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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Friday, June 26, 2020

Meanwhile, out in Marlborough…

One of the Sestecentennial stories I’ve neglected because I don’t have solid dates for all the events is the way the people of Marlborough joined in the non-importation movement by pressuring local businessman Henry Barnes.

Barnes was born in Boston in 1723. His father was a merchant from Britain who helped to administer and set up all three of the Anglican churches in town. In 1746, Henry married Christian Arbuthnot, a daughter of his father’s business partner.

In 1752, Henry Barnes set up a cider distillery in the rural town of Marlborough. That area was apparently a big producer of apples and cider. It also produced people named Barnes, descended from one of the earliest British families to settle there, but Henry Barnes had no connections to that clan.

Over the years, Barnes built up his business to include a pearl ash factory and a general store where he sold goods he imported through Boston to locals. He built a large house, shown above in expanded form before it was taken down to build a fire station. He owned slaves, including a woman named Daphney and her artistically talented son Prince Demah.

On 29 March, in the wake of the Boston Massacre, Marlborough held a town meeting on the imperial crisis. The resolutions that the townspeople approved said:
we are astonished to find that a number are at this critical time so sordidly detached from the public interest, and are so selfish and impudent, as to stand out and not comply with the Non-Importation Agreement, or break the same when entered into, and remain obstinate and bid defiance to their country, when entreated by the Committee of Merchants in the most salutary manner to enter into and abide by the same; and as they continue to practice those things that tend to ruining and enslaving their country and posterity…
The men of Marlborough pledged not to buy anything from the merchants that Boston had designated as importers, listing ten names. In practical terms, that meant boycotting Henry Barnes. And more.

Christian Barnes wrote to her friend Elizabeth Smith about that development in a letter she wrote over the month of June and finished on 6 July:
The Spirit of discord and confusion which has prevailed with so much violence in Boston has now begun to spread itself into the country. These Poor deluded People with whome we have lived so long in Peice & harmony have been influenced by the Sons of Rapin to take every method to distress us, at their March meeting they enter’d into resolves similar to those you have often seen in the Boston News Papers

at their next meeting they Chose four inspecters [Hezekiah Maynard, Peter Bent, Robert Baker, Alpheus Woods, and Moses Woods] (Men of the most Violent disposition of any in the Town) to Watch those who should purchas goods at the Store, with intent that their names should be recorded as enimies to their Country this did not deter those from coming who had not voted to the resolves these were cheifly Young People who were not qualified to vote in their Town Meeting

when they saw their measures had not the desired effect and that our custome still encreased they fix’d a paper upon the meeting House impowering and advising these unqualified voters to call a Meeting of their own and enter into the same resolves with the other this was a priviledg they had never enjoy’d and fond of their new goten Power hasten’d to put it in execution summon’d a Meeting chose a Moderater and (by the direction of those who sat them to work) resolves were drawn up but not yet pass’d

while all this was in agitation their was great outrages commited & insults offer’d to the Importers in Boston so that some of them have been compel’d to quit the Town as not only their Property but their lives were in Danger nor are we wholly free from apprehensions of the like treetment for they have already began to commit outrages

the first thing that fell a Sacrifice to their Mallace and reveng was the Coach which caused so much desention between us this they took the cushings out of and put them in the brook, and the next night cut the carriage to pieces. Not long after they broke the windows at the Pearl Ash Works.
Evidently Henry and Christian Barnes had disagreed in some way about buying a coach, and now it was all broken up anyway. I like how such private details surface in the middle of political trouble.

TOMORROW: More trouble for Henry Barnes.

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