Patriots' Day: Mendon's Role in the American Revolution
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
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.
Joseph Dorr, Jr and the Mendon Resolves Mendon Menu
Mendon's Participation in the Revolutionary War
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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