Edward was born on September 12, 1740 at Fayal, the Azores, where his father Benjamin, Sr. had been in residence from late 1739 or early 1740. Benjamin Sr.presumably had moved there with his family to participate as a merchant in the active trade between the colonies, the Azores, and England. Edward could not have remembered much about the Azores since his father and family moved back to Boston sometime in 1742.
At the age of 13 3/4, Edward was admitted to Harvard with the class of 1758, ranking 17th in a class of 39 strong; but he was expelled in February 1757, a year before he was to graduate. Despite his father's pleas and a submission of a humble "Confession of his Faults", he was "unanimously denied" readmission until May 1758, when the faculty decided that he could be readmitted "with Safety and Honor to the College." Edward spent his senior year with the class of 1759 and graduated with it. His petition for his M.A. with the class of 1758 was "unanimously rejected." When he took his second degree in 1762, he was prepared to argue that "Eternal Punishment is not Contrary to Divine Goodness." Although the reasons behind Edward's expulsion from Harvard are not known, it is not surprising given the the rebellious and rambunctious spirit he exhibited in later life.
|Holden Chapel, opened March 1745, third oldest building at Harvard, where the student body attended morning and evening prayer services. Looks like the perfect place to contemplate "eternal punishment."|
After graduation from Harvard, Edward went into business with his father as a vendue-master (auctioneer) at his father's business location in Newbury Street, "two doors south of the Sign of the Lamb", a tavern dating back to 1638 which served as a staging area for the stagecoach. In April, 1762 he became a Freemason and later joined his brother Benjamin as a member of the Rising Sun Lodge, a lodge founded by Benjamin, Jr. On November 1, 1763, Edward was married to Elizabeth Furnace by the Rev Mather Byles, Jr.( the son of his father's pastor at the Hollis Street Church, the Rev Mather Byles, Sr.) at Christ Church (Old North Church) which he thereafter attended. Edward left his father's business in 1764 and went into business for himself as a merchant. In 1765, he was elected a collector of taxes by the town of Boston but declined to serve probably because he was planning to go to London where he was believed to be when he received word that his wife of three years, age 27, had died on April 18th, 1766.
A Church family genealogy states that Edward was said to have a son named Benjamin from his marriage to Elizabeth Furnace but that the child "probably died young." Also, according to the family genealogy, a review of deeds recorded in Worcester show a "levy" on 55 1/2 acres of land in Shrewsbury, Mass to cover a loan made by Edward to his ex-brother-in-law, Benjamin Furnace, in September 1771, for L100, 8s, 11d, plus costs. Two years later, Edward deeded this land and 14 acres more back to Furnace for L159, 10s, and 6d - a very nice profit indeed.
Family tradition has it that Edward was an ardent Whig and the author of several anonymous political tracts. Given his brother's involvement and prominence in the Whig cause, this is certainly not only plausible but likely.
Edward set out for London on business again in April 1768 and his pastor, Mather Byles, Jr. entrusted him with a letter to Benjamin Franklin, who was serving as a paid agent for Georgia at the time; and Samuel Adams gave him the Journals of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to be transmitted to Franklin with a cover letter describing Edward:
Mr. Church is a gentleman of integrity & ingenuity. You may therefore rely on such intelligence as he may give you of the circumstances of things here.We should set the background for what was occurring in Boston and the rest of the colonies in April, 1768. The Stamp Act had been passed in 1765 and, in reaction, across the colonies, protest groups, calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty" formed to fight the new tax. Uniting in the fall of 1765, colonial leaders appealed to Parliament stating that as they had no representation in Parliament, the tax was unconstitutional and against their rights as Englishmen. These efforts led to the Stamp Act's repeal in 1766, though Parliament quickly issued the Declaratory Act which stated that they retained the power to tax the colonies. Still seeking additional revenue, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts in June 1767. These placed indirect taxes on various commodities such as lead, paper, paint, glass, and tea. Again citing taxation without representation, the Massachusetts legislature sent a circular letter to their counterparts in the other colonies asking them to join in resisting the new taxes .In London, the Colonial Secretary, Lord Hillsborough, responded by directing colonial governors to dissolve their legislatures if they responded to the circular letter. Sent in April 1768, this directive also ordered the Massachusetts legislature to rescind the letter. Franklin was serving as an agent for Massachusetts although Hillsborough had refused to recognize him as such.
One must believe that Edward Church was held in a certain respect by Samuel Adams in entrusting him to serve as his agent in a briefing of Franklin. Granted Church's journey to London was probably fortuitous, yet Adams did choose him to represent him to Franklin. The family genealogy states that Edward carried on a correspondence with Franklin and the family allegedly had letters that show cooperation with Franklin "in advocating the cause of the colonists."
|Benjamin Franklin - 1767. Portrait by David Martin (1737-1797). Commissioned by Robert Alexander of William Alexander and Sons, Edinburgh.|
Edward was back in Boston by July 1769 when, ardent Whig that he was, he became active on the committee established to obtain subscriptions for merchants to the Non-Importation Agreement. John Mein, however, publisher of the Boston Chronicle and partner of John Fleeming who was to marry Edward's sister Alice in August 1770, and a thorn in the side of the Whigs, was quick to publish evidence that Church had continued to import goods in violation of the agreement. Church tried to defend himself through a post in the September 25, 1769 edition of the Boston Gazette:
If there are many among us so base as to break through a solemn agreement, I would beg leave of the public, to exculpate myself from the scandal of being ranked among the number, by informing them that (although my name now justly appears in Messers, Mein and Fleeming's paper...as an importer) at the time the agreement took place here, I was in London; therefore could not become a subscriber. Immediately after my return, understanding the agreement was general, and strictly adhered to, that I might not be in any way instrumental in counteracting the good design, I unsolicited countermanded large orders which I left in London for spring-goods; thereby in a great measure frustrating my design in going home. The few haberdashery goods which arrived, I had ordered, and expected to be sent immediately after me, which was the only reason for not countermanding.The Committee of Inspection asked Church to reship these goods to London, which he refused to do; so a year later it published his name throughout New England, in the August 20, 1770 edition of the Boston Gazette, as one of a small hard-core group who were violating the agreement. It must be noted that Edward was not the only merchant who found ways to skirt the non-importation agreement if it was to their benefit. In Edward's instance, however, I believe that his temperament was such he believed that he was in compliance with the agreement except for those goods he mentioned in his defensive reply in the Boston Gazette. And, as I think his later actions demonstrated, Edward was the type of man who once he believes he is in the right will not back down no matter what.
Edward Church went back to England in 1771 and undertook a "post-chaise" tour of England and Scotland with his Harvard 1759 classmate Henry Marchant. Marchant was a prominent attorney in Rhode Island where he served as Attorney General. He later became a delegate to the Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Confederation. His pastor was Dr Ezra Stiles of the Second Congregational Church in Newport, R.I. Marchant was embarking on a 2000 mile year's tour of the Continent and was sufficiently prominent that Governor Thomas Hutchinson entrusted him with official letters and on July 8, 1771 James Otis, Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Francis Dana saw him off by accompanying his vessel as far as the lighthouse in Boston Harbor. Dr Stiles, at this time, was working on the second edition of Edward Church's great-grandfather's history of King Philip's War.
Stiles gave Marchant a letter of introduction to Benjamin Franklin who welcomed him and introduced him to London. .Marchant produced a six volume travel diary for his trip and sent back incredibly verbose letters to Dr Stiles. George III, however, did not impress Mr. Marchant:
I slipt in and along I went into the Room where the King robes. He was vastly merry and laughable while the Robes and Crown were putting on. It did not strike me agreeably.Edward Church and Henry Marchant traveled from London to Glasgow and took a tour of northern England and Scotland. They visited Edmund Dana, also Harvard Class of 1759, in Edinburgh where he had gone to complete his education. Dana married the daughter of a Scottish peer and founded what became known as the "English Danas." He was the elder brother of Francis Dana who had seen Marchant off on his voyage from Boston and later served as secretary to John Adams, became a member of the Continental Congress, and Chief Justice Of Massachusetts as well as a very prominent Federalist. Benjamin Franklin joined them for a part of or all of their journey. There are conflicting reports as to just when he was present but there is no doubt he accompanied them for at least a substantial portion of the journey. Edward Church was made an honorary Burgess of the city of Glasgow on November 13, 1771. Franklin had previously been made an honorary Burgess on September 19, 1759. It is not known precisely why Edward Church was given this honorific and the Church family genealogy contains this statement:
"According to the practice which prevailed both before and after the date of the admission of Mr. Edward Church of Boston as an Honorary Burgess of Glasgow, no record of the transaction has been preserved, either in the Council Register or the Guild Register, both of which have been examined. On the occasion of a visit from a distinguished Visitor it was quite common to present him with a Burgess Ticket, as was apparently done to Mr. Church, .but to omit in the Register any reference to the ceremony." The "Ticket" reads :
"At Glasgow the thirteenth d'ay of November one thousand seven hundred and seventy one years the which day in presence of the Eight Honorable Colin Dunlop Esquire Lord Provost to the said City, Archbald Smellie, Hugh Wylie and James Brodie Baillies thereof George Brown dean of Gild and sundry of the Gild Council of the said City, Edward Church Esquire of Boston is Admitted and Beceived Burges and Gild brother of the said City and the whole Libertys Privileges and Immunities belonging to a Burges and Gild-brother thereof Are granted to him in most ample form Who gives his Oath of fidelity as use is. Extracted furth of the Gild' books of the said City by John Wilson. "Edward soon returned to Boston and advertised new English goods available at his store believed to be in Newbury Street somewhere near his father.It appears that Edward had prospered as a merchant for he leased at least one ship, and had it in mind to become a patron of Dartmouth College. His personal pleasure tour of Scotland and England would indicate that he had substantial means at his disposal.
Soon after his return to Boston, Edward married Hannah Skinner, daughter of William Skinner, Harvard 1731, a Boston lawyer who, I believe, died in 1760. Edward and Hannah had six children - five daughters and a son.
As the struggle between the Whigs and the Crown became more heated, Edward Church continued to support the Whigs. His great-grandson, the Rev Edward B. Church, described him in this way:
"My great grandfather was a very high- spirited man and a liberal of liberals, writing many pamphlets against royal rule, but yet he may not have been willing to take a subordinate place in the army and the Adams influence which had condemned his brother would likely fear to give him a position worthy of his ability when his brother had been condemned for treason against the commonwealth."
Edward Church, born 12 Sep 1740, Fayal Azores.
m. Elizabeth Furness (born 1739), married,1 Nov 1763, Christ Church, Boston, Mass.
died. 18 April, 1766.
son. Benjamin Church. 1764-1766.
m. Hannah Skinner (born 16 Sep 1753, Boston, Mass.)
died, 1816, London, England.
daughter, Anna Elizabeth Church, no further information.
daughter, Elizabeth Maria Church, no further information except she never married.
son, Edward Church, born 1773-1780, most probably 1779, died, 22 April, 1845.
daughter, Sarah Russell Church, born 1780-1790, died, 27 Aug 1807.
daughter, Fanny Church, no further information.
We will continue Edward's story as the Revolution breaks out at Lexington and Concord.