A spring hello to all of our fellow history lovers! Patriots’ Day will soon be upon us.
So who were Easton’s Patriots? When word came that war had begun with the battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, Easton’s two militia companies responded. (The scent of war was so strong that just a few weeks earlier, at a Town Meeting held on April 3, 1775, the Town voted to raise fifty men (25 from each of the two Militia Companies) as “minute men” and to allow payment for any service they gave.) The East Company, commanded by Captain Abiel Mitchell, sent 47 men towards Boston along the old Boston Turnpike, now Route 138. The West Company, commanded by Captain Macy Williams, sent 50 men along Bay Road. These men, comprised of many of the oldest Easton families, spent a week or so in the field before returning to Easton. You can see their fervor in their response to the alarm as 97 men responded, almost twice the number voted at the previous Town Meeting!
You are all aware that the first shots of freedom are considered to be those fired by some 7000 Minutemen on about 800 advancing British troops that fateful day in Lexington and Concord. But Rev. William Chaffin in his History of Easton (1886) records what may be the first real shot for freedom in the Colonies. Many taxes and restrictions were levied on the Colonists by the Crown beginning in 1764. However, it was the Stamp Act of March 22, 1765, that sent people over the edge. The act itself was not so bad compared to prior taxes and acts that heavily burdened the Colonists. It was the fact that they had no representation in Parliament to make their case that got people riled up. The Stamp Act took effect on November 1, 1765. Because it was so unpopular it became difficult to enforce, and many people decided not to enforce it at all. Things soon became very contentious between the Colonists and the Loyalists in town. It was during this difficult time of implementing the Stamp Act that something very noteworthy happened. An article that appeared in the Boston Gazette, December 23, 1765 is quoted: “ We hear from Easton, in the county of Bristol, that a certain justice of the peace in said town in conversation said that he would not give the price of his black dog to prevent the Stamp Act’s taking place. Accordingly he had the mortification to find his black dog shot the next morning.” (Page 207 of The History of Easton)
The Stamp Act was repealed the following year, but damage had been done; sides had been drawn. And a severe warning had been issued to any of the Loyalists remaining in Easton. So, were the first real shots of the Revolution fired in Easton? This early act of rebellion against those who would support the Crown makes an interesting case for it. However, while the memory of the act lives, the name of our first Patriot is forgotten to history. Perhaps one day we will discover the name of that brave soul who fired that first shot for freedom.
Tri-corner hats off to all who have fought for, and continue to protect, our freedom!
Frank T. Meninno
Curator, Easton Historical Society and Museum