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, April 23, 2018

“Dr. F. with a number of boys of his age”

Last year I discussed how the experiences of Pvt. Jacob Frost had inspired and informed the Rev. W. B. O. Peabody’s 1829 sketch “The Young Provincial”—though that account changed significant details for dramatic effect.

Peabody heard about Jacob Frost through the veteran’s younger brother, Dr. Joshua Frost, according to an article in the 25 Nov 1829 Springfield Republican.

That same newspaper also put into print Dr. Frost’s own anecdote about the beginning of the war. Jacob was then “about nine years old” and living in Tewksbury:
We cannot help here adding an anecdote related to us by Dr. F. as it illustrates so well the feeling which prevailed even among children at the time to which the story relates. His parents lived not many miles [actually fifteen] from Lexington, and on the morning of the memorable 19th of April, when every person capable of bearing arms had gone to the theatre of action, it was feared by the women and small boys that a certain “old tory” in the neighborhood would communicate such information to the enemy, as would injure the cause of liberty, or bring destruction upon their heads. Accordingly Dr. F. with a number of boys of his age, went to the house of this tory, and pinioned him down in his bed.
I haven’t found any other version of this tale or identified a notorious “old tory” in Tewksbury. But I can’t help but sympathize with a man who, simply because of political differences, was suddenly attacked in his own bedroom by a riled-up bunch of ten-year-olds.

[The picture above doesn’t actually illustrate this anecdote. It’s from Bill Nye’s History of the United States (1894) and reflects that humorist’s version of the moment in January 1775 when Boston schoolboys protested to Gen. Frederick Haldimand about not being able to sled outside his house on School Street.]

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