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, March 05, 2017

Edward G. Langford, Town Watchman

One of the Bostonians caught up in the Boston Massacre was Edward Langford, who identified himself during the subsequent trials as a member of the town watch. What background brought him to patrolling Boston at night?

Notes taken at the trials identify that man as “Edd. Gambleton Langford” (Robert Treat Paine), “Edward Gambett Langford” (John Adams), and “Edward G. Langford” (shorthand transcriber John Hodgson). Later church records state that Edward Langford died on 26 Mar 1777, aged thirty-eight—meaning he was born in 1738 or 1739.

All that appears to connect the watchman with Thomas and Judith Langford, shown in the records of King’s Chapel (shown here) as having two sons baptized there: Edward Mortimore Langford on 24 Dec 1737 and John Gamberto [sic] Langford in 1740. Perhaps the first Edward died young and the parents gave the future watchman the same first name, plus a middle name he’d share with his brother. (The family was unusual for the time for using middle names at all.) Thomas and Judith Langford also appear to have also had sons Nicholas, born in 1724, and Arthur, and perhaps a daughter named Mary around 1725.

Judith Langford died before Edward turned nine, and on 14 Aug 1746 Thomas Langford married Mary Beatel. They had more children, most of whom died young:
  • Frances born in 1747.
  • Sarah born and died in 1749.
  • Nicholas born in 1750, baptized privately (often a hint of poor health), and died in 1751.
  • A second Sarah born in 1752.
  • A second Nicholas, born and died in 1754.
In 1757, close to his twentieth birthday, Edward Langford served as sponsor for the baptism of a baby named Ann Stone in King’s Chapel. That shows he continued to have ties to the Church of England. However, on 9 June 1761 the Rev. Samuel Checkley, Congregational minister of the New South Meetinghouse, married Edward Langford and Mary Gyles, several months after they first announced their intention to marry.

Edward and Mary Langford, along with a senior Mary Langford, sponsored the baptism of Arthur and Elizabeth Langford’s daughter Judith at King’s Chapel in 1765. (That’s why I suspect the senior Mary, Arthur, and Edward were all siblings, children of the late Judith Langford.) I haven’t found records of Edward and Mary having children of their own.

Nor have I found records indicating what profession Langford took up in the late 1750s and early 1760s. He appears to have been too poor to show up in real estate and town government records, too rich to be on the poor rolls. But on 27 June 1768, Boston selectmen’s records say:
Mr. [Benjamin] Burdick the Constable of the Watch presented Edward Langford as a suitable Person for a Watchman in the room of John Hyman who has left the Watch, and he was approved of by the Selectmen accordingly
Langford was thus hired to help Burdick patrol the middle part of the town at night, watching for fires or disturbances and calling out the time.

Three months later, British troop ships arrived in Boston harbor, bringing the first of four regiments of soldiers to patrol the town.

TOMORROW: So how did that go?

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