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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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The First Mobbing of Jesse Saville

Another event of 1770 that I neglected on its 250th anniversary this year was the mobbing of Jesse Saville.

Or rather, the mobbing of Jesse Saville in March 1770, because we have to distinguish that mobbing from several others.

To start at the beginning, in the summer of 1768 a Gloucester sea captain named Samuel Fellows told the Customs Office in Salem that the schooner Earl of Gloucester was about to arrive with undeclared molasses. Fellows used to command that ship for the merchant David Plumer, and evidently he was peeved at being replaced.

Samuel Fellows had been born in Ipswich in 1736, but was described as “of Gloucester” when he married Mercy Treadwell of Ipswich in 1763. Their first two children were sons born in Gloucester in 1764 and 1765. Samuel Fellows had also served as an ensign at Crown Point in 1755.

Acting on Capt. Fellows’s tip, Customs surveyor Joseph Dowse went to Gloucester on 6 September and seized more than thirty-three barrels of molasses from the Earl of Gloucester. At some point the Commissioners of Customs also talked to Fellows about coming to work for them. With more powers and more revenue under the Townshend Act, the department was expanding.

The next day, Plumer and several dozen friends came after Capt. Fellows. Which meant they came to the house of Jesse Saville, up on the Annisquam peninsula, where Fellows was staying.

Saville was a tanner, born in 1740 as the twelfth and youngest child of a cooper. In 1763 he married Martha Babson, and they had sons Thomas (1764), Abiah (1766), and John (April 1768), with more children on the way. The household appears to have included some of Jesse’s adult relatives, and he also spoke of “my Servant,” the usual euphemism for a slave. So I can’t tell if this was a wealthy family with a big house and a staff, or a poor family with boarders and everyone crowded together into one building used for both living and manufacturing.

This is how Saville described the confrontation at his house on 7 Sept 1768, with his own creative spelling, as published in the Essex Institute Historical Collections:
…a number of men came To my House,…the number of about 70, all of Sd. Gloucester, as nigh as could be Judged. They asked Leave to go into the house to Sarch for Capt. Fellows, wich they Did, not then ofering any abuse onely in Talek.

My wife Sent my Servant of an erant [and] David Plumer Seized him by the Coller Refusing to Let him go. His mistress called him Back [but] they would not Let him Come but Sd. If he was Sint he should not go unless they knew hiss bysness but Docter [Samuel] Rogers Tock out his Instrements, the wich he halls Teath with, [and] threatened to Hall all his teath out unless He told where Capt. Fellows was, threatening to Split his head open with a Club, Holding it over his head. Then they left the House.

[In] about an Hour, in wich Time Capt. Fellows Road up to our house, Thomas Griffin, Shore man, Seeing him Ride up that way Ran after the mob, told them he was gone up there. In about one hours time they Returnd wich my wife Seeing them told Capt. Fellows of. He ameadaately Run out of Doors as fast as posable.

No Person was in the house Excapt my wife & my mother, Dorcas Haskel, Mary Savell, with two of my Small Childredn. They Came up to the Doors and Sorounded the house with Clubs & axes. The wimen Seing them Run in Such a maner affrited fastning the Doors & windows.

They Crys with Shouting we got him. They Cryed opin the Doors.

They Refused declaring to the mob ther was no man bodey in the house Except a Child of 5 months old they could give oath.
That child was obviously baby John, but what about his older brothers, aged four and two? And who was the little girl Saville mentioned later? Was “Mary Savell” Jesse’s mother, already mentioned, or his older sister?
Mr. Plumer Told them, Gentlemen why Dont you walek in. Mr Plumer Did not go into the house himself.

My mother Told them they Come in upon the Peril of there Lives if they oferd To break Down the Doors. They immeadately Stove Down one Door and Entered a grate number of the abouve persons & William Stevens, Brick Laior, Like wise and a grate many Strangers wich they Didnot no. They Like wise beat of a Lach & buttons of another Door, struck the pole of the ax into the Door & Caseing very much Dammageing. The Same Broak a Seller window to peaces, a Chain, thro’d over barils, Chests, Tables & tubs, Ransacked the house, all parts of it, Broak a bundle of Dry fish to peaces, Destroyed a good deal of the Same, Tock a Gun and broak it by throghing it out of the garit window.

Benjm. Soams, B[arrel]. Cooper, pinted it, a Loadin Gun, Toward my wife, ordered her out of Doors, A Little gairl of about tow or three of ours so terified, Cryed To my wife fainting a way. They call’d my mother [and] my wife all the hoors and all the Dam’d biches and Every Evil name that they Could think of Stricking Down their Clubs on the flour Each Side of them. My mother beg’d they would Spare her Life for it was not Posable She Could Live one hour. They would not listen to her intreateys.

They Sarched the house over & over Several times Halling all the Beds into the flours. After awile they left the house, then went Down to the meeting house. There Joseph York, shoe macker, gave them vitels & Drink and was back and forward with them while absent from our house wich Generally is Judg’d he was ordered to Do what he Did by his father[-in-law] Deacon Samuel Griffin of sd. Town. Our folcks Sent for Some of the nabors to come for they Expected to be killed if they came again. Some sd. they were glad. Some was affraid to Come So a bitter afternoon they had.
TOMORROW: Where was Jesse Saville?

[The photo above shows the Edward Haraden House, built on Annisquam in the mid-1600s and expanded in the mid-1700s and later.]

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

It looks like the two- and four-year-old boys might have been off at school during the day—presumably a neighborhood “dame school” where the older one was learning to read and the younger one learning to sit still. They didn‘t witness the mobbing until that night, as the next posting describes.