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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Monday, May 13, 2019

Duncan Ingraham, Justice of the Peace

Yesterday I quoted two depositions of British soldiers taken prisoner on 19 Apr 1775—John Bateman of the 52nd Regiment and James Marr of the 4th.

Both depositions were dated 23 April and attested to by justices of the peace from Concord: Dr. John Cuming (also spelled Cumings, Cumming, and Cummings, of course) and Duncan Ingraham. Interestingly, both those magistrates had Loyalist ties.

First, Ingraham (1726-1811). A sea captain, he was one of the Boston merchants who attacked Loyalist printer John Mein in late 1769.

After a wealthy marriage, Ingraham settled in Concord in 1772 and moved away from the Whig movement. He refused to participate in the renewed boycott of British imports, was ready to hold court sessions in late 1774, and even hosted British army officers at dinner. His neighbors showed their disapproval of that behavior by hanging a sheep’s head and guts on his chaise.

The people of Concord also confiscated Ingraham’s property. In October 1774 the town took four four-pounder cannon from Ingraham—quite possibly the four that were still in town on 19 April. On 3 Jan 1775, Dr. Joseph Lee (another Crown supporter) wrote in his diary, “The mob unloaded Capt. Ingraham’s Bords that were to go to Boston,” where the army might have used them to build barracks.

Because of those conflicts, I’ve even suspected Ingraham of being the “Concord spy” discussed in The Road to Concord, but there’s no smoking cannon to reveal that informant’s identity.

Within a few days after the battle, however, Ingraham was helping to gather and certify depositions from local militiamen, as well as those two captive soldiers, for the Patriot cause. He remained in America through the war and eventually gained enough trust from his neighbors to be elected to the Massachusetts General Court. (That’s when he finally got paid for those cannon.)

After another wealthy marriage, Ingraham moved on to Medford for the last decades of his life. A detail from his gravestone appears above.

TOMORROW: Coming to Dr. Cuming.

[The crossed-out sentence above was corrected in a series of 2021 postings including this one.]

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