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, November 17, 2022

How Andrew Pepperrell Became Heir to a Baronetcy

Andrew Pepperell was born on 4 Jan 1726 and grew up as the only son of the Maine-based merchant William Pepperrell (shown here) and his wife Mary.

When Andrew went to Harvard College in 1743, his parents moved to Boston to be closer to him. And also so William could participate in the Council.

Over in Cambridge, Andrew Pepperrell quickly got into trouble with David Phips, son of the lieutenant governor and later himself sheriff of Middlesex County. They were fined for “an extravagant drinking Frolick and afterward in making indecent Noises, in the College Yard and in Town, and that late at Night.”

Nevertheless, both Pepperrell and Phips ranked second in their respective classes, simply on the basis of their fathers’ social stature.

After graduating, Andrew Pepperrell became his father’s business partner while also working on his M.A. Meanwhile, as King George’s War began, William Pepperrell was among the gentlemen arguing for an expedition against the French fortress at Louisbourg.

That expedition set off in April 1745. Pepperrell was the commander-in-chief. Though some Royal Navy warships sailed in support, this was primarily a Massachusetts military enterprise. To many people’s surprise, it was a big success. After a six-week siege, Pepperrell and his men forced the French garrison to surrender.

In 1746, William Pepperrell received a singular honor from the Crown: he was made a baronet, or hereditary knight. Indeed, he was the only American ever made a baronet. That meant Andrew was the heir to a title, as well as a growing fortune.

Andrew Pepperrell was already investing his share of that fortune. Not always speculating wisely, his father thought, though he did make money in ship-building. One particular project was a large mansion house in Maine near his parents’ estate. The younger Pepperrell imported both labor and furnishings for this grand building.

As an impetus for that construction, it appears, in 1746 at the age of twenty Andrew Pepperrell engaged to marry a young woman named Hannah Waldo.

TOMORROW: The lucky lady.

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