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, November 12, 2019

Unboxing Pool Spear

Yesterday I noted the difficulty of finding out more information about a sailor with a common name. Luckily, the next person on George Gailer’s list of people who tarred and feathered him in October 1769 has an unusual name: Pool Spear.

Even with the alternative spelling of Poole, it’s easy to track someone who sounds like a toy the Nerf company sends to families posting “unboxing” reviews on YouTube.

In 1864 the New England Historical and Genealogical Register published a confusing “Spear Family Record.” Fortunately, that article offers enough leads to other records that confirm Pool Spear was born 21 Sept 1735 in Hull.

Pool was the younger son of a captain of a packet ship to Philadelphia who died of smallpox in May 1738, when the boy was three. His older brothers included Joseph, a lighterman; Gershom and David, coopers; Nathan, one of the Bostonians who complained about Capt. John Willson in 1768; and Paul. How the parents decided to have successive boys named Paul and Pool is unclear.

In late 1755 Spear did three months of militia service at Crown Point, New York, in Capt. Thomas Stoddard’s company. The men chose him to be an ensign. Back home, Pool became a tailor. I’ve seen estimates that about one in seven mechanics made clothing in some way during those pre-industrial times.

In May 1761, at the age of twenty-five, Pool Spear married Christiana Turner from Pembroke. The family listed their children as Joseph, Daniel, Oliver, Paul, Christiana, and Abigail. However, I’ve found no published church records to confirm that.

In February 1768, Spear declared bankruptcy, part of the wave kicked up by Nathaniel Wheelwright’s failure three years earlier. He listed as his trustees his brother David Spear, Edward Blanchard, and John Soren. That episode was the only time Spear’s name appeared in the Boston newspapers before the war.

Pool Spear was aged thirty-four during the attack on Gailer in late 1769. The other men I’ve been able to identify were all in their twenties (assuming Daniel Vaughan was the younger of the two candidates). However, that wasn’t the last political disturbance Spear was present for.

TOMORROW: Pool Spear and the Boston Massacre.

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