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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Sunday, September 12, 2010

“One Dewksbury Who Lives about 4 Miles from You”

As I quoted yesterday, on 28 July 1775 Gen. George Washington’s secretary Joseph Reed sent a letter to Lt. Col. Loammi Baldwin (shown here) in Chelsea ordering him to join a communications chain for an intelligence network.

Baldwin was supposed to locate “one Dewksbury who lives about 4 Miles from you towards Shirly Point” and give him an enclosed letter. Reed then went on to tell Baldwin what Dewksbury was supposed to do with that letter, and who the ultimate contact in Boston was.

I went looking for “one Dewksbury,” and found three. They were brothers, all raised locally so they knew the area:

  • John Tewksbury (c. 1735-1816).
  • Andrew Tewksbury (1739-1814). Both he and John are noted as living at Shirley Point with their father in 1750.
  • James Tewksbury (1744-1800). His youngest son, born in 1784, got the first name Washington.
This genealogical information comes from William R. Cutter’s Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts.

All three Tewksbury brothers appear on “A Rool of the men that keept Guard att Pullin Point in Chelsea by order of Capt. Saml. Sprague from April 19, 1775, till Discharged by there officer” after a month.

As of 19 August, according to a document signed by Capt. William Rogers of Baldwin’s regiment, Andrew, James, and John “Duksbury” were all still at Pulling Point. (“Pulling Point” and “Point Shirley” were the traditional and formal names for the same place. Like today, New Englanders enjoyed using the old place names that outsiders like Reed couldn’t find on maps.)

Those two documents were published in A Documentary History of Chelsea, by Jenny Chamberlain Watts and Cutter. The Tewksbury family name is spelled various ways in town and county records.

I’m not sure how Baldwin was supposed to know which Tewksbury to approach with his secret letter. Maybe only one was “about 4 Miles from you,” and maybe they were all in on the scheme.

TOMORROW: Getting into Boston by water.

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