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 09, 2021

Profiling Owen Richards’s Attackers

Last night as I finished the posting about Owen Richards taking his attackers to court, I thought, “Who are those men he accused? Who would have more to say about them?”

And then I realized that researching bit players in Revolutionary Boston is what I do. It’s one of my signature moves. So I had to get cracking on that task.

The easiest accused man to find is Joseph Doble or Dobel. He was born about 1739, according to his reported age at death, and was one of the many children of John and Abigail Doble. John was born about 1703, reportedly in Somerset, England. Abigail was a Boston native. They married at the Presbyterian Meetinghouse in 1732.

John Doble was a sea captain who at some point retired from seafaring to become a merchant, selling Pennsylvania pork, pottery, glassware, wood, and other goods. He accumulated a wharf, at least three houses, and a shop on King Street—the Sign of Two Sugar-Loaves. Abigail Doble died in 1769. John Doble died, variously reported “in an advanced Age” and “very suddenly,” four years later. They were both buried on Copp’s Hill. Their son Joseph was the captain’s executor, and settling the estate took well over a decade.

Back on 8 Jan 1761, Joseph Doble and Mary Williams were married by the Rev. Andrew Eliot. Joseph was following his father’s career course, which is why he was legally labeled as a “mariner” in Richards’s writ. In the early 1760s, the Boston newspapers often reported on a captain named Doble sailing to or from Newfoundland and the cod fisheries. However, it’s usually impossible to know whether this was John Doble; an older son such as John, Jr., or William; or Joseph. The first definite sign of Joseph having his own command is a listing in the 18 July 1768 Boston Chronicle that he had cleared out the snow St. Joseph for Newfoundland. In August 1769 he was in charge of the brig Peggy.

None of the Dobles shows up on lists of politically active men in Boston, on either side. But John Doble’s status as a native of Britain makes it plausible that in late 1770 the Boston Gazette would sneer that Joseph’s “family Connections are among the better sort of folks, the friends of Government.” I therefore suspect he was the target of Owen Richards’s first reported writ that year, as well as the one dated January 1771 and preserved in the John Adams Papers.

Likely being involved in the attack on Richards wasn’t Joseph Doble’s only excitement in the year 1770. The 22 November Boston News-Letter reported:
Sunday Evening last about 6 o’clock, a Brig, Capt. Joseph Doble, from Newfoundland, ran on Egg-Rock near the Light-House, a Hole was beat in her Bottom, and she sunk: The Peoples Lives were saved, and the Rigging of the Vessell.
However, the 26 November Boston Evening-Post added that there were “about fourteen Hundred Quintals of Fish entirely lost.”

TOMORROW: Capt. Joseph Doble goes to war.

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