The Edwards Family property was located on Back Street (now Salem Street) in the North End of Boston. It was two blocks from Paul Revere’s home in North Square and three blocks from Christ Church (Old North Church) on Salem Street. Before purchasing the Back Street property, my sixth great grandfather Captain Benjamin Edwards (1685-1751) lived in the North End in two other locations – Hull Street in 1713, and the corner of Prince and Salem streets in 1717. In 1719, Captain Edwards purchased property from Abigail Blaque that bounded southeasterly on Back Street (95 1/2 ft.) and northwesterly on the Mill Pond. The property included houses, outhouses, buildings, barns, stables and gardens. Captain Edwards lived here in a brick home and this is where his seven children, including my fifth great grandfather Dolling Edwards, were born. Today, a restaurant at 104 Salem Street called L’Osteria stands on the site of the old Edwards Family property.
In 1738, Captain Edwards purchased additional property on Back Street, next to the piece he already owned, from blacksmith Solomon Townsend. It measured 31 1/2 ft. at the front and 200 ft. from front to rear and contained land and buildings. A private dwelling stands on this site today. After Captain Edwards’ death in 1751, this property was passed on to his oldest son Benjamin. The Captain’s remaining real estate was divided among his five other living children. His sons John and Robert received the front part of his home, while Captain Edwards’ daughter Bathsheba was given the back part. Captain Edwards’ son Alexander was given a brick home, buildings and land next to his siblings. This property had 50 ft. of frontage on Back Street. The Captain also owned two small dwellings: one on Ship Street and one in White Bread Alley. These were given to his youngest son, Dolling. Alexander Edwards would eventually come to possess all of the family property on Back Street. After his death in 1798, it was passed on to his wife Sarah and when she died it went to Alexander’s dear friend Jedediah Lincoln.
While researching the location of the family home for my book One April in Boston back in 2000, I mistakenly placed the Edwards property further south on Back Street. I realized this error just within the past year after locating Clough’s Atlases of Property Owners of Boston in 1798 in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. These atlases clearly show the precise location of the two pieces of property owned by Sarah Edwards in 1798. View the links below to get a better feel for where the family property was located.
- The Edwards Family Property on a 1775 Boston Map (PDF)
- Walking Tour Route Passes the Edwards Family Home Site (PDF)
- Sarah Edwards’ Property on Clough’s Atlases in 1798
Today, in the spirit of the holiday season, I’ll be stepping out of the colonial period and traveling to Victorian era Boston to remember Charles Dickens’ historic visit to the city in 1867 and his highly acclaimed readings of A Christmas Carol. I’ll also be introducing you to a gentleman whose recent dramatic performances of Dickens’ holiday classic in and around Boston received rave reviews with all proceeds going to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank – the largest hunger-relief organization in New England. First to Mr. Dickens himself – Charles Dickens arrived in Boston on November 19, 1867. It was his second visit to America and to Boston, his first being in January 1842. Dickens stayed at the luxurious Parker House, an earlier version of today’s popular Omni Parker House Hotel. Shortly after his arrival, the author wrote a letter to his daughter commenting on his lodgings. “This is an immense hotel, with all manner of white marble public passages and public rooms. I live in a corner, high up, and have a hot and cold bath in my bedroom (communicating with the sitting-room), and comforts not in existence when I was here before. The cost of living is enormous, but happily we can afford it.” Tickets for the first four readings that Dickens had announced sold out immediately. As his manager had planned, there were a few weeks to relax before the busy tour began. During this period, Charles Dickens attended several dinner engagements and spent a good deal of time rehearsing from the reading script he had created and memorized. He practiced the facial expressions and gestures for all the wonderful characters in his story, including Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, in a tall mirror that hung in his room. (This mirror and other artifacts from Dickens visit can be seen today at the Omni Parker House Hotel.) Dickens is believed to have given his first informal reading of A Christmas Carol on Saturday, November 30, 1867 in the Press Room of the Parker House to a small group of men called “The Saturday Club”. Among the group of writers, philosophers, historians, and scientists that day was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Just two days later, Charles Dickens’ first formal reading would take place.
Opening night in Boston for Dickens American reading tour was Monday, December 2, 1867. As the day dawned, an early winter snow swirled about the city but by evening the roads were in fine shape for the carriages that transported many of the guests to Tremont Temple. Outside the theater, scalpers were offering the prized $2 tickets for $40 – the equivalent of about $400 today! The New York Times of the following day stated, “one of the largest halls in the city was filled to every available part by perhaps one of the most appreciative, fashionable and brilliant audiences ever assembled in New-England.” A Boston paper mentioned that Dickens appeared, “before as large an audience as could be comfortably crowded into that hall, in which all the poets, philosophers, sages and historians of this city and vicinity were mingled like plums in a Christmas pudding.” Charles Dickens walked on stage at about 8 o’clock receiving cheers and applause, and strode to his reading table (shown in this original illustration) that contained a block for resting his elbow and held a glass flask filled with water. For most of his performances, the author was dressed in a suit with a red carnation in its buttonhole and a velvet vest containing a heavy gold chain running from pocket to pocket. The New York Times of December 3 states, “After silence was restored Mr. Dickens proceeded to read his “Christmas Carol,” which occupied about one hour and a half. The novelist did not confine himself to the printed page, but rather spoke from memory. During the rendering of this reading his audience was completely spell-bound, so happily and so true to nature did he acquit himself in all its parts. His wonderful power of delineation, versatility of voice and power of gesture excited the admiration of all.” A link to the complete original article from The New York Times as well as an audio podcast appear at the bottom of this post. Charles Dickens was very pleased with the reception he received on opening night. From the Parker House he wrote, “Success last night beyond description or exaggeration. The whole city is quite frantic about it to-day, and it is impossible that prospects could be more brilliant.” Dickens had three more performances that week in Boston and then took the train to New York to continue his tour. The reading tour covered numerous cities on the east coast and lasted for more than four months before concluding in Boston. During this time, Dickens performed on average four evenings a week.
Some of Charles Dickens’ early performances in England beginning in 1853 were done for charity. In that tradition, since 2006, actor and living history interpreter Al LePage has been giving dramatic reading performances of A Christmas Carol across the United States and Canada to benefit organizations helping those who are hungry and in need. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts who now lives in Portland, Oregon, LePage is the founder of Great Stories Alive! – an organization that brings history to life by portraying people from the past. “Performance with Passion & Purpose” is how LePage defines his work. His recent Boston area engagements included four shows at the Omni Parker House Hotel; one at Converse Hall (Tremont Temple) on the exact date that Dickens performed there in 1867; and one show at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts that sold out well in advance. Admission for each show was $18.67 with 100% of the proceeds going to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank. During his shows, Al LePage takes on the role of a fictional Englishman named Thomas Hutchinson – a “traveling thespian” who had seen one of Dickens’ early performances in England. With the famous novelist’s blessing, Hutchinson uses a copy of Dickens’ original speaking script to share his Christmas tale with the masses and cultivate generosity for the needy during the holiday season. LePage as Hutchinson, in correct Victorian period attire, takes his audiences on a journey back in time. Those attending his Boston shows were transported to the year 1876 – just nine years after Dickens’ visit, to experience the same historic events in the same historic spots the author did during his own dramatic readings.
Al LePage, as Dickens did before him, uses voice, facial expressions, gestures and movement to create 26 characters complete with accents. He adds some wonderful sound effects too. From his perfect depictions of the miserly Scrooge and Marley’s Ghost, to his fine portrayals of the loving father Bob Cratchit and his sickly son Tiny Tim, LePage keeps his audience hanging on every word while they feel and experience the suspense, joy, sadness, and fight back the tears. I was fortunate to have a ticket for both an evening performance in the Press Room of the Omni Parker House Hotel, where the actor received a rousing standing ovation, and the very historic and memorable December 2 show at Converse Hall. There were plenty of surprises for the audience before, at intermission, and after each performance. LePage’s creative stories and improvisational style kept everyone fully engaged beforehand, while during the intermission at Parker House shows the hotel graciously supplied warm cider and a very tasty dessert. After each performance, some fun and highly meaningful gifts were given away. At the conclusion of the event at Converse Hall, two lucky audience members were selected to receive an 1838 twopence and an 1817 half-a-crown (both coins were mentioned in the story) while the grand prize was a copy of A Christmas Carol printed in Boston in 1876! All events hosted at the Parker House were sponsored by Omni Hotels/Resorts, Parker House/Boston. The print media sponsor for all Boston performances was GateHouse Media New England.
Audio Podcast of the article from The New York Times on December 3, 1867
CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD AUDIO
Available NOW! A wonderful DVD of Al LePage performing A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at Martha-Mary Chapel, Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Don’t miss this “Dramatic Reading Performance by Englishman Thomas Hutchinson”. Purchase your copy today. A clip from the DVD is shown below.
Upcoming New England performances of A Christmas Carol by Al LePage:
Longfellow’s Wayside Inn – Sudbury
Two Shows: Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17, 2011
Both Shows are SOLD OUT
Omni Parker House – Boston
Sunday, December 18, 2011 – Abbreviated Afternoon Matinee (2-4 pm)
Video link: “A Christmas Carol” – Dramatic Reading by “Thomas Hutchinson” (embedded above)
Video produced by Active Communications
Resources & Links
- David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page
- Dickens Original Handwritten Manuscript
- On Stage with Charles Dickens
- The Letters of Charles Dickens
- The New York Public Library – Charles Dickens: The Life of the Author
- Uncovering the Real Dickens DVD. Purchase from Amazon.com
Shortcut to this post: AChristmasCarol.com
Promoting this post: Teach History presents
Who doesn’t appreciate a good mystery – especially one that dates all the way back to the beginning of the American Revolution! On the evening of April 18, 1775, “a friend” of Paul Revere held two lanterns in the northwest window of Christ Church (Old North Church) steeple to signal patriots in Charlestown that the British troops were leaving Boston by water on their secret expedition to Lexington and Concord. One hundred years later, on April 18, 1875, Samuel Haskell Newman spoke before a large crowd at Old North Church giving his family’s account of that historic night and identifying his father, church sexton Robert Newman, as the man who displayed the lanterns. After that speech, Samuel Haskell Newman climbed 14 stories into the steeple and held two lanterns aloft just as he believed his father did a century earlier. One year later on July 20, 1876, a letter by Reverend John Lee Watson of Orange, New Jersey, appeared in a newspaper called the Boston Daily Advertiser. In the letter, which he entitled, Paul Revere’s Signal: The True Story of the Signal Lanterns in Christ Church, Boston, Watson argued that his relative Captain John Pulling, a member of the church vestry, had actually held the lanterns in the steeple window and not Robert Newman.
These competing tales were addressed in an excellent lecture I attended this fall at Old South Meeting House given by Old North Foundation historian and Education Director Bob Damon. At the beginning of his talk, which was part of the Paul Revere Memorial Association Lecture Series One Hundred and Fifty Years of “Paul Revere’s Ride”: Facts, Fables and Fiction, Bob shared a unique image. It was a picture from 1875 showing a close up of Old North Church all decorated for the first lantern ceremony – the one that Samuel Haskell Newman spoke at. Later, I spotted a stereograph of that image in this post from John Bell’s great blog Boston 1775. I became motivated to see if I might track down an original copy of the picture for my own collection. As luck would have it, I was able to find not only that photograph, in stereographic form, but also a second showing the entire church as well as an 1875 illustration from a newspaper called Gleason’s Pictorial that features people in period attire admiring the decorated building. (All three of these items have since been donated to the Old North Church.) In each image, on the front of the church, we see a beautiful rendering of a lone patriot displaying two lanterns. The question posed to the audience at the beginning of the lecture was, “Who is this man?”
All wondered – what evidence did Samuel Haskell Newman and John Lee Watson have to support their claims that the man holding those lanterns was either Robert Newman or Captain John Pulling? Bob Damon presented their cases. Both men had strongly held beliefs, much of it based on family tradition. Newman’s took the form of the remembrances of family members, among them Mrs. Sally Chittenden the granddaughter of John Newman, brother of Robert. She recalled hearing how her relative Robert Newman displayed the signal lanterns on that fateful night. Newman was jailed for a time by the British for his suspected involvement and his relations were well aware of that fact. Watson’s family story came down from his mother, aunt, and Miss Mary Orne Jenks, the granddaughter of Captain John Pulling. Miss Jenks stated, “The story of the lanterns I heard from my earliest childhood from my mother and from my step-grandmother, and I never supposed there could be a doubt of its truth. I know he (Captain John Pulling) held the lanterns on that night, but how can I prove it after all these years?” Additional information would come to light and be published after Samuel Haskell Newman’s speech at Old North on April 18, 1875 and John Lee Watson’s letter to the Boston Daily Advertiser on July 20, 1876 to support both their positions.
On November 9, 1876, during a monthly meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Recording Secretary Charles Deane passed on correspondence from John Lee Watson that further backed the case for Captain John Pulling and offered evidence that Christ Church was the location from which the lanterns were displayed (not the Old North Meeting House as some believed). In 1878, a book authored by William W. Wheildon entitled History of Paul Revere’s Signal Lanterns, April 18, 1775, in the Steeple of the North Church contained multiple testimonials supporting Newman’s side of the argument and also made an effort to discount Watson’s claims regarding Captain John Pulling. Two of the testimonials were the words of Mary B. Swift, granddaughter of Colonel Conant, and Maria Green, granddaughter of Thomas Barnard. Below are more complete quotes from these individuals or their relations as they appear in another pertinent book on this topic Robert Newman, His Life and Letters 1752-1804 by Robert Newman Sheets.
“My mother, 84 years of age, now living at 7 Bowdoin Square, is the granddaughter of Col. Conant with who Paul Revere consulted on the Sunday prior to the lantern signaling from the spire of Christ Church. She resided at the north end in her youth, and informs me that the hanging out of the lanterns was then a common subject of remark, that it was always spoken of as the act of the sexton of Christ Church, and that not till Mr. J L Watson’s statement in the Boston Advertiser of the 20th inst, did she ever hear of the act being attributed to any other person than that Sexton.”
Wm C Swift
“I hereby certify that I am the daughter of William Green who lived in Boston at the North End near Christ Church which I have always heard called the North Church. My grandparents also resided there. I was born in the year 1793. I have heard many times from my mother the account of the signal lights displayed from the steeple of Christ Church on the night of the 18th April 1775 and I distinctly remember that she said her father Capt Thomas Barnard was engaged on that night watching the movements of the British in order to obtain for Robert Newman the necessary information concerning their departure. Our family were familiar with the story of the hanging out of the lanterns owing to the connection of Capt Thomas Barnard with it, and we never heard the act ascribed to any other person than Robert Newman, or to any other place than Christ Church.”
Lincoln, April 7, 1877
In 1880, a book entitled “Paul Revere’s Signal: The True Story of the Signal Lanterns in Christ Church, Boston by John Lee Watson was published. Retaining the same name as Mr. Watson’s original letter to the Boston Daily Advertiser, it made an effort to refute the evidence supporting Robert Newman in Mr. Wheildon’s book, and again made the case for Captain John Pulling. The book includes a letter from the Reverend Henry F. Lane, the great grandson of Captain Pulling, written to the editors of a Boston newspaper on July 22, 1876. A portion of that letter appears below:
“Who Signalled Paul Revere.”
Malone, July 22, 1876.
To the Editors of the Boston Journal:–
“Under this caption in your evening edition of Friday I learn that a correspondent of the advertiser from Orange, N.J., answers the question by giving the name of John Pulling.
John Pulling was the grandfather of my mother, the late Mrs. Charles Lane, jr. of Boston. The wife of John Pulling, my mother’s grandmother, died in Abington, Mass., about thirty years ago, in her 99th year.
When I was a lad, I remember distinctly hearing from her that her husband hung the lights from the steeple of the Old North Church, to give the alarm to the country people. His residence at the time was on the corner of what was then called Ann and Cross streets. The British, at the time, made diligent search for him, and I have heard my great-grandmother give a very vivid description of their searching the house to find him, and how he avoided capture by her concealing him under an empty wine-but in the cellar. He escaped with her from Boston in a small skiff, while the British had possession, by disguising himself as a fisherman…”
Henry F. Lane,
Pastor First Baptist Church, Malone, N.Y.
As the final evidence for each side was presented, and the lecture drew to a close, the audience was again posed the question, “Who is this man?” We were left to ponder – was it church sexton Robert Newman who displayed the lanterns, Captain John Pulling, or perhaps both men working together? That determination would come for each of us after our own careful review of the evidence. For me, it is mysteries like this that make history so intriguing. We may never locate one definitive document that points to Newman, Pulling or both, but what we do have is two men, two patriots forever linked in the annals of American history whose stories present today’s educators with a unique opportunity. Old North Church offers an outstanding school program that addresses this captivating event. It is called, “Who Hung the Lanterns in the Old North Steeple? A History Mystery.” Students use clues to formulate their own vision of what took place at Old North over 235 years ago. For teachers looking for ways to integrate technology into their social studies curriculum, this educator-led field trip is the ideal subject for a digital storytelling project! More details below:
Program length: 1.5 hours
Cost: $5 per student
Group size: From 25 students (or 1 class) to entire middle school grades!
Program offered: September – Mid June
This exciting program is an educator-led field trip where students use historical documents, grave markers in nearby Copp’s Hill cemetery, and clues on the Old North Church campus to investigate the unsolved mystery of who hung the lanterns in the Old North steeple on the night of April 18, 1775. They gain an understanding of the historical research process and the importance of “sourcing” historical documents to assess their accuracy.
To learn more or to book this field trip:
Finally, I’d like to wrap up this post with a word of thanks to my friends at Old North Church. Over the past ten years, on a variety of different projects, I’ve had the opportunity to access parts of this historic site not open to the general public. This includes not one but three chances to climb to the top of the steeple for which I am very grateful. This was especially meaningful for me back in 2000 while working on my children’s book One April in Boston in which my ancestor Ben Edwards makes that same climb in this chapter with the guidance of Captain John Pulling. In that tale, I have Robert Newman displaying the lanterns on April 18, 1775 but after attending Bob Damon’s lecture, I feel it’s quite likely that Captain John Pulling provided Robert Newman with some degree of assistance inside the church tower.
A climb to the top of the steeple – in the footsteps of sexton Robert Newman, Captain John Pulling or both!
Oldest known photograph of Christ Church (Old North) circa 1860.
Shortcut to this post: OldNorthMystery.com
Promoting this post: Teach History presents
No trip to Boston’s Freedom Trail is complete without a visit to the Charlestown Navy Yard to tour USS Constitution – one of the first vessels in the United States Navy and the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. Built at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in Boston and launched in the fall of 1797, the USS Constitution is two hundred four feet in length, has fifty-five guns, and carried a crew of 450 men. Her 24” thick hull was built of live oak sandwiched between two layers of white oak. Live oak, a rare wood, is five times stronger than white oak and made the hull of the ship incredibly strong. She first saw action in the Quasi War with France, and then fought against the Barbary Corsairs – pirates from North Africa who attacked American merchant ships in the Mediterranean Sea. During the War of 1812, Constitution was commanded by Captain Isaac Hull. One of her most famous battles, against the British frigate HMS Guerriere, occurred during this time off the coast of Nova Scotia. At the bottom of this post, is a great primary source – Captain Hull’s official account of that battle as it appeared in a newspaper called the Connecticut Mirror on September 21, 1812.
On the afternoon of August 19, 1812, the crew aboard the Constitution spotted a sail in the distance and started to give chase in an effort to determine the ship’s identity. They soon realized it was the HMS Guerriere – a 38-gun British frigate then armed with 49 guns. Captain James Dacres, commander of the Guerriere, raised three British ensigns to signal he was ready for a fight and Captain Isaac Hull aboard USS Constitution responded by raising four American ensigns to accept the challenge. Both warships began to maneuver for position with the Guerriere firing a number of broadsides from long distance that fell harmlessly into the sea. As the ships drew closer, the gun crews aboard Constitution stood ready, anxiously awaiting orders from Captain Isaac Hull. The Guerriere continued to fire on USS Constitution and this time her guns were well within range. At that moment, some of her 18-pound cannonballs bounced off the hull of the Constitution – thanks to its live oak construction. Seeing this, a seaman aboard USS Constitution cried out “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” When the Constitution drew within less than a pistol shot, Captain Hull gave the order to fire a broadside and in only 35 minutes the Guerriere was completely dismasted and had surrendered. After the battle, crewmen aboard the Constitution began calling her “Old Ironsides” and the nickname stuck.
The USS Constitution was undefeated in 33 engagements. Because she was made of wood, the Constitution eventually began to deteriorate, and by 1830 she had become unseaworthy. Rumors spread that she would be scrapped, but a poem “Old Ironsides” by Oliver Wendell Holmes rallied public support and soon Congress appropriated funds to restore her. During the mid 1800s the Constitution, now obsolete in warfare, played a symbolic role for the nation. She sailed around the world in 1844-46. By 1905, the ship was in need of serious repair once again. Congress passed a bill to refurbish the vessel but provided no funds. In 1925, public fundraising efforts began and school children from across the United States donated $148,000 in pennies to save the ship. Congress finally provided additional funds to complete the restoration of “Old Ironsides.”
After her restoration, USS Constitution was towed to many U.S. ports in the Pacific during the years 1931-34. After the journey, she returned to her home port of Boston where she would remain. The ship received a complete overhaul from 1992-97, just in time for her 200th birthday. On July 21, 1997, USS Constitution celebrated that birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years! On that historic day, the seamen aboard her hoisted a partial set of six sails on her masts, and the citizens of Boston cheered as their beloved ship sailed once again off the coast of Massachusetts. Today, a three-year $6 million restoration of the Constitution that began in the fall of 2007 is nearing completion. The spar deck has been replaced and the pitch adjusted so water will run off properly. The latest work brings the ship very close to the way it looked during the War of 1812 – and well in time for that War’s 200th anniversary.
Wonderful tours of USS Constitution are given by active duty members of the US Navy and include visits to the spar, gun and berth decks. Hours of operation can be found on the USS Constitution website. During these tours you’ll learn how sailors lived aboard ship, hear tales of her battles and discover fascinating facts about the vessel. Two of the facts I found most interesting related to the mainmast and long guns. The ship’s mainmast is 210 feet high – that’s a mere 13 feet shorter than the Bunker Hill Monument! Her long guns weighed 6,000 pounds each, could fire a 24-pound shot 1,200 yards, and the gun crews consisted of a minimum of 7 men.
While you’re at the Charlestown Navy Yard, be sure to check out the excellent USS Constitution Museum. The Museum offers exhibits, programs and lectures about USS Constitution and America’s proud naval heritage.
Captain Isaac Hull’s Official Account of USS Constitution vs HMS Guerriere
The Connecticut Mirror – September 21, 1812
Compare the above newspaper transcript to Captain Isaac Hull’s original letter in the National Archives. Transcript here. What did the Connecticut Mirror account leave out or have incorrect and what can this teach us?
When I was 2 ½ years old, I traveled to Boston with my family and walked along the Freedom Trail for the very first time. During that trip, we visited Copp’s Hill Burying Ground and one incident that occurred there is forever etched in my memory. I recall all the fuss that was made over getting one photo in particular and remember being a bit confused as I was positioned next to a strange rock while my father held my hand and the sun glared in my face. The image captured that day is shown at left. We were standing by the marker of Captain Benjamin Edwards who I later learned was a sea captain and my sixth great grandfather. I had no way of knowing it then, but this simple photo would have a major impact on my life. It helped instill in me a lifelong interest in both family history and American history. As the years passed, I would come to discover much more about my early Boston ancestors and the family tomb.
Edwards Tomb #5 is in the first row of tombs constructed at Copp’s Hill in 1717. Five generations of my family are here, including my 7th great grandmother Sarah Edwards and 6th, 5th, 4th and likely 3rd great grandparents. Their names are listed at the end of this post. It is also the final resting place of Paul Revere – not the famous midnight rider, who died in 1818 and lies in Granary Burying Ground, but his firstborn son Paul Revere Jr. (1760-1813). Paul Jr. was 15 years old on April 18, 1775 when his father made the Midnight Ride and he later stayed behind to guard the family property during the siege of Boston. Paul Jr. was apprenticed to his father as a gold and silversmith; handled the day-to-day operations of the Revere silversmith shop in the 1780s; and after the war made church bells with his father and brother Joseph Warren Revere. So why would Paul Revere Jr. be buried in the Edwards family tomb and what evidence is there to support it?
Paul Revere Jr. married Sally Edwards (1761-1808) on July 25, 1782. Sally was the older sister of my fourth great grandfather Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808). Paul Jr. and Sally had 12 children between 1783 and 1803 and five of them died young. Paul never remarried after Sally died on August 23, 1808. It is believed that Sally was buried in the Edwards tomb where she joined her five young children, her parents, grandparents and her brother Benjamin who had died just a few months prior on June 9, 1808. Oral family tradition says that members of the Revere family rest here but there was no written record of any sort to support that claim until late 1999. At that time the Paul Revere House received some interesting correspondence from a genealogist doing research for someone with the surname Edwards in their family tree. The family held in their possession a letter from an older female relative dated Gordonsville, VA October 3, 1969. That letter contained the following line: “I did visit Boston when I was about twelve years old and Aunt Sue took me around, such as to the old family tomb where great, great ???? grandmother Elliot is resting (?) with Paul Revere’s casket on top of hers…” Paul Revere House staff contacted me to see if I might help them make some sense of this clue. From the moment I read that line, I knew what it meant. The answer to the mystery was hidden in the pages of a treasured book my family owned.
I had grown up with an Edwards family Bible from 1812, passed down through five generations. Ever since I was 10, the handwritten family records it contained had captured my imagination. Those records included the death of my fourth great grandfather Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808) and the births of his five children in Boston between 1793 and 1803. Directly beneath the birth records was an entry that had never made sense to me. It was for a Helan (Helen) Mariah Elliot born on April 8, 1811. I would come to learn that after my fourth great grandfather Benjamin Edwards died his wife Polly (Mary) Bangs Edwards remarried to Samuel Elliot in 1810. Helen Mariah Elliot would have been their daughter and I believe Polly (Mary) Bangs Edwards Elliot, my fourth great grandmother, would have been the “great, great ??? grandmother Elliot” in the letter mentioned above. I have not been able to locate a death record for Polly, but if she died between 1811 and 1813 then Paul Revere’s casket certainly could have “rested on top of hers” in the family tomb (as the letter states) because Paul Revere Jr. died on January 16, 1813.
There are no paintings I am aware of that show what Sally Edwards or Paul Revere Jr. looked like but there is a painting of their son Paul Revere who was born on February 2, 1789. I obtained this image from a family who is a direct descendant of the midnight rider Paul Revere through his grandson George Revere – one of Paul Revere Jr. and Sally Edwards 12 children. When I first saw it I was struck by how much this Paul Revere’s nose resembled that of his great grandfather Captain Benjamin Edwards. Here’s a side by side comparison.
By the 1980s, the Edwards marker was in a serious state of disrepair. In 1989, only two pieces of it remained and neither contained any words. After obtaining the proper permission, my family had the marker replaced in 1998. The new marker was hand carved by Nicholas Benson of the John Stevens Shop of Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1705. Two years later, in 2000, I wrote a children’s book One April in Boston that pays tribute to my early Boston ancestors. This photo, taken by the family marker in the summer of 2010, celebrated the book’s 10th anniversary.
Here is a list of my direct ancestors believed to be in the Edwards Tomb.
Sixth Great Grandparents
- Captain Benjamin Edwards (1685-1751), sea captain and merchant, his mother Sarah, his first wife Hannah Harrod, and second wife Bathsheba Evans Edwards (1701-1738).
Fifth Great Grandparents
- Dolling Edwards (1737-1773), mastmaker, and his wife Rebecca Christie Edwards (1739-1771).
Fourth Great Grandparents
- Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808), cooper, and his wife Polly Bangs Edwards (Elliot).
Third Great Grandparents
- Joseph B. Edwards (1799-1852), paver, and possibly his wife Sarah Mace Edwards (1806-1872).
Here is a list of other ancestors believed to be in the Edwards Tomb.
- Alexander Edwards (1733-1798), patriot, cabinetmaker and member of the Sons of Liberty.
- Sally Edwards Revere (1761-1808), wife of silversmith Paul Revere Jr. and mother of their 12 children.
- Paul Revere Jr. (1760-1813), silversmith, bell founder and firstborn son of patriot Paul Revere.
- Jedediah Lincoln (1760-1820), Revolutionary War soldier and ancestor of Abraham Lincoln; his wife, Elizabeth (Betsey) Edwards Lincoln (1765-1796), and their son Alexander Edwards Lincoln.
- Robert Edwards (1732-1770), tailor, and his wife Mary (White) Clark Edwards (?-1774).