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 30, 2022

“About 18 years old, uncommonly large of his age”

Earlier this month I wrote about Dick Morey, a young boy of African descent indentured to David S. Greenough of Jamaica Plain in the 1780s as the commonwealth’s law was shifted away from the slavery system.

I couldn’t find anything more about that child, but Wayne Tucker of the Eleven Names Project spotted a newspaper advertisement that must refer to him under a different name.

On 4 July [!] 1798, the Columbian Centinel ran this ad:

RAN away from the Subscriber on the morning of the 21st inst. [i.e., of this month] an indented Molatto Servant by the name of Dick Welsh, about 18 years old, uncommonly large of his age; carried off with him a new broad cloth Coat; a chocolate colour’d short Coat; one fustian short coat; a drab colour’d cloth great coat almost new; one spotted velvet and several other Waistcoats; 3 pair tow Trowsers; 2 pair nankin Overhalls; 3 new tow Shirts; 1 linen do. 2 round Hatts, &c. &c. Whoever will apprehend said ran away and return him to the Subscriber at Jamaica Plains (Roxbury,) shall be entitled to the above reward.

All masters of vessels and others are hereby cautioned against harbouring or concealing said ran away, if they wish to avoid the penalty of the law.

Roxbury, June 25, 1798.
The same notice ran again a week later.

Both little Dick Morey and this teenager called Dick Welsh were born in 1780 and “Molatto.” It’s so unlikely that Greenough had two indentured servants matching that description, both named Dick, that this advertisement must refer to the same person.

Among the notable details in this ad is the phrase “about 18 years old, uncommonly large of his age.” That’s a reminder that people reached puberty later in the early modern period, so eighteen-year-old males still had significant physical growth ahead of them. It also gives us a peek at Dick Welsh as an individual.

The advertisement said Welsh took away a lot of clothing—far more than listed in similar ads. He probably planned to sell most of those garments to have money for a longer trip. All told, that clothing was worth more than the dollar Greenough was offering for his indentured teenager—I’ll discuss that promised reward later.

Back in 1785 Greenough and John Morey referred to this child as “known by the Name of Dick”; most slaves were not acknowledged to have surnames. But a year later Dick’s relationship to Greenough was put on a new legal basis when the selectmen indentured the boy, and they called him “Dick Morey.” Twelve years after that, Greenough stated he was “Dick Welsh.”

It wasn’t unusual for African-Americans to change their names in this period (or to convince the authorities to refer to them by names they were already using) as they developed their own identities, no longer bound to masters.

I wondered if the Morey surname implied something about this boy’s father, but the selectmen may simply have chosen it because John Morey was Dick’s last owner. As for the new surname “Welsh,” did that indicate the boy had a familial tie to a man in Roxbury named Welsh (or Welch, or Walsh, or even Weld)? Was it an ethnic signifier for a father in town during the war? Or did Dick adopt that name out of admiration for someone? We don’t know.

The second advertisement indicates Dick Welsh was still free as of 11 July—almost three weeks after he left Greenough’s house. It’s possible he came back, or was made to come back, to serve out his term until age twenty-one. It’s also possible he made good his escape.

TOMORROW: Rewards for runaways.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

“Somerset v. Steuart @ 250” via the A.P.S., 30 Nov.

On Wednesday, 30 November, the American Philosophical Society will host a panel discussion on the topic “Somerset v. Steuart @ 250: A Virtual Roundtable Discussion.”

The event description says:
The Somerset v. Steuart trial of 1772 has emerged as an event of much discussion in the history of transatlantic antislavery. Scholars have debated the decision’s importance and centrality to the emancipatory impulses in the British Atlantic, and, more recently, weighed its possible role in the coming of the American Revolution. Some have argued that Lord Mansfield’s decision in James Somerset’s favor was a central, even epochal event, while others maintain that North Americans scarcely noticed the decision.
The panelists are top-notch historians of slavery, law, and politics in the Revolutionary era:
  • David Waldstreicher, moderator, teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and is the author of In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820; Runaway America: Benjamin Franklin, Slavery, and the American Revolution; and Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification. His new book, The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley, will be published in March 2023.
  • Holly Brewer, Burke Professor of American History at the University of Maryland, is finishing a book that examines the origins of American slavery in larger political and ideological debates, tentatively entitled Slavery & Sovereignty in Early America and the British Empire. She is also Principal Investigator for a documentary editing project called “Slavery, Law, and Power.”
  • Christopher Brown is a professor of History at Columbia University, principally studying the British empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His books include Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism and, with Philip D. Morgan, Arming Slaves: Classical Times to the Modern Age.
  • Manisha Sinha, the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina and The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, which won the Frederick Douglass, Avery Craven, James Rawley, and SHEAR Best Book prizes.
  • Alan Taylor is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia. His ten books include William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic and The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, both winners of the Pulitzer Prize.
To register for this online event, start at this page.

The painting above, courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg, shows Charles Steuart around 1785.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Tea Leaves and Traditions

Over the past three days I’ve discussed seven purported samples of tea from the Boston Tea Party. And we’re not done yet!

The Old South Meeting House displays a small corked vial of tea beside a paper label printed with Chinese characters. The panel says:
Tradition has it that these tea leaves, as well as the Chinese tea label, are souvenirs from the Boston Tea Party.
For more information we can go over to this webpage from the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum:
This 18th century tea chest label was donated to the museum in 1987 by the Wells Family Association. Genealogical researcher, author, and descendant of a Tea Party participant, Charles Chauncey Wells researched the connection of the label to his ancestor Thomas Wells, a blacksmith who lived from 1746 until 1810. Thomas Wells worked on the wharves and, like many other young laborers, was entrenched in Boston’s pre-revolutionary rebellion. Down five generations, Charles Chauncey Wells recalls how his grandfather would take the label out, protected under glass, from its hiding place on special occasions to discuss with pride the history of this infamous ancestor! . . .

When the tea label was donated to the Old South Meeting House, experts from Harvard University, Michigan State University, and The British Museum authenticated and translated the document. The label is block printed on rice paper in Old Chinese writing. The paper is of 18th century origin and comes from Canton.
Thomas Wells’s son was prominent in nineteenth-century Boston, but he wasn’t listed as a Tea Party participant in Francis S. Drake’s 1888 Tea Leaves. The family tradition seems to rest on these artifacts.

A similar corked vial, shown above, is in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum (formerly the Museum of Our National Heritage) in Lexington. In this blog post from 2012, the museum said:
In 1973, as the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and other organizations in the commonwealth prepared for the American Bicentennial, Paul Fenno Dudley (1894-1974) donated this vial of tea to the Grand Lodge’s Museum. The Grand Lodge's collection is now housed at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library…
That article doesn’t say how this artifact came to Dudley. Drake did list Samuel Fenno in the Tea Party, “principally from family tradition,” but said nothing about the family preserving a sample of tea. And it’s not clear if this vial came to Paul Dudley Fenno through inheritance.

Up in Exeter, New Hampshire, the American Independence Museum displays a vial of tea that I discussed back in May. That’s not the tea collected by Thomas Melvill, as once thought—the Melvill tea is on display at the Old State House in Boston. Instead, this vial may have been modeled after the Melvill artifact. The museum’s webpage on this artifact suggests its label was written in the late 1800s by William Lithgow Willey of the New Hampshire Sons of the American Revolution.

Also in New Hampshire, the Mont Vernon Historical Society holds a small glass jar of tea leaves. Its website says “a lamplighter by the name of Elias Proctor…joined other colonists in salvaging the broken crates of tea that washed ashore,” keeping the salty leaves to dye cloth.

Over time, Proctor reportedly doled out those leaves to relatives:
When Elias gifted family members with his stash, we are told that he always proclaimed the great cause for which it had been sacrificed.

It was from just such a gift that the Horne Family of Dover, NH received some of Elias’s tea. There is a very good chance that it was Mary Horne Batchelder who put some of it in the small vial we have in the museum today. She thought the 117 year old tea would make a nice wedding gift to her children when they got married. She gave some to her son who went west with it and his bride, settling in Kansas. She also gave some to her daughter Marcia who married Frank Lamson on January 9, 1890. Mr. Lamson would bring his new wife and the old tea back to Mont Vernon to live on the farm that bears the family’s name to this day. It would reside there for another generation or two. In the 1970’s, the couple’s daughter, Ella M. Lamson, gave the now 200 year old tea to the Mont Vernon Historical Society where it has been treasured ever since.
As with the samples coming to us through Thaddeus Mason Harris, this story makes no claim that an ancestor participated in destroying the tea cargo. But there’s also a lot of uncertainty in that recreation of the tea’s provenance. Among other details, Boston had no street lamps until after 1773.

I suspect quite a few Americans grew up being told that a small pile of tea leaves came from the Tea Party, as in this family tradition I discussed in September. After all, by the mid-1800s Boston’s historical repositories were accumulating just such artifacts. Such a sight would have been a way to connect children to their family, to history, and to American patriotism.

Of course, one pile of loose black tea leaves looks much like another. During the Colonial Revival, families were eager to connect themselves to fabled moments of the Revolution. Parents wanted to inculcate their children with respect for their ancestors and their country. Why not turn a spoonful of old tea into a history lesson? Who outside the family would ever hear that tale?

Sunday, November 27, 2022

A Vial of Tea with “a couple of provenances”

Yesterday I discussed three samples of tea that came to Massachusetts museums in the late 1800s, reportedly after men involved in the Boston Tea Party shook those leaves out of their shoes and clothing at the end of the night.

The day before, I discussed three samples of tea that the Rev. Dr. Thaddeus Mason Harris distributed to Massachusetts historical organizations in the early 1800s.

Mason reported that those leaves had been collected from the Dorchester shore the morning after the event, though he didn’t record who did the collecting.

Another sample of tea now in this city comes to us with versions of both stories attached. It’s a vial of liquid tea reportedly brewed from leaves involved in the Tea Party of 1773. The Old North Church owns that artifact, but it’s on loan to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

When the museum put that vial on display in 2018, it issued a press release that said:
The tea, believed to be from The Boston Tea Party, has a couple of provenances.

One allegedly stems from the family of Reverend Thaddeus Mason Harris (1768-1842), a Unitarian clergyman who lived in Dorchester, Mass., who, as legend has it, gathered tea as a five-year-old boy when the tea thrown overboard at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773 and was carried by the tide to the beaches of Dorchester Neck Flats. The family purportedly bottled tea in numerous glass vials. Years later, Reverend Harris’ mother, Rebecca Harris (1745-1801), passed a vial of the tea to her daughter Hannah Waite (1780-1845). Since then, the tea (curiously in liquid form) has been passed on numerous times ultimately landing with Old North Church. . . .

Another provenance of the tea, also stemming from the Harris family, was, as legend has it, shaken out of the boot of a participant of The Boston Tea Party on his return home.
Thaddeus Mason Harris’s father, William, died in 1778 while working as paymaster for Col. Henry Jackson’s regiment. His mother, Rebecca (Mason) Harris, married Samuel Wait, Jr., of Malden in 1780. It’s possible Hannah was the first child of that marriage, but the only Hannah Waite listed in Malden’s vital records as born in 1780 was the daughter of another couple.

By that year young Thaddeus was living in other families in Templeton and Shrewsbury, retired ministers who started to prepare him for Harvard College. He kept in touch with his mother, who died in Malden in 1801. Harris was then settled as a minister in Dorchester, and thus might already have come into possession of Boston Tea Party tea. (As I wrote back here, I think it’s quite unlikely Thaddeus picked it up off the shore in 1773, “as legend has it,” since he was a small boy living in another town at the time.)

Alternatively, the stories behind this vial of liquid tea might have been brewed out of the two dominant narratives already established by the late 1800s: that the Rev. Dr. Harris collected some tea, and that some tea came out of a participant’s shoes.

TOMORROW: Orphan samples.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

“Tea which fell into the shoes”

The 10 Nov 1821 issue of the Boston Daily Advertiser contained the fifth of a series of short essays headlined “Reminiscences.”

It told readers about the destruction of the East India Company tea in Boston harbor in December 1773, an event not yet dubbed the “Boston Tea Party.” The author wrote:
The destruction was effected by the disguised persons, and some young men who volunteered; one of the latter collected the tea which fell into the shoes of himself and companions, and put it in a phial and sealed it up;—which phial is now in his possession,—containing the same tea.
In 1835 an Independence Day orator identified the man who “preserved a vial full” of tea as Thomas Melvill, who had died three years before.

Twenty-one years later a literary chronicler stated that tea was “found in his shoes on returning from the vessel it was sealed up in a vial, although it was intended that not a particle should escape destruction!”

Back in 2018, I tracked that storied sample of tea to its present repository in Revolutionary Spaces’ Old State House museum.

As a historical artifact, that vial had some advantages over the tea reportedly collected on the Dorchester shore and being distributed to historical organizations by the Rev. Dr. Thaddeus Mason Harris before he died in 1842.

First of all, the Melvill leaves had an unbroken provenance leading back to the tea ships. Harris didn’t record who collected the tea in Dorchester or who gave it to him, but Melvill and his descendants presented a complete chain of custody.

Furthermore, Melvill’s tea came from a participant in the destruction of the cargo, not just someone who woke up the next morning and found wet tea leaves on a beach.

Of course, there was the matter of Melvill preserving tea that he was supposed to destroy. But he’d explained that—he “and companions” had brought home this tea inadvertently. That touch of irony made the story even more savory.

Now either lots of other men brought home tea in their shoes the same way, to be secretly preserved by their families until the late 1800s, or this story became an archetype that several other families duplicated.

For example, there’s a strong tradition that John Crane was part of the Tea Party, and he was certainly part of the right crowd. By 1893 the Bostonian Society was in possession of a:
Tea-caddy, with tea found in the pocket and boots of John Crane, one of the Boston Tea Party, when taken injured to his home, Dec. 16, 1773.
An old photograph of that tea-caddy appears above.

By that same year of 1893, the Essex Institute in Salem had received what a young St. Nicholas correspondent named Peggy described as:
two bottles of the tea that was thrown over board at the Boston tea-party,—it was found in the shoes of Lot Cheever after removing his disguise
The name of Lot Cheever is not otherwise linked to the Tea Party. Indeed, the only Lot Cheever I can find was born in Danvers in 1837. (Ezekiel Cheever was captain of the militia patrol that Bostonians appointed to keep the cargo from being landed on November 30.) Maybe Lot Cheever was the donor of this artifact, not the original creator.

The story of tea leaves coming home with a Tea Partier also appears in Robert Lawson’s novel Mr. Revere & I, in which Paul Revere’s mother shakes out his clothing to increase her supply of caffeine. That shows the appeal of this anecdote.

TOMORROW: Competing traditions.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Thaddeus Mason Harris Passing Out Tea

In 1793, a young Harvard graduate named Thaddeus Mason Harris became the minister of the new Unitarian meeting in Dorchester.

Harris had previously been a schoolteacher and a librarian at Harvard College.

He also claimed to have been offered the position of secretary to George Washington, but there’s no evidence of that and the job wasn’t open at the time.

That’s not the only story in Harris’s biography which I find a little suspect, so I’m more skeptical than usual about historical anecdotes or artifacts that come through him.

However, Harris was a co-founder of and longtime volunteer for the American Antiquarian Society, and active in other historical organizations, so he’s hard to avoid. (Joshua R. Greenberg alerted me to Christen Mucher’s article about Harris’s work on Commonplace last month.)

In particular, Harris spread around samples of tea said to have been collected from the Dorchester shore after the Boston Tea Party. He doesn’t appear to have preserved the name of the person who gave him this tea.

Harris’s own name did remain attached to these relics, however, so often people assume he collected the tea himself. He would have been five years old at the time, living with his family in Charlestown, on the other side of Boston from Dorchester. It seems far more likely that one of the minister’s neighbors or parishioners after he settled in Dorchester gave him this tea.

Harris donated some of that tea to the Massachusetts Historical Society. It rests in a glass jar with paper labels that say:
that was gathered up on the Shore of Dorchester Neck on the morning after the destruction of the three Cargos at Boston
December 17, 1773

Presented by Rev. Dr. Harris
You can play with a curious digital image of that artifact here.

The Dorchester minister gave another sample to the American Antiquarian Society in 1840, two years before he died. That organization describes its treasure as:
Less than five inches high, the mold-blown, pale aqua bottle filled with tea leaves is wrapped at its mouth with twill tape and sealed with red sealing wax. Its attached paper label reads: “Tea Thrown into Boston Harbor Dec. 16, 1773.”
A second label survives in the handwriting of the A.A.S. secretary in the 1860s with text very similar to the M.H.S. bottle and Harris’s name on it.

This past June, Heritage Auctions sold a third small bottle of tea with a paper label. This one says:
“Tea gathered on the shore at Dorchester Neck the morning after the destruction of the three cargoes December 17” 1773. From
Thaddeus Mason Harris, D.D.

Rec’d from the American Antiquarian Society, March 1895
F. W. Putnam
Part of a lot in a stone jar found at Ant. Soc. among other things
Frederic Ward Putnam (1839–1915) was an anthropologist, first director of the Peabody Museum in his home town of Salem, and curator at the other Peabody Museum at Harvard University.

That sample of tea, deaccessioned in some way from the A.A.S., was passed down in private hands in the twentieth century. When it was sold in June, it fetched $87,500.

TOMORROW: More tea samples.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Continental Congress’s Thanksgivings

On 1 Nov 1777, the Continental Congress issued a recommendation “to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES” to observe a Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, 18 December.

The proclamation didn’t allude to any particular event, but scholars treat this as an expression of gratitude for the Continental victory at Saratoga.

Certainly the Congress, then meeting in York, Pennsylvania, after being pushed out of Philadelphia, wasn’t feeling thankful about the Battles of Brandywine or Germantown.

The 1777 proclamation was explicitly Christian, referring to “the Merits of JESUS CHRIST,” and culminating in a prayer “to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth ‘in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.’”

The Congress continued to issue Thanksgiving proclamations every fall until after the formal end of the war. The 1779 and 1780 resolutions were explicitly Christian, the other four merely theistic (though one mentioned “Louis the Most Christian King our ally”).

At first the Thanksgiving proclamations kept up the pattern of not mentioning specific events. But the long document of 26 Oct 1781, issued just days after the Congress learned of the victory at Yorktown, spelled out multiple blessings:
the goodness of God in the year now drawing to a conclusion:

in which a mutiny in the American Army [the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny, which drove the Congress out of Philadelphia again] was not only happily appeased but became in its issue a pleasing and undeniable proof of the unalterable attachment of the people in general to the cause of liberty since great and real grievances only made them tumultuously seek redress while the abhorred the thoughts of going over to the enemy,

in which the Confederation of the United States has been completed [i.e., Maryland finally ratified the Articles of Confederation] by the accession of all without exception in which there have been so many instances of prowess and success in our armies; particularly in the southern states, where, notwithstanding the difficulties with which they had to struggle, they have recovered the whole country which the enemy had overrun, leaving them only a post or two upon on or near the sea [Charleston, Savannah, and Wilmington, which was soon to be evacuated]:

in which we have been so powerfully and effectually assisted by our allies, while in all the conjunct operations the most perfect union and harmony has subsisted in the allied army:

in which there has been so plentiful a harvest, and so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only enables us easily to supply the wants of the army, but gives comfort and happiness to the whole people:

and in which, after the success of our allies by sea, a General of the first Rank [Cornwallis], with his whole army, has been captured by the allied forces under the direction of our illustrious Commander in Chief.
For the next three years, the Congress’s Thanksgiving proclamations and recommendations to the states all referred to the slow steps toward a final peace:
  • 1782: “the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war in the course of the last year now drawing to a close”
  • 1783: “hostilities have ceased, and we are left in the undisputed possession of our liberties and independence, and of the fruits of our own land, and in the free participation of the treasures of the sea”
  • 1784: “a general pacification hath taken place, and particularly a Definitive Treaty of peace between the said United States of America and his Britannic Majesty, was signed at Paris, on the 3d day of September, in the year of our Lord 1783; the instruments of the final ratifications of which were exchanged at Passy, on the 12th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1784, whereby a finishing hand was put to the great work of peace, and the freedom, sovereignty and independence of these states, fully and completely established”
And then the Continental Congress stopped recommending Thanksgivings. From 1785 to the advent of the new federal government, there were no national Thanksgiving proclamations.

In those years the Congress had difficulty completing normal business, going for long periods without a quorum. The external crisis had passed, and people disagreed about solutions to the internal difficulties. And the Congress delegates might have felt that with independence won Americans had both less to wish for and less to be thankful for.

The image above is one page of the Congress’s Thanksgiving proclamation in 1781, signed for that legislature by Thomas McKean and Charles Thomson and now owned by the Rosenbach museum and library. The texts of all the Congress’s proclamations have been shared by the Pilgrim Hall Museum.holiday

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

“Last Monday evening Miss Hannah was married to Mr. Fluker”

On 27 Dec 1750, Boston ministers announced that Hannah Waldo and Thomas Flucker (shown here) intended to marry.

The Rev. Jonathan Mayhew presided over the wedding on 14 Jan 1751 at the West Meetinghouse.

In reporting that wedding, the Boston Evening-Post called the bride “a Lady of great Beauty and Merit.” The Boston Post-Boy said she was “an agreable and virtuous young lady.”

That coverage strongly implies most people sympathized with Hannah in her decision to call off her engagement to Andrew Pepperrell the preceding fall after he had delayed their wedding one too many times. They didn’t blame her as the fickle one.

Flucker was a young merchant, seven years older than his bride. He had previously married a sister of James Bowdoin and been widowed in May 1750. Aside from his daughter named Sally born out of wedlock on a date I don’t know, Hannah and Thomas appear to have had a solid genteel New England marriage, with their first baby, also named Hannah, arriving at the end of 1751. Flucker went on to become the province’s royal secretary.

Andrew Pepperrell’s cousin William Tyler sent him the news:
I inform you that last Monday evening Miss Hannah was married to Mr. Fluker and appeared a bride at the West Church, New Boston, brought in her chariot. The talk is almost over, for everybody thinks and tells me they believe it is what you wanted, but more of this when I see you.
Pepperrell doesn’t appear to have pined after his lost fiancée. He went back to his mansion in Kittery, Maine, and his rural social life. While returning from a ball in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in February, he caught a cold. That became pneumonia. The Boston Evening-Post announced that he died on 1 March “after a short Indisposition.” The local minister preached a sermon in his memory.

Later authors wrestled with why Andrew Pepperrell had strung Hannah Waldo along for so long. Was he prone to ill-timed “despondency” or depressions? Was he interested in someone else? Did he resent and resist his father’s arrangements? Most of Andrew’s papers were destroyed, making it even harder to know. (Not knowing the facts didn’t bother other authors who exaggerated the young man’s death, suggesting he went mad or died of a broken heart two days after Hannah Waldo’s send-off.)

Sir William Pepperrell was left without a son to carry on his name. He made the eldest son of his daughter Elizabeth Sparhawk heir to his fortune and baronetcy on the condition that that young man take the surname Pepperrell. The first Sir William Pepperrell died in 1759. The second became a Loyalist exile.

Hannah’s father, Samuel Waldo, also died in 1759 while overseeing his property in Maine. Most of his descendants became Loyalists, but one exception was Thomas and Hannah Flucker’s daughter Lucy, who married Henry Knox. Through careful management of family claims, the U.S. Secretary of War gained (nominal) control of most of the Waldo Patent.

And that couldn’t have happened except for the long, unhappy engagement of Hannah Waldo and Andrew Pepperrell.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

“She would not marry one who had occasioned her so much mortification”

Toward the end of 1750, the families of Hannah Waldo (shown here) and Andrew Pepperrell gathered in Boston for their long-anticipated wedding.

Samuel Waldo, the father of the bride, was in London working on his large land claims in Maine and Nova Scotia, but other relatives were in Boston.

Andrew’s parents, Sir William and Lady Pepperrell, traveled down from Maine for the ceremony. The baronet had written to his friend Waldo “that he now had every reason to hope that the long talked of alliance of their two families would soon be completed, much to the joy of himself and family,” according to biographer Usher Parsons.

One important person was still missing, however: the groom. Parsons reported, “a few days before the one appointed for the wedding arrived, Andrew wrote to [Hannah] that circumstances had occurred which would make it necessary to defer it to another day, which he named, as more convenient for himself.”

Hannah Waldo had been awaiting this marriage since 1746. The engagement had been publicly announced in 1748. And here was another delay. That finally pushed her to take control of her own course.

Parsons wrote:
She returned no answer; the guests from far and near, minister and all, assembled at the appointed hour and place, when she enjoyed the sweet revenge of telling Andrew that she would not marry one who had occasioned her so much mortification, and who could not have that love and friendship for her that was necessary to her happiness.
The Pepperrells went back to Maine.

When Samuel Waldo heard the news in London, he wrote to the baronet:
I was greatly chagrined at the news of my daughter’s changing her mind and dismissing your son after the visit you mention, which I was apprised of by her, and concluded that the affair would have had the issue I had long expected and desired, and that the ship which brought the unwelcome news of a separation, would have given me the most agreeable advice of its consummation; but I find she was jealous that Mr. Pepperrell had not the love and friendship for her that was necessary to make her happy. This I understand from her letter to me, and that the last promise made when your son was in Boston was disregarded by him in not returning at the period he had fixed.

This disappointment to a close union with your family, which above all things I desired, has given me great uneasiness, and the addition thereto will be greater if I should find the fault lie on my daughter; but be that as it may, I should be very sorry to have it break friendship between us, or any of the several branches of our families;—those of yours I assure you I wish as well to as my own, and I shall, if ever in my power, convince them of it.
Back in Massachusetts, the young people had to get on with their lives.

TOMORROW: Separate ways.

Monday, November 21, 2022

“Quite exasperated with your conduct relating to your amour”

As the year 1750 began, it was more than three years since Andrew Pepperrell and Hannah Waldo had become engaged, over a full year since their intentions had been formally announced in Kittery, Maine.

Since their fathers were two of the richest, most prominent men in Massachusetts, their relationship was big news all that time. 

Andrew and Hannah had both turned twenty in 1746, young for marriage. But by 1750 they would both turn twenty-four, they still weren’t married, and the talk became more pointed.

Andrew’s brother-in-law Nathaniel Sparhawk (shown here) wrote to Sir William Pepperrell in London on 8 Mar 1750: “The love affair between Andrew Pepperrell and Miss Waldo, now of four years’ duration, is still pending, much to the annoyance of both families as well as trying to the patience of the young lady.”

Other gentlemen told Pepperrell that he couldn’t keep putting off the wedding. The older merchant Stephen Minot, who was related to the Waldos, wrote to him on 3 June 1750:
I hope, my friend, it will not be long before we have the pleasure of seeing you in town to disappoint the enemies as well as to complete the approaching pleasure which you have in view, in enjoying the society of so charming and desirable a lady as is Miss Hannah. I beg leave only to add, that could you be fully acquainted with the steady and proper behavior in your long absence (amid the ill-natured queries of the world with respect to each of you) it would ever heighten your affections for her, and endear her to you as it has done to me, and all her relations and friends here. I really wish each of you, as I believe you will be, happy, if it shall please God to bring you together in the matrimonial state.
On 14 August, Andrew’s first cousin William Tyler wrote to him about a visit to Boston by another first cousin, Joel Whittemore. “His wig was powdered to the life,” Tyler said, and at the Sunday afternoon church service “he sat and stood looking first this way and then that way to find out Miss Hannah.” (She wasn’t there.) Was that just a silly story, or a nudge that other young men might be interested in her?

Sparhawk visited Andrew Pepperrell in Maine late that summer, and on returning to Boston wrote back on 11 September:
I…have not had time to deliver your letter, or to see your lady. Let me take the liberty to inform you that the country, especially the more worthy and better part of it, are very much alarmed at, and appear quite exasperated with your conduct relating to your amour, and your friends and those that are much attached to your father and family, are greatly concerned about you, being fully of opinion that if the matter drops through and you lie justly under the imputation of it, that your character is irretrievably lost. I am sorry to say so much, but a tender concern for you obliges me.

You can’t imagine how I was attacked in a large company of gentlemen and ladies at Salem, where I was invited to spend the evening on Sunday; and what you may imagine will pass still for a justification of your conduct, that you “intend nothing but honor in the case, and will be along soon” is perfectly ridiculed.

I find you must be published again if you marry in this province, and if you intend ever to marry the lady, my advice to you is, by all means to be republished and to finish the matter at once, unless you can prevail on the lady to meet you at Ipswich, and from there proceed to Hampton [New Hampshire], which is very much questioned, though when I know your intentions it may be attempted, if there is occasion, from your ascertaining the lady’s mind and her friend’s, that you will be quite punctual, and agree to the arrangement in case she is good enough to comply. But I cannot add further than that I feel a real concern for your welfare and the support of your honor.
Massachusetts couples who were eloping from their families, or who needed to marry in a hurry, went over the border to New Hampshire. Of course, that wasn’t the most respectable sort of wedding. But by this time, Sparhawk and the Waldos were ready for anything.

All that pressure forced Andrew Pepperrell to finally make a move. He agreed to a wedding in Boston on a specified date.

TOMORROW: Can this marriage be saved?

Sunday, November 20, 2022

“Your wish that the alliance between our son and your daughter were completed”

As I quoted yesterday, in early 1748 the Maine grandees Sir William Pepperrell and Samuel Waldo exchanged letters reassuring each other that their children wanted to get married.

Andrew Pepperrell’s long delay in setting a date with Hannah Waldo was starting to cause talk in Boston, as Samuel Waldo hinted in a 20 March letter:
I hope all impediments to a consummation will soon end in their mutual happiness, and to the satisfaction of their respective friends, as well as the mortification of those who are foes to every one. . . . though I have no reason to suspect his honor in the pending affair, yet the delay (the consequence of which is not to be foreseen) must be very disagreeable to us. Your own concern for the issue of it will excuse my anxiety for the future welfare as well as present peace and honor of my daughter, toward which it is my duty to contribute my best endeavors.
Hannah’s sister Lucy Waldo had married Isaac Winslow; they and their children appear above in a portrait by Joseph Blackburn now at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Winslow wrote from Boston several times that spring passing on his sister-in-law Hannah’s regards to the man who was supposed to marry her, as on 9 May:
I had the pleasure of drinking your health last evening at my father Waldo’s, about 10 o’clock. It was at that time when your dear Miss Hannah drank the toast, with the usual becoming blush on her countenance. She desired me to send you her compliments
Winslow also suggested various trips between Boston and Kittery that would bring the young people together. But Andrew Pepperrell never suggested a firm date for those trips, either.

Finally on 3 Sept 1748, the engagement was formally announced in the Kittery meetinghouse. Usually that meant the wedding was only weeks away.

But then Andrew complained of a lingering fever. And he undertook a new shipping project. His father wrote on 16 December, “If Andrew would go and be married, I would willingly undertake one winter journey more; but he has got a vessel which he will endeavor to fit out this winter, contrary to my advice, which I am afraid will make him sick again.”

Waldo replied:
I should think that could stand in no competition with the grand affair of a settlement for life, which he has been now nearly two years engaged in, and it gives me no small concern, as the honor of either of the parties, as well as my own, are engaged therein, it should be seemingly in suspense; the many rascally stories that are industriously bruited gives great amusement to some ill-natured persons among us, and no small chagrin to the friends of either party.
Still the months dragged on. On 20 Feb 1749, Winslow wrote to his father-in-law Waldo, who was then in London:
The affair with Mr. P———ll & Miss remains much as you left It I have hitherto omitted saying any Thing of it as I’ve been at a Loss what to say; & Miss Hannah has been of Opinion yt. it was best to be silent on ye. Affair at present. Every post almost has brot. some apology for his not coming & Mr. [Nathaniel] Sparhawk still thinks favourably of him; A short time must I think determine his Intentions
The next month, Sir William wrote to Waldo:
Mrs. Pepperrell joins with me in your wish that the alliance between our son and your daughter were completed, which I do think would be a satisfaction to all their friends, and a means of putting a stop to the talk of their enemies, as there are none without some. As I have often urged him to finish the affair, and he has declined to let me know the time designated, I have no thoughts of mentioning it to him again.
But other people were definitely still talking about the situation.

TOMORROW: Clustering around young Andrew.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

“The long talked of affair between Mr. Pepperrell and my daughter”

As I wrote yesterday, Sir William Pepperrell, baronet, and Samuel Waldo, militia brigadier and great proprietor, were pleased when their children, Andrew and Hannah respectively, became engaged in 1746.

Presumably they remained happy in 1747.

By early 1748, with no wedding date set, the gentlemen began to worry. At the time, Waldo was in Boston while Sir William was up at his house in Kittery, Maine, said to be the grandest in the district. (It’s shown above, courtesy of Buildings of New England.) That separation meant we have the ability to read their conversation about the family situation.

According to Usher Parsons’s biography of Pepperrell, on 9 Jan 1748 Waldo wrote to him:
As to the long talked of affair between Mr. Pepperrell and my daughter, I am at a loss what to think about it. You know matches are made in heaven, and what’s appointed must be. It is not best for any to be overanxious, but to govern with prudence, on which head no caution is necessary to you. I am very much obliged to Lady Pepperrell as well as yourself for your good liking of my daughter, and more especially that she should become yours. The proposed union gave me great pleasure, and the more so as I knew she could not fail to be happy in your family, and I promised myself it was not in her power to misbehave. I had never, Sir, any reason to doubt of yours or your lady’s heartiness in the affair, but if there be not a mutual good liking between the young people, it will not be best they should come together. But I leave the affair to them.

I am, by yours, confirmed in my former sentiments, that you had done very handsomely for your son. Above a twelvemonth ago, I think it was, I had a conversation with him when I proposed a speedy issue to the business, and assured him my intentions as to the future well-being of my daughter were not contracted. He declared himself in a very genteel and generous manner. The sum you mention is large; part of it is probably laid out upon his house. Some misfortunes he has met with in trade, and possibly he may think that the improvement of the remainder may not be a sufficient sum to support upon as your son. I had some difficulty on this head myself before marriage. I got what I could from my father, and trusted Providence for the rest. My daughter is very well and presents her duty to you and Lady Pepperrell.
The next month, Waldo assured his friend again:
I am obliged to you, Sir, and Lady Pepperrell for your good liking of the proposed alliance between our families; nothing can be more agreeable to me, and it would be an additional satisfaction could there be a speedy consummation. It has been long enough pending for the young people to know, not only their own, but each other’s mind. My good liking to it they have both of them been long acquainted with. Till lately I flattered myself that before I embarked for Europe, which I hope will be soon, (though not before I make you a visit to Kittery,) the proposed alliance would be finished.
Pepperrell wrote back on 15 March:
I observe by your letter that you are exceedingly surprised that I did not know the reason that the family affair, so long pending, was delayed; but what I wrote you is certainly true; and if ever my son will do an ill thing I cannot help it, nor ever can or will pretend to justify it; and if he never marries I will never say so much to him about it as I have said. I do think, so far as I have been enabled, that I have discharged my duty to him.

It is certain that he has laid out upwards of ten thousand pounds in a house, contrary to what I should have advised, but considerable of that I gave him, beside the twenty-eight thousand I mentioned, and my design was, that if he should marry, I should give him land that would be an immediate income, but if he does not, I look upon myself to be the best judge how to dispose of my estate, and shall act accordingly as long as it shall please the Most High to preserve my reason and senses.

It is true that he has met with considerable losses in his trade, but from what I know, his interest sent abroad is safe, that he has upwards of thirty thousand pounds, old tenor, in trade; considering that he has wharves, warehouses, etc., fitted to his hand, I think it is a handsome fitting out, and if he behave himself well, as long as I am able I shall be doing for him.

I always thought that you would be doing all in your power for all your children, and I know that you are able; but as every thing in this life is uncertain, if Providence should order it that you could not give Miss Hannah any thing, I say if this should be the case (though I hope it never will), I should be freely willing my son should marry her, and I cannot think he will ever be happy in this life if he don’t, nor can expect a blessing; but I hope he soon will, and not expose himself and friends to unfriendly remarks. If you knew the trouble it gives me to write, you would readily excuse me from enlarging.

Mrs. Pepperrell joins with me in best respects to yourself and family, and in particular to Miss Hannah.
The two gentlemen thus acknowledged that money was a factor—a big factor—in a genteel marriage, but they promised each other that their children would have enough to be comfortable. As long as there was “a mutual good liking between the young people.”

TOMORROW: The young people.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Hannah Waldo, Patent Heiress

Hannah Waldo was born in Boston on 21 Nov 1726 and baptized in the town’s First Meetinghouse. She was the daughter of Lucy and Samuel Waldo (shown here).

Samuel Waldo was a merchant who went into land speculation in a big way. In 1729, when Hannah was two years old, he acquired the controlling interest in a big land grant in Maine.

That royal grant had changed hands for many decades because simply having permission from London to claim land didn’t mean a person could actually exercise any control over it.

Waldo also bought a big land grant in Nova Scotia, but that claim was on shaky legal grounds. He spent a fair amount of the 1730s in London, arguing unsuccessfully for that patent and recruiting people to settle on his Maine (main?) claim.

One obstacle to British settlements on what became known as the Waldo Patent was danger from the French and the Native nations allied with them, or just uninterested in losing their territory. Starting in 1740, Waldo promoted a plan to attack the French fortification at Louisbourg to remove that threat.

When Britain finally went to war against France, Gov. William Shirley authorized that military expedition. William Pepperrell was the commander-in-chief, and Samuel Waldo, who had served under Pepperrell in the top ranks of Maine’s militia, was commissioned a brigadier general, second in command of the land forces.

As I discussed yesterday, that expedition was a big success. By the end of 1745, Massachusetts’s military captured the French outpost for the British Empire (though the British Empire decided to give it back in exchange for Madras). Pepperrell was made a baronet. Waldo was addressed as “general” for the rest of his life, and he could step up his efforts to recruit settlers for his land.

Among the people who came to the Waldo Patent in the next few years, before another war broke out, were Georg Frederich Seiter and Christine Salome Hartwick. They would marry and have children, including Christopher Seider. But that’s getting away from Hannah Waldo’s story.

The Waldo and Pepperell families were well acquainted. The general’s son Samuel, Jr., was in the same class at Harvard College as the baronet’s son, Andrew. Furthermore, in 1742 the baronet’s daughter, Elizabeth, had married Nathaniel Sparhawk, a son of Hannah and Samuel, Jr.’s step-grandmother through a second marriage.

In 1746, Hannah Waldo and Andrew Pepperrell became engaged. Andrew was seen as quite a catch. Writing ninety years later, Usher Parsons said: “his comely person and polished manners were a passport to the best circles; and his heirship to a fortune and a baronetcy placed him in the highest social position.”

Sir William and Gen. Waldo were both pleased with this engagement, which would bring together the district’s two leading families (with the Sparhawks tied in as a bonus). The actual wedding date was to be named later when Andrew finished building his house.

And that proved to be a problem.

TOMORROW: Waiting for a wedding.

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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Sight, Sound, and Taste of Battle

Minute Man National Historical Park just published Thompson Dasher’s article “Enlightened Senses: A Sensory History of April 19, 1775.”

After a discussion of how Enlightenment philosophers portrayed our sensory powers, it analyzes the reminiscences of three people involved in the Battle of Lexington and Concord by focusing tightly on their perceptions:
  • Lexington militiaman Elijah Sanderson on what he saw and (because of smoke) couldn’t see during the fighting on his town common. 
  • Rebecca Fiske’s memory of hearing gunfire as the British army column and the provincial pursuers moved back through Lexington in the afternoon.
  • Ens. Jeremy Lister’s account of small tastes of food and drink he begged after he was wounded at Concord’s North Bridge and traveled back to safety in Boston. 
Back in 2006 I wrote about a historiographical trend of articles and books focusing on the senses, then including Richard C. Rath’s How Early America Sounded and Elaine Forman Crane’s article “‘I Have Suffer’d Much Today’: The Defining Force of Pain in Early America.”

Dasher’s article cites the more recent The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses by Carolyn Purnell, which looks like a distillation of that scholarship.

I’m still underwhelmed by the new insights produced by this approach. There doesn’t seem to be much new in realizing that the Boston Massacre was loud, or eighteenth-century battlefields smoky, or water wet. The link between philosophical discussions of senses and how people actually experienced a moment still feel attenuated. (Crane’s article is an exception.)

But this approach does encourage keen attention to the immediate experiences of individual actors. That alone brings more life to historical moments. The power of an article like Dasher’s is how it allows or presses us to reimagine the events of 19 April through the eyes, ears, and mouth of particular people.

(The photo above comes from a smoke-filled reenactment of frontier skirmishes at Wilderness Road State Park in Virginia, courtesy of the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Meeting of the Body of the People in Old South, 16 Dec.

Revolutionary Spaces is relaunching its Boston Tea Party reenactment this year, in anticipation of 2023’s Sestercentennial event. Today is the last day to buy tickets at the early discount.

Old South Meeting House was the site of the big public protest meetings that started in November 1773 and led up to the destruction of the tea.

On Friday, 16 December, that extended debate over what to do about the taxed tea will be recreated in the same space where thousands of Bostonians gathered in 1773. The museum’s announcement says:
Join Revolutionary Spaces at Old South Meeting House for the return of the reenactment of the Meeting of the Body of the People! Meet iconic Bostonians whose vigorous debate led to the destruction of tea in 1773, as well as other personalities whose contributions shaped colonial Boston. Experience this moment in time in the room where it happened!

Doors open at 5:00 PM for a pop-up tea shop at Old South’s museum store. Come early and meet the Ladies of Boston and other colonial characters you might recognize to learn about what life was like leading up to the Revolution. Ticket holders can enjoy tastes of Revolutionary Spaces’ tea and snag their own box for a special price. Exclusive tea tasting hosted by Revolutionary Spaces’ member community and The Tea Can Company!

In special appreciation of our member community, all Revolutionary Spaces members will also receive one complimentary barrel mug and SAVE 40% off regular retail prices on all tea sold in the museum store during the night of the event.
The meeting reenactment is scheduled to start at 6:30 P.M. I might have something to do with launching it; after several years of serving as narrator for the Boston Massacre reenactments, I’ve been invited to move up three years and be the unseen voice of the Tea Party meetings.

Tickets to the “Meeting of the Body of the People” include access to both of Revolutionary Spaces’ sites, the Old State House and Old South Meeting House, from Friday, 16 December, through Sunday, 18 December.

The early prices are $24 for adults, $20 for people aged 65 and older or aged 13 and younger, and $18 for members of Revolutionary Spaces. After 15 November, the prices will go up.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Legacy of Sharon Ann Burnston

This weekend I heard the sad news that Sharon Ann Burnston had died.

Sharon was a mainstay of the New England Revolutionary reenacting community, enthusiastic about living history, scholarly rigor, and what other people were researching. Even when her health limited her mobility, she was a presence at major events.

Sharon had degrees in anthropology and experience on archeological digs. Her most eye-catching academic work was “Babies in the Well: An Insight into Deviant Behavior in 18th Century Philadelphia,” published in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography in 1982 and later in the volume In Remembrance: Archaeology and Death, edited by David Poirier and Nicholas Bellantoni. 

Starting with collections in Pennsylvania, Sharon studied colonial clothing and made herself an expert on what people wore and how to recreate those garments. Her book Fitting and Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society is a small book with a big influence.

Sally Queen Associates shares one sample of Sharon’s clothing research, an analysis of a quilted petticoat. On her website are similar articles, such as her discussion of a gown that came down from Deborah Sampson.

Several museums drew on Sharon’s expertise in clothing and other textiles. So did theatrical productions, and even Hollywood entertainment, not always concerned about historical accuracy; she designed the civilian garments Barry Bostwick wore in playing George Washington in two 1980s miniseries. After moving to New England she helped to develop guidelines for women’s and children’s clothing at reenactments, sharing patterns and advice and leading by example.

A native of Brooklyn, Sharon was proud of her Jewish heritage. That faith inspired her interest in social justice, her concern about prejudices, and the colonial seders she organized.

Sharon Burnston’s family has announced that people may make donations in her name to the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, the non-profit living history museum and farm in the Delaware Valley where she volunteered and worked for many years.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Visiting the World of Ignatius Sancho

This spring, a team at Northeastern University launched a web project called “Ignatius Sancho’s London.”

The opening page explains:
This project showcases evidence about the life and times of Ignatius Sancho, one of the eighteenth century’s most important Black Britons. Born enslaved, Sancho came to occupy a unique position in London society that straddled the elite social worlds of the aristocracy and the everyday life of the city. These experiences are narrated in The Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, an African (1782), an amazing collection that reveals a man who was at once a husband, father, entrepreneur, musician, abolitionist, literary writer - and the first documented Black person to vote in a parliamentary election.

The interactive maps below reveal Sancho’s world as never before. It is a close-knit place, with Sancho observing events from his shop in the heart of Westminster and occupying a prominent role on London’s streets and social scene. But his life and letters show how Black people and voices travelled throughout the country, permeating society at every layer. The maps reveal a world connected to other transformative events shaping the life of the nation and the rest of the globe - from slavery and abolition to the rise of industry and empire…
An article about the project reports that one challenge for the professors and students working on it arose from a section of Sancho’s own book, published posthumously:
The page-and-a-half-long biography has long been accepted as fact when it comes to Sancho’s life. However, the team found, the account is largely based on stereotypes and riddled with inaccuracies.

“The biography that was written at the time basically conformed to the genre of what an amazing Black life should have been,” [Prof. Olly] Ayers says.

That means the team had little foundation on which to build their timeline, and were instead tasked with disproving what was there. According to the biography, Sancho was born on a slave ship in the Middle Passage, but, Ayers says, the group found that “it’s highly unlikely.” They also question the portion of his biography that says he gambled away his inheritance, as he was still working for the Montagus during the period in question.
Use the toggles in the upper right corner of the map to reveal the locations of events in Ignatius Sancho and his family’s lives, and the lives of other prominent black Londoners. Or read the storymap to learn more about him, the people and places he encountered, and the development of this project.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Seeking John Morey in Roxbury

There were two generations of men named John Morey (also spelled Mory) in Roxbury.

The first John Morey was born in 1687 and married a woman named Hannah. They had several children, including a baby named John in 1736 who died early and another named John born on 23 Jan 1738. The couple’s daughters married into the Pierpoint and Turrell families.

This John Morey became prominent and wealthy. In 1734 he served as one of the two coroners of Suffolk County. As of 1741, he was using the suffix “Esq.” in a newspaper advertisement. In 1745 and 1753, Morey took in poor teenagers under indenture from the Boston Overseers of the Poor.

Morey also owned enslaved people. According to Hannah Mather Crocker, he was the owner of a mason named John Marcy, whom he hired out for jobs in Boston. Marcy was evangelized by hearing the Rev. George Whitefield, joined the Rev. John Moorhead’s church, married an enslaved servant of Lt. Gov. William Dummer, and eventually gained his freedom.

That John Morey died in 1771. He left an estate valued at almost £3,400. It included a large farm and lots of livestock, but also an eight-day clock, a map of the city of London, and five books—more luxury goods than an ordinary farmer had. He was labeled a “Gentleman” in his son’s newspaper advertisement settling the estate.

Also on that 1771 estate inventory were:
  • …a Nego [sic] Boy Named Cato about 12 Years Old…[valued at £]32.0.0
  • …a Negro Garl About 11 Years Old…26.13.4
  • …Ditto Named Bino About 7 Years Old…16.0.0
  • …Ditto Named Zippra an Inferm garl…6.0.0
It looks like the clock went to the West Roxbury meetinghouse. At least, the publication of an 1853 sermon referred to the meetinghouse having that clock with Morey’s name as donor on it. The church also received a silver baptismal basin in 1774; I’m guessing that was given by the younger John Morey but at the behest of his father.

Back in 1768, that second-generation John Morey had turned thirty and married Mary Cheney, born in 1743. The following year, that couple had their first baby, a son they naturally named John. He was followed by Hannah in 1771, Ebenezer Cheaney in 1774, and Susannah in 1776.

Mary’s father was Ebenezer Cheney (1699–1780) of Roxbury. His will left her considerable real estate in Middleborough. The couple prepared to move south. On 2 Oct 1783 John Morey advertised in the Independent Chronicle to sell “A very valuable Farm in Roxbury…containing one hundred and fifty Acres,” plus “Salt Marsh” and “near twenty Acres of good Wood Land.” Interested parties could speak with Morey or three of his neighbors, one being Eleazer Weld, Esq. Morey also called in his debts.

In March and April 1785, four Boston newspapers ran identically worded advertisements announcing the sale “By Publick Vendue [i.e., auction], on the premises, the Monday the 25th day of April next, The valuable FARM of Mr. John Morey, lying in Roxbury.” Reflecting the postwar economic situation, this ad said:
N.B. The payment will be made easy to purchasers, as the whole sum will not be immediately wanted, and government securities will be taken at their common rate of discount.
This time people could inquire of Weld and two other neighbors, but Morey was no longer said to be living on the property.

The facts of John Morey’s life shed a little light on the sale/indenture of the boy named Dick Morey in July 1785, discussed yesterday. For one thing, Morey was leaving that child behind in Roxbury as he moved to a new farm in Middleborough. David Stoddard Greenough paid him £5 for Dick’s next sixteen years, less than the value of a seven-year-old girl for life back in 1771. 

More ominously, it looks like that enslaved girl named Bino whom Morey inherited in 1771 was probably the mother he called “my Negro servant Binah” in 1785. She had given birth around 1780 when she was about sixteen years old. We don’t know who the father was, but he was white since Bino was listed as “a Negro Garl” and her son as “a Molatto Boy.” The list of possible fathers has to start with John Morey himself.

Finally, the Eleazer Weld who helped in selling the Morey farm was also one of the magistrates who affirmed Dick Morey’s indenture in 1787.

John Morey died in Middleborough in 1800, his widow Mary in 1821.

David S. Greenough and his wife Anna had a son (shown above) in the Loring Greenough House in 1787. Anna also had one surviving child from her first marriage. Those boys presumably grew up with Dick Morey as a household servant or farm hand in between their ages but not in their class.

However, I haven’t found any record of Dick Morey past those two documents from 1785–1787.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Dick Morey “in the Capacity of a Servant”

As I mentioned yesterday, David Stoddard Greenough, the lawyer and landowner who took control of what’s now the Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain, secured the labor of a small black boy in 1785.

The Massachusetts Historical Society shares the documents of that transaction on its website.

That happened a couple of years after Massachusetts’s highest court rendered chattel slavery unenforceable in the commonwealth. However, another widespread system of unpaid labor continued to be in force: indenturing apprentices.

Parents with teenagers, particularly boys, voluntarily entered into those agreements to provide the children with training they could use to establish themselves in professions and support themselves and their families as adults. The master didn’t pay the young worker but was responsible for feeding, clothing, sheltering, and medicining him.

In addition, local law provided for a town’s selectmen or Overseers of the Poor to indenture children born to unwed mothers or whose families couldn’t support them. Those indentured boys and girls might be separated from their relatives, treated as servants, taught lesser skills, and turned out with few resources to fend for themselves when they came of age. But, society felt, this was better than letting them starve.

In July 1785 Greenough paid £5 to John Morey of Roxbury for a little boy’s labor. The bill of sale leaves no doubt that this deal treated little Dick as property:
I do hereby acknowledge Do give, grant, & sell unto him the said David, his Heirs or assigns a Molatto Boy of Five years Old called and known by the Name of Dick who was Born in my House of my Negro servant Binah. to live with and serve him the said David, his Heirs, or assigns in the Capacity of a Servant untill he shall attain to the Age of Twenty one Years & I do hereby renounce and foreverquit claim to him the said David all right & title I now have or ever had to the said Molotto Boy
Unlike the sales records for enslaved people, however, that document put a sixteen-year limit on Greenough’s claim. It acknowledged that Dick would eventually be an adult and therefore free.

In September 1786 Greenough (who was, after all, a lawyer) put his relationship to “Dick Morey” on a different legal basis, more solid under the new Massachusetts law. Using a standard printed form, the selectmen of Roxbury indentured the boy to Greenough.

To do so, the men producing this contract had to cross out the parts of the form about how Dick “doth voluntarily and of his own free Will and Accord, and with the Consent of his” parents, bind himself to Greenough. The boy was too young to enter such an agreement. His mother, Binah, wasn’t mentioned at all; she may have been dead, absent, or shunted aside.

Greenough promised to teach Dick “the Art, Trade or Calling of a Farmer,” suggesting the boy was supposed to work around the Roxbury estate. That was basic, not specialized, training. But with an indenture Greenough did make a legal, handwritten promise to supply “good and sufficient meat, Drink, washing, Lodging & Clothing” for the next fifteen years. Again, that was more than slave owners ever had to promise.

These documents are thus evidence of Massachusetts’s transition away from legalized slavery. One possible interpretation is that Greenough found a way around the court’s decision to exploit a vulnerable child for sixteen years. Another is that he and the Roxbury selectmen used the legal tools of their society to secure a home for little Dick until he became an adult. And in fact both those readings could be true.

TOMORROW: The Morey household.