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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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Was Dr. Samuel Danforth Smuggling Hay?

Boston selectman Timothy Newell recorded yet another skirmish over hay in Boston harbor on 9 June 1775, this time with no casualties:

Last night several Gundaloes went to Noddle’s Island for hay—two hundred and thirty Regulars went off soon after sunrise to support them. Upon the appearance of our people they tho’t proper to retire and arrived safe back here.
Here’s another document from that spring showing the fight to control natural resources early in the siege:
Malden, May 8th, 1775. The joint Committee of Malden and Chelsea, Voted, Capt. John Dexter, Thomas Hills, and Jonathan Williams be a Committee to wait on Gen. [Artemas] Ward, and inform him that Doct. Sam: Danforth, of Boston, passes backwards and forwards to that place, and from his well-known Conduct and Behaviour, we have reason to suspect his Attachment to our most Righteous Cause, likewise his securing Hay and moving it down to Winnisimmet ferry in order to be removed to Boston: and that the Committee has taken care that said Hay shall be removed to some more secure place.
Dr. Samuel Danforth (1740-1827) owned farmland in Chelsea. His brother Thomas was a lawyer in Charlestown. And both Danforth brothers were known to favor the royal government. It looks like they went into Boston in June and stayed there, though Dr. Danforth’s wife and family remained with her father in Chelsea.

Interestingly, while Thomas evacuated with the British military in 1776, Samuel remained in Massachusetts. He weathered a long period of suspicion and unpopularity through the war, then regained people’s trust as a physician. In 1781 he joined medical colleagues, most of them Patriot, in founding the Massachusetts Medical Society, and in the late 1790s served as the group’s president.

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