A family reunion

The Lexington minuteman statue, in Lexington, Massachusetts. The statue stands on the southern point of the town green. Photograph by Leon H. Abdalian. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Patriots’ Day, a holiday unique to the State of Massachusetts, commemorates the famous skirmishes between local colonial militia and the British army in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, on 19 April 1775. In Lexington, the day is typically celebrated with an early morning reenactment of the skirmish on the town’s green. As an avid watcher of the reenactment, my favorite part of the event comes just prior to the skirmish. Before the fighting ensues, members of the Lexington minutemen—each representing a particular individual who was present on the green that morning—gather on the common for a roll call and commence calling their names in succession. As the roll is taken, one cannot help but notice the frequency at which similar surnames are repeated. Hearing this serves as a reminder that the men who stood on the green that April morning were not only committed to defending their town, their property, and their rights, but they were also related.

Arthur B. Tourtellot begins the first chapter of his book on the Lexington and Concord fights by observing that the group of men who gathered on Lexington common “…had some of the characteristics of a family reunion.”[1] Of the approximately 77 men who mustered on the green, six surnames were well-represented: the Harringtons, Munroes, Parkers, Tidds, Lockes, and Reeds.[2] As we will see, many of these families were also interrelated through marriage. While it is impossible within the confines of this article to outline in detail every familial connection among the members of the Lexington minutemen, two individuals are illustrative of these extended kinship networks.

Take, for instance, John Parker, captain of the Lexington minutemen. As Tourtellot goes on to explain, “At least a quarter of those present were [John Parker’s] relatives or those of his wife—cousins, nephews, brothers-in-law.”[3] In addition to the captain himself, two other Parkers were present on the green that morning: Captain John Parker’s first cousin, Jonas Parker, along with Jonas’s son, Jonas Parker, Jr.[4] Nathan Munroe, also present on the green, was the son of Captain Parker’s sister, who married Marrett Munroe.[5] Jonathan Harrington, a fifer, was the son of the captain’s widowed sister-in-law.[6]

Robert Munroe, who served as ensign for the Lexington minutemen, also had his fair share of relations on the green. His two sons, Ebenezer and John Munroe, were present along with his two sons-in-law, Daniel Harrington and William Tidd.[7] Daniel Harrington was the husband of Robert’s daughter Anna, and William Tidd was the husband of Robert’s daughter Ruth.[8]

While this shared kinship among members of the Lexington minutemen is interesting to note, it was not unique when compared with militia groups from other New England towns. Revolutionary War-era army members from Lincoln, Massachusetts, were an equally tight-knit bunch. In his study of more than 100 Lincoln soldiers who served during the Revolution, Richard C. Wiggin has discovered that “every one [was] a father/son, brother/brother-in-law, nephew/uncle, or cousin of one or more others.”[9]

One cannot help but theorize that these familial connections influenced—or, at the very least, reflected—the democratic organization of militia groups. Historians have emphasized that when the Lexington minutemen gathered on the green that morning, they did so in order to first assess, as a group, what they should do. David Hackett Fischer writes that when Capt. John Parker addressed members of the Lexington minutemen that April morning, “He did so less as their commander than as their neighbor, kinsman, and friend. These sturdy yeomen did not expect to be told what to do by anyone. They were accustomed to judge for themselves.” Parker, as was customary among militia groups, had also been elected to his position, adding further to the egalitarian nature of the militia.[10]

Patriots’ Day, therefore, not only encourages me to recall the events at Lexington and Concord and the unique history of New England’s militia groups, but more importantly the individuals who participated in those famous skirmishes and the important sacrifices they made. The fact that many of the Lexington minutemen were related adds important context, and helps to bring their particular situation and struggle into sharper focus from the fog of history. Genealogy has a powerful way of reminding us that it is human beings who are the primary actors on the stage of history. Uncovering their stories (i.e., who they were, who they were related to, who they knew, what they did) can provide us with a more complete understanding and appreciation of events long past. Happy Patriots’ Day!

Notes

[1] Arthur B. Tourtellot, Lexington and Concord: The Beginning of the War of the American Revolution (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1963), 29.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 29, 130.

[5] Ibid., 128.

[6] Ibid., 29.

[7] Walter R. Borneman, American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014), 152–53.  See also G.W. Sampson, “Robert Munroe,” in Proceedings of the Lexington Historical Society and Papers Relating to the History of the Town (Lexington, Mass.: Published by the Historical Society, 1890), 1: 38–41.

[8] Borneman, American Spring, 152–53.

[9] Richard C. Wiggin, Embattled Farmers: Campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783 (Lincoln: Lincoln Historical Society, 2013), 22.

[10] David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 151, 149.

Dan Sousa

About Dan Sousa

Dan Sousa currently serves as the Decorative Arts Trust Curatorial Intern at Historic Deerfield, Inc.—a museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts—where he is involved in several research, exhibition, and publication projects. His research interests include early American history and material culture, Massachusetts history and genealogy, Boston history and genealogy, and the history of American Catholicism. He holds a B.A. in history from Providence College and an M.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

14 thoughts on “A family reunion

  1. Great article. Relationships continue up to today. I’m related through blood and marriage to the Harrington’s, Munroe’s, Parker’s, Tidd’s, Locke’s, and Reed’s, a well as the Muzzy’s and Winship’s.

    1. I agree. Powerful article, Dan. Thank you.

      Robert, do you know if this Parker family is connected to the Parker and Pool (Poole) families of Reading, Massachusetts?

        1. Thank you, Robert, I appreciate your response!

          My 4th great grandfather, Elijah Pool (1775-1863) was the grandson of John Pool (1713-1773) and Mary Parker (1711-1773). I have been unable to successfully verify the parents of Mary.

          Another clue that leads me to believe there is a connection is the fact that John Pool and Mary Parker Pool’s youngest child was named Amy, which was the name of Deacon Thomas Parker’s wife, Amy Aylesworth Parker (1615-1690).

          Have a wonderful weekend!

          1. Alane, Glad I could help. Another great source is ma-vitalrecords.org . I found Mary in Reading, as well as her parents marriage, and a good probable for her father’s birth. Trail ends there.
            Bob

  2. “Patriots’ Day, a holiday unique to the State of Massachusetts,”… Patriots’ Day is also an official holiday in the State of Maine. Of course, someone will point out, at the time of the Revolution, Maine was a district of Massachusetts. But it still carries on.

  3. I am a cousin of Robert Keniston, who also posted. We are Harrington descendants. I have taken two of my grandchildren to Lexington to see the Battle site. They were amazed and impressed to see the names of their ancestors on the monument. I showed them Jonathan Harrington’s house and took them to the home across from the Green that is now a museum. My grandson is especially interested in this history. He had to play the role of a Tory in a school assignment about a month ago and even though most of the Harringtons supported the revolution, I told him that not all of them agreed with it, to he wore his tricorn hat and red coat playing his part.

  4. And, also a holiday for those of us in the former Province of Maine, a part of Massachusetts until statehood in 1820!

  5. I believe that this way of organizing men into companies and regiments ( friends, relatives, neighbors all together in one unit) was changed by the United States after the 82% casualty rate suffered by the First Minnesota on July 2, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. The exact percentage has been debated, but what is accurate is that a huge percentage died. This wiped out several generations of Minnesotans. So, to prevent this big a loss to any one state or area in the future, the US changed how men were assigned to companies, etc. In each company there is a mixture of men from various states.

  6. Thank you for this interesting article. I am related to the Tidds. It is my understanding that there were 2 pairs of Tidd brothers there that morning: Brothers Samuel and William Tidd, and brothers John and Benjamin Tidd. These two pairs of brothers were 2nd cousins to each other. I have read that Samuel, William, and John Tidd were on Lexington Green, facing the British, while Benjamin Tidd, who had been sent by Captain Parker to alert Bedford during the night, returned just in time to see the scene enfold, still astride his horse. Benjamin Tidd later gave a very interesting deposition regarding the events of that fateful morning, which can be found on Fold3.

    1. Could you reproduce that deposition here? I don’t subscribe to Fold3 and do not remember ABT using it in his Lex/Concord book, nor do I recall Fischer using it in PRR. Thanks for considering the request.

Leave a Reply