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, January 28, 2012

A House in Beverly and Its Revolutionary Owner

In Beverly, a developer has offered a 1715 house to anyone who will move it away from its present location, where the firm plans to build a drugstore. The Salem News reported that offer this month, describing the house like this:
Built in 1715, it is one of the last remaining First Period homes from Beverly’s earliest settlement. It was the home of Nathaniel Greenwood, a captain in the militia and a member of the Sons of Liberty, a group of patriots that included John Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere.
An earlier article described the building’s history in more detail:
The wood-frame house was built by a shoemaker named Nehemiah Wood between 1715 and 1725 and was later owned by Nathaniel Greenwood, an officer in the Boston Regiment. The building was a grocery store in the early 1900s. It was bought by Johnny Appleseed’s in 1947 and became the clothing company’s headquarters.
It’s currently a real-estate office.

As for former owner Nathaniel Greenwood, the articles appear to be combining two men of that name, father and son. The son owned the house and kept an inn there for a while later in the eighteenth century. He was born in 1732, married Priscilla Snelling of Boston in 1766, and moved out of town during the war. Later he returned to Boston, established a sail-making business, and died in 1823.

The older Nathaniel Greenwood was born in 1693 and became a merchant, militia captain, town official, and Old South member. Everyone seemed to know who “Captain Greenwood” was. He died in 1780, having lived his last couple of years with his son in this Beverly house.

Much of the information about the family comes from The Greenwood Family of Norwich, England in America (1934), and I can’t confirm a lot of it. The genealogy says, “Nathaniel Greenwood belonged to the ‘North End Caucus’, the most important political club in the town at the time.” But I don’t see that name in the only surviving records of that group, published in Elbridge Goss’s Life of Col. Paul Revere.

The name of “Capt. Greenwood” is indeed on the long list of men who dined with the Sons of Liberty in August 1769. This was a large event that involved most of the prominent men in Boston. Some of those diners later became Loyalists, others Patriots.

The Greenwood family included men in both political camps. The captain’s son-in-law John Marston was a fairly prominent Whig. Yet the captain’s son Samuel Greenwood (1741-1826) joined the Sandemanian sect, which preached against rebellion, and became a Loyalist. (Interestingly, Samuel’s second wife was another Snelling. The captain had been business partner with their father.)

In the spring of 1774, Nathaniel Greenwood, Sr., signed a complimentary address to Gov. Thomas Hutchinson as he prepared to sail to England. He also signed a protest against actions of the Whig-dominated town meeting. That put the octogenarian captain into the Loyalist camp, at least that year. [ADDENDUM: In late 1773, during the tea crisis, Greenwood was one of the liaisons between the public meetings and the governor’s sons, who were tea importers.]

When the British military left Boston in 1776, Samuel Greenwood and his family sailed with them. But his brother Nathaniel stayed behind, and the old captain evidently stayed with him. They moved out of Boston, eventually settling in that house in Beverly. So saying that building was home to “a member of the Sons of Liberty” makes a complex picture too simple. But a muddle doesn’t sell buildings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe in preserving houses such as this one whenever possible. Lets's hope the people of Beverly come to an agreement.