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.  
                                                                                    2

    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)

    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.
                                                                                      4

    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.

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    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

                                              Mendon's British Prisoners of War                      Mendon Menu

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