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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Thursday, September 29, 2011

John Raymond’s Lost Son?

As I looked into the death of John Raymond, I found somewhat contradictory statements about his wife and children.

The genealogies published with Charles Hudson’s history of Lexington in 1913 say that Raymond was born on 5 Sept 1731. Genealogies of the Raymond Families of New England, 1630-1 to 1886, gives no birth date, but says he was baptized on 19 Sept 1731, which is consistent. Both books say he was born in Beverly shortly before the family moved to Lexington.

The Hudson volume says that John Raymond married Rebecca Fowle, born in Medford in 1743, and that they had five children between 1763 and 1773. Hudson left out that, according to Medford records, that couple married on 12 May 1763, less than seven months before Lexington records say their first child came along on 24 November. The details of those five births appear here. Similar information appears in Descendants of George Fowle (1610/11?-1682) of Charlestown, Massachusetts, published in 1990.

Genealogies of the Raymond Families (1886) adds another son, born in 1775 after his father’s death and before his mother’s death in October: Isaac Royal Raymond. According to that book, he was raised by an uncle named Royal Tilestone. (That uncle’s surname may have led this genealogist to say that Rebecca was a Tilestone before her marriage, not a Fowle. But he could have been an uncle by marriage, a great-uncle, or simply a guardian.)

There are two striking details about that baby’s name:
  • John and Rebecca Raymond had had a son named Isaac in 1770, and there’s no record of him dying in Lexington. Of course, vital records from this time have a lot of holes.
  • The baby’s name appears to come from the prominent Medford landowner Isaac Royall. On the same day the baby’s father was killed, Royall was reportedly fleeing into Boston as a Loyalist, which left him a somewhat controversial figure. (The picture of Royall above comes courtesy of PrawfsBlawg, which discusses a more modern controversy: should the Harvard Law School do more to acknowledge that Royall’s founding bequest was amassed from slavery?)
There was definitely an Isaac R. Raymond in upstate New York in the early republic. He shows up in newspapers of Salem, New York, in 1817 declaring bankruptcy, and he died in 1853 or 1854 in East Waverly. The 1879 History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York mentions this man in a profile of his descendants, and states that his father, “John Raymond, a captain of militia, was shot by the English at the very beginning of the engagement” in Lexington.

That sounds like what a child separated from his immediate family and community might come to believe about his dead father, preserving core facts (father killed at Lexington) but exaggerating details (as a captain). The New York tradition is obviously not based on the accounts being written in Massachusetts at the time, which portrayed Raymond as old and crippled.

The New York county history names Isaac’s childhood guardian as “his uncle, Thomas Tilestone, of Boston.” A man of that name, son of Onesiphorus Tileston, died in Boston in June 1794 at age fifty-nine. However, I haven’t found any links between John and Rebecca (Fowle) Raymond and the Tileston family. (In more distant branches, John Tileston of Dorchester and Rebekah Fowles married on 21 Jan 1730; their son John, born five years later, taught school in Boston for many years.) Nor have I found anyone named Royal Tilestone.

So did John Raymond’s widow Rebecca have a child after he was killed in April 1775? Was that child named after a Loyalist who had recently fled from his mother’s home town? Was that infant, orphaned by his mother’s death, given to a relative named Tilestone to raise? As an adult, did he move to New York and raise a family there, passing on misty lore about his father being killed in the first battle of the Revolution?

Undocumented as that story is, it seems a little more plausible than the main alternative—that Isaac R. Raymond seized on a bare report of John Raymond’s death in Lexington on 19 Apr 1775 and spun out the story of that man being his father. But there’s definitely a mystery there.


Liberty Atheist said...

I don't believe it's likely that the Isaac R. Raymond who lived in Tioga County New York was a son of John Raymond of Lexington.

I found his listing in the 1850 census and Isaac lists his age as 70, birthplace as Mass., and his occupation as hotel keeper. His ages in the 2 previous censuses are consistent even though exact ages weren't noted in those years. (60-69 in 1840 and 40-49 in 1830)

If British soldiers had killed John Raymond leaving a pregnant widow, why wasn't it mentioned/propagandized at the time or any other time before 1886?, or a birth recorded for Isaac Royal in the Lexington birth records in 1775?, or even more importantly if there is no surviving record... how did it end up in the 1886 book?

The differences of the 1886 book with the birth records and the 1879 article lead me to suspect that Isaac R. Raymond's descendants in New York knew he was born in Mass. but incorrectly linked him to a different Isaac Raymond, one with an interesting back story. And that the writer of the 1886 book got the information about Isaac R. Raymond's life from his family and was trying to shoehorn his age to fit the time span of John and Rebecca Raymonds' lifetimes.

The most notable example I can think of that's similar to this possibility was when a family in Texas incorrectly claimed to be a descendant of Annie Moore, the first immigrant thru Ellis Island because she had the same name.


J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for adding the information from the census. The 1850 census certainly suggests that Isaac R. Raymond said he was born in 1780. (The other censuses are consistent with those and with a birth year of 1775, too.)

The Isaac Raymond documented in Lexington was born in 1770.

The one the family later described (according to the county history) was “less than a year old” when the Revolutionary War began, suggesting a birth in 1774 or early 1775. So the family couldn’t have had solid evidence of Isaac’s birth in 1770.

The appearance of “Isaac Royal” is still odd. The Loyalist Isaac Royall was in exile in London in 1780, and his bequest to Harvard not yet known, so he was probably still persona non grata.

Liberty Atheist said...


I found a scan of the grandson of Isaac Royal Raymond, Albert Raymond Barnes's application to the Sons of the American Revolution in 1913 when he was Attorney General of Utah.

It lists Isaac's death date as 22 Nov. 1853, his birth date as 02 Feb. 1774, and his wife's name as Rebecca Livermore.

Barnes doesn't say where he got the birth date for Isaac from or anything about John Raymond. It does say that Rebecca's grandfather, Pvt. Jason Livermore, marched to Cambridge from Paxton under Capt. Phineas Moore after they heard about Lexington and Concord on 19 Apr. 1775. But it also includes such dubious details like melting their pewter for bullets before marching, so I don't know how accurate Barnes's information is.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks again for further documentation. A 2 Feb 1774 birth date (however the descendants came up with that) would break the link to Isaac and Rebecca Raymond of Lexington. It would also explain the baby being named after Isaac Royall; he wasn’t yet a disliked exile.

Rebecca Livermore was Isaac R. Raymond’s second wife, according to other sources, and they married in New York. So the family link to Paxton probably isn’t helpful for finding out where the man really came from.