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, August 03, 2010

Visiting the “Ladies of Tory Row,” 7 and 14 Aug 2010

The next two Saturdays, 7 and 14 August, are the Cambridge Discovery Days for 2010. Once again the city will host a series of walking tours, exhibits, and lectures exploring its history. Most of those events are free, though some require reservations and two interior tours have fees.

This year’s theme is “Women’s Voices,” and I’m offering a new tour of Brattle Street called “The Ladies of Tory Row.” As a sampler, here’s a description of life along that highway before the Revolution, at least as Frederika von Massow Riedesel heard about it:

We…were then transferred to Cambridge, where we were lodged in one of the best houses of the place, which belonged to Royalists. Seven families, who were connected by relationship, or lived in great intimacy, had here farms, gardens, and splendid mansions, and not far off orchards, and the buildings were at a quarter of a mile distant from each other.

The owners had been in the habit of assembling every afternoon in one or another of these houses, and of diverting themselves with music or dancing, and lived in affluence, in good humor, and without care, until this unfortunate war at once dispersed them, and transformed all their houses into solitary abodes, except two, the proprietors of which were also soon obliged to make their escape.
Riedesel had come to North America with her young children to be with her husband, a German officer commanding the Crown’s “Hessian” soldiers. Baron Riedesel had to surrender with his troops in the Saratoga campaign, and brought his family along into captivity. Massachusetts found quarters for the Riedesels in the mansion that had belonged to Loyalist official Jonathan Sewall.

That house will be one of the stops on my “Ladies of Tory Row” tour. You can download the full schedule of Cambridge Discovery Days activities from this page.

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