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 08, 2007

Ann Molineux Marries Ward Nicholas Boylston

Earlier in the week I promised to discuss the mysterious marriage of William Molineux’s eldest daughter, Ann. I want to thank Boston 1775 reader Donald Campbell for pushing me on this topic last month. I’d read the following material before, but I hadn’t followed up on it or tried to put it together.

Ann Molineux, as I described earlier, was the first child of the marriage between William Molineux and Ann or Marianne Guionneau. She was baptized on 24 Aug 1748.

Ward Hallowell was born on 22 Nov 1747 to merchant captain Benjamin Hallowell (1725-1799) and his wife Mary Boylston (1723-1795). In 1757 the captain commanded a small warship called King George, commissioned by the province of Massachusetts. After the fighting with France he sought a lucrative post within Britain’s Customs service, rising in 1770 to be one of the five Customs Commissioners overseeing all the ports of North America. In the early 1770s the Hallowells bought a mansion in Jamaica Plain, just outside Boston.

Ward was his parents’ oldest surviving child, but he was not destined to carry on the family name. [It’s so rare to be able to write a sentence like that these days.] Instead, Ward’s maternal uncle Nicholas Boylston of London, having no children of his own, offered to make Ward his heir if he agreed to change his surname. Since Uncle Nicholas was immensely rich, this was not a hard decision. In his late teens Ward Hallowell sailed to London to start learning the business. In 1770 he became Ward Nicholas Boylston by royal decree, and in 1771 he became, yes, immensely rich.

[The Nicholas Boylston in London was not the same as the Nicholas Boylston whom John S. Copley painted in Boston, though he, too, was immensely rich.]

The following appears in the first volume of Mary Caroline Crawford’s Famous Families of Massachusetts, published in 1930.

He [Ward Nicholas Boylston] chose for a wife—probably about 1770...—Ann Molineux, daughter of William Molineux, Boston merchant and friend of Samuel Adams. The union of this son of a supporter of the king with the daughter of a Boston patriot apparently was clandestinely planned, as the ceremony was performed under a permit issued by Governor John Wentworth of New Hampshire. The marriage probably occurred at Portsmouth.

Not long after becoming a benedict, Boylston went abroad for an extended tour. Then the Revolution broke out and he was obliged to seek refuge in London. Apparently he did not bother much about his wife’s comfort or welfare and that lady’s troubles so preyed on her mind that she long hovered on the verge of insanity. Finally she lived apart from her husband. But in 1779, after having been deserted by him in London, she started for America,—and died on shipboard. The funds for her support, during the last part of her life, seem to have been furnished by her brother William...
Unfortunately, Crawford didn’t say where her information came from. It may have been from Nellie Zada Rice’s Molyneux Genealogy, published in 1904; I haven’t seen that book, but I understand from an online description that it doesn’t cite original sources either. The implication of the passage above is that someone in the twentieth century saw a marriage document issued by Gov. Wentworth for Ward Nicholas Boylston (or Ward Hallowell) and Ann Molineux. Everything else could be based on family traditions—probably the Boylston family.

The date of the marriage would be significant since Ward Nicholas and Ann Boylston’s first child, Nicholas, was born in 1771, according to the Boylston Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Was his impending arrival the reason the couple went to New Hampshire? Or did they leave Massachusetts to wed because of opposition from their families?

This marriage is even more intriguing because the groom’s father and the bride’s father were on opposite sides of the pre-Revolutionary political conflict, they were both leaders within their factions, and they were both hotheads. Molineux once threatened to kill himself if he wasn’t allowed to lead a huge crowd in a march on the acting governor’s mansion. Hallowell got into fisticuffs with Adm. Samuel Graves in 1775 even though there was a war on and they were on the same side.

So a marriage between Molineux’s daughter and Hallowell’s son, particularly a secret one, should be the stuff of Montagues and Capulets. And then when that marriage went sour? As gossip, it must have been huge. Yet I can’t recall or unearth a single mention of this union in contemporary diaries, newspapers, or other records—anything before 1930. Anyone? Anyone?


Stuart said...

The work of Mary Caroline Crawford seems to be a summary of the research done by George P. Anderson, who was a member of the Massachusetts legislature. Margaret Green Devereux wrote a book called “The Land and the People” (Vantage Press 1974), in which she notes that Anderson published his extensive research on Molineux in the Boston Evening Transcript of January 29, 1926. I have never been able to find that article, but I did find an undated, typed manuscript of Anderson’s remarks to the Colonial Society (South Carolina Hist. Soc. File No. 11/345/49). Anderson notes that the union between Ann Molineux and W.N. Boylston “apparently was clandestinely planned, as the ceremony was performed under a permit issued by Gov. John Wentworth of New Hampshire and the marriage probably occurred at Portsmouth.” I have never been able to find a primary source to confirm this, and the typescript of Anderson’s remarks does not provide one. Mrs. Devereux tells the story as follows: “There on board His Majesty’s ship, the Salisbury, then in port, they were married by the chaplain, Richard Mosely, testified by a certificate signed by Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire. This has finally been certified and accepted.” In a footnote she states “For many years not having been in the Boston papers or records due to being filed in New Hampshire, it was in hot dispute. The date, not being on the certificate, was also a matter of concern; but now all is confirmed and accepted, even by the Colonial Dames.” (p. 125).

It is very odd, as you note in your excellent post above, that none of Boston’s gossips recorded the marriage of the daughter of a leading Whig, whom John Rowe called “the first Leader of Dirty Matters,” and the son of an arch Tory, whose father was so hated in Boston that he was banned from returning to Massachusetts under the Bill of Treason. There are numerous sources that confirm that Ann Molineux was, in fact, married to W.N. Boylston (including a letter from her only son, Nicholas Boylston (b. 20 November 1770, d. 23 April 1839) which is now in the collection of the BPL) and I have even seen a portion of her wedding gown, which has miraculously survived to this day. But I have never found a contemporary account that gives the “back story” of this very odd union (and I have spent many years looking for it).

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for all the additional citations and leads. Devereux and Anderson certainly appear to have felt they saw the original documentation for this unusual marriage. But the £64,000 question is still where it is today.

Unknown said...

For years I have been working on the biography of Benjamin Hallowell (1725-99) father of Ward Nicholas Boylston. Ward's story, as laid out here, has a number of errors. Ward's maternal uncle, Nicholas Boylston of Boston (not London) is the man referred to. He was painted 3 times (3 versions of one image) by Copley. He died in 1771 and left money to Harvard. He was unmarried, as was his brother Thomas, yet wanted the name perpetuated, so Nicholas asked if Ward would alter his name, which he did by Royal decree. Nicholas, who was the more generous of the brothers, left Ward about 4000 pounds (not his whole fortune), and also left money to his sister (Ward's mother), Mary Boylston Hallowell.

There is some evidence that William Molineaux and Benjamin Hallowell were not always on opposite sides. (see Rowe's Diary) The elopement of Ward and Ann Molineaux is usually reported taking place at Portsmouth NH in 1770 or 1771, possibly facilitated by John Wentworth (all later sources cite Devereaux). If the union took place on the HMS Salisbury, perhaps that is the reason there is no record in Portsmouth?

Ann Molineaux Boylston was something of a tragic figure. She and Ward had one child Nicholas (22 Nov 1771-1839), who turned out to be a lost soul himself. Ward traveled abroad in 1773-1775, including the Mid East and Europe, supposedly for his health (lifelong struggle with asthma and probably consumption.) His wife stayed behind in Boston and family letters from Ward's father suggest she suffered from "fits" of some kind (unknown whether emotional or perhaps epileptic?). Ann and son traveled to London to be with Ward in 1775, but her behavior was so outrageous in England (traipsing about with other men), that Ward divorced her. She died aboard ship in Sept 1779 returning to North America. Their son Nicky was raised in part by his grandparents Benjamin and Mary Hallowell once they arrived in London as exiles in 1776. He then spent some tine with his uncle Benjamin Hallowell in the Royal Navy, then worked for the East India Co. He married a young woman from Charleston South Carolina, and had two sons. According to Ward, Nicky abused and robbed his wife, so Ward helped her with money, as long as she stayed away from Nicky. Nicky died alone in London in 1839.
Sandra Webber, 2019