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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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“Together with My Gun”

Back to the truth and fictions of Hezekiah Wyman. As I’ve noted, there was a fifty-four-year-old man named Hezekiah Wyman living in south Woburn (now Winchester) in 1775. Those details don’t exactly match the sixty-year-old Hezekiah Wyman living in central Lexington in “The White Horseman.” But was he close enough to have been that fictional story’s inspiration?

Earlier in this series I reported how Chris Hurley, who researches Woburn’s Revolutionary history, supplied me with a quotation from Hezekiah Wyman’s will confirming that he did indeed have a white horse when he died in 1779. That same will confirms that he had two others things which some sources ascribe to him.

First, Hezekiah listed his children as “my Sons Hezikiah, Seth, Daniel, Isaac & Joseph &...my Daughter Susanna.” The eldest son I’ve already mentioned as on the list of Weston militiamen who marched on 19 Apr 1775. The two genealogies of Isaac Chauncey Wyman I quoted back here both say he descended from Hezekiah through a son named Isaac, and this will confirms that there was such a son. (It doesn’t offer information about that son’s birth date, however.)

Furthermore, the will give son Daniel, in addition to the livestock already listed, “my Horse cart, & all my husbandry Utensils, together with my Gun.” So Hezekiah Wyman definitely owned a gun in 1779.

According to Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts (1908), Hezekiah “bequeathed outside his family the gun he carried” on 19 Apr 1775, but Isaac Chauncey Wyman bought it back. So there’s a contradiction there.

Perhaps by “outside his family” Isaac Chauncey Wyman meant out of his own particular line. Indeed, if his grandfather’s gun was in the hands of a cousin, that would make it more plausible that he could buy back the very same musket about a century later.

What’s more, Chris Hurley has tracked down the musket that Isaac Chauncey Wyman owned. In New Jersey.

TOMORROW: The story that musket tells.

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