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, October 18, 2017

“Marks of respect paid to the memory of our deceased Governour”

Here are some additional details from Gov. John Hancock’s funeral on 14 Oct 1793.

First, the 21 October Columbian Gazetteer of New York reported on the response of the new acting governor:
A correspondent who cast his eye at the present Commander in Chief, the venerable SAMUEL ADAMS, was sensibly affected with the appearance of this hoary Patriot. His feelings were too mighty for the infirm state of his health. He was in reality a sincere mourner.—

It was scarcely possible for the aids who accompanied him, to support his debilitated frame, till he reached Perez Morton’s, Esquire.
Adams was seventy-one years old, born fifteen years before Hancock. The funeral procession started at Hancock’s house, near where the Massachusetts State House now stands, went south along the Common, turned east at Frog Lane (Boylston Street), turned north onto the main street through town (now Washington Street), went up to the Old State House, then west on Court Street, and finally south again to the Granary Burying Ground.

Adams made it nearly all the way. Perez Morton lived in the house his wife Sarah had inherited from her Apthorp ancestors at the end of Court Street where the land starts to rise toward Beacon Hill.

Adams ran for the governor’s seat himself in 1794 and held it until he retired in 1797. During the last years of his life, his essential tremor worsened so that he couldn’t write—ironic given that his political activism was based on writing. Adams outlived Hancock by ten years, dying in October 1803.

The Haverhill Guardian of Freedom newspaper I quoted yesterday included this remark:
Among the individual marks of respect paid to the memory of our deceased Governour, that of Mr. Duggan, near the market, arrested the attention of our correspondent. The finely finished sign of his excellency which is suspended from his house, was covered with a mourning crape; and exhibited a very decent tribute of regard and gratitude.
John and Mary Duggan had opened the Hancock Tavern on Corn Court in 1790. Mary Duggan had inherited the house from her family, the Keefes or Keiths. She deeded the property to her husband in early 1796 and died soon afterwards. He then married another woman named Mary (there were a lot of those, to be fair), had three children with her, and died in 1802.

Another tribute to Hancock was created shortly before his death. In the 10 October Columbian Gazetteer Daniel Bowen advertised a display of waxworks in New York that included:
The late and venerable American Statesman and Philosopher, Dr. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, sitting at a Table, with an Electrical Apparatus. JOHN HANCOCK, Esq. Present Governor of Massachusetts, and ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Esq. Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, at a Table, and the Figures of Peace and Plenty advancing to crown them with wreaths of Laurel.
It’s striking that of all the politicians living in America at that time, Hancock and Hamilton were the two featured in this display. But Bowen rotated figures to bring customers back; he’d already advertised President Washington earlier in the year. In addition, he was in the process of moving his operations from New York to Boston, and Hancock would be a big draw in his new home.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Gov. Hancock’s Funeral Procession

At sunrise on Monday, 14 Oct 1793, all the church bells in Boston began to ring. They tolled for an hour in tribute to Gov. John Hancock, who had died the previous Tuesday and was being buried that day.

All the flags “in town, at the Castle, and on the masts of the shipping in the harbour, were half hoisted.” At one o’clock, all the shops closed.

All morning local militia units, both official and independent, were gathering in the town. Everyone knew that Hancock, colonel of the Cadets before the war, loved military pomp.

Newspapers and broadsides announced the order of the funeral procession, often with a coffin ornament in the middle of the column of text, as shown here. The most detailed listing of the participants that I’ve seen was printed in Haverhill’s Guardian of Freedom newspaper on 18 October. It listed those mourners as:
Company of horse (from Stoughton) under Capt. Crane,
Company of horse (from Braintree) under Capt. Thayer,
Company of horse (from Middlesex) under Capt. Fuller, who commanded the horse.

A detachment from the Boston artillery, under Capt. Bradlee——(With this detachment was the “Hancock” piece of artillery, reversed, with a pall of black velvet over it.)
That cannon is one of those at the center of my book, The Road to Concord. The same gun is now on display at the North Bridge Visitor Center of Minute Man National Historical Park, with no black velvet.
Artillery Musick.
(All the drums in the procession were muffled, and covered with crape. The field musick played the dead march, and the band a solemn dirge.)

The first battalion of infantry, Composed of the Boston Regiment, in complete uniform, commanded by Col. [William] Schollay; and led by Lt. Col. Wood.
Music of the 1st battalion.
The second battalion of infantry, Composed of the Medford light-infantry, under Capt. Hall,
The Braintree light-infantry, under Capt. Baxter,
The Concord light-infantry, under Capt. ——
The Westown light infantry, under Capt. ——
Boston independent fusiliers, under Capt. Laughton,
The Middlesex fusiliers, under Capt. Willington
Independent Cadets, under Major Elliot.
Musick.
(This battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Bradford.)
Brigadier General [William] Hull, Commanded the whole of the military parade.
Aids to Gen. Hull.

Col. [John Steele] Tyler, Marshal of the unarmed procession preceding the Corpse.
Platoon, and field-officers, of the third division of Militia.
Major Gen. [John] Brooks, of the third division.
Aids to Gen. Brooks.
Platoon and field officers of the second division.
Major Gen. [John] Fisk, and aids
Platoon and field-officers of the first division.
Major General [Henry] Jackson and aids.
(All the above officers were in uniform, with side arms.)

Justices of the Peace,
Judges of various courts,
Attorney General [James Sullivan] and Treasurer [Thomas Davis],
Members of the house of Representatives,
The speaker of the house [Edward Robbins],
Members of the Senate,
Judges of the Supreme Judicial Court,
Sheriff of Suffolk with his wand,
Quarter-Master-General, and Adjutant-General,
Secretary of the Commonwealth [John Avery],
COUNSELLORS;
His Honour the Lt. Governor [Samuel Adams].

Pall Supporters.
Hon. Mr. [James] Warren, Hon. Mr. [Oliver] Wendell,
Hon. Mr. [Eleazer?] Brooks, Hon. Mr. [Thomas] Durfee,
Hon. Mr. [Azor] Orne, Hon. Mr. [Moses] Gill.

Relations,
Col. [Josiah] Waters, marshal of the procession, following the corpse.
Vice-President of the U. States [John Adams].
Members of the Hon. Senate, and House of Representatives of the U. States.
Judges of the U. States Courts,
Secretary at War [Henry Knox],
Gentlemen heretofore Counsellors and Senators of Massachusetts,
The President, professors and other instructors of Harvard College,
Clergy of all Denominations,
Municipal Officers,
Members of the Ancient and honorable Artillery, in uniform, with their side arms,
Citizens four and four.
The Foot closed by Captains of vessels, and seamen, with flags furled.
Carriages.
As the procession moved through town, a cannon was fired every minute from Castle Island and a squad of the artillery militia stationed on Beacon Hill. After Hancock’s corpse was interred at the Granary Burying Ground, the troops under arms fired three times.

TOMORROW: Particular tributes.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reactions to Gov. John Hancock’s Death

The 14 Oct 1793 Boston Gazette reported this response to Gov. John Hancock’s unexpected death on the 8th:
Tuesday last, agreeably to previous orders, the several Independent Companies and the several Companies of Militia in this Town, paraded early in the Morning, in complete Uniform, in order for Inspection, &c. But immediately upon the Death of His Excellency being announced, counter-orders were issued by the Commander in Chief, to the Major General, and the several companies were dismissed, some on their march to the common, and others at their place of parade.—

This measure gave general satisfaction to the Citizens of Boston, who willingly gave up the pleasures which they previously anticipated, and with countenances fully expressive of the sorrow of their hearts, retied, to mourn the lose of Governor HANCOCK,

Their Country’s Savior, and Columbia’s pride,
The Orphan’s father, and the widows’ friend.
May future HANCOCKS Massachusetts guide;
HANCOCK!—The name alone with time shall end.
The “Commander in Chief” who called off that militia muster was the new acting governor, Samuel Adams. After bumping heads during and after the war, the two pre-Revolutionary colleagues had allied on a political ticket in 1787.

Bostonians were thus all excited for a big militia parade when they heard about Hancock’s death, and then they had to go home. I suspect that was an additional reason for the big turnout at his funeral six days later. If they couldn’t march one week, then they could march the next.

The community quickly began to respond to the governor’s passing. The next day, the Suffolk County court, “on motion of Judge [Thomas] Crafts, adjourned till after the Funeral.”

In Thursday the news reached Portland, Maine. The Eastern Herald reported, “The colours of all the vessels in the harbour were immediately placed half mast high, and the bell was tolled from that time till the close of the day.”

Then the town government acted:
At a legal Meeting of the Inhabitants of this Town on Friday last, to take into consideration the measures proper to be taken by them, for attending the Funeral of His Excellency JOHN HANCOCK, that every mark of respect may be paid by his fellow-citizens to the remains of so illustrious a Patriot and Friend to Mankind; the following Votes passed unanimously, viz.

In order to pay that respect to the funeral solumnities of his Exellency the late Governor HANCOCK, which is suitable to the feelings of the Inhabitants on the occasion,

Voted, That it be recommended to the Inhabitants, that they shut their Stores and Shops, at One o’Clock, P.M. on Monday next, and continue the same shut until the Funeral Solemnities shall be performed.

Voted, That the Selectmen be requested to cause the Carriages, Trucks, and other Obstructions, to be removed from State Street and other Streets where the Procession may be on Monday Afternoon.
That was as close to declaring an official holiday as a town of that time could do.

In his 2000 biography of Hancock, Harlow Unger wrote that Gov. Adams declared the day of the funeral to be a holiday, and other books have repeated that statement since. I don’t see any evidence for that, however. A gubernatorial proclamation would have been an official, widely published document—like the Thanksgiving proclamation that ran in the 9 October Columbian Centinel. (That announcement, dated 28 September, was still in Hancock’s name.) So I don’t think Hancock’s funeral day was an official state holiday.

TOMORROW: But no work got done that day.

(The picture above is a 1797 engraved portrait of Samuel Adams based on a painting that John Johnson had made two years earlier. The painting itself was destroyed in a fire a few years after that.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

“His death was unexpected, although he has been indisposed”

John Hancock was in poor health for the last decade of his life. Political opponents, and even some friends, muttered that he exaggerated his medical problems to get out of difficult situations.

The most famous example of that was when he lost a war of wills with President George Washington in 1789 over which man would call on the other, thus implying political inferiority. Hancock had himself carried in to meet the President with bandages on his legs to excuse his not coming earlier.

Hancock also pled illness in stepping down from the governorship in 1785, shortly before the economic crisis that led to the Shays Rebellion came to a head, and in keeping quiet on the proposed new Constitution for as long as he could in 1788.

The historian James Truslow Adams summed up this view by writing in Harper’s: “his two chief resources were his money and his gout, the first always used to gain popularity, and the second to prevent his losing it.” Adams’s article was titled “Portrait of an Empty Barrel.”

But Gov. Hancock did have health problems, and they prevented him from doing not only what he didn’t like but what he liked. On 18 Sept 1793 he prepared a speech to the Massachusetts General Court about a landmark legal case (which I’ll get to later). But he was too weak to deliver it, and had to watch the secretary of the commonwealth, John Avery, read it instead.

Hancock died less than a month later on 8 Oct 1793, aged fifty-six. A letter relaying that news to New York said, “Governor HANCOCK died this morning; his death was unexpected, although he has been indisposed for some time past.” People had gotten so used to the governor being ill that no one expected him to actually die.

The 11 October American Apollo reported:
On the morning of his death, he expressed no unusual complaints, till about seven o’clock, when he suddenly felt a difficulty in breathing; his physicians were immediately sent for, who gave him some temporary relief, but the dissolution of nature made such rapid progress, than before eight o’clock, he resigned his soul into the hands of HIM who gave it.
TOMORROW: How Boston heard the news.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

“The concourse of spectators was greater than we ever remember”

Earlier in the week I wrote about the funeral of Christopher Seider. The merchant John Rowe stated in his diary, “I am very sure two thousand people attended his Funerall.” That would have been one of every eight people in Boston.

John Adams watched that event with Rowe and wrote:
a vast Number of Boys walked before the Coffin, a vast Number of Women and Men after it, and a Number of Carriages. My Eyes never beheld such a funeral. The Procession extended further than can be well imagined.
But within a couple of weeks came the funeral of the first four victims of the Boston Massacre, and that was even bigger. “Such a Concourse of People I never saw before—I believe Ten or Twelve thousand,” wrote Rowe. That was more than twice the reported capacity of Old South Meeting-house.

A report printed in several newspapers guessed:
It is supposed that there must have been a greater Number of People from Town and Country at the Funeral of those who were massacred by the Soldiers, than were ever together on this Continent on any Occasion.
However, back in 1740 Boston newspapers estimated that on several days the Rev. George Whitefield had preached to crowds of 15,000 to 23,000 people on Boston Common. The siege of Fort Carillion in 1759 also involved more than 20,000 people.

Be that as it may, the grandest if not the most crowded funeral that eighteenth-century Boston ever saw took place on this date in 1793: the send-off for Gov. John Hancock. The Guardian of Freedom, published in Haverhill, stated: “The concourse of spectators was greater than we ever remember to have seen on any occasion.”

The main reason for that turnout was fond feelings for Hancock. Most people in Massachusetts admired their governor. Many authors have written that Hancock accomplished little in his final years, but that assumes he went into politics to make changes. Once independence was achieved, and perhaps even before, I think Hancock’s main aim was to increase and preserve his own popularity by keeping most people happy, and in Massachusetts he achieved that.

Another reason for the big occasion on 14 Oct 1793, I think, arose from the circumstance of Hancock’s death on 8 October.

TOMORROW: How the governor died.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Local Militia Muster in Westboro, 14 Oct.

On Saturday, 14 October, the Westborough Rotary Club and the Westborough Historical Society will present a re-creation of a town militia muster.

Specifically, this event commemorates the 243rd anniversary of the Westborough militia’s September 1774 march to Worcester to help close the county court in protest of the Massachusetts Government Act.

Reenactors portraying Westborough militiamen will perform the manual of arms, the standard military drill from 1774. There will be musket-firing demonstrations throughout the day. A colonial market will display a variety of colonial trades and crafts while citizens of Westborough will make items for barter or sale to the assembled militiamen. Westborough’s own Rev. Ebenezer Parkman will harangue and inform the crowds.

There will also be food trucks and vendors for attendees, displays of artifacts and documents, and eighteenth-century children’s games.

This event is scheduled to take place from 10:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. in Veteran’s Freedom Park, 169A West Main Street.

See the town library’s collection of Revolutionary documents here through Digital Commonwealth. Parkman’s diaries have been published, with some pieces freely available and others only in print.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

“A Monument over the grave of young SEIDER”?

On 5 Mar 1770, the Boston Gazette reported on the grand funeral for little Christopher Seider, shot by Ebenezer Richardson on 22 February, and added:
We can assure the Publick, that a Monument will be erected over the Grave of young Snider, with an Inscription, to perpetuate his Memory; A Number of patriotic Gentlemen having generously subscrib’d for that Purpose——It is said it will be done in an elegant Simplicity, and that the Overplus Money, if any, will be given to the Parents.
However, over a year later the 21 Mar 1771 Massachusetts Spy ran this item on the same matter:
For the MASSACHUSETTS SPY.
Mr. [Isaiah] THOMAS,

As there was a collection made some time ago by a Gentleman who had a considerable share in the popular transactions of the year past, for the professed purpose of erecting a Monument over the grave of young SEIDER; if the above Gentleman will condescend to inform the Public, why the Money so collected, has not been approproiate to the avowed design, he will oblige a number of your readers, as well as your humble servant,

The TRIFLER.
The Spy had published another item signed “The TRIFLER” on 10 January. It was a snide attack on Jonathan Sewall, identified by his own newspaper pseudonym “Philanthrop.” It said he should be “satisfied with his 600l. sterling per annum, and no longer prostitute his pen.”

That presents a political mystery. The “Gentleman who had a considerable share in the popular transactions of the year past” had to be one of Boston’s Whigs. But Sewall was a friend and vocal supporter of the royal government. Would the same newspaper writer attack both sides?

One possible explanation is that the Trifler supported the Crown but resented how Sewall was hogging two lucrative government appointments: Massachusetts Attorney General and Judge of the Vice Admiralty Court. Several letters and even newspaper reports from that period show how royal officials wanted Sewall to hand over the judgeship to Customs Commissioner John Robinson. (In the end, Sewall clung to both jobs.)

So who was the “Gentleman who had a considerable share in the popular transactions of the year past”?  I think the most likely candidate is William Molineux. He was definitely the Whigs’ leader in street demonstrations. He was close to Madam Grizzell Apthorp, who had employed Christopher Seider as a house servant, and he was on the scene when people arrested Richardson.

Molineux was also in need of money. On 1 May 1771 he was supposed to repay the town of Boston £300 it had loaned him to kickstart a cloth-weaving enterprise that would employ the poor. He never did pay that back. By 1774 Molineux had probably applied money he was supposed to manage for Charles Ward Apthorp of New York to the weaving scheme. So it’s not hard to imagine that the funds collected for a monument to Christopher Seider went into the same hole.

Then again, the first report from 1770 said merely that some gentlemen had “generously subscrib’d” or promised money for a monument. The Trifler may have been wrong to say that funds had actually been collected. After all, in the evening after the Gazette reported on the possibility of a monument, the Boston Massacre took place. Suddenly everyone had something new to focus on and argue about.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“All interred in the same grave with him”

Yesterday I started to look into the question of whether Christopher Seider, memorialized on a stone in the Granary Burying-ground, was actually buried there in 1770.

Celebrate Boston’s page on grave-robbing [perhaps an odd topic to celebrate] says:
Christopher Snider, 1st Martyr to the Noble Cause, was likely buried at Central Burying Ground, and not at Granary as commemorated.
As evidence, the page points to a statement about little Seider that Gov. Thomas Hutchinson put into his history of Massachusetts:
A grand funeral was, however, judged very proper for him. Young and old, some of all ranks and orders, attended in a solemn procession from liberty tree to the town-house, and then to the common burying ground.
The Seider family lived near the south end of Boston Common on Frog Lane (now Boylston Street). So it might make sense to place his body in the cemetery nearest their house—what we now call the Central Burying Ground (shown above, courtesy of Wikipedia).

The problem with that analysis is that the phrase “common burying ground” didn’t rule out the Granary Burying Ground because that, too, had been carved from land originally assigned to Boston Common. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff’s A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston confirms that the cemetery beside the Granary was sometimes called by the Common Burying Ground. Hutchinson might also have used the word “common” to mean not the Boston Common but the tombs and graveyard space that Boston owned collectively.

Likewise, at different times Bostonians referred to both the Granary Burying Ground and the Central Burying Ground as the South Burying Ground and as the Central or Middle Burying Ground. As more cemeteries were opened to the south, the labels shifted. In 1770 the middle cemetery was the one beside the town granary.

We have clues from period newspapers about where Christopher Seider was buried. We start with the report of the funeral for the first four victims of the Boston Massacre, published on 12 Mar 1770 in both the Boston Gazette and Boston Evening-Post:
The Bodies were deposited in one Vault in the middle Burying-ground
Furthermore, the 19 March Gazette said Patrick Carr was interred in the same vault:
His Remains were attended on Saturday last from Faneuil-Hall by a numerous and respectable Train of Mourners, to the same Grave, in which those who fell by the same Hands of Violence were interred the last Week.
A year later, the 7 Mar 1771 Massachusetts Spy reported:
On Tuesday last the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, at noon, and after nine in the evening, all the bells in town tolled; and at dark was exhibited in the chamber window of Mr. [Paul] Revere in the Old-North square, a set of transparent paintings, representing, in the fourth window a monumental obelisk, bearing in front the bust of young Seider; and on the front of the pedestal, the names of the five persons murdered by the soldiery on the fifth of March, and all interred in the same grave with him:
Thus, contemporaneous newspapers stated that all the Massacre victims and little Christopher Seider were interred in the same vault in the Middle or Granary Burying Ground. Which means the 1906 stone in that cemetery today doesn’t have to move. (Phew!)

TOMORROW: The missing monument.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where Was Christopher Seider Buried?

After young Christopher Seider was killed on 22 Feb 1770, where was he buried?

A marker in the Granary Burying Ground (shown here) bears his name under those of the five people who died the following month after the Boston Massacre. But that’s not a contemporaneous marker. It was erected by the Sons of the American Revolution in 1906.

(The stone lists the boy’s name as “Christopher Snider,” a variation which did appear at the time but doesn’t match most family records. It also gives his age as twelve. As I wrote here, Christopher was probably killed shortly before his eleventh birthday.)

Some people have suggested that Christopher’s body was buried somewhere else. In his recent book First Martyr to Liberty, Mitch Kachun posited that the boy was buried under Liberty Tree. That’s based on the description of his funeral as published in multiple Boston newspapers, including the 5 Mar 1770 Evening-Post:
The Remains of young Snider, the unfortunate Boy who was barbarously murdered the 22d of February last, was decently interred the Monday following. His tragical Death and the peculiar Circumstances attending had touched the Breasts of all with the tenderest Sympathy, a few only excepted, who have long shown themselves void of the Feelings of Humanity. The little Corps was set down under the Tree of Liberty, from whence the Procession began. About Five Hundred School boys preceded; and a very numerous Train of Citizens followed, in the Estimation of good Judges, at least Two Thousand of all Ranks, amidst a Crowd of Spectators, who discovered in their Countenances the evident marks of true Sorrow.
I disagree with Kachun’s reading. The report mentions “the Tree of Liberty” as the start of the funeral procession, not the end. To be sure, this article didn’t state where the boy’s body ended up.

But under Liberty Tree would have been a very unorthodox spot, likely to be clearly mentioned in other sources. Despite that elm’s public symbolism, it wasn’t on public land; it was in the yard of bookbinder John Eliot. No later description of the tree mentioned that it was also a gravesite.

Furthermore, the tree was on a well-traveled corner. There was a old British custom of burying people who had committed suicide at such crossroads instead of in designated graveyards; Parliament finally outlawed that practice in the reign of George IV. In 1770 Boston’s Whigs wanted to present Christopher Seider as an innocent young martyr to liberty, and burying him on unconsecrated land at a crossroads would have undercut that message.

TOMORROW: So if Christopher Seider was interred in a burying-ground, which one?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Conde on Historic Gravestones in Boston, 11 Oct.

As part of Massachusetts Archaeology Month, the New England Historical Genealogical Society is hosting a free lecture on 11 October by Ta Mara Conde, founder of Historic Gravestone Services.

The society’s description of “Stories in Stone: America Through Its Early Burial Grounds” says:
Burial grounds are outdoor museum: accessible and open to all. The stones reveal the history of the town and its people. Join Ta Mara Conde, a monument conservator with Historic Gravestone Services, for a visual tour of America through its early burial grounds. Discover the meaning behind symbols adorning historic gravestones, understand society’s changing attitudes toward death, and learn about the geology found in your local burial ground. Unearth the stories hidden in the stones.
Conde began restoring historic gravestones in 1998 as an apprentice to Fred Oakly, head of conservation for the Association of Gravestone Studies. She provides professional restoration services for grave markers, monuments, sculpture, and other stone works using historically accurate materials and standard conservation techniques. Ta Mara studied with the National Park Service and Cathedral Stone Products Certification Program, and has taught conservation workshops through Greenfield Community College and private organizations.

This event is scheduled to start at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday, 11 October, in the N.E.H.G.S. building at 99-101 Newbury Street, Boston. Register for a seat here.