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, April 23, 2021

Dots on the Ensign’s Map

Yesterday I started to discuss a hand-drawn map from the Library of Congress that Ed Redmond has identified as likely coming from British army spy Ens. Henry DeBeniere weeks before the march to Concord.

That map marks several individual homes. Some of those are places where DeBerniere and his fellow scout, Capt. William Brown, visited on their two treks into the Massachusetts countryside in early 1775.

Others aren’t mentioned in the officers’ report but were the estates of Loyalists, and therefore potential safe houses or places for troops to camp.

Here’s a list of all those marked properties:

“Hatch’s”: Nathaniel Hatch of Dorchester, Loyalist.

“Davis’s”: This site is a bit of a mystery. My best guess is that this is Dr. Jonathan Davies, who bought half of the old Auchmuty estate in the 1750s. Unlike almost all the other homeowners named on the map, Davies wasn’t a Loyalist. Another possibility is that this is the house of Aaron Davis, which ended up on the front lines of the siege.

“Auchmuty’s”: Robert Auchmuty of Roxbury, attorney and Vice Admiralty Court judge, Loyalist.

“Hollowel’s”: Benjamin Hallowell, Jr., in Jamaica Plain, Commissioner of Customs.

“Comm. Loring”: Joshua Loring, Sr., in Jamaica Plain, Loyalist. His mansion remains as the Loring-Greenough House.

“Mr. Fanuil”: Benjamin Faneuil, merchant, Loyalist.

“Mr. Greenleaf”: I’m guessing this home was managed by Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf, who normally lived in Boston. In 1765 his daughter Hannah married John Apthorp, who inherited his father’s Little Cambridge mansion. John and Hannah Apthorp sailed to Charleston, South Carolina, for his health in late 1772, but their ship was lost at sea. Sheriff Greenleaf became the guardian for their young children, and thus probably the custodian of the Apthorp property. Sheriff Greenleaf was seen as a stalwart of the royal government before the war, but he remained in Boston after the siege.

“Brewers”: Jonathan Brewer’s tavern on the Watertown-Waltham line. Unlike the other people named on the map, Brewer was a Whig, as DeBerniere wrote in his report. But the officers did make a memorable stop there, so it was worth mapping.

“Major Goldthwaits”: Joseph Goldthwait of Weston, Loyalist.

“Colonl: Jone’s”: Isaac Jones of Weston, a Loyalist before the war and a supporter of the Continental Army during it. Brown and DeBerniere used his Golden Ball Tavern as a base, and it’s still standing.

“Doctor Russell”: Dr. Charles Russell of Lincoln, Loyalist. His house survives in altered form as the Codman House.

“Nineteen Mile Tavern”: This establishment appears to be in Sudbury, but I haven’t found any mention of such a place. The most famous surviving tavern in Sudbury is the Wayside Inn, but this appears to have been closer to the center of town.

TOMORROW: The map’s proposition.


Charles Bahne said...

Today there's a "John Brewer's Tavern" on Main Street near the Waltham/Watertown line. I've driven by it many times, but never gone inside, so I didn't realize the significance of the name until now. The building is definitely 20th century; I think it may have been built for a Howard Johnson's. The tavern's website says the original structure was across the street and was torn down in 1922.


J. L. Bell said...

As you might imagine, that modern establishment really screws up the Google searches for Jonathan Brewer’s tavern in the 1700s!

I always assumed it was a generic “olde-fashioned” business name. There’s another John Brewer’s in Malden, after all. But the now I’ll take a closer look.

Charles Bahne said...

Although I am no expert in the history or geography of Roxbury, I did some quick research and I think "Davis's" house is definitely Jonathan Davies, not Aaron Davis.

According to Francis S. Drake, "The Town of Roxbury" (1878), the Auchmuty estate was at the corner of Washington and Cliff streets; and Jonathan Davies' house was at Warren and Glenwood. Although the side streets are now gone, Washington and Warren are still main thoroughfares; in today's geography, both houses would be just south of Dudley Street. The modern addresses would have been about 2418 Washington and 73 Warren, respectively.

This agrees with their relative locations and proximity on the 1775 map, although there is a bit of distortion on it. Washington, Warren, and Dudley streets are all shown: Dudley goes through the middle of the "O" in "Roxbury"; Warren is to the left of the first "R"; and Washington goes through the "X".

Drake says the Aaron Davis house was at the corner of Washington and Ball streets, or about 2001 Washington Street, at the Roxbury-Boston town border. This is north of, and across from, Eustis Street, which is also shown on the 1775 map, with the "1/2 m[ile]" distance marked next to it. But remember, in this part of the 1775 drawing, north is down. So the Aaron Davis house would have been on the right side of the road leading to Boston Neck, and slightly below the "1" in "1 M[ile]".

The Aaron Davis house was "taken down during the siege on account of its exposed situation" but was replaced by the family after the war. An 1899 real estate atlas indicates the property was still owned by the Davis family.

The rest of your identifications seem to be spot on, John. Now I'll have to see if I can track down that Nineteen Mile Tavern in Sudbury.

Charles Bahne said...

I always love a good geographical-historical mystery, and I think I've found the Nineteen Mile Tavern.

I believe it was the tavern of Jonathan Carter, on River Road in the current town of Wayland.

First, in 1775 Wayland was still part of the town of Sudbury. It was set off in 1780 and became the town of East Sudbury, which was renamed Wayland in 1835. Based on other geographic evidence, I think the settlement marked "Sudbury" is the present Wayland Center. Among other things, Wayland is east of the Sudbury River, and modern Sudbury is west of it.

While the colonial-era Boston Post Road generally followed modern US 20, there are a few places where the modern road has been straightened, or bypasses have been built. West of Wayland Center, the modern road crosses the marshes of the Sudbury River on a causeway built in the 1800s. The original road followed Old Sudbury Road and River Road in Wayland, and Old County Road in Sudbury. Branching off of this, just west of the Sudbury River bridge, was the road to Stow, following modern Water Row in Wayland and Old Sudbury Road in Sudbury. This is as shown on the 1775 map. (A short segment of old Sudbury Road, between River Road and Water Row, wasn't cut through until a later date.)

The map also shows the Training Field in Sudbury. According to the Town of Sudbury Community Preservation Committee and the Sudbury Historical Commission, the Training Field was on Old County Road in that town and is now preserved by the town as a historic site.

The Wayland Historical Society has published a book of "Wayland Historical Tours" which includes a map of the town as it was in 1776.

By my count, the map shows 10 taverns extant at that time. Jonathan Carter's tavern is on the west side of River Road, just south of the junction of the road to Stow. This matches the location of the Nineteen Mile Tavern on the 1775 map. It agrees with many nearby features, including the Sudbury River, the Stow road, and the Training Field in Sudbury.

I also measured the distance from Boston (Old State House) using Google Maps' distance measurement feature, along colonial-era roads. It came to about 20.3 miles. Based on De Berniere's description of the countryside, as printed in "General Gage's Instructions", it appears that some of the other milestones in Weston and Waltham were off by about 1-1/2 miles, compared to my measurement. So again, this distance is consistent with Carter's tavern being the "Nineteen Mile Tavern".

Further description of the roads and bridges in Wayland is available at

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Charlie! At a couple of places in their report the British officers wrote of milestones: “the thirteen and fourteen mile-stones in the township of Weston”; “the pass at the eleven mile-stone”; “as the thirty-seven mile-stone, where we had left the main road and take the Framingham road.” I wonder if they used the phrase "Nineteen Mile Tavern” because there was a milestone nearby.