Friday, November 15, 2013

Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr. - Displaced Person

Charlestown burns at the beginning of Bunker Hill.
      On the afternoon of Friday, June 16, 1775, a sulky carrying one man, accompanied by a man on horseback, sped up the Boston Post Road bound for Watertown, Massachusetts where the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was in session. Two months earlier, on April 19, 1775, open rebellion had broken out when British Regulars and New England militia forces engaged in battle at Lexington and Concord. Since then, a tense stand-off had ensued with the British still occupying Boston and the militia forces encamped in the heights west of the city. The two travelers must have been becoming increasingly more anxious as they approached the outskirts of Cambridge, for, as they came up the Post Road, they heard the thunder of  artillery from a British fleet anchored in Boston Harbor and from British Army batteries entrenched on Boston's hills as they pummeled rebel American lines set up on Breed's and Bunker Hill near Cambridge. In fact, one of the men in that sulky had been involved in the decision* to dig breastworks on those hills as Chairman of the Committee of Safety for the Massachusetts Second Provincial Congress. Given the separation of powers concept that is the foundation of the modern U.S. Constitution, contemporary Americans tend to think of the Committee of Safety as a legislative committee with the power to only advise on legislation. In fact, it was a very powerful executive tool for the Provincial Congress. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, executive authority in Massachusetts had lain with the Crown and its Royal Governor and his Council. That authority no longer existed and the rebellious people of Massachusetts had only the Provincial Congress to take executive action. They had no Governor, no Council, no administration, and no courts, and it worried the Provincial Congress greatly.

   In order to resolve this problem, the Massachusetts Second Provincial Congress had drafted a letter, dated May 16th, 1775  to the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, PA explaining their current predicament and asking for advice:

We are now compelled to raise an Army, which with the assistance of the other colonies, we hope under the smiles of heaven, will be able to defend us and all America from the further butcheries and devastations of our implacable enemies. --- But as the sword should in all free states be subservient to the civil powers and as it is the duty of the Magistrates to support it for the peoples necessary defense, we tremble at having an army (although consisting of our countrymen) established here without a civil power to provide for and control them...We are happy in having an opportunity of laying our distress state before the representative body of the continent, and humbly hope you will favour us with your most explicit advice respecting the taking up and exercising the powers of civil government.

   Doctor Benjamin Church, Jr. member of the committee of Safety and until a couple of days before the drafting of the letter, its Chairman, was ordered to proceed to Philadelphia to present the May 16th letter to the Continental Congress and present the Provincial Congress' views and anxiety about their current predicament. Dr. Church was the most logical delegate to send on this extremely important matter since Dr. Church had been one of the leading Bostonians in the Whig struggle against the British Crown and Parliament. One could say that with Samuel Adams in Philadelphia, William Molineaux dead, and Dr. Thomas Young having fled Boston, Church was the second ranking patriot to his colleague and rival, Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Second Provincial Congress.

Boston Post Road.
Please note that there were three distinct branches
 of this road all converging in New Haven, CT.
   Dr. Church departed Watertown on May 20th, 1775 with his servant and we know from a May 21,1775 letter from Abigail Greenleaf to her brother Robert Treat Paine that:

Doctor Church is just arrived. As soon as meeting is done with set out for Pennsylvania both sisters being gone to meeting..

  It is believed that Church's father, mother, wife, 15 year old son and 14 and 11 daughters, and at least two of his sisters  were all in this area, having escaped from British occupied Boston. It can be confirmed that some of his family were staying with the William Augustus Crocker family in Taunton. In 1766, Dr. Church had purchased a farm in Bridgewater, MA, approximately 10 miles from Taunton and one wonders if, his wife and children, in fact, were staying there. In any event, Dr. Church presumably had not seen his family for a month and it would be normal for him to want to stop in the area. In addition he saw his brother as he passed through Braintree and also received some letters from Abigail Adams to be delivered to her husband in Philadelphia.

  Totally overlooked by historians is that the same order that dispatched Dr. Church to the Continental Congress to seek its advice also included the following:

...and the sd. Church is also directed to confer with the Congress, respecting such other matters as may be necessary to the defense of this colony and particularly the state of the army therein.

   We don't know precisely what discussions Dr. Church had along these lines but there is little doubt that he did have some for he was reportedly carrying some information "too secret to put in writing" that Samuel Adams gave him to pass on to James Warren, who succeeded Dr. Joseph Warren (no relation) as President of the Provincial Congress after Joseph Warren's death at Bunker Hill.

   Arriving in Philadelphia on June 1st, Dr. Church presented the Provincial Congress' letter to the Continental Congress, the next day and had discussions with Samuel and John Adams; and he took the time to treat the hypochondriac John Adams' eyes. Departing Philadelphia on June 10, 1775, Church and his servant made excellent time making the trip back to Watertown in four and a half days. The Boston to Philadelphia stage usually took four days. Of course, it was early June and the weather must have been favorable.

   After the battles of Lexington and Concord, the  Henry Vassall House ( see my Sep 11, 2010 post) in Cambridge was used as a hospital to treat the wounded. One mustn't confuse the term "hospital" in 1775 with any modern conception of a hospital. The first hospital in the United States was founded in 1751 in Philadelphia and it took another twenty years before another one was founded in New York. In the absence of hospitals, patients were commonly housed in the homes of their physicians. The first medical school in the United States had opened ten years prior. Hospitals were a fixture of London and Edinburgh medical care, and Dr. Church was one of about thirteen Boston physicians who had received medical training in Europe.

   As Dr. Church arrived in Cambridge, it is presumed that he immediately went to the Henry Vassall House where he and Dr. Isaac Foster were in residence and in charge of the hospital. Dr. Issac Foster was a prominent Charlestown physician who had also studied in Europe. A Harvard Graduate (1758), a delegate to the First Provincial Congress, Foster devoted most of his time in the next two months to treat the wounded and the increasing number of ill men from the unsanitary camps around Cambridge. Presumably, he and Dr. Church shared the Vassall House with the wounded. ( The situation is somewhat confusing and this is my best take on the matter.) Both, however, operated as private individuals as there was no formal medical department or establishment and neither had any formal authority over the hospital or the patients, some of whom continued to be treated by their own physicians. In addition, there was a very acute shortage of medical supplies.
Ruggles-Fayerweather House
   The Battle of Bunker Hill plunged this hospital into chaos. There was no organized ambulance or medical companies for the various New England militia units that fought this battle. The wounded were being transported from the battlefield carried on the backs of soldiers or, if the patient was an officer, on a litter made from rails and a blanket. Over 300 wounded overwhelmed the hospital and physicians. To make matters worse, a rumor started that the British were about to overrun Cambridge. Many of the wounded were carted out to Watertown only to be carted back again. Houses and farm houses in and near Cambridge were confiscated for the wounded. At one time it is believed that the wounded from the Vassall House were transported to the Fayerweather House in Cambridge and back again. Sufficient physicians could not be located so Dr. Foster enlisted a group of Harvard undergraduates (Harvard classes had been dismissed) to serve as "surgeons assistants."

   Thus Dr. Church returned to a Cambridge undergoing the chaos of battle and panic and trying to minister to the wounded with a lack of physicians, medicines and supplies. Somehow, through the efforts of Drs Church and Foster, order was restored and treatment administered. When reading the accounts of this time, one gets the impression that Dr. Church, given his subsequent history, was never going to be given sufficient credit for his efforts that day.

    To be continued
   * In one of the more curious entries in the Journal of the Second Provincial Congress is a report , dated May 12, 1775 by a special committee, signed  by Dr. Church as Chairman of the Sub-Committee proposing, among other things, that engineers be directed to construct 'a strong redoubt [to be] raised on Bunker's Hill with cannon planted there." Right below this entry is one signed by Dr. Church as Chairman of the Committee of Safety stating that the committee, although it agrees with the recommendations, doesn't believe that the matter belongs to them officially and further recommends that the matter be brought before the council of war.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Edward Church -IV

Anna Church Strobel (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr.),
with son George, ca 1799
by John Vanderlyn, American, 1775-1852,
crayon on white paper, 8 3/16 by 6 1/4", Collections,
Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Anna Church Strobel (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr.,
ca 1830, watercolor on ivory, 2 3/4 by 2",
by her daughter, Louis Catherine Strobel,
1803-1883, Collections,
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

   Edward Church remained as US Consul at Lisbon, Portugal until 1796 or 1797 since his successor was appointed on July 10,1797. He then moved to Paris and over the next eighteen years or so, divided his time between Paris, London and Liverpool. He continued in business as a merchant and sometime at the end of the eighteenth or, more likely, the beginning of the nineteenth century, he entered into partnership with Daniel Strobel, Jr, as the firm of Strobel and Church, in Liverpool, England.

Daniel Strobel, Jr. ca 1799, by John Vanderlyn,
Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art
   Daniel Strobel, Jr. was the son of Daniel Strobel, who was born in 1735 in Prussia and emigrated to Charleston, S.C. in 1752 where he became a merchant and owned a tannery. Prospering as a prominent member of the German-American community in Charleston, he had twelve children, of which Daniel, Jr. was the oldest, born in 1758 in Charleston. Precisely when Daniel, Jr. met Edward Church or where or what the precise nature of their business relationship was, is unknown. We do know that Daniel, Jr. married Edward's daughter Anna (Ann) in Charleston. About 1800, Daniel, Jr., and Anna moved to France, in order to link up with  Edward Church and his family. Presumably, the firm of Strobel and Church prospered, at first, but the outbreak of  the Napoleonic Wars created hardships for trade and the firm had financial difficulties. Since Daniel Strobel, Jr., later became partners in the firm of Strobel and Martini in Bordeaux, France, one must assume that the firm of Strobel and Church was either completely taken over by Edward Church or dissolved. Strobel late became U.S. Consul at Bordeaux and died in New Haven, CT at the age of 72. Edward Church remained in the mercantile trade and, seems to have done rather well for himself.
    Little is known about Edward Church after 1800, until his son, Edward Church, Jr. wrote to Secretary of State James Monroe requesting appointment as US Consul to Ostend. Edward Church, Jr. was in the United States purchasing land in Kentucky and had traveled northward through Washington, D.C., where he met Secretary Monroe on his way to Philadelphia.
   Philadelphia, 30th August 1815
          ...I have lately received an additional excitement; my Father has had an attack of apoplexy and subsequently a paralytic stroke, which has deprived him of the use of one side, he is in London and expresses in a few words, which he wrote with the utmost difficulty, his extreme anxiety to see me before he goes hence....
   In a subsequent letter to Monroe, dated 29 July 1816, and written from Jessamine County, Kentucky, Edward Church Jr., informed him:

           ...By a letter received from Mr. Strobel, I am informed of the melancholy event of  my Father's death in London...I am now preparing to move thither with my Family.
   But Edward Church's story does not end with his death; for, on April 18, 1816, his will, dated February 3, 1815 was filed for probate in London. There is no record of the family's reaction to it, but one can only speculate, for Edward Church named one Mrs. Sarah May of Adam Street, London, his mistress, with whom he is presumed to have been living, as the executrix and a primary beneficiary of his estate. Adam Street is located in the Adelphi area of London and in 1815 was a prosperous area.
In the name of God Amen. I Edward Church of Adam Street, in the Adelphi London...I give and bequeath to my worthy friend Mrs. Sarah May of Adam Street, above mentioned, the sum of Five Hundred Pounds sterling, in consideration of the many obligations which I am under to her, and as a token of my esteem and regard I likewise give to the said Mrs. May, such articles of furniture and wearing apparel as are now with me, or maybe at the time of my decease. I further give and bequeath all my Property in the Funds to the said Mrs. Sarah May, in trust to pay my debts, and funeral expenses, and after that, she should divide, and apportion Four Thousand Pounds three per cent annuities being part of the same or what it may produce when sold in equal shares among my four daughters and Son. ...It is my further will that if any Property should remain after the above dispositions, it should be equally divided between my Wife and my friend Mr. Taylor...and having the utmost confidence in my good friend Mrs. May it is my desire that she shall not be molested or impeded in the execution of the above trusts; Under my hand the Third Day of February, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifteen...Edw Church
          Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of us, who at his request, have witnessed the 
           same. Thos. Adcock Grindall ...James Miller Church...

           A Codicil to be added to and be part of the within Will and Testament of Mr. Edward Church, as made yesterday. hereby revoke so much of the within Will as gives the residue of my Estate, after payment of the Legatees mentioned in my Will between my Wife and Mrs. Sarah May equally share and share alike; and I do further appoint the said Sarah May sole Executrix of my said Will...(this 4th day of February 1815) Edw Church.
           Witnessed by Thos Adcock Grindall, James Miller Church and Jno. Worthlin. 

     Wow! You have the same questions that I have. Unfortunately, I have no answers. There is nothing in the various family histories that shed any light as to what prompted the apparently very bitter break between Edward and his wife Hannah; nor do I have any information as to what other financial resources Hannah may have had access to. Her son was in America but her daughter and son-in-law may have been in England. Edward could have appointed his son or son-in -law as executor but he was sending a very strong message in appointing Mrs. May.

   Thomas Adcock Grindall was a London distiller who merited an Esquire after his name and died, childless, in his eighties in 1828, living an estate valued over L100,000 that was subsequently fought over in the courts. One of the contesting heirs was a nephew who was on half pay as an officer in the London Militia.

The Adam Brothers' Adelphi (1768-72) was London's first neo-classical building. Eleven large houses fronted a vaulted terrace, with wharves beneath.

A Prospect of London seen from the Earl of Cassili's privy garden with Waterloo Bridge beyond. Alexander Nasmyth, 1826. The Adelphi can be seen to the left of Waterloo Bridge.

  The other witness to Edward's will was his nephew, James Miller Church, son of his brother Dr. Benjamin, Church, Jr. In 1815, James Miller Church was serving as a surgeon in the West Middlesex Regiment, a London militia regiment, and thus could have been acquainted with Mr. Grindall and his nephew. And his uncle Edward could have named him Executor of his estate.
   The Church family -  interesting and fascinating.
   One last thing before I end this post. Louisa Catherine Strobel, Edward Church's granddaughter, was a rather talented, amateur miniaturist whose work is in several museums in the United States. Below is a miniature, water color on ivory, 2 3/8 by 1 3/4'' she did of her father circa 1830. It is now in the Gibbe Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Edward Church -III

   It is not easy to trace Edward Church's movements after he rowed his brother Benjamin out to Boston Harbor to board the sloop Welcome and exile in 1778. There are records of him selling off his property in Massachusetts, presumably to raise capital. In November 1778, he sold his land on Newbury Street in Boston for L2500 and in September, 1778, he sold his approximately 80 acre farm in Braintree for L1000. An entry in the Suffolk County Deeds Records show an entry dated March 2, 1785:
Whereas Leonard Jarvis and Joseph Russell of Boston, Merchants, hold a judgment against Edward Church, of Boston, Merchant, in the sum of L606, 7 1/4 shillings which has not been paid, his goods are to be sold and himself committed to gaol until he pay the debt.
   Appraisers were appointed and on March 19, 1785, listed his property on Green Street as having a value of L225. The creditors accepted this and the property was transferred to them. Chances of actually going to prison for debt in Boston in 1785 were rather slim and even those few who did were released after a day.

Portion of William Price's 1743 map of Boston showing the location of the Boston jail on Queen Street.

  In 1787, Edward Church was in Austrian Flanders trying to raise capital and where he was involved in a project to "propagate the culture of cotton upon a large scale." He sailed from Ostend with several potential investors and arrived in Savannah, Georgia sometime late in the year. But, in Georgia, the potential investors "thought proper, upon experiment, to decline the undertaking."  Edward's plan to raise cotton in Georgia proved to be a little premature since Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, revolutionizing the cotton industry in the United States  and leading to a growth in a slavery that his peers believed was dying out.

  Although the family believes that Edward then moved to New York, he most probably was back in Boston. The recently ratified US Constitution provided for the election of the First President of the United States who would assume office on April 30, 1789; but the election was held between December 15, 1788 and January 10, 1779. Washington's election as the First President was a forgone conclusion, so the real race was for the office of Vice-President, for which there were nine candidates, John Adams being one of them. But since the Constitution forbade the electors from distinguishing their votes for President or Vice-President, all votes were cast for President. After Washington's election, Edward Church traveled to New York where the first government under the Constitution was located and he petitioned President Washington for a job in a letter dated May 11, 1789.

I was an wholesale merchant in Boston before the late war, and since the peace have made various attempts in several foreign countries to repair a ruined fortune, but I find it too late for me to begin the world anew with any probable prospect of success.*... Since the meeting of the present Congress, I have been induced from exigence to come forward to offer myself a candidate for the office of Collector of Imposts for the Port of Savannah. I have a wife and five children, and at present without means for their support. I have sustained some very heavy losses in that State...If, notwithstanding there should be found one more eligible I would then most humbly entreat your Excellency to nominate me to the appointment of Consul in Holland. I am not alone in the opinion that the appointment of a person competent to the office might be very beneficial to the commerce of America, as also that defenceless class of men, the American Seamen, whom I have known frequently to suffer great injuries and impositions in foreign countries...If therefore, it should be my lot to be rejected, I will never cease to venerate your name and to revere your justice. But if the consideration of my former eligible situation in life, my character, the sacrifices which I have made, my experience in business foreign and domestic, a most sincere wish to serve my country, the importance of my request, not to myself alone, but a most amiable wife and five children., and to two venerable and aged relations whom the fortunes of war have reduced from affluence to a state of needy would restore happiness to a family threatened with speedy distress.

   Samuel Adams, who had just been elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts  (John Hancock was elected Governor), hearing of this application, sent in an unsolicited letter of recommendation to Washington, writing:

I take him to have been a steady friend to the liberties of our country, and a man of sense and integrity; if  it will not weary you with application, I will beg your notice of him; and after your own inquiries, afford him your influence, if you shall think it proper in promoting him to a suitable employment under Congress in the State of Georgia. This I mention without his solicitation or knowledge.

   When no immediate action was taken on this petition and a similar application to Secretary of War Henry Knox, Church wrote a long satirical poem attacking John Adams. It was published in a sixteen page pamphlet, printed in Boston, and distributed in Boston and New York. A copy of this pamphlet is in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress and,after looking at, it must say that it was not cheaply published and must have been of considerable expense to a man of very little means. The pamphlet is titled:

                 Dangerous Vice --------- A Fragment,
                 Addressed to all whom it may concern.
                 By a Gentleman, formerly of Boston.

   Having read through the entire sixteen page poem, I will not subject you to much of it since,even by the standards of late eighteenth century poetry, it is bad poetry. There is very fulsome and lavish praise of Washington and there is no mistaking the viciousness of the attack on John Adams. By addressing the poem to "Dangerous Vice", Church was not being subtle as to whom he was attacking.

            All are not like old Cincinnatus now,
            To take up their old trades, or dirty plough
John Adams, 1783, John Singleton Copley
            John! __ bid the coachman drive up to the door,
            Let's hand the Ladies in __ and say no more.
            These are the blessings of our halcyon days,
            Let ev'ry happy favorite toast their praise,
            Be grateful, then - be prudent, modest wife,
            Nor with your tow'ring crests assail the skies;
            Lest the offended Deity show'd frown;
            And on your native dunghills set you down...
            Resist the Vice ___ and that contagious pride
            To that o'erweening vice ___ so near ally'd.
            Within your sacred walls let virtue reign'
            With unlick'd lordlings fully not your fame,
            Nor daub our Patriot with a lacker'd name...

   The poem concludes:
             Freedom! which these firm Patriots deify'd
             Who in Rome's Senate stab'd the Patricide.
             Freedom! For fair Columbia bravely won
             By the long toils of virtuous Washington,
             Ne'er basely barter for a paltry crown.
             "But piously transmit the blessing down."


   John Adams said that he was bewildered that "Ned Church" would libel him in such a manner and speculated that it was because he had done nothing to assist Edward in his efforts to aid his brother Benjamin. Although, I can find no documentation indicating precisely what dealings Edward Church had with John Adams over his brother Benjamin, I find Adams' surprise at Edward's reactions as somewhat disingenuous. Adams cannot be wholly trusted in matters like these and it's my deep impression that there were a number of instances, undocumented, in which Edward, and his father, tried to solicit Adams' support in efforts to release their brother and son from a very harsh prison regime but received no help from Adams. Adams, of course, was rather disingenuous when commenting on Benjamin's arrest and tried to give an impression of very little acquaintance with Church, which, of course, is false.
    A more plausible explanation for Edward's publication of this poem was that he, most likely,  blamed John Adams' influence as being instrumental in Washington's refusal to appoint him to a position that he desperately needed to support his wife and five children. Combine that with Edward's conviction that Adams had failed to support him in 1776 and the fact that while Edward, an ardent Patriot and Whig, had been ruined by the War, John Adams prospered and, I think, you have Edward's motivation.
   Henry Knox assured John Adams that the poem "was universally despised by all parties and descriptions of men." and that Edward Church's character was "well known." In spite of Henry Knox's assertions as to Edward Church's character, President Washington, in June, 1790, appointed Church consul at Bilbao, Spain, at that time a very prosperous Spanish port which was located in the Basque region of Spain. Edward did not like this post so he remained at home and campaigned for a better job. In May 1792, President Washington appointed him consul at Lisbon, Portugal. In December 1793, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward to warn him that he would lose the post at Lisbon if he did not get there soon. But, in fact, Edward Church was already in Lisbon for in August, 1793, an American visiting Lisbon had found a "A board well furnished with viands and liquors," and "new incitement to indulgence, from the unceremonious hospitality of both Mr. and Mrs. Church."
   To be continued
   * Edward was 49 years old at the time.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Edward Church, Jr. and Family

Edward Church Family 1787-1843. by Jacques Antoine Vallin. Signed "Vallin/Pinxit. L.L.". Oil on canvas, 82x 61 1/2 inches, ca. 1805.

   I have managed to obtain a better copy of the portrait of Edward Church, Jr. and his family. It is published in Early Georgia Portraits 1715-1870, published by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia, The University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1975. Following is the written description accompanying the portrait:
Edward Church was born in England in 1787. After he came to America, he was appointed consul to L'Orient France, by President Madison in 1817 and served in that position until 1832. He numbered among his friends such illustrious men as Louis Bonaparte, Robert Fulton, Henry Clay, and General Bodley. He died in Lexington, Kentucky in 1843. He married Elizabeth Bentley in Darby, England, in 1806. She was born in England and died in Louisville, Kentucky. Their son, Dr. Edward Bentley Church, was born in Paris, France and died in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1847. Their daughter, Hannah Elizabeth Church, died in 1889 or 1890 in San Francisco, California.
 A medium blue sky, dark green trees, with orange and rose flowers form  a background for this group. Edward Church had brown hair and eyes. A white shirt with a red scarf  shows under his dark brown coat, and his breeches are a medium brown. He has a black hat under his arm. His wife is seated on a gray green bench with a red drapery. She has blonde hair, hazel eyes, and is wearing a white dress with a gold hat over her arm. She is holding Hannah, the daughter. The son Edward, standing, has blonde hair and is holding red flowers. Collection: Mr. J.C. Hagler III

Sunday, October 27, 2013


   I have revised my two posts on Edward Church, dated March 19, 2013 and May 11, 2013 to include information on Edward's two wives and children and to reflect some land dealings he had when he resided in Braintree just after the fighting broke out at Lexington and Concord.
  The next chapter on Edward is forthcoming shortly.

   In an item probably of interest only to me. -I was reading a biography of Ebenezer MacIntosh, the shoemaker and leader of the Boston gangs in the mid-1760s, in the proceedings of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and came across the fact that he was descended from a group of Scottish prisoners who had been seized at the battles of  Dunbar in 1650 and Worcester in 1651 by Oliver Cromwell, pardoned, and sent to Boston as bond servants for terms of 6-8 years. A large number of these prisoners were sent to the Iron Works at Saugus to serve out their period of servitude. I discuss the Saugus Iron Works in my January 19, 2013 post on Col Church's swords.

   Apparently, Oliver Wendell Holmes was descended from one of these "redemptioners."