Saturday, November 10, 2012

Stone Fences - II

   My post yesterday has generated some discussion as to just how potent a drink the "Stone Fence" was in colonial America.

   The rum so widely consumed throughout colonial America was a cheap dark rum made from poor quality molasses, not to be confused with the "refined" rums one encounters today. In 1770, there were approximately 140 rum distilleries throughout the thirteen colonies producing about 4.8 million gallons of rum annually. Another 3.78 million gallons were being imported from the Caribbean. One curious fact about the rum produced in the Caribbean is that because of the high temperatures, rum ages at approximately three times the rate of Scotch. Thus a seven year Caribbean rum is aged to the same state as a 21 year old Scotch.The Caribbean imported rum was considered to be of a higher quality than a domestic distilled rum.

   There can be no certainty as to the "proof" or alcohol content of Caribbean and colonial rum such as that consumed by the Green Mountain Boys but it was  most likely close to 90% alcohol or higher. Hard cider, such as that fermented by colonial New Englanders, contained approximately  5 to 7% alcohol so "cutting" the rum with it didn't dilute the alcohol content by much. As a comparison, my favorite 12 year old Macallan has 40% alcohol. I don't think I could keep up with the Green Mountain Boys for very long.

   There are some claims that New England distilleries produced a "high quality" rum and several micro distilleries have opened in New England claiming to duplicating  colonial era rum. I have serious reservations about their claims and doubt that a modern distillery could sell its product to a discerning modern public without using much higher quality ingredients than those available to New England distillers.

   I have visited the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, VA which makes, among other products, a colonial era dark Caribbean rum; however, this rum is distilled in the Caribbean and bottled in Virginia. The distiller insists that is distilled, aged, and blended much as it was in the colonial era.

  George Washington was a great fan of Barbados rum and agreed with the common belief at the time that Barbados rum was richer and more complex than all the other rums.

 Washington, at the time of his death, was a very successful rye whiskey distiller. In 1797, Washington's Scots farm manager, James Anderson, encouraged him to build a whiskey distillery adjacent to his gristmill. The distillery was the largest in America, producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799, making it one of the most successful economic enterprises at Mount Vernon.

  Recently Mount Vernon reconstructed Washington's distillery and it is available for touring. I went on the tour when it opened several years ago and, quite frankly, was underwhelmed.

  On November 28th, and for one day only, Mount Vernon is selling  bottles of a limited edition "George Washington Unaged Rye Whiskey" made at Mount Vernon's reconstructed distillery from the original recipe at $95 a bottle.

Mount Vernon Distillery


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Stone Fences

   Recently I was doing some reading in a Civil War magazine and came across a letter to the editor taking an author to task for asserting that Confederate General Jubal Early created and named the rum and hard cider drink called the "Stonewall". The writer stated that, in fact, both the name and the recipe for the drink date back at least to the American Revolution. He related an anecdote about Benedict Arnold, prior to the taking of Fort Ticonderoga, encountering a contingent of Green Mountain Boys in a "smoky taproom" at Castleton some twenty miles from Ticonderoga who were "flushed with that Green Mountain concoction of rum and rock-hard cider called a 'stonewall.'"

   The "stonewall" or, as more commonly referred to in the colonial period, the "stone fence" was indeed a favorite drink of the Green Mountain Boys and other colonials. Benedict Arnold, on his way to Fort Ticonderoga,  did encounter a contingent of Green Mountain Boys, and some Connecticut militia, in a tavern in Castleton, New York where he attempted to assert his authority over them. (See my posts on the Arnold/Church confrontation for a discussion of Arnold at Ticonderoga.) The drunken Green Mountain Boys, well lubricated from their "stone fences", scoffed at Arnold who, affronted, stormed out of the tavern in search of Ethan Allen who was several miles further north on Lake Champlain. The Green Mountain Boys probably quaffed quite a few "stonefences" the night before they "stormed" Ticonderoga.

  Rum was the distilled beverage of choice during colonial times. Almost every American household had a cider barrel outside which would ferment and freeze over in the long New England winter, turning into hard cider. The original Stone Fence, during Colonial times, would have been rum cut with a bit of hard cider to take the edge off of the harshness of the rum. It was a very potent drink, for hard drinkers.

  The "Stone Fence" was enjoyed throughout the Northeast during the Revolution. But by the early 1800's, rye had replaced rum—much harder to get in the post-Revolutionary period—in the drink. The inevitable presence of both apple trees and alcoholic cider across the Northeast and the Midwest kept the drink accessible and popular. As westward expansion began and settlers began to move into the Ohio Valley, German and Scottish settlers brought their knowledge of distilling with them and began to experiment with distilling corn. These early distillations were the precursors of what we now know as bourbon whiskey. By the time Jerry Thomas’ wrote the first cocktails guide in 1862, “How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” the Stone Fence had evolved with the times into good corn whiskey and non-alcoholic apple cider. This was an extremely popular drink in America during the Civil War era and  it remained so through the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. One of the most famous Stone Fence aficionados was William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (he preferred it with a twist of lemon.) After the Temperance Movement and Prohibition did its damage to America, the drink was virtually forgotten, but has made somewhat of a comeback recently.

  Here are two recipes for a "stonefence' - one colonial and one modern:

  Here's a colonial one from Esquire Magazine:

            -2 ounces dark rum
           - hard cider
          -  pint glass

  Pour the rum into a pint glass, add 1 or 2 ice cubes, and fill with hard cider. This drink, otherwise known as a Stone Wall, can also be made with, in order of authenticity, applejack, rye whiskey, or anything else in place of the rum. The name "Stone Fence" alludes to the effect produced by getting outside too many of these, which is not unlike that produced by running downhill into one.
  Here's a modern one:
  • 2 oz Eagle Rare bourbon
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 4 oz good quality non-alcoholic apple cider
       In a double rocks glass (also called a bucket) add first two ingredients.

           Fill glass with ice.
           Add cider to top.
           Stir briefly to incorporate flavors.

 I am not sure as to why the drink was named "Stone Fence" in colonial America, but the most plausible explanation, to me, was that it was named so because imbibing it made it so much easier to build those stone walls that dotted the New England countryside.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Update/A Boston Wit

   I have published a new page which lists all of the posts on this blog. Hopefully, it will enable readers to locate a specific post more easily.

  The next subject to be discussed in forthcoming posts is Edward Church, Dr Church's younger brother, who had a role to play, albeit minor, in the lead up to the Revolution and is a rather interesting character in his own right.

  My posts on Deacon Church mention that he was a member of the Hollis Street Church whose pastor was the Rev Mather Byles, a very prominent figure in Pre-Revolutionary Boston and member of the "Mather aristocracy." Rev Byles had a reputation as one of the best wits in Boston and was very well known through out the town for it. Some of his remarks were quite sarcastic and some quite cruel; undoubtedly he suffered for them after war broke out. I thought I might share a couple of instances of Byles' wit to give you a flavor of what was considered really witty and funny in Boston at this time.

  A man with a bad toothache asked Rev Byles where he should go to have his tooth drawn. Rev Byles responded with directions to an isolated house near Beacon Hill where he told the man he would find someone "to draw it." The man made the apparently long walk to this house where he found, not a dentist, but John Singleton Copley, the artist. "This is a poor joke for Doctor Byles," said Copley. "I do not think my drawing your tooth would ease the pain very much."

   Dr Byles, while walking past the North Church, came upon a crowd watching a man who had climbed the steeple and was flapping some artificial wings to the great delight of the crowd below. "What has this crowd gathered for?", declaimed the celebrated wit. "We have come, sir, to see a man fly," someone answered him. "Pooh! Pooh!," said the doctor, "I have seen a horse fly."

  Dr Byles, one day, in a very agitated manner, told his household Irish servant girl who apparently was  not too too bright, to run upstairs and tell her Mistress that "Dr Byles has put an end to himself." She did so and her Mistress came dashing down the stairs with her daughters to find Dr Byles waltzing around the room with part of a cow's tail he had found somewhere tied to the tail of his coat.

  I don't make this stuff up, folks.

  I should mention that Mather Byles was very good friends with John Singleton Copley, so he may have been playing a jest on a good friend when he sent the man with a toothache to him. Copley, a Tory sympathizer, lived on an eleven acre estate, perhaps the largest in Boston at that time.
John Singleton Copley. Self-portrait. 1769

   Dr Byles also carried on a long correspondence with Benjamin Franklin  with whom he apparently became acquainted with when both were boys in Boston, albeit from different social backgrounds. They were born in the same year.

   But the Rev Byles became a casualty of the Revolutionary War and one can sympathize with him and his daughters for the really unfair abuse they had to absorb from the Patriots. But then civil wars are the most bitter and the Revolutionary War certainly had the characteristics of one.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Devastated Deacon - V

   As war broke out after the fateful skirmishes at Lexington and Concord and the bloody British retreat back to Boston, thousands of New Englanders rallied to the cause and surrounded Boston - the siege of Boston had begun. Deacon Church, father to two well known and dedicated Patriot sons, one of whom was very prominent in the leadership, and a man who had always supported the Whig cause, fled along with thousands of other Bostonians from the city. The precise day he left is unknown but it was very early in the siege. The Deacon, his wife, and presumably the wife and children of his son Doctor Church traveld to the Rhode Island border to stay with the Crocker family in Taunton, Mass.

   The Deacon returned to Boston in April, 1776, perhaps one year after he had departed; the British had evacuated the city on March 17, 1776. Deacon Church was not prepared for what he found. Within several weeks of Lexington and Concord, Boston, a town of some 15,000, had plummeted in population to only some 3,000 colonials. General Gage, the Governor of Massachusetts, in fact, facilitated the departure of the town's population feeling he did not need all of those "troublemakers" on his hands.All possessions except plate and firearms could be taken from the town; of course, there was insufficient means of transportation for the citizens to take more than would fit on a wagon, horseback, or on their backs. British troops searched everything going out of the city and were rather indiscriminate as to what what they allowed to pass. As terrified Bostonians fled the town, equally terrified Loyalists, many of whom had suffered for their loyalty to the Crown from their neighbors, streamed into the town. As the siege progressed, food and fuel (wood) supplies became ever more scarce. In addition to the bombardment of the town by the rebels causing indiscriminate damage, depredations to property by British soldiers became worse and worse. General Gage tried to stop this with severe punishments but  he was largely unsuccessful. Storms and fires took their toll. In March 1776, the Patriot bombardment of the town increased in intensity and that's when widespread looting broke out. Bands of Loyalists looted Whig homes, occupied or not. There was an element of revenge as word had been coming in of Patriot confiscation of the properties the Loyalists had left behind.

British Evacuation of Boston, 1776. A 1911 print by A.J. Aylward

   The scene that the returning Bostonians faced was one of utter devastation. The town was in shambles; many homes were unrecognizable. Some had been torn down. Paint peeled from their sides, broken windows glistened in the sunlight, and shutters hung loosely from their fastenings. In the South End, some residents found fortifications where their homes had once stood. Limbs of trees from the Commons were placed across manure-filled streets, and caltrops were scattered on the ground. In homes near the main avenue into town residents found loaded shells with trains of powder covered by straw.

   Personal property damage ran into enormous sums for some. Not only were homes and stores destroyed, but in some instances, the fleeing British soldiers "destroyed the furniture of the houses, broke the windows, chairs, desks, tables &c. They loaded their vessels so deep that they threw overboard much of their lumber, which floats on water."

   Deacon Church arrived in Boston to find his fine "double brick home" severely damaged and his possessions looted. Not only had he been unable to earn any income for approximately one year, but now he discovered that his business was destroyed. His son Edward spoke of his father and mother "reduced from affluence to a state of needy dependence."  The town appointed him to a committee to investigate the damage suffered by the inhabitants of Ward 11 during the siege.

   The Deacon was now 72 years old and lived in a town that by 1780 would only reach a population of approximately 10,000 and teetered on the edge of economic collapse.

   Then, less than six months after he had returned to Boston, the Deacon received word that his son and namesake, Dr Benjamin Church, Jr had been arrested for "criminal correspondence." The Deacon was devastated and, to his dying day, believed in his son's innocence. And, he was now faced with providing financial support for his son, his daughter-in-law and Benjamin Jr's children.

   When Benjamin Jr was transferred to custody in the Boston jail in the summer of 1776, the Deacon supported his son who otherwise might have starved. On August 5, 1776, he appealed to John Hancock, sitting as President of the Continental Congress, for help. Hancock had to have been well acquainted with the Deacon:

It is hard upon me - in my present distressed Circumstances - as I am oblig'd to support Him {Benjamin Jr}, and family - as there is no provision made for his subsistance - I have been robb'd of everything valuable in the Town of Boston by those Robbers that lately possess'd the same - vizt L500 Steling in furniture - Merchantize - &c. And at present is no business - Mr. Bodwin {sic, probably James Bowdoin then President of the Massachusetts Provisonal Congress' executive council} &c Advis'd me to apply to Capt Bradford  for the sale of prize goods - as Auctioneer - I have seen Him - and He has inform'd me, He has no power to appoint - being restricted by Your self - but shou'd be ready to serve me, yea in preference if in his power - considering my present Scituation & many distressing difficulties - pray Sir consider me - One line from Your self will be sufficient.
   The Captain Bradford referenced in the letter is John Bradford, prize agent in Boston for the Continental Navy. He was responsible for, among other things, disposition of any prizes and their cargoes that would be seized and brought to Boston harbor. John Hancock, had he been so inclined, could have given the Deacon a commission to serve as auctioneer for prizes seized and disposed of in the port of Boston.

   The Deacon's financial difficulties continued and on March 28th, 1778, he wrote to John Hancock , in what must have been in extreme desperation, to attempt, once again, apparently, to obtain back pay for his son  for the approximately two months when he served as "Surgeon General" of the Continental Army! This is three months after Benjamin Jr was sent into exile, placed on a ship and subsequently lost at sea.

Hon. Sr.
   You may remember some time past I, by my son's desire, requested the favour of two months pay months pay as Surgeon Gen'll to the Hospitall at Cambridge, viz't from July to Sep'ber 1775 at which unhappy for Him - He was taken up and confined for writing a L'tr, to he brother Fleming which was deemed by some prejudiciall to his country, but to me and others He has repeatedly affirmed the contrary, that He never meant to injure, but to save his country, which He said if He might be admitted to triall He would have evinced to all mankind - but that could not be obtained - and now alas! he is banished! His demand for the service above is 252 Dollars - wherefore if, Dear Sir, through your interest it could be obtained. I have full power to receive the same - Hon'd Sir; as a grateful acknowledgement for favours' rec'd please to accept the following essay to perpetuate Your memory - from Yr Humble Serv't. Benjamin Church.

   The essay is a Latin acrostic spelling "Johannes Hancock Jus."

   Obviously, the Deacon's request was never fulfilled.

   In 1779, the Deacon was still looking out for his son's interests as he engaged in proceedings to keep his son's house out of the hands of an unscrupulous land speculator. By this time his daughter-in-law was resident in England and was helpless.

   The Deacon died on October 10, 1781, two days after his 77th birthday. Still uncertain of his namesake's fate and still believing in his innocence, he stipulated in his will that Benjamin should receive five pounds, the same amount as the rest of his children:
Item - I give unto my Son Benjamin if alive (for alas! He is now absent - being cruelly banish'd his Country - and whither living, or dead God only knows) five pounds sterling, and the remains of my broken library - but if He shou'd be deceas'd - to his son James Miller Church now in London -
   The probate inventory lists over 200 books in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French. The Deacon must have, at one time, possessed one of the finest libraries in Boston.  Also included in the inventory are thirty two pictures under glass in the large brick house indicating, perhaps, the extent and value of the deacon's possessions prior to Lexington and Concord.

   The Deacon's personal possessions were only valued at approximately L142. A "small building and 170 square foot of land (mortgaged)" were valued at L120. The only other item in the estate was the Deacon's double brick house that he had acquired when he first arrived in Boston, unvalued.

   Hannah Church, the deacon's wife, was named executrix of the estate and a report of the commissioners on April 8, 1783 showed claims of L1154, 11s 5d., against the estate and the balance in the hands of the executrix as L129, 3s, 7 1/2 d. Hannah died in April 1794, almost thirteen years after her husband, without completing the settlement of the estate. It was only after litigation from her heirs that the Deacon's brick double house, the prized possession he had manged to hold on to throughout all the years of financial difficulties, was sold for L1900 pounds so that the estate could be settled.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Benjamin Church, Sr - IV

  In 1762, Deacon Church was one of the incorporators of the "Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge Among the Indians of North America." The incorporators, some of whom were members of the Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company along with the Deacon, collected a substantial endowment, obtained a charter from the Provincial Government, and began proselytizing. When the act of incorporation was forwarded to England for approval, the Archbishop of Canterbury, fearing that this new society would interfere with one already established for that purpose by the Church of England, or, perhaps more relevantly, concerned that a society of this type independent of the Church of England could obtain substantial influence and power convinced the King to oppose the incorporating act in Parliament, and thus killed the Society. This killed the Society until after the Revolution. There is little doubt that the Deacon was a very pious man who took his religion seriously and to whom this would have been a severe blow.

   In 1769, the Deacon agreed not to handle any goods at his auctions which were imported in contravention of the Non-Importation Agreements.

   In 1771, Samuel Southwick, a printer and publisher in Newport, R.I. decided to reissue a reprint of the 1716 edition of the Deacon's grandfather's history of King Philip's War, titled "The History of King Philip's War", and enlisted the services of Dr. Ezra Stiles, then pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport, R.I.. (Dr Stiles has been mentioned a number of times in this blog and I invite the readers to read the posts concerning him.) Dr Stiles enlisted the then 67 year old Deacon, who some may recall lived with his grandfather for a number of years as a young boy, to contribute to a Life of Col Church that was to be appended to the the new edition. We do not know precisely what information Deacon Church provided to Dr. Stiles concerning the life of his grandfather, but it appears from the Stiles papers that Stiles just used whatever he received without specific attribution. The Deacon also furnished a 30 line poem, an "Ode Heroica, " in Latin, to be included in the book as a tribute to Col Church; it was duly incorporated. I will spare the modern reader a translation of the poem, but will state that the author took as his inspiration the Roman biographer, Cornelius Nepos, and the work is filled with classical Roman and biblical references. The Deacon's other inspiration appears to have been Publius Ovidus Naso (Ovid).

Paul Revere's engraving of Col Church from the 1772 edition. There is no known portrait of Col Church and it is believed that Revere took an engraving of an English poet named Church and added the powder horn and the coat. Deacon Church is alleged to have looked on the engraving and agreed to it since it allegedly resembled a number of Churches. I cannot corroborate the Deacon ever so advised Revere.


   On 27 March 1773, the selectman of the town of Boston met to implement an act of the General Court from the previous session to limit the number of individuals authorized to sell goods at "public-vendue" to four and to provide licenses for them. Deacon Church (and he was so referenced in the official record) and three other individuals were "chose into the Office of Vendue-Master for the Town of Boston for the term of one year...whereupon they voluntarily agreed and declared to the Selectman that they would not sell any British or European goods at private sale but at auction or Public Vendue only."

A December 1768 issue of the Boston Chronicle advertising items for sale at "public vendue."

  Thus, at the eve of the outbreak of the Revolution in April 1775,  seventy year old Benjamin Church, Sr had been resident in Boston for some thirty-three years, had risen to be one of its most respected citizens, and had become prosperous enough to be considered a gentleman. He had eight children and two of his sons were active Patriots. One was of such prominence in the Whig movement that there were few who stood higher. Benjamin Sr was a scholar and respected Deacon living in a substantial brick home with an extensive library with books in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French. The revolution, however, would bring his world crashing down upon him.

To be continued in the final chapter - The Destitute Deacon


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Benjamin Church, Sr - III

   Upon his return to Boston in 1742, the thirty-seven year old Benjamin Church Sr was elected to membership in "The Ancient and Honourable Artillery Company" of Boston, presumably because of the military fame of his grandfather. The "Ancient and Honorable" was founded in 1638 as a militia unit for the defense of the the colony but by 1742 had become a private organization for men who wanted to practice and demonstrate their military skills. It had long lost any connection with artillery. There were five other men recruited in the same year as Benjamin Sr and the occupations of the three that could be determined were: carpenter, leather-dresser, and escutcheon maker. I could find no information indicating that Benjamin Sr was an active participant in any of the organization's activities and, I suspect, he had very little to do with it since there is no information to indicate that he had any interest in military affairs other than contributing to a new edition of his grandfather's exploits in King Philips' War.

Faneuil Hall in 1775
  Originally constructed in 1740, Faneuil Hall burnt down in 1761 but was rebuilt and expanded in 1762. It has served as the headquarters of the Ancient and Honourable Company since its original construction.
 A visit to the Ancient and Artillery Company's fourth floor museum is a must for any visitor to Boston.

   Benjamin continued to pursue his career as an auctioneer but apparently began to import and sell his own goods as well, allowing him to assume the title of merchant. In 1745, Boston selected him as a constable for Ward 11. The office of constable was less than desirable and most "gentlemen" and merchants avoided it. To avoid service as constable, one could pay a fine, but Benjamin Sr chose not to do so and it was reported that Church cheerfully took the oath. One of Church's duties as a constable was "to serve as the arm of the law" when a committee of gentlemen, headed by Thomas Hubbard (Harvard 1721), went through Ward 11, dwelling by dwelling, interviewed every inhabitant and "warned out the undesirables." Presumably Church was the enforcer. In later years Benjamin Sr served as one of the gentlemen members on such committees. In 1752, the town of Boston elected him an assessor, an office which he held  for twenty six consecutive years. In March 1765, he was also elected a warden.

   As mentioned previously, Benjamin Sr was a religious man from early in life. Very early upon his arrival in Boston, he joined the Hollis Street Meeting House whose pastor was the Rev Mather Byles. This church had been founded in 1732 by the Rev Joseph Sewall, pastor of the Old South Church and Byles was its first pastor. It appears that Benjamin Sr chose this church simply because it was convenient to his home and business. It is also alleged that Church was much more "conservative" in his ideology than Byles. In any event, Benjamin Sr attended this church through to the Revolution and in 1762 was named a deacon of the Church. References to him in official Boston records and by his contemporaries then became "Deacon Church" for the rest of his life. Perhaps some of the motivation for that was to distinguish him from his son who was refereed to as "Doctor Church."
Location of Old Hollis Street Meeting House from a hand sketch drawn in 1787. The original wood building burned down in the great fire of 1787. The present day Hollis Street Church is Unitarian and shares very little with the church attended by Deacon Church and pastored by the Rev Byles.


The Rev Mather Byles became a victim of the Revolution. Known as a trenchant wit, he had very strong Tory politics. A graduate of Harvard (1725) he was a grandson of Increase Mather and a nephew of John Mather. His first wife was the niece of Governor Jonathan Belcher ( the marriage taking place in the Province House) who donated the land on which the church was built - a wooden structure, with a steeple, and 40 pews on the ground floor and nine in the gallery. Gov Belcher owned a country house located near the junction of Hollis and Orange Street and owned considerable land in the area. This area was rapidly being built up as people moved out of the increasingly crowded North End and Gov Belcher wanted to give them a church to attend, not to mention that a church would increase the attractiveness and value of his land holdings in the area.
A mezzotint of Jonathan Belcher from a Richard Phillips painting1734.

 Although Rev Byles claimed that he never discussed politics from the pulpit, he was accused of praying that the colonists would submit to the British. The townsmen became so embittered at this and his other actions and politics that in August, 1776 his congregation voted to dismiss him from his position after 44 years of service.

  ( For those with a further interest in Dr Byles and his two daughters after his dismissal as Pastor, the following might be of interest.:

   By 1763, Deacon Church and his son Doctor Church were fixtures in Boston life and the Deacon was now prosperous and either owned or sponsored a slave named York. On October 7,1762, the records of the Hollis Street Church indicate that the Rev Mather Byles married a "Negro York, servant to Benjamin Church and Margaret Salt." The records of the Church indicate that York was a "free negro" while Sibley's Harvard Graduates indicates that he was a slave.

    In that same year the Deacon, now a substantial property holder, lost two houses, one burnt down and one pulled down to prevent the spread of the fire. For the latter house, he tried to obtain compensation from the town but witnesses claimed that it was already on fire when it was torn down. Socially, the Deacon had come a long way in the eyes of his fellow Bostonians since the day he was elected a constable. When, on the eve of the Revolution, his granddaughter (daughter of his first child Martha and James Chaloner) married a Boston bookbinder by the name of Abraham Ellison, this alliance was "by no means agreeable to the young Lady's relations."

To be continued

Friday, September 28, 2012

Benjamin Church, Sr - II

 The first evidence that Benjamin Church, Sr had established residence in Boston, MA is his subscription on February 29, 1739 to the Land Bank.* Four months later he bought three homes and a distillery in the South End of Boston near Wheeler's Pond, which was owned by the Town and was used as a popular watering spot for livestock. The Pond, however, because of its swampy nature and use was becoming a "nuisance" to those townsmen who were moving out of the thickly populated North End and building homes in this area. Church petitioned the town to sell the pond to him since, once drained and filled in, the land would prove to be very valuable. Twice the Town voted to deny Church's petition.
   We do not know what prompted Church to move to Boston but one motivating factor could be that the Viall family, the family of Church's first wife and by whom he had two children, had owned property (probably on Newbury Street) and Church acquired from them, means unknown, a "double house" and pasture which Church proceeded to rent. Sibley's Harvard Graduates indicates that Church, at this time, was "not too prosperous" for at times he sold and mortgaged parts of his property. I'm not sure that this is an indication of financial problems but simply the actions of an entrepreneur, or, perhaps, a little bit of both.
   Benjamin Sr, however, did not stay long in Boston for sometime in late 1739 or early 1740, he was resident in Fayal, one of the Azores, where his son, Edward, was born on Sep 12, 1740. Since Benjamin obviously took his wife with him, one presumes that he took the rest of his family, to include Benjamin, Jr. Benjamin Sr returned to Boston sometime in 1742 and lived the rest of his life there except for when he was forced to leave Boston because of the British occupation of the town after Lexington and Concord.
   So, what was Benjamin doing in the Azores? In the mid 1700's the Azores served as one of the stopping off ports for ships traveling to North and South America.

   Fayal, one of the islands in the northern Azores, had several English merchants in residence. They carried out trade with neighbouring islands, especially the island of Pico where grapes are cultivated and wine is made. Since the inhabitants of Fayal owned most of the wineries on Pico, the wine produced there became known as "Fayal." An early 19th century account states:
The island {Fayal} has several towns well inhabited and produces yearly from 16 to 24,000 pipes of a white wine, of a remarkable salubrious quality, something between Madeira and Hock; this wine has of late years been much improved; it becomes quite mellow in about three years, or in about wight months, if sent on a sea voyage. The Passado, or Fayal Malmsey, is peculiar to the island.The method of making it is as follows: when the grapes are ripe, the choicest bunches are culled and exposed for fifteen days on large lava stones, and the grapes are turned every day, so that all the watery particles are exhaled; when afterwards compressed, their juice is quite thick and luscious, and brandy is put in to preserve it, so that it becomes quite a cordial.
   Pre-Revolutionary Boston's most widely drunk alcoholic beverage was rum, which was obtained from local distilleries. However, "the quality" in Boston drank wine and, for instance, in 1772 Boston imported 37,000 gallons of port wine. Under the Navigation Acts and Mercantilism, restrictions were placed on the import and export of all goods. "Fayal" wine imported from England through an English merchant paid a tax of 10 shillings duty per ton of 252 gallons while "fayal" imported directly from the Azores was taxed seven pounds sterling per ton. If ever there was a system designed to encourage smuggling, it was this one. Between 1700 and 1775, Madeira accounted for 64% of wine imports to Boston and Fayal, 7%.
Village of Horta in Fayal from a painting in the New Bedford Whaling Museum c. 1842

   And Benjamin Church Sr's connection to this? Recall that Benjamin's father-in-law and his father, Col Giles Dyer, Jr and Col Giles Dyer, Sr., were wealthy Boston merchants who imported "fayal" wine, sugar, rum, and salt, much of it apparently in their own vessels, and sold it from their warehouse in Boston. I don't think that it is too far a leap to surmise that Benjamin Sr was somehow pursuing some Dyer business interests or capitalizing on some old interests in the Azores. There is also a remote possibility that Benjamin Church Sr could have had some relationship to John Banister, the oldest son of Boston merchant Thomas Banister of Minot & Banister. John Banister had moved to Newport, R.I in 1737 where he ran one of the most prosperous trading firms in New England. Hannah Dyer's mother was a Banister, although not a direct descendant of Thomas Banister, and some connection could have been formed while the Churches and John Banister lived in Rhode Island. John Banister married Hermione Pelham, a granddaughter of Gov Benedict Arnold, great-grandfather to the Benedict Arnold and traded with England, the West Indies, and many other places. He also engaged in the slave trade and, in 1752, held one of the last public slave auctions in Rhode island at his store.
   Upon his return to Boston, Benjamin Sr opened a "public vendue room in the South End" which, in time became a Boston insitution. The main business of an auctioneer in Boston at that time was the disposal of newly imported goods. Church advertised "Broadcloths, Kerseys, Camblets, Calamancoes, Gauzes, flower'd Lawns, Handkerchiefs, Irish Hollands, Dowlasses, striped Hollands, Plaids, Checks, unglaz'd Linnens, House Furniture, Wearing Apparel, Watches, &c." In later years, Church imported goods for himself, in a small way.
   Church's "auction house, was located on Newbury Street, "two doors south of the sign of the Lamb" (a tavern), in the vicinity of Wheeler's Pond, and where his son Benjamin Jr would have his home. (see my Aug 14, 2010 post).

The Lamb Tavern, razed in 1845, from an engraving by John Ritto Oenniman and Abel Brown, c 1805-1834.
General Location Of Benjamin Sr's auction house

To be continued

Friday, January 13, 2012

Benjamin Church Sr.

  Benjamin Church, Sr was born in Bristol, R.I. * on October 8, 1704, the son of Captain Edward Church and Martha (Burton) Church. Edward was a captain in the militia and was the fourth of Col Benjamin Church's six sons and two daughters. Edward did take part in at least one of his father's expeditions during King William's War and died intestate at the age of 26, sometime prior to December 19, 1706 when an inventory of his property was taken. His widow described him as a "mariner";  he was not a man of wealth since his estate was valued at L694 - L600 of which was the value of a two hundred acre farm in Bristol, R.I. which his father had deeded to him in 1705 when he provided settlements for his children while he was still alive, and another L26 for "a bit of land," which appears to be an orchard.
  Martha was left widowed with a three year old daughter and a two year old son and she moved in with her children's sixty-seven year old grandfather who became their legal guardian. At this time, the Colonel was living in Little Compton, R.I.. The exact relationship the young Benjamin had with his grandfather is not known, but he did live with him for some eleven years. On January 17, 1718,  the Colonel, at the age of 78, was riding out to his farm in Little Compton, R.I when his horse stumbled and he was pitched off, landing on his head and shoulders. He apparently never regained consciousness and died some six hours later. The Colonel, like his son Edward, died intestate and an inventory showed land and possessions valued at approximately L650; but, as has been mentioned previously, the Colonel had made provisions for his children while he was alive.  By any standard, he was not a wealthy man.
Col Church's tombstone.

   It appears that Benjamin, the grandson, was the first of this branch of the Church family to go to Harvard and he became a member of the class of 1727. Upon graduation, he ranked sixth in a class of thirty seven. His classmate, Thomas Hutchinson, the future Governor of Massachusetts and the scourge of the Whigs, was ranked third. Benjamin's sketch in Sibley's Harvard Graduates describes him as "a quiet lad [who] gave no sign of having been brought up at the knee of one of New England's great soldiers. During his first two undergraduate years he lived in a private house." That Benjamin was a pious man even as early as his Harvard years (probably sooner) is indicated by the fact that he joined the "Society of Young Students" whose purpose was to revive a spirit of piety that the members believed had fallen away at the college. Members met twice weekly to pray, worship, and admonish one another. Perfecting themselves, they would serve as a light to society.  All of this is certainly in the Puritan tradition.
   Upon graduation from Harvard, Benjamin returned to Bristol where it appears that he was a "vendue-master" (auctioneer) and merchant. On October  26, 1726/7, he married Elizabeth Viall, daughter of Samuel Viall of Boston and Susanna Flint of Salem, MA. Elizabeth was born in Salem, MA but the family moved to Bristol at some unknown date. The marriage between Benjamin and Elizabeth produced two children, Martha and Samuel.
    Elizabeth died on April 9, 1730, perhaps from complications from childbirth leaving her husband with an eighteen month baby and perhaps a new born son.
   Benjamin wasted no time in finding a mother for his two infant children for on March 6, 1731, he married Hannah Dyer, daughter of Col Giles Dyer and Mary Bannister, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Bannister of Boston. Some Church genealogies indicate that this marriage took place in Newport, R.I., but it is recorded as having been undertaken in Boston. The marriage was performed by Dr Benjamin Colman of the Brattle Street Church.
   Historians have overlooked Hannah Dyer but a foray into her background proves to be quite enlightening.
   Hannah Dyer was the granddaughter of Col Giles Dyer and the daughter of his son, also known as Colonel Giles Dyer. Who were Giles Dyer, Sr and Jr? The senior Giles Dyer was a deputy receiver of His Majesty's Customs, a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, selectman of Boston, sheriff, warden of King's Chapel, and one of the largest taxpayers in Boston. Upon his death in 1713, he left a very extensive estate to include shares in sailing vessels, a substantial interest in a Boston wharf, a shop, and other businesses. Upon his graduation from Harvard with the class of 1706, young Giles hired a room at the College and settled down for a year as a resident graduate - "a year in which he he was not a influence for peace and order."
   Young Giles was an importer, among other business interests, and went overseas after his sojourn at Harvard. He returned to settle down to his father's business  but first he married Sarah, the sister of Thomas Bannister on October 7, 1710. Reverend Benjamin Colman, who also married Giles' daughter and Benjamin Church, recorded that he received the unusual sum of L2 to perform the service, "as was fit when the houses of two such important merchants as these made an alliance."
   Upon the death of his father Giles came into the bulk of his estate and he paid the Bannister heirs L2000 for part of their father's property, including a number of houses on Marlborough Street and a warehouse on one of the city's wharves. At warehouse "#3" at the foot of King Street, Colonel Dyer (In 1714 he had become Colonel of the Life Guards, a cavalry unit that served as the Royal Governor's escort) imported and sold "Fyal" wine, molasses, sugar, rum and salt, much of which he imported in his own vessels.
   But Colonel Dyer was of a "litigious temper" and his name is spread through the records of the Boston courts. His downfall started in 1714 when he borrowed L300 from the province to mortgage his property. To settle a suit brought by a London merchant,  the colonel sold some of his property back to his brothers-in-law and disposed of some land in Cambridge neck. In 1719, the colonel and a certain Mr John Bernard won recovery suits against each other. Mr Bernard left his lawyer with a power of attorney and disappeared, leaving nothing the colonel could attach to recover his damages. In 1720, the province called in its L300 mortgage and the colonel had his mansion attached. This was the signal for a flood of lawsuits from everyone from the bookseller to the distiller. And, as if the colonel didn't have enough problems, his sugar factory burned down. It only got worse from here. In 1722 the sheriff was ordered to " take up the colonel's body" because of his debts. The sheriff could not execute his writ for the colonel's goods or body, perhaps he wasn't looking that hard, but it became moot since the colonel died on April 16, 1723. His widow was also the adminstratrix of his estate and the suits kept on coming. She died on February 16, 1732.
   Just how and when Benjamin Church and Hannah Dyer met is not known, but it was most likely in Boston.  In any event, after their marriage, the Churches resided in Newport, R.I. for several years where Benjamin Jr ( born 1734) and his sister Hannah** was born. Presumably, the Church household also included the children from Benjamin's first marriage.
    It is not certain precisely when the Churches moved to Boston but it was most likely in 1739.

* The shaded portion at the western edge of Plymouth Colony shows the areas of Massachusetts that were ceded to Rhode Island in 1747. It includes Bristol and Little Compton. Although I indicate Bristol and Little Compton as being in Rhode Island, I could just as easily have placed them in Massachusetts. Col Benjamin Church was born in Plymouth Colony and later moved to Bristol which he most likekly considered part of Plymouth Colony.

** A comment about the recording of births in colonial New England. Many families did not believe in recording their children's births; the Hutchinsons being one of the most prominent. Even in those families where births were recorded, there is a remarkable inconsistency in recording all of the children's births. And it is not a matter of gender; a boy was just as likely not to be recorded as a girl.

To Be Continued

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Benjamin Church Family

  Benjamin Church, Sr.

       Born 8 Oct, 1704, Bristol, R. I., son of Captain Edward Church and Martha Burton. Captain Church served as militia captain in his father Col Benjamin Church's fifth expedition in King William's War. His wife's will characterizes him as a mariner. Edward Church died in late 1706, leaving his widow with a three year old daughter and a two year old son.
       Graduated Harvard, 1727, standing 6th in a class of 39, classmate of Gov Thomas Hutchinson.
       Upon his  graduation from Harvard, Benjamin returned to Bristol, R.I.
       Benjamin married Elizabeth Viall, daughter of Samuel Viall and Susanna Flint, of Bristol R.I, on Oct 26, 1726/7.  She died on Apr 9, 1730 at Bristol, R.I. at age 23, perhaps because of complications from childbirth. This marriage produced two children:
             Martha, born Oct 25, 1728 in Bristol, R.I., twice married; first to John Chaloner, Oct 12, 1746, Newport,R.I.; second to James Cunningham, circa 1773, Boston, Mass. She died on Mar 28, 2774, in Dedham, Mass.Her father's will mentions her as living in Medford, MA.
             Samuel, born 1730, in Bristol, R. I., married Mary Ann Davis in the Congregational Church, Bristol, R.I. on May 23, 1756. He died in 1794 or 1797, presumably in Bristol, R.I.
                    I can find no occupation for Samuel. His grandfather Samuel Viall's will, probated on June 12, 1749  left him  1/2/part of his lands, and 1/2 part of his housing during his life, and  "after his dicease, to be divided among his children according to the law of the Province."  He, as well as his mother, is buried on the East Burial Grounds in Bristol, R.I.    
                    Granddaughter, Martha Church, received 1/8th part of her grandfather's lands.
        On March 6, 1731, Benjamin Sr married Hannah Dyer of Boston in Boston. They were married by Dr Benjamin Colman, presumably at the Brattle Street Church where Dr Colman, a most prominent clergyman of his time, was pastor. This marriage apparently produced eight children:
               Benjamin, Jr. born Aug 24, 1734, Newport, R.I.
               Hannah, birth date unknown but believed to be in Newport, R.I.. She married Edward Weld on 7 April, 1757 in Boston, MA. Edward Weld was the son of a joiner and listed his occupation in 1760 as a "shopjoyner" (housewright) but later became a prosperous Boston merchant.
               Giles, birthdate and place unknown. We do know that he studied medicine and later moved to Georgia (Savannah?), a move for which I could find no apparent reason, but perhaps for his health, and died there. He is probably the Giles Church who is listed as marrying Rebbecca Miller on Nov 3, 1766 in Bridgewater, MA. It should be noted that his brother Benjamin purchased a home and land in Bridgewater that was listed in court records in January 1767, but the actual transaction probably occurred in late 1766. (see my August 10, 2010 post) Is there a connection? If so, it further weakens the "elegant mansion" story. Also, a Boston newspaper reports that Benjamin Jr made a visit to Georgia in February 1769 to visit his brother Giles. A journey from Boston to Georgia was not undertaken lightly in 1769 and may imply a closeness between the brothers. Could Giles have been so ill that his brother thought it necessary to visit him on behalf of the family? Obviously, only supposition. Giles' children are mentioned in both Benjamin Sr and his wife Hannah's wills.
               Edward, born 12 Sep 1740, Azores. (I will devote a separate post to this rather fascinating younger brother.)
                Mary, born June 18, 1743. Married to Samuel Cookson, on Dec 25, 1769 in Boston by the Rev Mather Byles of the Brattle Street Church. Hannah's will mentions Mary's two sons, Samuel and John Waldo.
                 Alice, birth date unknown, but most likely in Boston. married John Fleeming. ( see my April 2011 posts on John Fleeming.)
                 Abigail, birth date unknown, but most likely in Boston, married on Apr 5, 1780 to Captain Turner Philips. Her intention reads "Nabby."  The marriage was performed by Rev Simeon Howard, a prominent Boston clergyman, whose "A sermon preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston" in 1773 is often cited by those advocating Second Amendment Rights on firearms.
                 Sarah, birthdate unknown, baptised Mar 31, 1745, died young.

     I find it intriguing that although Benjamin Sr and his wife Hannah's father and grandfather were Harvard graduates, neither Samuel nor Giles attended Harvard; yet both Benjamin Jr and Edward graduated from there.

   My next post will be a sketch of Benjamin Sr's life. That will be followed by a post on his son Edward.