Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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closed. Upon a little elevation near the apex or southerly
extremity of the Green stood the old church, built in 1714, — a
barn-like structure of three stories, with a pitched roof The
building had no proper belfry, but on a little structure placed
a short distance north of the meeting-house was a bell-tower,
from which pealed forth the alarm on the memorable morning.
The church presented its side to the Concord road and its end
to the Bedford road. It was taken down in 1 794, and a new
edifice with a tower erected near the spot. This building was
destroyed by fire, and was then rebuilt where it now stands, at









the northwesterly coi'iier of the Common. The flagstaff is now
placed not far from the site of the old meeting-house, but since
the day when it stood here the southerly point of the Common
has been somewhat elongated. An oak-tree or two stood about
the meeting-house, and the Common itself was covered here and
there with low brush. The little belfry stood on the site, of
the monument. It was removed to the old Parker farm, on
the Waltham road, better known as the birthplace of Theodore
Parker, Avhose ancestor, John Parker, commanded the company
of minute-men fired upon by the regulars.

On the right of the Bedford road and nearly opposite the old
church was John Buckman's tavern, in Avhicli many of Parker's
men assembled before the arrival of the troops, and which
served as a refuge for some of the Americans afterwards. The
fugitives fired upon the Britons from this house, and the shot-
holes still seen in the clapboards attest that they drew the
regulars' fire. Some of the British wounded were left here on
the retreat. The old inn, now owned by the Meriam family,
remains nearly as it was in 1775, and is the most conspicuous
landmark of the battle-ground. The first post-office in the town
was here located. Some Lombard y poplars that formerly stooil
about the building have now disappeared. The taA^ern, with its
barn and outbuildings, and the meeting-house and belfry, are
shown in our view of tire Common.

On the southwest side of the Concord road, and looking upon
the Common, Avere two houses, at least one of which is still
standing. On the north side of the Green were two dwellings,
with a blacksmith's shop between. The one nearest the Bed-
ford road was that of Jonathan Harrington, one of the vic-
tims of the regulars' fire, whose wife witnessed his fall and the
convulsive efforts made by him to reach her side. The other
house, then that of Daniel Harrington, and still remaining in
the Harrington family, is now there, looking, we should imagine,
much as it did a hundred years ago. In front of it are some of
the most magnificent specimens of our grand American elm to
be seen far or near. Doolittle's picture of the battle-ground was
drawn from this house. On the east of it was the well at


which the king's men quenched their thirst, and behind the
house now occupied by the f.uniUes of Harrington and Swan is
still to be seen the quaint little blacksmith's shop with one of
those ugly orifices in the door made by a leaden ball. This
completes our view of Lexington Green in 1775, Except that
the .avenue on the north side was a mere lane, and that the
space has been enlarged at the southern extremity, the place is
topographically the same as on the day of the fight.

The British main body marched up the Concord road and
remained there while the attack took place. A body of grena-
diers moved into the Common by the Bedford road, deploying
in front of the Americans, who Avere paraded some four or five
rods east of the monument and near the Bedford road. At the
first alarm the minute-men assembled between the tavern and
the meeting-house.

Lexington Common, as Ave see it to-day, bears little resem-
blance to the green Avhere the
first death- volley rattled in 1775.
There is a triangular enclosure,
bordered by a double row of
elms, some of large growth, oth-
ers of more recent planting. A
fence, composed of stone posts
with Avooden rails, separates the
ground from the higliAvays which
pass on either side.

The battle-monument stands
near the west corner of the enclo-
sure, not far from the ground
Avhere the first victims Avere
stretched in their blood, and at a
dozen paces from the south side.
It is placed on a little knoll, is surrounded by an iron fence,
and has the front Avith the inscription facing south. It is enough
to say of this monument, that its insignificant appearance, Avhen
compared Aviih the ol-)ject it is intended to perpetuate, can arouse
no other than a feeling of disappointment in the mind of the



pilgrim. The shaft is of granite, with a marble tablet bearing
the following inscription, WTitten by Eev. Jonas Clark of Lex-
ington. Lafayette and Kossuth have both read it.

" Sacred to the Liberty and the Eights of Mankind ! ! ! The
Freedoui and Independence of America — Sealed and defended
with the bh:Jud of her sons — This Monument is erected by the In-
habitants of Lexington, under the patronage and at the expense of
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to the memory of their Fel-
low-citizens, Ensign Robert Monroe, Messrs. Jonas Parker, Samuel
Hadley, Jonathan Harrington, Junr., Isaac Muzzy, Caleb Harring-
ton and John Brown, of Lexington, and Asahel Porter, of Woburn,
who fell on this Field, the first victims of the Sword of British Tyr-
anny and Oppression, on the morning of the ever-memorable Nine-
teenth of April, An. Dom. 1775. The Die was Cast ! ! ! The blood
of these Martyrs in the cause of God and their Country was the
Cement of the Union of these States, then Colonies, and gave the
Spring to the Spirit, Firmness and Resolution of their Fellow-citi-
zens. They rose as one man to revenge their Brethren's blood, and
at the point of the Sword to assert and defend their native Rights.
They nobly dared to be Free ! ! ! The contest was long, bloody, and
affecting. Righteous Heaven approved the Solemn Appeal ; Vic-
tory crowned their Arms, and the Peace, Liberty, and Indepen-
dence of the United States of America was their glorious Reward.
Built in the year 1799."

The bodies of the seven individuals belonging to Lexington
were originally enclosed in long wooden boxes made of rough
boards, and buried in one grave in a corner of the town l)ury-
ing-ground, separate and distinct from all other graves. A few
days prior to the celebration in 1835, the remains Avere disin-
terred and placed in a Avooden coffin enclosed in lead and made
air-tight, the Avhole being then placed in a mahogany sar-
cophagus. At tlie conclusion of the exercises on that occasion
the sarcophagus was deposited in the tomb constructed near the
base of the monument. When the bodies Avere exhumed the
coffins were completely decayed. The bones were also more or
less decayed.

The people of Lexington, sensible of the impression whicli the
monument gives the beholder, have some time contemplated the


building of a new one on a more enlarged plan. This idea has,
we believe, finally merged into that of placing appropriate me-
morial statues in the Town Hall, two being already fixed there.
They represent a soldier of 1775 and of 1861. When the va-
cant niches shall be occupied by the proposed statues of Han-
cock and Adams the design will be complete. The figures
already in the hall are not without merit, but are placed in so
obscure a light as to be seen to great disadvantage. We must
say that it does not appear from this measure how the defects
of the old monument, with its too lengthy inscription, are to be
remedied. The memorials placed within four walls fail to in-
culcate any moral lesson, and are completely shut out from the
observation of the passer-by. The old monument, not being of
itself a relic of the Eevolution, its materials might be included
in a new structure more properly commemorative of the event.
It stands just Avhere it should, — - on the spot where the tocsin
first sounded " To arms ! " It should not be inferred that vis-
itors are not admitted with all courtesy to view the statuary,
but we should much like to see a shaft national in its character
and worthy to illustrate one of History's most eventful pages,
standing on the ancient parade.

The troops, having finished their bloody work, and being
joined by the rear column, re-form, give three huzzas for vic-
tory, and push on for Concord. As, however fast they may
march we shall be sure to overtake them, we desire the reader
to accompany us to the old Clark house so called.

What is now Hancock Street was the old Bedford road in
1775. The parsonage was situated on the west side, a quarter
of a mile distant from the old meeting-house.

The house belongs certainly to two, and perhaps to three,
periods. It is composed of a main building in the plain, sub-
stantial style of the last century, and of a more antiquated
structure standing at right angles with it. The first confronts
you if you have come down the road from the Common ; the
last faces the street, from which the whole structure stands
back a little distance, with a space of green turf between. A
large willow is growing in front of the main house, and on the

lechmere's point to l?:xington. 365

verge of the grass-plot stands an elm, its branches interlacing
those of a fellow-tree on the other side the way, so as to form a
triumphal arcli under which no patriot shoxild fail to pass. We
have christened the twain Hancock and Adams. The one is
sturdy, far reaching, and comprehensive ; the other, graceful,
supple, but of lesser breadth. About the house flourish lilacs,
syringas, and the common floral adjuncts of a Xew England

In this house the afterwards proscribed fellow-patriots, Han-
cock and Adanjs, were lodging at the time of the night march,
of which one object was supjDOsed to be their arrest. They
were advised by Gerry that the British officers were patrolling
the road with some sinister design. A guard of the town's
alarm-list was placed about the house, and when Revere rode
up, " bloody with spurring," to warn the patriot leaders, he
was requested not to make a noise for fear of waking them.
" Noise ! " quoth our bluif mechanic, " you '11 have noise enough
before long. The regulars are coming out ! " After some
further parley with the Eev. Mr. Clark, Hancock, who recog-
nized his friend's voice, arose and bade him enter. William
Dawes, the other messenger sent by Warren, arrived soon after.
This was not long after midnight, and sleep, we may suppose,
was banished the house for the remainder of the night.

The room occu})ied by " king " Hancock and " citizen "
Adams is the one on the lower floor on the left of the entrance.
Care has been taken to preserve its original appearance. The
woodwork, of Southern pine, has remained unpainted, acquiring
with age a beautiful color. One side of the room is wainscoted
up to the ceiling, the remaining walls bearing the original paper
in large figures. 'J'he staircase in the front hall has also re-
mained innocent of paint, and is handsome enough for a church.
Age has given to the carved balusters and panelled casings a
richness and depth of hue that scorns the application of any
unnatural pigment. The room Ave have just left is in the south-
west corner of the house. Passing to the opposite side of the
hall, we enter the best room, Avhich corresponds in finish with
that just described, except that the painter's brush has been
applied to the wainscot and newer paper to the Avails.


In tliis apartment there is no manner of doubt Hancock
courted "Dorothy Q.," Avhile his graver friend discussed state-
craft "vvith their reverend host, or, buried in thought, paced
up and down the grass-plot by the roadside. Dorothy, the
daughter of Judge Edmund Quincy of Braintree, was at this
time living in the house under the protection of Madam Lydia
Hancock, the governor's aunt. When turned of seventy she
had a lithe, handsome figure, a pair of laughing eyes, fine yel-
low ringlets in which scarcely a gray hair could be seen, and
although for the second time a widow, Avas as sprightly as a girl
of sixteen. Wliat her youth was the reader will be at no loss
to infer. Charming, vivacious, and wittj'', Avith a little clash of
the coquette withal, one' might joardon Colonel Hancock, late
of the Boston Cadets, for becoming her servant.

Hancock had aspired to and obtained a military rank. He
was a trifle of a dandy in his attire, particularly in liis military
garb, when his points, sword-knot, and lace were always of the
newest fashion, and rivalled those of any of his Majesty's offi-
cers. Gage revoked Hancock's commission, and the indignant
corps disbanded, flinging — figuratively — the governor's stand-
ard in his face, which made him as mad as a ]\Iarch hare. He
is supposed to give his wrath utterance in verse : —


" Your Colonel H^ — k hj neglect,
Has been deficient in respect ;
As he my sov'reign toe ne'er kiss'd,
'T was proper he should be dismissed ;
I never was and never will
By mortal man be treated ill ;
I never was nor never can,
Be treated ill by mortal man.
O, had I but have known before
The temper of your factious core,
It should have been my greatest pleasure,
To have prevented this bold measure.
To meet with such severe disgrace,
My standard flung into my face !
Disband yourselves ! — so cursed stout ?
O had I, had I, turn'd you out ! "

On the 12th of June, 1775, Governor Gage by proclamation

LECHMERE's point to LEXINGTON. 367

exempted Hancock and Adams from his offer of a general par-
don, and declared all persons who might give them aid or shel-
ter rebels and traitors. Copies of this document were posted in
all the public places, and left Mnth every householder in the
town of Boston. This being as far as the authority of the royal
governor extended, the objects of his paper decree were never
in any apprehension of their personal safety. Outlawry by the
king's government was to make them the two most conspicuous
figures in the Colonies, and the selection of Hancock to preside
over the Continental Congress partook largely of an act of
bravado. Trumbull's burlescpie of Gage's proclamation, wdiich
appeared in June, 1775, evidently formed tlie germ of his hu-
morous epic of MacFingal.

Hancock's martial pride, coupled, perhaps, with the feeling
that he must show himself, in the presence of his lady love, a
soldier worthy of her favor, inclined him to show fight when
the regulars were expected. His widow related that it was
with great difficulty that herself and the colonel's aunt kept
liim from facing the British on that day. "While the bell on
the Green was sounding the alarm, Hancock was cleaning his
sword and fusee, and putting his accoutrements in order ; but
at length the importunities of the ladies and the urgency of
other friends prevailed, and he retired with Adams to a place
of concealment. The astute Adams, it is recounted, a little
annoyed perhaps at his friend's obstinacy, clapped him on the
shoulder, and exclaimed, looking significantly at the weapons,
" That is not our business ; we belong to the cabinet." It will
now be easily understood by the reader why Hancock, who Avas
also a relative of Eev. Mr. Clark, chose to come so far from
Concord, where the Congress was sitting, to lodge.

The patriots first repaired to the hill, then wooded, southeast
of jMr. Clark's, where they remained until the troops passed on
to Concord. They were afterwards conducted to the house of
Madam Jones, Avidow of Eev. Thomas Jones, and Eev. Mr.
j\Iarrett, in Burlington. From here, upon a new alarm, they
retired to Mr. Amos AVyman's, in Billerica, leaving an elegant
repast, to Avhicli they had just sat down, untasted. Eevere,


after his misadventure on the road to Concord, rejoined the
patriots, as did also Madam Hancock and her niece.

It was while walking in the fields after hearing the firing
that Adams made the observation, " It is a fine day." "Very
pleasant," replied one of his companions, supposing him to
mean the glories of the dawning day. " I mean," said the
patriot seer, " this day is a glorious day for America." The
veil was lifted, and perhaps he alone saw the end of which this
was the beginning. During the firing random shots whizzed
past the house he had quitted, and some of the wounded Amer-
icans were brouglit into it to have their hurts cared for. The
whole affair on the Common was visible from this spot.

The house in which we have been loitering was built by
Thomas Hancock, the Boston merchant of Avhom we have
already had occasion to speak. He was not born untillTOS,
served his time with Henchman, the stationer, and had not
acquired wealth until a much later period ; so that we suppose
the building to have been erected about 1740, and not earlier,
as has been stated by some. Thomas Hancock did not build
his own princely mansion in Boston until 1737. He was the
son of tlie old Bishop Hancock, as he was called, Avho was or-
dained in 1698 over a society which then inhabited this part
of Cambridge, called " the farms." The merchant, as soon as
his position enabled him to do it, doubtless looked to tlie more
convenient housing of his honored parent, who received his
name of bishop on account of his great influence among the
ministers. Lexington was incorporated in 1712.

The best room communicates with the ancient or original
house, which is seen fronting the street with its single story
and picturesque dormer windows and roof. This part was
doubtless built by the bishop's parishioners soon after his settle-
ment. It formerly stood nearer the high-road until the new
l)uilding was completed, when it was moved back and joined
upon it. The house is a veritable curiosity, and would not
make a bad depository for the household furniture and utensils
of the period to which it belongs, being of itself so unique a
specimen of early JS'ew England architecture. The floors and


wainscot are of hard wood, upon which time has left not the
least. evidence of decay. The farmers clearly meant their min-
ister to inhal&it a house of a better sort than their own, as is
apparent in the curious panelling of the outer door, which still
retains its original fastenings, and in the fulding shutters of the
little study at the back. A cramped and narrow staircase con-
ducts to the chambers above, from the room in which we are
standing. The same old dresser is attached .to the wall, gar-
nished of yore by the wooden trenchers and scanty blue china
of the good bishop's housekeeping. Some old three-legged
tables are the only other relics of the former inhabitants. This
one room, according to the custom of the times, served as
kitchen, dining-room, and for the usual avocations of the family.
The little study has the narrow windows which first admitted
light upon the ponderous folios of the minister or the half-writ-
ten sheets of many a weighty sermon. And perhaps he listened
here to the tale of domestic wrong wrung in Ijitterness from
some aching heart, or wrestled in prayer with an awakening
but still struggling spirit. We see him in the common apart-
ment performing the marriage rite for some rustic swain and his
bride, or reading aloud the news from the metropolis, which he
alone of all the village receives. Teacher, guide, parent, and
friend, the clergyman of the olden time feared not to preach a
political sermon or lay bare the abuses of society. In general,
if something severe, he kept himself above reproach in his pri-
vate life. He was steadfast, never confounding his flock with
a sudden change of doctrine. These were the men who laid
line and plummet to the foundation-stone of New England
society, and we yield them the respect their teachings have
gained for her sons.

On the day of the liattle the clergymen followed their parish-
ioners to the held, with the tovwi stores of ammunition, whicli
they busied themselves in distributing from their chaises. On
the Sunday ensuing those who had taken part in the fray stood
up in the aisles of the churches, — many with bullet-holes in
their garments, — while thanks were publicly offered for their
safe return. The country was all on fire. The young men


hastened to array tliemselves for the war that was seen to be
inevitable. " Arms I " was the cry, " give us arms ! " Hearken
to one young, ardent spirit : " I would not be without a gun if
it costs me five guineas, as I shall be called a tory or something
worse if I am without one. Pray don't fail of sending me a
gun ! a gun ! a gun and bayonet ; by all means a gun ! a gun ! "

At the celebration in 1783 Hancock, then governor, was
present, again sojourning at jNIr. Clark's. At the appointed
time Captain Munroe appeared with his company, and escorted
his Excellency to the meeting-house, where Kev. Mr. Adams of
Lunenburgh preached the anniversary sermon. Cannon were
fired, and the United »States flag hoisted at sunrise over Cap-
tain Brown's, and near the spot where the militia were slain.
The Rev. JNIr. Clark has recounted the events of the day, which
he witnessed in part from his own house.

The old burial-ground of Lexington is so secluded that the
stranger might pass it without suspecting its vicinity, if some
friendly hand did not guide him to the spot. It hes back of
the Unitarian Church, and is reached by a little avenue from
the street. "We looked for the older graves here with the same
ill success which has befallen in many similar places. The
" forefathers of the hamlet " have scarcely left their traces upon
the stones. There is a handsome marble monument over the
remains of ( iovernor Eustis, erected by his Avidow, the daughter
of Hon. Woodbury Langdon of Portsmouth. She lived to the
great age of eighty-four, and now reposes by the side of her
husband. The stone for the governor's monument was quarried
in the Berkshire Hills.

The noise which the battle of Lexington made reached Eng-
land. A subscription was raised in London and forwarded for
the relief of the widows and orphans of those Avho fell here and
all along the blood-stained road. Walpole deplored it in a let-
ter to Sir Horace ]\Iann, and Eogers, the poet's father, put on
mourning. The fetal news Avas carried from Salem to England
by Bichard Derby, reaching there May 29.




" Why, our battalia trebles that account ;
Besides, the king's name is a tower of strength,
Which they ujjon the adverse faction want."


IT would be difficult to imagine a more beautiful Indian
suuimer's day than that on which we marched from Lexing-
ton to Concord with the ghosts of Colonel Smith's command.
A heavy frost still incrusted the grasses and shrubbery by the
wayside, but the energetic rays of the sun speedily transformed
the beautiful crystal masses into commonplace grass and shrub.
Some respectable liills, now made more passable by nearly a
hundred years' labur of the sturdy tax-payers of old j\Iiddle-
sex, must have tried the sinews of the king's troops, already
wearied with their ten miles of hurried tramp from Lechmere's
Point. They may have paused, as we did, on the summit of the
highest of these, to breathe awhile and glance at the glistening
white tower of Bedford Church, before descending into the
plain of Concord.

The road over which the troops marched and retreated is in
some places disused, except for the accommodation of the neigh-
boring farm-houses. Fiske's Hill, a high eminence a mile and
a third from Lexington, is now avoided altogetlier. Another
segment of the old highway, grass-grown and roughened by the
washings of many winters, enters the main road at an abandoned
lime-kiln, before you reach the Brooks tavern. In this vicinity
one of the severest actions of the 19th of April Avas fought.

It was in the days of the epizootic, and the highway was as
deserted as could have been desired for our purpose. Proceeding
onward, a farm-house almost always in view, there seemed a


sort of fascination in tlie old, moss-grown, tumble-down stone-
walls. No great stretch of imagination was necessary to con-
vert them into the ramparts of a century ago, behind which the

Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 32 of 39)