Friday, April 12, 2013

Boston Latin School

   While working on the next chapter in Edward Church's life I realized that I omitted, in the first post, the fact that he, like his older brother, had attended Boston Latin School before admission to Harvard. Boston Latin was seen in those days as a sort of "prep school" for Harvard and many sons of prominent Boston families attended it. The use of the word "Latin" in its title was highly appropriate since students who attended it did not take Latin at Harvard.

   But that reminds of a point I wish to make about records from this time period and the uncertainty of what most people take for granted. There was no attempt to publish a catalogue of the students who attended Boston Latin, founded in 1635, until 1847 and the list of students from 1734 to 1774 was prepared from a handwritten manuscript of James Lovell who served as a master and then headmaster at the school from 1734 to 1774. He had compiled a list of the boys who were under his instruction during that period. In many instances, only surnames were given. His list was further embellished by an extensive committee effort in 1886 on the 250th anniversary of the school's founding. Further confusion is added by the fact that there was no set age for a boy to enter Boston Latin and children as young as nine are listed in their respective classes. And class year was determined by the year of entrance, not year of departure.

   That brings us to the attendance at the school by the Church brothers. Benjamin Church, Jr. is listed as a member of the class of 1745 along with his classmate John Hancock (2 and 1/2 years younger). Edward (Harvard 1758)  is listed as a member of the class of 1750 along with John Hancock's younger brother, Ebenezer (Harvard Class of 1760). But listed under the class of 1747 is the name "Church." The editors of the 1886 edition of the catalogue indicated that either Benjamin or Edward might be this Church. Yet, why would they be listed by their full names under their respective classes? There was no other prominent Church family residing in Boston at this time. The listing of a "Church" under 1747 could be an honest error.

   Or, could it be the elusive third son of Deacon Church by his second wife, Giles Church?

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