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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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Rev. Richard Mosley and the Boylston-Molineux Marriage

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the Rev. Richard Mosley, chaplain of H.M.S. Salisbury. He wrote about Capt. Thomas Preston’s trial for murder.

Mosley’s presence may help in the quest to answer one of the vexing genealogical mysteries of pre-Revolutionary Boston.

According to family historians, Mosley was the minister who married Ward Nicholas Boylston to Ann Molineux. The ceremony reportedly took place on the Salisbury while it was in Portsmouth harbor, with a special license from New Hampshire governor John Wentworth.

Since Boylston was the son of Benjamin Hallowell, Jr., a Customs Commissioner, and Molineux was the daughter of William Molineux, one of Boston’s most radical anti-Crown activists, their marriage raises lots of questions. Mosley’s presence doesn’t help to answer the question of why. But it may help to answer the question of when, or at least narrow down the window.

H.M.S. Salisbury arrived in Boston harbor on the morning of 10 Oct 1770, as reported in the newspapers and the diary of John Rowe. It sailed for Britain at the end of August 1771. We have glimpses of the commodore in command of the ship, James Gambier, and chaplain Mosley in Boston in the intervening months:
  • 10 Dec 1770: While in Boston harbor, Cmdre. Gambier signed a proclamation about deserters printed in the Boston News-Letter and other papers.
  • 28 Jan 1771: Gambier and his wife had a baby daughter baptized at King’s Chapel with Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson, Lady Agnes Frankland, and Ann Burch, wife of a Customs Commissioner, as sponsors.
  • 8 February: Gambier signed another proclamation, also in Boston harbor.
  • 9 March: Rowe wrote in his diary, “The Chaplain Mr. Mossely of the Salisbury was taken in an Apoplectick fit yesterday which hindered him coming to our house.”
  • 14 March: Gambier presided over the firing of cannon to salute new royal appointments.
  • 2 April: Rowe saw both Gambier and Mosley at a dinner for a charitable society.
  • 29 May: Gambier attended the opening of the legislative session at Harvard College.
  • 4 June: Gambier hosted a ball that Rowe attended.
  • 21 June: Gambier dined at Ralph Inman’s house in Cambridge.
  • 6 August: Gambier entertained Boston’s elite on the Salisbury.
I haven’t yet found mentions of the Salisbury visiting New Hampshire. It could have zipped up and back in some of the gaps in that timeline, with the biggest good-weather gaps coming in April-May and July 1771.

Notably, the first child of the Boylstons’ marriage, young Nicholas, arrived before the end of 1771. So maybe we learn a little about the why as well.

COMING UP: Mr. Mosley’s North American career.


Unknown said...

Ward Nicholas Boylston (born Hallowell) and Ann Molineux's only child Nicholas was born in Boston October 28, 1771. Perhaps she was pregnant when they married? The marriage may have fallen apart by the time Ward went abroad for his health in 1773. According to the family, she suffered some sort of "fits"(likely emotional rather than epileptic), which were getting worse. The marriage did collapse in England after she joined Ward there in late 1775. Her socially unacceptable behavior and desertion led him to consider a legal separation. She died aboard ship in 1779, returning alone to America. Their son Nicholas was raised in London by the Hallowells and Ward. (I am presently writing the biography of Benjamin Hallowell)

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, I was hinting at the possibility of a premarital pregnancy as the reason for this ill-fated marriage. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a solid source for the marriage or its date. Mosely was present in Boston harbor both before and after Nicholas was conceived, so hist presiding over the wedding doesn’t answer that question.