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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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ross Wyman, Chairman of the Blacksmiths’ Convention

Since I’ll be speaking in Shrewsbury tomorrow evening, I’m sharing some material from Andrew H. Ward’s 1847 History of the Town of Shrewsbury.

September 1774 was crucial to the transition away from royal rule in Massachusetts. That was the month of the “Powder Alarm,” the disappearance of cannon from several spots around Boston harbor, and the last of the county conventions before the Massachusetts Provincial Congress formed.

And there was another, more specialized meeting:
On the 21st of September, 1774, a Convention of the Blacksmiths of the County was held at Worcester, and their patriotic proceedings, signed by forty three members, were printed, and distributed through the County. Ross Wyman of Shrewsbury, Chairman.

They resolved, that they would not, not either of them do any blacksmith work for the tories, nor for any one in their employ, nor for any one, who had not signed the non-consumption agreement agreed upon, and signed by the Congress at Philadelphia; and requested all denominations of artificers to call meetings of their craftsmen, and adopt like measures. The proceedings of the several conventions were communicated to, and read in the Provincial Congress, which gave free utterance to the combined will of the people, so consonant to their own.

Their recommendations and resolves were received as laws duly enacted, and were enforced with a promptitude and zeal, that nothing could withstand.
The clerk of that convention, who probably organized the event and drafted the convention’s resolves, was Worcester’s Timothy Bigelow.

As for Ross Wyman (1717-1808), Ward wrote:
He was a stout, athletic man, and, previous to the Revolution, while in Boston, and in his wagon, came near being seized and carried off by a press-gang from a British man-of-war. He resolutely defended himself, and, at length, snatching up a cod fish with both hands in the gills, beat them off by slapping them in the face with its slimy tail!

He was a blacksmith by trade, a warm friend to his country, and ever refused to do blacksmithing, or other work for a tory. At the commencement of the Revolution, Gen. [Artemas] Ward requested him to make him a gun and bayonet of sufficient strength for him to pitch a man over his head. He made it to order, and, of horse nail stubs; it was a real king’s arm, as a certain kind of musket was called at that day; a valuable piece, and did the country some service.

How it had done before, and in other hands, is not so well known, but some time after the Revolution, it was, when in the writer’s hands, many times known to do execution, at one and the same time, both in front and rear.
Ward the local historian was Ward the general’s grandson. He evidently got a chance to shoot Wyman’s musket and discovered it flashed back in his face in a big way.

The picture above shows a mill that Wyman and his family built in Shrewsbury the early 1800s, courtesy of the Digital Commonwealth.

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