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, February 28, 2019

A Break-in at James Lovell’s House

On 29 Nov 1784, the American Herald newspaper of Boston carried this crime report from the previous week:

The House of the Hon. JAMES LOVELL, Esq; was, on Tuesday night last [23 November], broke open, and an iron Chest, containing some valuable papers, and a little cash stolen.

And, the next Friday, three villains, viz. William Scott, Thomas Archbald and Nero Funnel, Negro, were apprehended, and the money being found upon them, they were committed to goal.
Lovell was an important man in Boston. Before the war he was an usher, or assistant teacher, under his father at the South Latin School, but then after the Battle of Bunker Hill the military authorities locked him up and then took him to Canada. That suffering provided the credentials for Massachusetts to elect Lovell to the Continental Congress in 1778. He was a delegate until 1782, at some points basically running American foreign policy because no one else was so interested.

In 1784 Lovell became collector of Continental taxes in Massachusetts. Thus, the “valuable papers” he had in a trunk in his home could have been quite valuable indeed.

The 1 December Massachusetts Centinel provided additional information that “part of the papers were recovered, tho’ a large amount are supposed to have been burnt.”

That newspaper also had this report about a related crime:
On Monday a quantity of dry goods were found concealed in a barrel near Mr. Calf’s tan yard; upon examination it appears that they were stolen from Mr. [John] Fullerton’s shop, by a negro fellow called Nero Funnel, one of the villains that stole Mr. Lovell’s chest.
The three suspects were kept in jail until the court session began in February.

TOMORROW: In court.

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