory, as records for the Treats/Trotts are incomplete for this time period.