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, December 21, 2019

Amos Lincoln and His Prayerful Master

When Amos Lincoln died in 1829, the Columbian Centinel newspaper described him as “one of the intrepid band who consigned the Tea to the ocean, in 1773.” But it took another couple of decades before details of Lincoln’s story got into print.

The earliest version I’ve seen is in the Annals of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, compiled by printer Joseph T. Buckingham and published in 1853. It said:
AMOS LINCOLN was born in Hingham, March 18, 1754. At fourteen, he was apprenticed to a Mr. Crafts, of Boston, with whom he remained about six years. He was present at the destruction of the Tea in Boston harbor in 1773, (being then about nineteen years old,) and assisted in the execution of that intrepid act. It is related that his master, apprehending that he might be out on some perilous enterprize, prayed most earnestly that he might be protected and prospered, and was pleasantly disappointed the next morning when he returned in safety.
That’s not how I’d used the word “disappointed,” but I see what they’re getting at.

The Massachusetts Historical Society published a longer version of the tale in 1873 as it was observing the centenary of the Tea Party. Its Proceedings volume reported:
Mr. T. C. Amory expressed his wish to place on the honored roll two other names well known in our community, associated with the event which we this evening celebrate; namely, those of Amos Lincoln and James Swan. The former was born March 17, 1753, at Hingham. . . .

Lincoln…was apprenticed to Mr. Crafts, of Boston, who resided at the north part of the town, and still serving his time with him when the event occurred which is now commemorated. Mr. Crafts, possibly not wishing that his other apprentices should incur the consequences of so bold a proceeding, though not averse to Amos taking part in it, secretly procured an Indian disguise for him, and dressed him in his own chamber, darkening his face to the required tint.

As we find that “Thomas Crafts” joined, in 1762, St. Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons, which met at the Green Dragon Tavern, where, as well as at Edes & Gill’s printing-office, the arrangements for the night’s work were made, there is little doubt that he and Amos’s master was one and the same person.
(Actually, that was an error.)
Exemplary in his habits of devotion, he prayed long and fervently that the young man might be protected and prospered in his enterprise; and after some hours his anxieties were relieved by his safe return. That there was some solemn pledge among them not to reveal who were their associates, is evident from the reticence of all concerned; for, though Mr. Lincoln later acknowledged his own participation, he would not mention the particulars or betray the names of his companions.
Then came the profile of Amos Lincoln in Francis S. Drake’s Tea Leaves of 1884:
Born in Hingham, Mass., March 17, 1753, died at Quincy, Mass., January 15, 1829. He was apprenticed to a Mr. Crafts, at the North End, who, on the evening of December 16, 1773, secretly procured for him an Indian disguise, dressed him in his own chamber,—darkening his face to the required tint,—and then, dropping on his knees, prayed most fervently that he might be protected in the enterprise in which he was engaged. 
You’ll notice a discrepancy in these profiles about Lincoln’s birthdate. In fact, they’re all wrong. Hingham vital records state that Amos was born on 18 Mar 1753.

Finally, Edward G. Porter’s Rambles in Old Boston from 1886:
Captain Amos Lincoln…came from Hingham to Boston and engaged in house-building, being subsequently employed as carpenter for the new State House. Amos participated in the tea party of Dec. 16, 1773, obtaining his Mohawk disguise through the assistance of his master, Crafts, who, it is said, at family devotions prayed “for the young man out on a perilous errand” that night.
Who was Lincoln’s master? His name was Crafts, he lived “at the North End,” and he was a house carpenter. That must have been Thomas Crafts, Sr.

The Thomas Crafts who joined the St. Andrew’s Lodge was that carpenter’s son, Thomas Crafts, Jr. He was a japanner, or decorative painter, and he lived in the South End. He was deeply involved in Boston’s political resistance, from the first protests of the “Loyall Nine” in 1765 to the public reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Despite Thomas Crafts, Jr.’s prominence as a Patriot, he wasn’t listed as a participant in the Tea Party until his family published a family history in 1893. I suspect he might have become too well known to actually set foot on the tea ships.

The Crafts Family credited Amos Lincoln’s grandson, “Frederic W. Lincoln [1817-1898, shown above] (Mayor of Boston from 1857 to 1860 and from 1862 to 1866,)” with passing on the story of how the older Crafts had prepared him for the Tea Party and prayed for him. It’s possible that Frederic Lincoln was the source of all the published lore going back to 1853, or it’s possible that he collected at least some of that lore from printed sources and passed it on.

TOMORROW: Amos Lincoln’s crowd.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hello! Internet rabbit hole diving led me here today after Ben Edwards posted the previous blog on twitter - just wanted to note that our copy of The Revere Family by David Nielsen lists Amos' birthdate as 15 March, 1753 - another date entirely!!! :) As you know he married two Revere daughters and his brother (I believe) Jedediah married a third. So we are always interested in their connections. ~Emily Holmes from the Paul Revere House