Patriots' Day: Mendon's Role in the American Revolution

    "By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April's breeze unfurled.  Here once the
    embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world."

    Ralph Waldo Emerson's words remind us that April 19 is Patriots' Day, a day that calls to mind Paul
    Revere's ride, the Old North Church, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  The towns
    surrounding Boston in 1775 had been eagerly preparing to avenge the Acts of Parliament  that had
    closed the port of Boston and shut down Massachusetts state government and placed it under
    British rule.  General Thomas Gage became the new governor.  One of his rules was that no towns
    could conduct town meetings without his permission.  In the spirit of rebellion, the towns brazenly
    defied General Gage.  They replaced the dissolved legislature with the Provincial Congress and
    communicated freely through committees of correspondence.  Town meetings were held in many
    towns in outright defiance.  One of the towns, thirty miles southwest of Boston, had leaders who
    were closely acquainted with the leaders of the Sons of Liberty.  The cries for freedom from tyranny
    that came from Boston were echoed at town meetings in this small, patriotic farming town that
    clamored for independence.  It was the town of Mendon.

    The people of Mendon were active participants in the events leading up to the American Revolution.  
    As early as 1767, residents voted at a town meeting to boycott any products from Britain, including
    tea, that were taxed without their consent.  On March 1, 1773, voters supported and endorsed
    nineteen resolutions from a letter from the Sons of Liberty denouncing the injustices of Great Britain
    for denying them their rights and liberties.  They formed a committee of correspondence by town
    meeting vote in 1774 in order to share ideas with other towns.  They elected Joseph Dorr to
    represent Mendon at a meeting of the Provincial Congress in Concord.  The congress authorized
    towns to increase their stock of weapons, ammunition, and military supplies.  Mendon patriotically
    obliged.

    Mendon's militia, in 1775, was made up of four companies that included one hundred sixty-four
    men.  About a third of them were designated as minutemen, ready to march on a minute's notice.  
    Each soldier was equipped with a firearm, a bayonet, a pouch, a knapsack, and thirty rounds of
    ammunition.  He received military training three times a week.  Training fields were located at
    Colonel Calvin Smith's property (Hood Plaza), a field off Gaskill Street, and a training area at
    Founders' Park.  The soldiers were well-prepared for combat.

    On April 15, 1775, the Provincial Congress became aware that General Gage was preparing to send
    British soldiers to Lexington to arrest ringleaders Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and then move
    on to destroy ammunition supplies allegedly hidden in Concord.  It was voted to secretly relocate the
    ammunition in nine remote towns, one of them being Mendon.  It is not known if the supplies ever
    reached Mendon's ammunition magazine located on a rocky hill overlooking Providence Road.  A
    few days later, in the early morning of April 19, 1775, seven hundred Red Coats marched to
    Lexington and encountered a company of minutemen at the village green.  After some tense
    moments, an unauthorized shot was fired that changed history.  Several minutemen were the first
    soldiers to sacrifice their lives for the sake of liberty.  The British regulars marched on to Concord,
    where they met stronger resistance, and found very little ammunition to destroy.  Their march back to
    Boston was devastating, as patriots from the surrounding towns ambushed them along the way,
    killing seventy-three.  The war for independence had begun.

    In response to the shot heard around the world, Mendon's soldiers mustered at Founders' Park
    across from  Ammidon Tavern and marched on to Boston by way of Middle Post Road. The town
    supported the Revolutionary War with soldiers, finances, clothing, food, and military supplies.  It
    quartered prisoners of war and took in thirty Charlestown residents left homeless after their city was
    burned at the Battle of Bunker Hill.  It was a Post Road stopover for military units, including Nathan
    Hale and his troops who had breakfast at Ammidon Tavern in January 1776.  

    The most famous soldier to be born in Mendon was Alexander Scammell, who was born in 1744
    near the site of Crossroads (The Larches) off Williams  Street (now Milford).  At Valley Forge he was
    named by George Washington to be the Continental Army's adjutant general.  He was mortally
    wounded at Yorktown in 1781.  Mendon's contributions had been significant.

    Patriots' Day is celebrated with the Boston Marathon, a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and perhaps
    a day off from work.  It also should be remembered that it is the anniversary of one of the most
    important days of our history.  A nation was launched that day.  Mendon has reason to take great
    pride in its role in the American Revolution.  Historian G.B.Williams said, "Through all the years of
    the great contest, all testimony goes to show that no community surpassed this in devotion to liberty,
    influence in the colony, or in patriotic service.  Men of Mendon fought at Bunker Hill, Long Island,
    Valley Forge, Bennington, Saratoga, and Yorktown." We are grateful and proud.

    Richard Grady
    Mendon, MA

                                     Joseph Dorr, Jr and the Mendon Resolves                        Mendon Menu    
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Mendon's Participation in the Revolutionary War

                                                             Introduction

    Mendon in the 1760's and 1770's was a robust center of agriculture and transportation. Her citizens
    were hard working, free thinking farmers who, from dawn to dusk, made their living from the soil. The
    oldest interstate highway in North America, Middle Post Road, ran just north of the village center,
    connecting New York, Hartford, and Boston. Another interstate route crisscrossed the town center
    connecting Worcester and Providence, so the village became a stagecoach stopover, a resting place
    for weary travelers. Passengers could get a good night's sleep, a hot meal, and share news and
    ideas.

    The town was characterized in many ways. There were beautiful sights of pastures, orchards, fertile
    soil, and stone walls. The sounds were those of farm animals and creaking wagon wheels traveling
    along dusty, bumpy roads. There were delicious smells from farmhouse kitchens and smoke from
    fireplaces. The taste of a delicious meal at one of the village inns was most certainly appreciated by
    hungry travelers. The feel of textures of warm sheets and blankets after a bone jarring trip on a frigid,
    snowy night was a comfort and relief.

    Several of the buildings and roads in the village center and surroundings still exist and are
    reminders of colonial times.  The Fourth Meetinghouse was located at the north end of Old Cemetery.
    It was for religious services and town meetings. Many years later, it was dismantled and rebuilt on 8
    Hastings Street. It is currently the home of Randy Geblein.  Ammidon Inn at 4 Main Street  was
    operated by Ichabod Ammidon and his son, Philip. Elisabeth and George Keith operated the Keith
    Inn. It was located, at the time, at 10 Hastings Street. It was later moved, and is now the Russell and
    Anne Dudley home.  Colonel Calvin Smith lived at a farmhouse at the corner of Emerson Street and
    Hastings Street. His farm land and an adjoining military training field occupied the area of Hood
    Plaza, extending down Millville Street and Emerson Street. A Taft home at 40 Millville Street was built
    across the street from Taft Pond around 1770. David and Jane Lowell are the current residents of
    their ancestral home.  The pond is now known as Lake Nipmuc. Peter Penniman lived at a farm
    house at 49 Blackstone Street. Janice Muldoon Moors  is the current resident. Captain William Torrey
    lived on North Avenue, then known as County Road. Firebrands Joseph Dorr and Edward Rawson
    lived further up the street, in the vicinity of 59 through 73 North Avenue. Elm Street and Milford Street
    did not exist then. Eight Rod Road is at the Hopedale town line, then connected to Middle Post Road.
    Other training fields were at Founders' Park and Gaskill Street.

    This was the Mendon of the American Revolution, an agricultural town with a village center that was a
    stagecoach stopover. Travelers brought news here, and one of the stories exchanged in the early
    1760's was that Great Britain was in debt, and that she was looking to her thirteen colonies to pay off
    her bills......on the backs of the people who lived there.
                                                                                        
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    The issue of who would pay the financial burden of the French and Indian War had devastating
    consequences on the relationship between the colonists and Great Britain. Members of Parliament
    thought that the colonists should pay for it through a variety of duties and taxes put on British goods.
    People in the colonies thought differently. They reasoned that the governmental body imposing these
    financial demands on them gave them no say in the matter. They were British citizens who had no
    representation in Parliament. It was this disagreement, dissention, anger, and a sequence of events
    that shook the foundation of the British empire and rattled the monarchies of Europe.

    Though most people of all thirteen colonies were not in agreement with the financial demands from
    across the ocean, it was Boston, Massachusetts that became the focus of colonial contention. A
    group of men, who called themselves the Sons of Liberty,  actively protested against the taxes being
    imposed on them. One of them, James Otis, called it, "taxation without representation." Other
    members included Sam Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Ebenezer Dorr, and Dr. Joseph
    Warren. These men, and several others, met from time to time at Faneuil Hall to discuss what must
    be done in how to deal with Parliament and King George. They felt that rulers of Britain had clearly
    taken away their liberty and that British actions were a form of tyranny. Faneuil Hall became known
    as, "the cradle of liberty" of the colonies.

    It was through the interaction of our town's representative in the General Court,  with Sam Adams,
    that Mendon became actively involved with the rejection of England's taxation demands. Joseph Dorr
    Jr., a Harvard scholar, attorney, Mendon school master, and son of the minister of the Fourth
    Meetinghouse, was elected in 1764, just in time to deal with the 1765 Stamp Act. The Sugar Act had
    been imposed earlier, and it had been met with strong opposition in Boston. Resistance to British
    authority was discussed and planned at Faneuil Hall. The Stamp Act resulted in riotous behavior. On
    August 8, a doll in the likeness of Andrew Oliver, the stamp distributor, was hanged in effigy at the
    Liberty Tree, a large elm tree at the corner of Essex Street and Washington Street. Lieutenant
    Governor Hutchinson's house was ransacked a short time later. The  Stamp Act was denounced at
    Faneuil Hall at a fiery meeting on September 22.  A similar meeting was held three weeks later in
    Mendon at the Fourth Meetinghouse. Under Joseph Dorr's leadership, Mendon voters sent a
    message to Parliament and to King George that they would not comply with the Stamp Act. This was
    the beginning of a strong interactive alliance with the Sons of Liberty.

    During the next several years, Mendon citizens continued to support the efforts of the Boston radicals
    in resisting British tyranny. After the Stamp Act was repealed in March 1766, it was replaced on the
    same day with the Declaratory Act, which declared that the British government had full legislative
    power over the colonies. In response, Boston merchants and residents met at Faneuil Hall and
    agreed not to sell or use any article on which Parliament had placed a duty. On September 7, 1767,
    voters in Mendon elected to do the same. The Townsend Act put a tax on tea, paper, paint, and lead.
    By 1770, after much colonial pressure, the act was repealed, but a duty would be continued to be
    placed on tea. British troops arrived to keep order. There was no warm welcome, only worsening
    feelings and riotous behavior that resulted in the Boston Massacre.  

    Sam Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren set up a Committee of Correspondence in November 1772 to
    communicate with other towns and to circumvent the network of the royal government. A letter sent to
    Mendon was read and discussed at a town meeting on February 10, 1773. It raised questions and
    concerns about how to deal with the punitive Acts of Parliament that recently shut down the
    Massachusetts state government, closed the port of Boston, and forbid the holding of town
    meetings.  It was voted to form a committee of six men to prepare a response for the next meeting on
    March 1st.  The group included Joseph Dorr, Edward Rawson, James Sumner, John Tyler, William
    Torrey, and Joseph Johnson, all ardent supporters of the Sons of Liberty. Dorr gave the presentation
    in the form of a fiery oration that shook the rafters of the meetinghouse. The spirited speech was in
    the form of resolves, which helped to define and focus on the issues of discontent. It was eloquently
    written and stated.

    The following resolves are a sampling of the nineteen that were presented. 1. Resolved, that all men
    have naturally an equal right to life, liberty, and property. 2. Resolved, that all just and lawful
    government must necessarily originate in the free consent of the people. 3. Resolved, that the good,
    safety, and happiness of the people is the great end of civil government and must be considered as
    the only rational object in all original compacts and political institutions. 10. Resolved that introducing
    and quartering standing armies in a free country in times of peace, without the consent of the people,
    is a violation of their rights as free men. The conclusion after the nineteenth resolve was very
    interesting because it indicated that these six scholarly Mendon patriots were well aware that their
    document was going to create a lot of attention from colonial leaders. It was voted that the foregoing
    Resolves be entered into the Town Book, that our children in years to come, may know the
    sentiments of their fathers, in regards to their inalienable rights and liberties. It was voted that the
    Town Clerk be directed to transmit an attested copy to the Committee of Correspondence in Boston.
    Historian William Cullen Bryant wrote that Mendon's Resolves and later Thomas Paine's pamphlet,
    "Common Sense," were the first writings that influenced Thomas Jefferson's authorship of the
    Declaration of Independence.

    At a town meeting on July 14, 1774, Mendon voters once again expressed their displeasure with their
    English oppressors. They voted to approve three new resolves.  1. Resolved, that henceforth, we will  
    suspend all commercial trade with the island of Great Britain until said Act of blocking Boston Harbor
    be repealed and a restoration of our charter rights be obtained. 2. Resolved, that we will not,
    knowingly, purchase or suffer anyone under us to purchase or consume, in any manner, any goods,
    wares, or merchandise we shall know or have good reason to suspect to be imported to America
    from Great Britain aforesaid from and after the last day of August next ensuing. 3. Resolved, that any
    persons preferring their own private interest to the salvation of their now perishing country, shall still
    continue to import goods from Great Britain or shall purchase of those who do import, they shall be
    looked upon and treated by us as persons inimical to their country.  (page 321 Annals) (Continue
    tomorrow)

    A meeting on September 28, 1774 was very important with other issues, also. Voters elected a
    Committee of Correspondence in order to interact with Boston and other towns, and because
    Governor Gage dissolved the state government, the General Court was replaced by the First
    Provincial Congress. The Committee was made up of Captain Nathan Tyler, Edward Rawson,
    James Sumner, Elder Nathaniel Nelson, and Benoni Benson. The representative to the Provincial
    Congress was Edward Rawson, as he had been the representative to the General Court since 1768.
    Joseph Dorr was elected to attend as a delegate.  In addition, knowing that a military conflict could
    break out at any time, selectmen were authorized to add to the supply of arms and ammunition at the
    magazine on Providence Road.

    The First Provincial Congress met in Concord on October 11, 1774. John Hancock was the
    chairman. It authorized each town to prepare its militia and minutemen with suitable equipment in
    preparation for anticipated war. Each soldier would be equipped with an effective firearm, bayonet,
    pouch, knapsack, and thirty rounds of ammunition. They were to have military training three times a
    week.

    Mendon established a committee of several men to purchase field pieces, firearms and ammunition.
    They were Doctor Jennison, Captain Joseph Daniels, and Peter Peniman.

    On December 27, it was voted to take up a collection for the people of Boston who were without
    necessities because Governor Gage had shut down the harbor as a punishment. All towns outside
    of Boston were encouraged to do this.

    On April 15, 1775, the Provincial Congress became aware of a plot by Governor Gage to arrest
    Adams and Hancock in Lexington and to destroy hidden ammunition supplies in Concord. It was
    voted to secretly relocate the ammunition to nine remote towns : Mendon, Stoughton, Worcester,
    Groton, Leicester, Sudbury, Stow, other areas in Concord, and an unnamed town. Three nights later,
    on the eighteenth of April, seven hundred Redcoats marched to Lexington. It was the night of the
    midnight ride of Paul Revere, William Dawes, Ebenezer Dorr, and others. The Redcoats were met on
    the village green by a company of minutemen. After some tense moments, an unauthorized shot was
    fired that changed history. Several minutemen were the first to sacrifice their lives for the cause of
    liberty. The Redcoats marched on to the Concord Bridge and met stronger resistance. They found
    very little hidden ammunition. Their march back to Boston was devastating, as patriots from
    surrounding towns ambushed them along the way and killed seventy-three of them. The War of
    Independence had begun!

    In response to the shot heard round the world, Mendon soldiers mustered at Founders' Park, across
    from Ammidon Inn, marched up North Avenue and took a right on to Middle Post Road to Boston.
    They joined several other companies from other towns to surround the British encampment.
    Mendon citizens provided the Continental Army with soldiers, money, food, clothing, firearms, and
    ammunition.

    The Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 was brutal. Though the patriots  fought courageously, they
    were outmanned and outresourced. They forced the British to retreat back down Breed's Hill, the
    actual battle location, on the first two attacks. The Redcoats finally took the hill on their third attack.
    After the battle, the British soldiers' treatment of Charlestown was barbarous. Dr. Joseph Warren had
    been killed, and his body was mutilated. All the houses in Charlestown were burned down, leaving
    hundreds homeless. Mendon helped out by taking in thirty of the war ravaged people. They stayed at
    Ammidon Tavern until permanent housing was found.

    People of Mendon also helped the revolutionary cause by quartering prisoners.  In June 1776,
    several British and Scottish transport ships were captured off the coast of Massachusetts. Prisoners
    were divided up and dispersed in groups to a variety of towns. Mendon took in seven high level
    aristocratic officers of the 71st British Highlanders Regiment. Little did they know that they were in for
    a rude awakening!

    The prisoners signed an agreement with the Provincial Congress and Mendon Selectmen, which at
    the time, seemed workable. Selectmen were to assist with suitable lodging, food, and clothing for the
    officers and their servants, but the wealthy prisoners were responsible for paying the costs of all
    financial requirements to the people who provided for them. They were restricted to limited areas of
    town. Not obeying the rules meant that they would be transferred to the Worcester Jail, a well known
    den of unpleasantness and fear.

    To say that the deal did not work out would be an understatement. There were many serious
    problems! No one with suitable housing would take them in. They wanted to be housed near Middle
    Post Road, and that request, of course, was rejected. They were constantly being taunted,
    threatened, and jeered !!  They wanted out of Mendon, and they refused to pay for anything because of
    the alleged abusive treatment!!!  Captain Collin McKenzie wrote several letters requesting transfers to
    other towns, any place but Mendon ! There is no record if his request was ever granted.

    Perhaps, if the disgruntled Highlander Officers had an opportunity to talk to the thirty war torn
    homeless refugees who  were boarding at Ammidon Inn the previous June, they would have become
    aware of the slaughter and barbarous  treatment by their British colleagues against the people of
    Charlestown. This is  why no welcome mat had been extended  by Mendon citizens to the arrogant  
    POW's.

    Though there were many heroes from Mendon during the Revolutionary War, there was one who was
    born and raised in town who reached the highest level of distinction and honor. Alexander Scammell
    was born in 1747, on what is now Williams Street near the Hopedale- Milford line, near the current
    site of  Crossroads. It was Mendon's east precinct then. He fought in most battles  from Bunker Hill to
    Yorktown. He was highly respected and earned the trust and friendship of General George
    Washington, who appointed him the title of Adjutant General of the Continental Army at Valley Forge.
    He remained a close friend and advisor to Washington throughout the war. At Yorktown, he was
    captured and taken prisoner. Very tragically, General Scammell was shot in the back during captivity,
    and he died on October 6, 1781, as the war was winding down. General Lord Cornwallis
    surrendered on October nineteenth.

    The victory by the American colonies was devastating and humiliating to Great Britain. The highly
    reputed strongest military power in the world was not able to defeat General Washington's
    Continental Army. The Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783 marked the official end of the War of
    Independence, and it brought freedom to the thirteen colonies to become thirteen united states.  
    Americans could make their own new government and laws. The conflict began with a few Boston
    radicals at Faneuil Hall who were not willing to pay taxes on British goods without being represented
    in Parliament. This escalated to a succession of events that led to blood being shed at Lexington
    Green and Concord Bridge.

    The people of Mendon were firmly immersed in the cause for liberty. The interaction of Joseph Dorr
    and Edward Rawson, two of our legislators in the General Court, met frequently with fellow legislator
    and Son of Liberty, Samuel Adams. He had a strong influence on their thinking. Dorr and Rawson
    brought their ideas to Mendon town meetings and passionately orated them. Their interaction with
    Boston's Committee of Correspondence in 1773 brought awareness to their scholarly writing skills.
    Their response to a letter in the form of nineteen eloquently written resolves impressed colonial
    leaders, as three years later, many of the phrases appear in Jefferson's Declaration of
    Independence. Mendon joined the Committee of Correspondence and sent Dorr, Rawson, and
    others to the Provincial Congresses. They expanded and strengthened their militia and provided full
    support to the Continental Army. The inns provided a place for meals for travelling military units,
    including Nathan Hale and his troops, in January 1776. They provided housing for the war ravaged
    homeless from Charlestown, and they quartered prisoners of war. They devoted their lives, their
    fortunes, and their sacred honor for the cause of liberty!

    Historian Gustavus B. Williams wrote that, "Through all the years of the great contest, all testimony
    goes to show that no community surpassed Mendon in devotion to liberty, influence in the colony, or
    in patriotic service."
    Richard Grady and John Trainor
    April 12, 2016

                                                                                         
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