Sunday, October 5, 2014

Was Dr Benjamin Church Jr involved in the Battle of Bunker Hill?

 We left Dr. Church on June 17th, 1775 as he returned from his nearly month long absence from Cambridge only to be greeted with the chaos of a battle in progress - Bunker Hill. Before we go on with Dr. Church's story, we must first deal with the allegation that Dr. Church was involved in Bunker Hill and was somehow actively aiding British efforts in that battle.

Cambridge 1776

Emory Washburn
   The original information indicating Dr. Church's involvement in the battle arose some 50 years after Bunker Hill in the publication in the "Worcester Magazine and Historical Journal" (Vol II, No.2, June, 1826) of "Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Town of Leicester" by Emory Washburn (1800-1877), a native of Leicester and a distinguished lawyer and politician who served, among other political offices, a one year term as Governor of Massachusetts (Jan 1854-Jan 1855). He eventually became a Professor at Harvard Law School where he taught for 20 years. Washburn had a life long interest in local and state history and as early as 1826 published his history of Leicester.
   Leicester in 1775 was a very small town some 6 miles west of Worcester and 50 miles west of Boston. Leicester provided a company of minutemen who were incorporated into Artemus Ward's regiment just prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill. Emory Washburn's grandfather, Seth Washburn, a veteran of the French and Indian War, served as a company commander in that regiment. This is how Washburn first reports the incident involving Dr Church in 1826:

On the 17th June, the Col. of the regiment was absent and it was commanded by Lt. Col. Barnes. The Regiment left the camp, on that day, about noon, and halted some time at Lechmere Point - the reason for which is not known. As the Regiment came to the foot of Bunker Hill, it was met by the famous Dr. Church, of Boston, who for so long a time, acted the double part of seeming patriot and actual traitor, who informed the commander, that orders were sent to stop any troops going on to the field, and the Regiment halted. Capt Washburn, overhearing these orders, exclaimed in a loud voice that they were "tory orders", and turning to his company, asked which of them would follow him. Every man of them marched from the line, and followed him into the action. The Regiment this broken was not again collected during the day. This company came into the engagement about a quarter of an hour before a retreat was ordered. They took post at the rail fence nearest the redoubt, and were engaged until the whole American line retreated. No one of the company was killed, though all except two, were in the action. Capt Washburn received a ball in his cartouch box, four passed though his coat, and one through his wig. 
Map of Boston and Charlestown. Lechmere Point is to the southwest of Charlestown neck and is indicated on the map.

   Seth Washburn died six years before Emory Washburn was born so he could not have received this information directly from him; but Emory Washburn claims that six men who were involved in this action were still alive when he wrote this history to include Seth Washburn's brother, Capt Rueben Washburn.

   We shall return to Emory Washburn and his history of Leicester later.

   In 1847,  Artemus Henshaw Ward , grandson of Maj Gen Artemus Ward, who commanded the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut forces at Bunker Hill, published his "History of the Town of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts from its settlement in 1717 to 1789. " Shrewsbury is located about seven miles northeast of Worcester. Henshaw Ward was a Harvard graduate, a failed lawyer, and a customs agent by profession. Maj Gen Ward was born in Shrewsbury and lived most of his life there. Shrewsbury provided a company of its men for his Regiment. Artemus Henshaw Ward was sixteen when his grandfather died and he purposefully engaged him in a number of conversations to get his views on certain events. He specifically questioned him about Bunker Hill given the criticism that his grandfather has suffered for his conduct of the battle. The grandson had a life long fascination with history and engaged in a massive search of records and interviews to compile his history of Shrewsbury. Here is the version of the incident with Dr. Church as described by Ward in his history of Shrewsbury:
Artemus Ward

When it was ascertained that a reinforcement of British troops had been sent over to Charlestown, and their disposable force in Boston thereby so reduced as to make an attack upon headquarters improbable, reinforcements were ordered from Cambridge. Col Jonathan Ward [actual Commander of Artemus Ward's Regiment on 17 June] then stationed at No.4 , was directed, as appears by the General's Orderly Book, to march his regiment with the utmost dispatch, by the way of Leechmere's Point to Charlestown, keeping a strict look out towards Boston, while on his march. It is known that this regiment did not reach its place of destination.
Col.Ward, with his regiment, having nearly reached Charlestown Neck, there met a gentleman (said to have been Dr. Benjamin Church, one of the Committee of Safety, and who afterwards proved himself a traitor) coming from Charlestown on horseback, who inquired of Col. Ward to what point he was marching his regiment. To the hill, was the answer. "Have you not had counter orders?" "I have not." "You will have soon. Halt here." The regiment advanced no further. Some few found means to leave it and cross the neck, but soon met the Provincials retreating. Capt. Aaron Smith, of this town, who was in that battle, and died at the age of 89, in 1825, related the forgoing to me, about a year before his death, and which he said was told him by one who said he was an eye and ear witness to what passed and took place between Col. Ward, and the person on horseback. Smith was in service most of the revolutionary war, and had been a soldier in the French war...Being intelligent, and a close observer of men and things, his relation of the battles in which he had been engaged, where and under what circumstances fought, and the exciting through which he passed while in service, never failed to interest the listening ear...Having related this much and more, I inquired of him, with a view to ascertain his understanding of the matter, why reinforcements were not sent from Cambridge? he replied, "It was expected the enemy would come over from Boston, and landing at the point, make an attack upon head quarters."
In 1860, Emory Washburn decided to update his 1826 history of Leicester and publish it as a book ("Historical Sketches of the Town of Leicester, Massachusetts, Boston, 1860). He mentions that he used Henshaw Ward's history of Shrewsbury and the work of Richard Frothingham relating to the siege of Boston in his rewrite. Here is the way he rewrote the incident with Dr. Church in the 1860 edition.

Gen Ward, as commander-in-chief, was stationed at Cambridge, and gave directions what regiments should march to Charlestown on the occasion of occupying the hill, and the next day, to help maintain it. A part, at least, of his own regiment, under Lieut-Col. Ward, was stationed at what was called Fort No. 2, which is said to have been what is known as Dana Hill. It was here that Capt. Washburn's company were stationed. Though the enemy landed about one o'clock, it was past three o'clock in the afternoon, according to the account given by Mr. Frothingham, before the actual battle commenced. He speaks of a part of Lieut-Col. Ward's regiment arriving at a critical time of the battle, and of the part taken by Capt. Washburn's company, with other companies mentioned, in maintaining the position of the American troops at the rail-fence, and "gallantly covering the retreat."
The British finally took possession of the hill about five o'clock, so that the heat of the action must have lasted about two hours.
With this preliminary statement, drawn from other sources, I propose to give a detailed account, as near as I have been able to gather it from those who took part in them, of the movements of the Leicester men on that day. I am chiefly indebted for my facts to Mr. Nathan Craige, a member of the company, given many years since, when a clear and unimpaired memory and a character for honesty and integrity which was never impeached, gave to his statement the force of truth. Nor will it be found to conflict with any well-authenticated account of the details of the battle. 
It seems that between one and two o'clock, a re-enforcement had arrived from Boston to join the troops which had previously landed at Moulton's Point. This, according to a statement in Ward's "History of Shrewsbury," - the connection of whose author with Gen Ward gave him an opportunity to understand something of the motives of his movements, - so far satisfied the general that the enemy would not attempt to land, and attack his position in Cambridge, that he ordered Lieut.-Col Ward to march his regiment with the utmost dispatch by the way of Lechmere Point to Charlestown, keeping a strict look-out towards Boston in its march. The regiment, according to Mr. Craige's recollection, were paraded under arms, ready for marching, soon after noon. On reaching Lechmere Point, they halted for near an hour. The reason for this delay he never understood. While here, they heard the "cracking of the musketry over in Charlestown," as well as the roar of the cannon. The were then ordered to march to Charlestown neck, in order to reach the scene of the battle, which had already begun. Before they arrived at the neck, they were met by a man on horseback (said to be Dr. Church), who told the Commander to halt his men; that orders had been sent, that no more troops should go into action.* Major Barnes, who was then in command, gave the order to halt. Whereupon Capt. Washburn, stepping out of the column, addressing his men, exclaimed in a loud voice, "Those are Tory orders: I shan't obey them. Who will follow me?" Every man of his company at once left the column, and passed on towards the hill. Capt. Wood of Northborough, with his company, and as appears by Mr. Frothingham's narrative, Capt. Cushing also, left the regiment, and came into the action about the same time that Capt. Washburn did.
          * The same circumstance, though in a little different language, was repeated by a member of another company in the regiment, as stated by Mr. Ward, in his history.
   Before going further, some background information may prove useful. On June 17th, 1775,  forty-seven year old Maj Gen Ward was suffering from a debilitating attack of kidney stones and was somewhat immobilized in his headquarters which was located in the Hastings/Holmes House in Cambridge ( It's no 18 on the Cambridge 1776 map at the intersection of the Menotomy and Charlestown Roads.) The Hastings/Holmes House was also the place where the Committee of Safety met and most of its members were there on June 17th. As mentioned before, the Committee of Safety was an executive committee and was responsible for the procurement of supplies, disposition of troops, etc. and members could give military orders. Dr. Church had been an original, long serving, and continuous member of the Committee of Safety since its formation. In fact, he had only been replaced as its Chairman less than a month previous in a "bloodless and even noiseless coup" by Joseph Warren. Indeed it was Dr Church, as chairman of the Committee, who signed the orders authorizing the fortification of Bunker Hill in May 1775.
From Justin Winsor's Memorial History of Boston. The door to the right opens into the room where the Committee of Safety and Ward's Council of War metThis house was torn down in 1884.

   Members of the Committee of Safety were actively involved in giving advice to Ward and it was a member of the Committee, Richard Devens, who decided that Colonel Prescott on the redoubt must be reinforced. Ward was pressured into giving approval to send the New Hampshire regiments to support him. Ward was a cautious man who was worried about a British attack on his center in Cambridge via Willis Creek. He was also acutely aware of the severe shortage of gunpowder. It was only when Ward received word that, with the wind against her and the tide turning, a British schooner carrying five to six hundred men, had abandoned an attempt to land at Willis Creek that he stopped worrying about a British attack on his center. Some have criticized Ward, and with some justification, for being so immobile that day. But, in his defense, he had a ten mile front to worry about, an amphibious attack on Cambridge, and a lack of competent staff.

   It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time that Ward's regiment was confronted by the man on horseback, presumed to be Dr. Church, but the earliest would be around two o'clock. We do not know precisely what time Dr. Church arrived in Cambridge on June 17th, 1775, only that it was while the battle of Bunker Hill was in progress. Given the noise of the artillery and musket fire, Church would have known that some type of action was in progress long before he got to Cambridge. It would be reasonable to assume that his first destination upon arrival would be the Hastings/Holmes House, the meeting place for the Committee of Safety and where he could find out what was going on. We have only sketchy details about the actions of the Committee of Safety that day and Church could have been present without it being remarked. We know that Committee members were out and about during the battle so perhaps so was Church. We also know that there was a shortage of horses for the Provincials and a man on horseback would have been somewhat unusual. And we know that Church arrived in Cambridge driving a sulky but accompanied by a servant on horseback. So we know he had access to a horse.
A contemporary sketch made just after the battle commissioned by Lord Rowden, a 21 year old lieutenant in the 5th Regiment of Foot, who participated in the second and third British assaults at Bunker Hill

   Dr. Church was not a military man and had no delusions of military glory like Maj Gen Joseph Warren or Col John Hancock.  ( See my blog post on Warren at Bunker Hill, dtd. January 5, 2011) The closest he had ever gotten to anything military was his service as a surgeon on the Province Snow Prince of Wales during the French and Indian War and I doubt he came anywhere close to any action. Ward was very concerned with  the attack on Charlestown as a British feint and as cover for an attack on Cambridge itself. His insistence on halting the provincial forces at Lechmere Point is then totally understandable. Could he have dispatched or could Dr. Church have volunteered to visit the point and insure that troops went no further? Could he have been aware of Ward's concerns and when he came upon the troops passed on his orders?

  What is curious to me is the specific identification of the man on horseback. The troops making the identification were from the Worcester area but Church was as well known as any other Massachusetts Whig and the identification was specific.

   Was Church the man on horseback who gave orders to elements of Ward's Regiment on the afternoon of June 17,1775 ? I just don't know. There is no other information other than the accounts presented in these histories of the towns of Leicester and Shrewsbury; and the earliest publication of them is some 50 years after Bunker Hill, even if they are based on eyewitness accounts..The information is plausible and credible. If the man on horseback was Church, there is little reason to infer that he was up to some nefarious activity as concluded by Clifford K. Shipton who, in his 1960 biographical sketch in Sibley's Harvard Graduates of Church, after quoting the Washburn accusation about "tory orders" set forth in the Worcester magazine of 1826, states:

After this partial success [the tory orders to Washburn], the Doctor sought out James Warren, who succeeded Dr . Warren as president, and delivered his information which was here, too, regarded as too secret to be put into writing. He must have had some bad minutes during the courts-martial held to find out who was responsible for the crippling confusion behind the American lines during the battle.

   I do find it  plausible that Dr. Church was out and about during Bunker Hill, but hardly plausible that he was giving orders to confuse the Provincials. And given the rather conflicting lines of authority amongst and between the various Provincial regiments, there is little Dr. Church or anyone else could do to confuse the issue further. It is also possible that Dr. Church was passing on direction from Ward that had been superseded. In any event, it seems to me that the anecdote about Capt. Washburn refusing "Tory orders" and rushing into battle is one of those many anecdotes from this period that became family lore and legend that served to enhance the reputation of the patriotism and courage of the family involved and came to be accepted as factual history.

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