"The British are coming!!!"


A couple years ago, Jennifer and I went to Boston for our 15th wedding anniversary.  We were riding a tour bus around the city hearing about some of the Revolutionary War sites that we passed and found that one of the historical sites we passed had a direct connection to our family.  Remember the story about the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere?  The road along which this ride took place is now part of Minute Man National Historic Park, and Hartwell Tavern is one of the locations on the road.  As it turns out, this building and its residents played an important but lesser known role in the story of Revere's famous ride.
One of the bedrooms within the restored building.
 
Hartwell Tavern was originally built by Samuel Hartwell (b. 6 October 1666; d. 27 November 1744) in 1732 and 1733 on 18 acres of land as a wedding present for his son, Ephraim Hartwell (b. 14 January 1706/07; d. 7 May 1793) and Elizabeth Heywood (b. 3 June 1714; d. 20 June 1805).  Ephraim and Elizabeth were married ten years earlier on 7 November 1723 1732, and their first child, a son also named Ephraim, was born 29 October 1733.  I haven't verified it yet, but I suspect that the younger Ephraim was born in the newly built house.  Our connection to the family is through Samuel's grandfather, William Hartwell (b. 1613, Kent, England; d. 12 March 1690, Concord, Massachusetts).

The restored kitchen.
Ephraim and Elizabeth had 14 children here, but not all of them survived to adulthood.  Their first five children all died of throat distemper in October 1740.  Their last child, Jonas, was born in 1754, and it was two years after that when Ephraim obtained a license to operate an inn within part of the house.  The house passed to Ephraim's son Samuel (b. 1742; d. 1829), who in turn passed it to his own son Samuel (b. 1789; d. 1837), who passed it on to his son George (b. 1819; d. 1875).  George married Margaret Redman in 1847, and their son John Redman Hartwell (b. 1848; d. 1904) is noted in documents within the current tavern's archives as the last Hartwell to reside in the house before it was sold in 1875 (this may have occurred after George's death on 3 March).  The house was again sold in 1924 to two women who turned it into a dining establishment.  The building burned down on 18 February 1968, and the National Park Service (NPS) purchased the land and the house foundation.  The NPS rebuilt the house in the 1980s to show its 1775 appearance, but kept the additions to the house that were made in 1783 and 1830 while the Hartwells were still in residence.  The NPS estimates that about 60-70% of the current structure is original.

But wait; what's the connection to Paul Revere's ride?  You may recall from your colonial American history that Robert Newman, the sexton of Boston's Old North Church, was instructed to place a lantern signal in the church's tower depending on which route the British army would be taking inland — "one if by land and two if by sea" as the poem goes.  When the two-lantern signal was made in the church on 18 April 1775 to indicate that the British army would be crossing the Charles River, Paul Revere and William Dawes both set out on horseback in different directions to contact as many separatist sympathisers in the area as possible to relay the news.  Estimates state that as many as 40 sympathisers joined the ride that night, one of whom, Dr. Samuel Prescott, rode with Revere for a short while in the area of the Hartwell residence.  After Revere was captured in the early morning hours of 19 April, a little farther down the road, Prescott leapt his horse over a small stone wall nearby to evade the soldiers.  He emerged from the fields at the Hartwells' home, where he woke Ephraim.  Ephraim sent Violet, a young black slave in Ephraim's employ, to wake his son, Samuel Hartwell next door.  This Samuel (b. 1742; d. 1829) and his brother John (b. 1747; d. 1820) were both sergeants in the Lincoln Minute Men, and their brother Isaac (b. 1752; d. 1831) was a private in the same company.  Samuel's wife Mary took the message of the army's advance to Captain William Smith of the Lincoln Minute Men.  This allowed the Lincoln Minute Men time to assemble and arrive at the North Bridge (the location of the "shot heard 'round the world") before the army.  The current reenactors using the Lincoln Minute Men name mention that the company was the first to confront the regular army at the North Bridge that morning.

The rest, to quote the cliche, is history.

4 comments:

Herstoryan said...

So neat! Thanks for sharing :)

lambj said...

She was only 9 years old when they married?! At least they waited 10 years for the first child.

slambo said...

I'm not sure how I missed it. Looking back at the source record again, I transposed two digits in the marriage year. It should have been 1732 and not 1723.

Heather Rojo said...

This is one of our favorite parts of the walking trail that is the historic Battle Road. Usually there is a flock of sheep in the meadow next to the Hartwell House, and re-enactors often have a wood fire going inside with smoke coming out the chimney. Walking down the dirt path makes it look just like it must have in 1775. Other parts of Concord and Lexington have paved the Battle Road, and it is harder to imagine what life was like on the eve of the Revolution.