New Hampshire Tidbits: Who Were the Boston Tea Party?

Photograph of ‘Boston Tea Party’ mural, artist Robert Reid circa 1904. Detroit Publishing Company collection. Library of Congress. [The original mural is located in the main stair hall of Massachusetts State House].

December 16th 2019 is the 246th Anniversary of the so-called Boston Tea Party.  Some historians believe that the term ‘Boston Tea Party’ was referring not to the event itself, but rather to the “party of participants,” i.e. by definition “a group taking one side of a dispute.”

It appears the first use of  the “Boston Tea Party” phrase to describe the event did not appear in published form until about 1825–fifty-two years after the event, and certainly a long enough time for the original story to shift and change like many do in the quicksands of time.  I highly recommend that my readers peruse a wonderful (and brief) article called 7 Myths About the Boston Tea Party by Benjamin L. Carp at the Journal of the American Revolution web site.

“Boston tea-party.” Three cargoes of tea destroyed. Photo=mechanical print (postcard), circa 1903. Reproduction of Engraving by D. Berger 1784 of one by D. Chodowiecki. Library of Congress.

As for THIS article, research began when I  read a story from a 1912 New Hampshire newspaper. Many families have one or more stories that are passed down through several generations. Those who take the time to research them quickly understand that these tales should be embraced as well-intended but not always as the perfect and complete truth.  We all want to believe that the verbal histories told to us by our parents and grandparents are indisputable, but the truth is–memories are sometimes messy and flawed.

It has been my personal experience, and perhaps yours too, to be disappointed when the charming stories we listened to on our grandma’s knee turned out to be partly wrong and sometimes total fabrications.  There is no one to blame.  Someone along the chain of ancestry may have embellished a story to impress, or perhaps the listener was young and repeated what they thought they heard.  No two people perceive the same event in exactly the same way.  So whether it is a family story about being descended from Native Americans, or one about an ancestor who took part of the Boston Tea Party–either of these scenario stories would probably be difficult to prove or disprove.  I return now begin to the newspaper article.

Lithograph of The destruction of tea at Boston Harbor; Sarony & Major 1846; Library of Congress

—Is It Real History, or Just A Good Story?—
Ancestor at Boston Tea PartyNashua Telegraph (newspaper) Dec 20 1912.
I have heard my grandfather tell the real story of the “Boston tea party” many times, said Mrs. Lucy Chase of Bowers street this morning in commenting upon last night’s editorial in the Telegraph, “and I am sure that the story of that historical event, as he told it was true, for it not only conforms to the general outline of the event in the histories but we have letters in our family which substantiate the most important features of the incident. “My grandfather’s father, that is, my great-grandfather was one of the “indians” who ran down to Griffin’s wharf on that memorable occasion, and his good wife, Sally, or I supposed we would say Sarah nowadays, was as interested in the event as he was, and helped him and two or three of their intimate friends wore the war paint and feathers, which was to make them appear as redskins. I have heard grandfather tell of it many times.

Etching showing citizens of Boston disguised as Indians boarding ships and throwing chests of tea overboard; Daniel Chodowiecki arist and engraver, circa 1784. Library of Congress.

“In those days many of the men wore high leather boots with rolling tops. Such a pair of boots were worn by my great-grandfather, in spite of the fact that he was an Indian. Some way or other, while the tea was being spoiled to the water a small quantity of it became Lodged, it was found in the folding top of these boots, and it was found there when his party returned to their home. Sally took this and brewed it into a nice pot of tea and all enjoyed a cup or two in celebration of the occasion which had been so successful. My great-grandfather’s name was Abram Wright, and his son was also named Abram. My grandfather and grandmother celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1871. At that time a letter was read, written by my great grandfather and a soldier in the continental army, dated Feb 28, 1780. This letter is still in our family.

The women of this story was Lucy Sylvania Dunklee, daughter of Ebenezer Taylor & Salome “Abbie” (Wright) Duncklee, who was born 14 Oct 1852 Hollis NH, and died 13 June 1923 at Salem NH. In 1920 the family was living on Bowers Street in Nashua NH. She married 17 March 1881 in Nashua NH to Frank C. Chase, son of Charles F & Adeline (Blood) Chase. He was born 31 Dec 1860 in Hollis NH and died 21 July 1920 in Nashua NH. He was a cooper.  They had one child,  Sherman Franklin Chase, born 26 Nov 1881 Hollis NH. He married 14 Dec 1915 in Salem NH to Anna Feser.

As for Lucy S. (Dunklee) Chase’s story.  She seems to have gotten it at least partly right.  She indeed had Wright ancestors, her mother being Abby Wright, daughter of Frances & Lucy (Scripture) Wright.  Those Wright grandparents did indeed celebrate their golden anniversary in 1871, having been married 10 April 1821 in Mason NH. Her great-grandparents were Abraham B.  & Mary (Houghton) Wright.  This Abraham was sometimes called Abram.  He was born 6 Dec 1760 Westford, Middlesex Co. MA and died 1828 in Mason NH and married Mary “Polly” Houghton. [Note: This Abraham’s father, Jacob Wright died before 1771 and so could not have been the patriot referred to in the letter. For the record, Jacob’s wife’s name was Lucy not Sally.].  Abram/Abraham Wright would have just turned 13 years of age a few days before the eventful date of 16 December 1773.  Could he have been one of the Indians–possibly. It is known that several teenagers participated, however Abram would more likely have been part of the great crowd that gathered to watch.  That is, if he was there at all.  His home town was Wexford Massachusetts, a good 35 miles away, and his father had died only a few years before.  He does not seem to have had a wife Sally, and at 13 certainly would not have been wed.  There are flaws in this story and not enough details to know with certainty if Abram was there or not.  Nor do I know if the letter referenced in the newspaper article still exists.  And so this story can only be declared partially true with any certainty.

Essex Gazette, Tuesday December 28, 1773 Salem MA Vol VI, Issue 283, page 85

—What Really Happened at the ‘HAPPY EVENT’ on Dec 16 1773?—
Since there are no living participants, we have to depend on the accounts of the time.  The Essex Gazette newspaper of Tuesday December 28, 1773 ( just 12 days after the event), published at Salem MA Vol VI, Issue 283, page 85 reported: “[Mr. Draper’s last Thursday’s Gazette contains the following Particulars respecting that HAPPY EVENT, the Destruction of the East-India Company’s ministerial Tea.Just before the Dissolution of the Meeting, a Number of brave and resolute Men, dressed in Indian Manner, approached near the door of the Assembly and gave the War-Whoop, which rang through the House and was answered by some in the Galleries, but Silence being commanded, and a peaceable Deportment was again enjoyed, till the Dissolution: The Indians, as they were then called, repaired to the Wharf where the Ships lay that had the Tea on board, and were followed by Hundreds of People, to see the Event of the Transactions of those who made so grotesque an Appearance:–They, the Indians, immediately repaired on board Capt. Hall’s Ship, where they hoisted out the Chests of Tea, and when upon Deck, stove the Chests and emptied the Tea overboard; having cleared this Ship, they proceeded to Capt. Bruce’s, and then to Capt. Coffin’s Brig–they applied themselves so dexterously to the Destruction of this Commodity that in the Space of three Hours they broke up 342 Chests, which was the whole Number in those Vessels and discharged their Contents into the Dock; when the Tide rose it floated the broken Chests and the Tea inso-much that the Surface of the Water was filled there-with a considerable Way from the South Part of the Town to Dorchester-Neck, and lodged on the Shores. The Town was very quiet during the whole Evening and the Night following: Those Persons who were from the Country, returned with a merry Heart; and the next day Joy appeared in almost every Countenance, some on Occasion of the Destruction of the Tea, others on Account of the Quietness with which it was effected. ” [See more educational material from UMBC].

John Adams (one of my personal heroes of the colonial era) wrote in his private diary of the famed Boston tea event: “This is the most magnificent movement of all….This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid, and inflexible, and it must have important Consequences, and so lasting, that I can’t but consider it as an Epocha in History.”

Engraving The Boston tea party, by Henry Clay Watson, 1888. Internet Archive

—Who Were The Boston Tea Party?—
There is no complete list of participants, no matter what any web site or book states.  It is very probable that some of the participants took their secret with them to the grave.  For those readers who are seeking names of known participants, I recommend the following:

Boston Tea Party Participants from Boston Tea Party Historical Society
Who Participated in the Boston Tea Party: History of Massachusetts Blog
Boston Tea Party: Ships & Museum:  a commercial site that lacks any kind of verifiable or real source documentation on any of those listed but still recommended.   Probably not a web site that can be used as a proof for membership in a lineage-based organization.
For 2019 Boston Tea Party events in Boston (re-enactments, etc.) and a plethora of great stories about the event at the blog, Boston 1775
— Book: A retrospect of the Boston tea-party, with a memoir of George T Hewes, by  James Hawkes. 1834
The Internet Archive has a large number of books and videos that discuss the event and who they believe attended.
The HathiTrust has additional books and resources with the same sort of information (searchable)

—Were They There? A New Hampshire Connection—
In a past year my friend, Heather Wilkinson Rojo blogged about some of her family members who were participants, and others who may have been.

As for my personal connection, I have not spent time with any of the lists, though one name jumps out at me when it appears of all of the lists because of its uniqueness–Thomas Urann.  He happens to be my 2nd cousin 7x removed, and a Boston Tea Party Participant. “Thomas Urann was a volunteer guard on the “Dartmouth” on the night of the tea protest. He became a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew in 1760 and was master of this lodge for two years. He was a shipwright in Batterymarch Street near the Hallowell shipyard and a surveyor, or sealer, of wood. He achieved the rank of Captain in the Revolutionary War and later died in 1791.”

Maxwell Thompson was Massachusetts born but in 1773 he was a New Hampshire resident.  In May 1764 he lived in Milford NH, then at Amherst NH until 1775. He moved to Buckland MA in 1779. (He married Sybel Wyman). He was present at the Boston Tea Party.   Read details of his participation from his narrative.

Abraham Hunt was a Boston Tea Party participant.  He was a wine dealer in Boston Massachusetts. His son, Joseph Ruggles Hunt (1781-1871) lived in Eaton, New Hampshire (postmaster and state representative) and was a noted cabinetmaker, and mill owner.

Are you a Boston Tea Party descendant? Leave a comment and share your story!

—Scandal and Denial—
There appears to be at least one participant with a bit of scandal attached to him. David Kennison/Kinnison has a monument dedicated to him in Chicago Illinois.  News stories either praise him as a patriot or curse him as a con man.  He is mentioned on several of the Boston Tea Party lists, along with a photo.  |Burial Site (not primary evidence) | Photo of monument | | Other Stories: Hidden Truths–David KinnisonCon Man Became City’s Hero |

*****ADDITIONAL READING*****

New Hampshire: Celebrating Our Heritage Through Tea

 

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3 Responses to New Hampshire Tidbits: Who Were the Boston Tea Party?

  1. George A Chapman says:

    Janice this is one of those blogs that can lead you on and on into an all day read. Unfortunatly, I have too many other things calling to do it right now. I found what you wrote very interesting. Never really thought much about the tea party or the possibility that I had any ancestors involved.

  2. Amy says:

    Thanks for this! As an American history, I loved reading a primary source on what happened. And the whole idea of drinking the tea that was caught in the boots did seem like a family legend!

  3. Heather Rojo says:

    Thanks for linking to my blog post. The anniversary of the Tea Party draws near.

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