The 1820 Vampire Craze

The National Gazette (Philadelphia, Penn.) 21 Nov. 1820, p. 2.

From a late French Journal.


Vampyres have been, of late, brought into fashion, by romances [Polodori‘s The Vampyre (1819), Cyprien Bérard’s Lord Ruthwen ou les Vampires (1820), an adaptation of Polodori’s story] and plays [Charles Nodier‘s Le Vampire (1820), an adaptation of Polodori’s story]. Vampyrism is worth attention as one of the wildest superstitions of the human mind. No great time has elapsed, since it prevailed in a deplorable manner among some European nations.

The idea is common among the Hungarians and the Moravians, that of the dead some return at night to torment the living, particularly their near relatives, to suck their blood and continue thus a sort of terrestrial existence at the expense of their victims. This absurd belief is found, more or less generally, among the Poles, the Silesians, the Servians, the modern Greeks, &c. It is reduced almost to a system among the Hungarians. They pretend to recognize by infallible symptoms, in particular dead bodies, the property of returning to such the blood of those who survive; they think they have a method for destroying this property and rendering themselves inaccessible, and it is they who have given the denomination of Vampyres, which means Blood Suckers, to the dead bodies which they endow with the property in question. Tournefort, in his account of his travels in Greece, gives a long and lively history of a Vampyre that infested , in 1701, the inhabitants of the Island of Mico [sic, Mykonos]. A poor peasant, killed in a quarrel, was accused of returning to the earth every night, beating people, breaking open doors, &c. “I had never, says Tournefort, seen any wretchedness and alarm greater than those of the island, on this account: the imagination of every body was completely disordered. Whole families, among the most sensible, abandoned their houses at night and slept in the open square of the city. Many fled into the country.” Tournefort passed for an idiot or an infidel when he appeared incredulous. The body of the peasant was exhumed two or three times each day, religious processions and fasts took place. At length in a fit of despair, the inhabitants determined to burn the body; which being done, the panic soon disappeared, from the supposition that the Devil was thus deprived of his nest.

It is not a century since this superstition of Vampyrism wore, in Hungary and Moravia, a much more appalling and serious character. It was believed that dead bodies, in which the blood remained at all fluid, were subject to Vampyrism; the point was determined by judicial inquest; the bodies suspected of the evil, were disinterred, the heads of them cut off, and their hearts pierved with a lance to destroy the dreaded attribute. Those who believed that they had been sucked by a vampyre, rubbed their persons over with earth taken from the grave of the deceased enemy they drank his blood, not to become vampyres themselves; for Vampyrism was thought to be communicable like a disease, and whoever was sucked, was held to be condemned to suck others after his death. The year 1732, as the one in which Vampyrism made the most noise in the Austrian Dominion. Many bodies were dug up; magistrates and military commissioners were employed to superintend the process mentioned above, which usually extended to burning and throwing the ashes in the rivers. Regular records, or Proces Verbaux, of these proceedings were transmitted in all the forms to Vienna.

The German scholars published dissertations upon vampyres, and after their example, the celebrated Don Calmet, compiled his “Treatise upon the Apparition of Spirits, and upon the Vampyres of Hungaria, Moravia, &c.

The_National_Gazette_Tue__Nov_21__1820_The_National_Gazette_Tue__Nov_21__1820_ (1)

1773 Tensions in Plymouth’s Old Colony Club

On 13 January 1769, seven young men, several of them recent Harvard graduates, the sons of the Plymouth’s wealthiest merchants, politicians, lawyers, physicians, and slaveowners, “having maturely weighed and seriously considered the many disadvantages and inconveniences that arise from intermixing with the company at the taverns in this town of Plymouth” determined to form a gentleman’s club “to increase not only the pleasure and happiness of the respective members, but also will conduce to their edification and instruction”,  and therefore “do hereby incorporate ourselves into a society by the name of the Old Colony Club.”


Gavel used by the Old Colony Club from 1769-1773 (Photo by Patricia McDonnell for the Boston Globe)

The founding members of the Old Colony Club were:

  • 33 year old President of the Club Isaac Lothrop (1735-1808)
  • His brother, 28 year old Secretary of the Club Thomas Lothrop (1740-1794)
  • 27 year old Steward and Treasurer of the Club Elkanah Cushman (1741-)
  • 20 year old John Watson (1748-1826, Harvard 1766)
  • 22 year old Edward Winslow Jr. (1746-1815, Harvard 1765)
  • 31 year old Pelham Winslow (1737-1783, Harvard 1753)
  • 23 year old John Thomas (1745-1823, Harvard, 1765)
Elkanah Cushman

Elkanah Cushman. Courtesy of The Frick Collection.

At their first meeting on 13 January 1769, they agreed to a series of rules for the club. They agreed to meet every Wednesday night and to arrive no later than “candle-lighting” time and stay no later than eleven P.M., and that guests could be invited or new members approved only with unanimous agreement. They agreed to pay dues for supplies.

Five additional members were elected between 1769 and 1772.

Member John Thomas built “Old Colony Hall” on Market St. as a club headquarters, which opened to members on 19 April 1769. Typically two outside guests were invited to visit, although occasionally larger groups of men were invited, especially if Plymouth Court was in session that week.

One of the founding rules the Old Colony Club agreed to on 13 January 1769 was: “If it should so happen that any differences or quarrel should arise at any meeting of the Club between any of its members, it shall be settled and adjusted by the majority of the others then present, and the aggressor (by the determination of said majority) shall make such acknowledgement and satisfaction as shall be enjoined by him, and no member shall make mention of any such quarrel or dispute at any time or place out of Club.” Small quarrels may have successfully been mediated within the first several year’s of the club’s existence, but their harmony was not to last.

The Old Colony Club organized the first Forefathers’ Day in honor of the landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth in December 1620, and celebrated it on 22 December 1769. The Club arranged for an elaborate public ceremony, which brought a new awareness to the club. An outdoor ceremony was held publically during the day, followed by a more private evening celebration at the club. They hosted a Thanksgiving-inspired lunch, and in the evening Dr. Lazarus LeBaron provided the toast. Having invented a new holiday, the Old Colony Club continued to celebrate Forefathers’ Day annually until 1773, when tensions became too tense between the Patriot and Loyalist members of the club.

By 1772, the Old Colony Club had received positive feedback from the town of Plymouth about their recurring Forefathers’ Day celebration, and there was a desire that the affair should become more public-oriented, since the bulk of the celebration at that time was largely limited to behind-closed-doors activities of the Old Colony Club members and their invited guests. So on 15 December 1772, the Club “voted to invite William Watson Esq., Capt. Elkanah Watson, Dr. Nathaniel Lothrop, Capt. Gideon White, Dr. Lazarus LeBaron, Thomas Foster Esq., George Watson Esq., Edward Winslow Esq., Thomas Mayhew Esq., James Hovey Esq., Deacon John Torrey, James Warren Esq.” to the next meeting to help prepare Forefathers’ Day. Many of the men invited had recently joined Plymouth’s new Committee of Correspondence, or supported their recently published resolves which listed grievances against the Crown’s unjust activities against the American colonies.

On 13 November 1772, numerous Plymouth residents elected to support the Boston Pamphlet and voted to form a Plymouth Committee of Correspondence. The Plymouth Committee of Correspondence was formed in November 1772, and its members all had deep ties to the Old Colony Club: it consisted of Old Colony Club President Isaac Lothrop, Old Colony Club Secretary Thomas Lothrop. It also included several Old Colony guests: James Warren Esq., Capt. Elkanah Watson (brother of Isaac and Thomas Lothrop), William Watson, Thomas Mayhew Esq. (the father of Club member Thomas Mayhew Jr.), Deacon John Torrey.

The next month, at the club’s meeting on 6 January 1773, the Club members who were present included a mixture of Patriot and Loyalist sympathies – Isaac Lothrop, Elkanah Cushman, John Watson, Pelham Winslow, John Thomas, Thomas Mayhew. Their invited guests were Dr. Lazarus LeBaron, Thomas Foster Esq., William Watson Esq., Deacon John Torrey, Dr. William Thomas, John Russell, George Watson Esq., James Warren Esq., James Hovey Esq., Capt. Gideon White, Dr. Nathaniel Lothrop, and Ephraim Spooner. All voted to invite Rev. Charles Turner of Duxbury to give the 1773 Forefathers sermon. Rev. Turner accepted the invitation on 21 January 1773. His letter was “Directed to the Gentlemen of the Members of the Old Colony Club, Plymouth. To be left at the Hon. James Warren Esq.”

In a moment of ironic foreshadowing, Club Secretary Thomas Lothrop wrote in January 1773 “with gratitude let it be acknowledged, that as a society and as individuals we have enjoyed health, harmony, and happiness without interuption.”

But the Old Colony Club’s “harmony and happiness” came quickly to an end. Almost immediately after Thomas Lothrop wrote that prophetic message, he stopped recording minutes for the Club, as his duties on Plymouth’s Committee of Correspondence picked up across 1773. Partisan divisions became more clear throughout the year, and rancor grew amongst the members of the Club.

By 24 November 1773, none of the Patriot members were attending the club anymore. A new Loyalist secretary of the club picked up where Thomas Lothrop had left off in the minute-book, however, to record their outrage at a new development:

“James Warren Esq., John Torrey, and Thomas Jackson came into our said Club, and said that they were a sub-committee (appointed by the Committee of Correspondence and Communication of this town) for the purpose of informing this Club of the determination of the said Committee of Correspondence relative to the celebration of the next 22d of December, and to request that the Club would join with and conform thereto.”

Remaining members Pelham Winslow, Elkanah Cushman, John Thomas, Edward Winslow, John Watson, Cornelius White, along with invited guests Samuel Prince of Boston and Capt. Gideon White were enraged by the Committee of Correspondence’s request. They did not wish the celebration of Forefathers’ Day to be taken over by an outside group (despite the fact that the Committee of Correspondence included founding members of the Old Colony Club), and they did not want Forefathers’ Day to be associated with Patriot-leaning messaging. They wrote a scathing response to the Committee’s request. And member Edward Winslow Jr. gathered up signatures from the remaining Club members, and numerous other Loyalist-leaning Plymoutheans to sign his “Plymouth Protest” on 13 December 1773. Winslow’s protestors became targets of Patriot ire after the Protest was published in Boston newspapers in the immediate wake of the Boston Tea Party.

But the club was in a bind, since they had already planned a year in advance the Forefathers’ Day celebration and had invited Patriot-leaning Rev. Charles Turner of Duxbury to lead the public sermon (which they now regretted). They had also already agreed in advance that 1773 would be a year in which the public was more welcome to offer input into the celebration, to allow more inclusivity. So the remaining Loyalist members of the Old Colony Club begrudgingly went ahead with 1773’s Forefathers’ Day, along with input from the Patriot-leaning Committee of Correspondence. However, the Old Colony Club collapsed as an organization in the immediate aftermath of the celebration.

John Watson’s grandson inherited the original records of the Old Colony Club, and wrote regarding the end of the club: “The existence of the Club was drawing to a close. The Revolutionary War was coming on, and party lines were forming. More than one half the members of the Club were Loyalists; and the concluding meetings in November and December 1773 show that they alone were controlling its fortunes. With the close of that year came the end of the Club.”

When the Revolutionary War began in earnest in 1775, lines were clearly drawn for the members of the now-defunct Old Colony Club.


  • Isaac Lothrop. In 1774, Isaac Lothrop served as Plymouth’s delegates to the First Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
  • Thomas Lothrop served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War.
  • Thomas Mayhew Jr. served as captain of a company of Plymouth men under Theophilius Cotton in the Revolution.
  • Alexander Scammell – he was the highest ranking American killed during the Battle of Yorktown.


  • Pelham Winslow served with the British army and died during the Revolutionary War.
  • Elkanah Cushman continued to work for the Boston Custom House in the face of mass protest, and evacuated with Gen. Gage in 1776 and died in exile.
  • John Thomas died in exile in Nova Scotia.
  • Edward Winslow Jr. was the author of the infamous 1773 Plymouth Protest and served as the muster master general of the Loyalist forces.
  • Cornelius White “joined the British and was lost at sea in 1779 while ferrying supplies from Halifax, Nova Scotia.”


  • John Watson: “His sympathies in the Revolution were with the Loyalists, of whom there were many in the Old Colony; but he took the oath of allegiance and adhered to his country.”
  • Oakes Angier. “Represented Bridgewater in the House, 1776, 1778, 1779, despite his somewhat equivocal political stance.” [Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 1]



13 December 1773: Edward Winslow’s Plymouth Protest

26 year old Edward Winslow Jr. was furious about Plymouth’s Patriots supporting Boston’s Committee of Correspondence in the aftermath of Dartmouth’s landing with a cargo of tea in Boston Harbor. He quickly wrote a point-by-point response in protest, and tried to have it read publically at Plymouth’s Town Meeting on 13 December 1773. His hopes were dashed, however, when:

At a meeting of the town of Plymouth, legally assembled and held in the Court House, in Plymouth, on Monday the 13th Day of December, Anno Domini 1773, by Adjournment from the 7th current, a vote was called to know if the town would reconsider those votes and resolves they came into last town meeting, it passed in the negative, 20 for it, and 52 against it. Then Edward Winslow, Esq., informed the town that he had in his hand a Protest against the Resolves of the last Town Meeting, signed by himself and a number of others, the inhabitants of this town, which he desired to read, a vote was called to know if said Protest should be read, it passed in the negative. A true copy, attest. EPHRAIM SPOONER, TOWN CLERK.

A biography of Edward Winslow describes him as follows: “He grew up in a great mansion, overlooking Plymouth Rock, which his father had built to entertain the social élite of Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard College in 1765, Winslow began to follow in his father’s footsteps as a local official in Plymouth, and served as naval officer, registrar of wills, and clerk of the Court of General Sessions. He also moved conspicuously in the governing circles of tory Boston… in 1769 he was a prime mover in the establishment of the Old Colony Club, an organization devoted to memorializing the founders of Plymouth Colony. When in 1770, at the age of 23, Winslow was asked to deliver the public address celebrating the 150th anniversary of the landing at Plymouth Rock, he could fairly believe that his career was launched. Two shadows threatened these bright prospects. One was a heavy load of debt. The family’s lavish style of life far exceeded the money available, and these “old debts” would hamper Winslow’s ambitions for the rest of his life. Even more ominous was festering public discontent with the Massachusetts colonial government. A tory since birth, Winslow responded to radical criticism with an intense partisanship that was characteristic of his personality. His authorship in 1773 of the “Plymouth Protest,” condemning the Sons of Liberty as a “sett of cursed, venal, worthless Raskalls,” may have been admirably loyal but it was also reckless. Likewise, by refusing to cooperate with the Plymouth County Convention and by organizing a private tory police company to maintain order in Plymouth, Winslow eventually made himself so “obnoxious” to his countrymen that he was stripped of his public offices, and in October 1774 “the Great Mob . . . hunted me from the Country. . . .”


The Winslow house, 4 Winslow St., Plymouth, Massachusetts, the home of Edward Winslow Jr., today the headquarters of the Mayflower Society. Photograph courtesy of the Mayflower Society.

Winslow’s protest was mailed off for publication in Boston newspapers, but landed in the press in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Tea Party.

Boston Post-Boy (Boston, Mass.) 20 December 1773, p. 1.

The following is a PROTEST, of some of the inhabitants of the town of Plymouth, against the RESOLVES of that Town, published in this paper of last Monday.

That it is not only our right, but our duty, frankly and freely to express our sentiments on every matter which essentially concerns the safety and welfare of our country, is a truth which we apprehend cannot be denied.

Therefore, we who are inhabitants of the town of Plymouth neither captivated by the sounds and declamations, nor deceived by the cunning strategems of men who under the specious masque of patriotism have attempted to delude an innocent and loyal people; But firmly and steadily fix’d and determin’d to defend our rights and privileges, and to endeavor to hand to our posterity the blessings of peace and good government which were procured by our fathers and transmitted to us, – Having taken into serious consideration the dangerous and fatal consequences which may arise from the late resolves pass’d at a meeting of this town on the seventh day of this instant December; Fearing that they may bring upon us the vengeance of affronted Majesty and his insulted authority, We cannot answer it is to our GOD and our consciences unless we protest against the proceedings of said meeting, and publish to the world that we were not instrumental in procuring those mischiefs which may naturally be expected from such conduct. And we do by these presents solemnly protest against the whole of said resolves as being repugnant to our ideas of Liberty, law, and reason. With the first of said resolves we will not concern ourselves further than to observe that we cannot see the necessity of this town’s adopting similar measures with the citizens of Philadelphia.

That 2d contains a censure upon a number of gentlemen (who are appointed consignees by the East India company) which we cannot think either decent or just. Nor can we suppose that they have forfeited that protection which good citizens are entitled, or exposed themselves to the indignation of good men.

To the 3rd and 4th we say that we think it an affront to common sense of mankind and to the dignity of the laws, to assert that such a meeting as was held in the town of Boston on the first of this instant December, was either lawful or regular; And further that the said meeting and the conduct and determinations therein do not appear to us to be either necessary or laudable, nor in any degree meriting the gratitude of those who wish Well to America: But in our opinion on those who by constitutional and lawful means have endeavoured to hinder their proceedings and to prevent the bad effects thereof, have in this instance shown themselves to be firm friends to the fredom and true interests of this Country.

To the first we must observe, That we do not think ourselves bound either in duty or gratitute to acknowledge any obligations to the body who composed that meeting, nor to aid and support them in carrying their votes and resolves into execution, nor do we intend to hazard our lives and fortunes in their defence: But on the contrary We suppose it is our indispensible duty (as the faithful and loyal subjects of his most gracious Majesty King GEORGE the third) to manifest our abhorrence and detestation of every measure which has a tendency to introduce anarchy, confusion, and disorder into the state, whether the same  be proposed by Bodies of Men or by an individual.

In witness of all which we set our hands at Plymouth the thirteenth day of December, A.D. 1773.

William LeBaron (1751-1816), Edward Winslow (1714-1784)

Ebenezer Churchill (1732-1792), Thomas Foster (1704-1777),

Jonathan King (1721-1782), George Watson (1718-1800),

Thomas Foster tert. (1727-1778), Gideon White (1753-1833),

Ebenezer Samson (1717-1808), Pelham Winslow (1737-1783),

William Crombie (1732-1814), Lemuel Jackson (1713-1785),

Nathaniel Shurtleff (1707-1785),  Edward Winslow Jr. (1747-1815),

Samuel Harlow (1747-1798), John Watson (1748-1826),

James Thomas (1729-1784), William Trenholme (1737-1822),

Richard Cooper (1740-1819), John Thomas (1745-1823),

James Doten junr. (1736-1817), Ichabod Shaw (1734-1821),

William Watson (1730-1815), Cornelius White (1744-1779),

Barnabas Hedge (1740-1778), Elkanah Cushman (1741),

William Curtis (1742-1821), John Kempton (1716-1806),

James Hovey (1712-1781), David Lothrop (1744-1804),

John Russell (-1776), John Kempton jun. (1740-1825),

Benjamin King (1704-1776), Joseph Bartlett junr. (1738-),

Benjamin Rider, 3d. (1733-1804), Samuel Sherman (1751-1818),

Isaac LeBaron (1743-1819), Thomas Matthew (1725-1807),

Lemuel Goddard (1739-1819), Benjamin Churchill (1725-1811).


I have provided links to the FindAGrave entries to the majority of these 40 Plymouth protestors. These men were a wide range of ages, but most of them were from Plymouth’s elite, wealthy families. Although Winslow’s letter is sometimes referred to as Plymouth’s Loyalist protest, an interesting aspect of this missive is that most, although not all, went on to identify as Loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Some men on this list were evacuated with General Gage when the British abandoned Boston, some fought with British troops during the Revolutionary War, and some continued to work for the British government and were officially banished from Massachusetts during the War, and permanently went to live in Canada or England during and after the war. But several of these men, once the Revolutionary War began, sided with the Americans. And some simply kept their opinions to themselves while their sons or other close relatives served with American troops.

By late December of 1773, several of these Plymouth protestors recanted their signatures after learning how outraged some Bostonians were to read the protest following the wake of the Boston Tea Party. But even their recantation would prove to be just as controversial in Plymouth and Boston.

Next Up: Plymouth Protestors Recant: Winslow’s Recklessness, Public Scrutiny, and Patriot Threats

Previously: 7 December 1773: Plymouth Patriots Lend Support Prior to the Boston Tea Party




7 December 1773: Plymouth Patriots Lend Support Prior to the Boston Tea Party


W.D. Cooper. “Boston Tea Party.”, The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789.Engraving. Plate opposite p. 58. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Wikimedia Commons.

The Boston Tea Party occured on the evening of December 16, 1773. But the actions of the Boston patriots that evening were not a guarantee in the lead up to that event.

The American ship Dartmouth arrived in Boston Harbor in late November 1773 and legally had twenty days to pay the custom and unload the cargo (until December 16th) of 114 chests of tea. The next day, on 29 November 1773, Samuel Adams led a meeting which thousands of Bostonians attended, and it was voted urge Capt. James Hall and Nantucket owner Francis Rotch to send Dartmouth back without paying the import duty, a continuation of protest of the 1773 Tea Act . An armed security detail was assigned to prevent the tea from being unloaded at Griffin’s Wharf in the meanwhile as the deal was under negotiation. However, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, whose sons were consignees for the tea shipment, took a hardline stance and refused to allow Dartmouth to leave without paying the duty. The Boston Committee of Correspondence quickly sent word of what was happening in Boston to other towns in Massachusetts, hoping to rally support.

Samuel Adams saw the metaphorical significance of support for his cause coming from the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts in particular, considering its location as the foundation of the British colony of Plymouth. Earlier Adams wrote to James Warren of Plymouth: “I wish mother Plymouth would see her way clear by appointing a committee of communication and correspondence.” Adams had argued to Warren in 1771, “Too many are afraid to appear for the public liberty…They preach the people into paltry ideas of moderation. But in perilous times like these, I cannot conceive of prudence without fortitude; and the man who is not resolved to encounter and overcome difficulties when the liberty of his country is threatened, no more deserves the character of patriot than another does that of soldier who flies from his standard.”

A town meeting was held in Plymouth on December 7th – members of Plymouth’s Committee of Correspondence hinted that perhaps intervention of Tory Plymouth selectmen had prevented a speedier meeting from being authorized to respond to Adams’ letter. At the meeting, Plymouth citizens voted to appoint Deacon John Torrey (1717-1776), James Warren Esq. (1726-1808), and William Watson (1730-1815) as a committee to draft a response to Boston’s dilemma of how best to respond to the Dartmouth tea problem. They sent copies of their resolutions to Boston’s Committee of Correspondence and to Boston newspapers.

TUESDAY, December 14. BOSTON.

A few days ago the Committee of Correspondence for this town received the following letter from their worthy friends the Committee of Correspondence for the ancient town of PLYMOUTH, viz.

GENTLEMEN, We have the pleasure herewith to inclose you the proceedings of the town of Plymouth at their meetings yesterday. A meeting of a great number of resolute, determined, worthy assertors of the liberties of their country, men who will never voluntarily give up their birthrights for any consideration whatever (unless it is demanded by a mandate from heaven, and that too, well authenticated) men ready to all times to exert themselves in oppugnation to any authority, that shall dare attempt to deprive them of what they esteem more valuable than their lives or fortunes – their liberty – men who think it will give them great consolation to reflect on their having down all in their power to ward off the evils which now threaten us, though we should after all, by superior force, be involved in them:- Men who have a firm dependence on the all-wise and almighty disposer of all events, that he will in proper time deliver us from the evils we now labor under, as well as preserve from those which now threaten us, and will restore our liberties and privileges inviolate, and will give us such men to rule over us, as fear God and hate covetousness.

We congratulate you Gentlemen on the spirit, resolution, and good order which appeared in the several late public and respectable meetings held in your town for the purpose of checking that torrent of tyranny which has for several years threatened us and our posterity with ruin and destruction; and esteem it a happy circumstance that no menaces of any usurped authority were able to deter them from prosecuting their righteous designs, we heartily rejoice with you on account of the great zeal in the cause of liberty, which has possessed the minds of all good men, through this wide extended continent, and we for ourselves do assure you that we are ready at all times, to countenance, assist, and support you in all laudable exertions for the public good, and that we will upon the shortest notice hasten to protect our worthy friends of Boston, from the insults of any power whatever. We have only to lament that we have not been able to transmit to you the sentiments of this town earlier than this transaction of theirs admits of, and to assure you that the same sentiments and spirit would have appeared before now, if a meeting some time before applied for by us, and accordingly called by the selectmen, had not miscarried by an accident, or perhaps by design of those who are bribed to serve the purposes of the administration.

We are, Gentlemen, with great respect, Your obliged humble servants,

JOHN TORREY, per order, Plymouth December 8th, 1773.

P.S. We have just received yours of November and December, with that pleasure which virtue and sentiment have a tendency to inspire, and while we admire both, in the Committee of Boston, we shall endeavor to imitate their zeal and resolution in the cause of their country, and have the satisfaction to be able to assure you, that neither one or the other seem at present to be wanting here. I. [sic] T. [John Torrey]

The RESOLVES are as follows, viz.

At a meeting of the town of Plymouth, on Tuesday the 7th day of December, Anno Domini, 1773, the town

Voted, To choose a committee to take into consideration the circumstances of our public affairs, and in particular the East India Company’s importing tea into America, subject to a duty payable here, for raising a revenue against our consent, and to report what they think proper for the town to do respecting said matters, and accordingly made their choice of Deacon John Torrey, James Warren Esq., and William Watson Esq. the committee for that purpose; they to report to the town as soon as may be: They accordingly withdrew from the meeting, and after considering said affair, reported as follows.

“The inhabitants of this town ever attentive to the rights and interest of their country, having been repeatedly alarmed with the measures of late years adopted; and pursued by the British administration, under various forms, evidently repugnant to every principle of our constitution, and after flattering ourselves from time to time, with hopes that from a change of men, or some other happy circumstance, such new measures might be adopted, as would put an end to the unhappy contest between Britain and the colonies, and leave us in the full enjoyment of those rights, which no power on earth can reasonably dispute, much less pretend to deprive us of, have yet the misfortune to find the British Ministry so far from relaxing, that they are still pursuing with assiduity the same destructive measures; a recent instance of which we see in their attempt, by virtue of an act of the last session of Parliament, to enable the East Indian company in London to export their teas to America, in such quantities as the Lords of the Treasury shall think proper, subject to the same unconstitutional tax, or tribute, which we have upon other occasions, and under different appearances, with firmness and resolution opposed, as dangerous to that liberty which our fathers claimed and enjoyed, which we have a right to enjoy, and which our posterity may expect we transmit to them inviolate, do think it our duty on this, as on several other similar occasions, to express our firm resolution not only to oppose this step as dangerous to the liberty and commerce of this country, but also to aid and support our brethren in their opposition to this, and every other violation of our rights, and therefore RESOLVE,

  1. That the dangerous nature and tendency of importing teas here, by any person, or persons, especially by the India company, as proposed, subject to a tax upon us without our consent, and the steps incumbent on every one concerned for the true interest of America, to take on the occasion, as well as the sentiments and conduct they should observe, with regard to all aiders and abettors of that measure, are extremely well expressed, by the late judicious resolves of the worthy citizens of Philadelphia.
  2. That the persons to whom the said India company have consigned the tea they propose to send to Boston, have by their wickedness and obstinancy, in endeavouring to accept of, and execute their commission, contrary to the almost universal sense and desire of the whole province, and in still continuing to refuse to gratify the reasonable requests of their countrymen, forfeited that protection every good citizen is entitled to, and exposed themselves and their abettors to the indignation and resentment of all good men.
  3. That it is an affront to the common sense and understanding of mankind, and to the majesty of the people, who are, under God, the source from whence is derived all power and magistracy in every community, to assert, that any meeting of the people, to consult meatures for their common security and happiness, on very extraordinary and alarming occasions, is either unlawful or irregular, since no legislature could be supposed to establish rules of conduct in such cases, as no man could ever suppose would take place in a free and good government.
  4. That the late meeting of a very large and respectable body of the inhabitants of Boston, and the adjacent towns, and their conduct and determinations at said meeting, relative to the importation and reshiping any teas, that have or may be sent here subject to a duty on importation, was both necessary and laudable, and highly deserving the gratitude of all who are interested in, or wish the prosperity of America, and that whoever have attempted, (by any means whatever) to interrupt their proceedings, and prevent the full operation of their determinations, have in that instance shewn themselves inimical, to the freedom and interest of the country.
  5. That we are in duty and gratitude bound, not only to acknowledge our obligations, to the body who composed that meeting, for their noble, generous, and spirited conduct in the the common cause, but also to aid and support them in carrying their votes and resolves into execution, and that we will not only aid and support them in executing the said votes and resolves, but at the hazard of our own lives and fortunes will exert our whole force to defend them, against the violence and wickedness of our common enemies.
  6. That the Town Clerk immediately record these votes and resolutions, and deliver a fair copy of them to the committee of correspondence of this town, to be by the transmitted to the committee of correspondence for the town of Boston.

Then a vote was called to know if the town would accept said report, it passed in the affirmative unanimously.

A true copy of record. Attest. EPHRAIM SPOONER, Town Clerk.


The Massachusetts Spy, or Thomas’s Boston Journal (Boston, Mass.) Thursday, December 16, 1773, p. 2.

Boston newspapers at the time typically published once a week, so there was often a delay in reporting. So while Plymouth’s decision to support Boston was made on 7 December 1773, it was not published in The Massachusetts Spy until two weeks later, on the morning of December 16, 1773. Although the message sent to Boston by Plymouth’s Committee of Correspondence painted a picture of Patriotic sympathy, Plymouth Loyalists who attended the town meeting on December 7th were outraged by the Patriot’s actions and held another town meeting the following week, on December 13th, to protest. Patriot sympathies won the day, however, and Plymouth’s Loyalists were barred from publically airing their grievances at the meeting. Edward Winslow Jr., the author of the protest, determined to use the power of the press to print his concerns instead. He was able to gather forty signatures of Plymouth Tories to commit their signatures to his protest, and thought it would be a good move politically to have Boston papers print their disagreement with Plymouth’s Committee of Correspondence, and allow the British authorities in Boston and beyond to know where their sympathies truly laid.

But time was of the essence, and the timing could not have been worse for 26 year old Edward Winslow Jr. The message of support from Plymouth patriots hit Boston newspapers on the morning of 16 December and throughout the rest of that week. Winslow’s message was a week delayed. And tensions rose even higher in Boston overnight on the evening of 16 December 1773. What had been worded complaints against the British became real action that night. Warren’s message of support from Plymouth was read by hundreds of Boston residents the morning of what would become the Boston Tea Party. Winslow’s message of complaint, although mailed before the event, would be published a week after the Tea Party – and it had a convenient list of forty men who suddenly had very publically identified themselves as Loyalists.

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for Graveyard Wanderers


Not all those who wander in graveyards are lost… here’s some gift ideas to guide your intrepid graveyard explorers through their cemetery wanderings, gravestone photography adventures, and ancestor-locating journeys!

  1. A membership to the Association for Gravestone Studies gives you access to the AGS Quarterly and annual Markers journal, which provide wonderful articles on gravestone research, epitaphs, and conservation projects.
  2. Have you ever spotted a fascinating symbol on a gravestone and wondered about its meaning? Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography is wonderful collection of the art history of gravestone iconography – this book has stunning photography.
  3. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards (Messages from the Dead) is another great and funny resource for gravestone symbology.
  4. When you are photographing gravestones and the lighting isn’t perfect, this portable 5-in-1 reflector is a great item to have in your photography kit, which helps to illuminate hard-to-see epitaphs.
  5. A good first aid kit is invaluable while trekking through old cemeteries which can be unmowed and uneven, where trips, bumps, or bugs are possible – Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series, Backpacker Medical Kit is a well-organized kit to keep in your trunk.
  6. The JoCo 16oz glass coffee cup is a great reusable mug for your hot or cold drinks, and fits great in a car beverage holder – good for the environment and good for keeping you cool on hots days or warm on cold cemetery adventures!
  7. For a fun read, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is a delightful spooky tale for kids and adults alike.
  8. Artwork created by the Gravestone Girls – castings, magnets, and other oddities – make beautiful and historically accurate gifts from real gravestones.
  9. A Graveyard Preservation Primer is a wonderful guide for responsible conservation and preservation techniques for stewards of old graveyards.
  10. Your favorite taphophile will love this Graveyard Wanderer shirt!

And be sure to check out these other gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Three: “Horrors Truly Multiply”

Sturtevant Murder

Boston Evening Journal 17 Feb. 1874, p. 2-3.

Horrors Truly Multiply. We gave this morning the details of a terrible tragedy which took place in the little town of Halifax, in Plymouth county, on Sunday night, in which three persons were brutally murdered. Further particulars of the terrible affair will be found in another column. The object of the murderers appears to have been to obtain the money which it is reported the murdered brothers possessed to a large amount, and which they kept by them. No clue as yet obtained to the murderers, but the town authorities, assisted by the entire community in which the tragedy occurred, will leave no effort untried to detect and bring to punishment the perpetrators of the terrible crime.

THE TRAGEDY AT HALIFAX. ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS. The Murders Probably Committed on Sunday. INTENSE EXCITEMENT. Coroner’s Inquest to be Held To-day.

The additional facts relating to the horrid tragedy at Halifax, so far as we have been able to gather them, are that it was probably about eight or nine o’clock in the evening of Sunday that the murders were committed. It was the custom of the brother having charge of the cattle to go to the barn at nine o’clock to fodder them. It appears that the hay laid for the cattle was not disturbed. It was also found that the lantern and measure of grain near the lifeless corpse of William [sic, Thomas] indicated his being on the way to his barn when he met his death. The brother Simon [sic, Simeon], who was in his bed, had been in poor health for some time and had occupied the front room in the lower story of the house, which is a large old fashioned structure. Here the walls were spattered with blood, allowing that he was killed in the same way that the others were. A bloody cart stake which was used was found. The case of drawers where one of the brothers kept his valuables was thoroughly examined and stirred up by the murderer, and it is probable that a considerable sum of money was taken. In Miss Buckley’s room it was found that her trunk had not been disturbed, and in it was found $900 and a gold watch. The most intense excitement prevails through this usually quiet region and the roads are alive with teams on their way to the scene of the murder. Coroner P. D. Kingman of Bridgewater will today summons a jury of inquest, and every fact bearing upon the case will be carefully noted. Miss Buckley had been the housekeeper for a few years, but was best known in Bridgewater, where she was highly respected. Her life had been most signally marked with acts of kindness and charity. Edward Inglee, Esq., Chairman of the Selectmen, has been active in calling to his aid such officers as will be efficient in the search for the guilty party.


The brothers Sturtevant, who were foully murdered in Halifax on Sunday night, were the wealthiest citizens of that town, and were among the most highly respected. They were rigidly economical, and hoarded all the money they obtained, never depositing any in savings banks. They held on to their landed property with great tenacity, and could not be prevailed upon to part with any portion of their immense possession of woodland at any price. Once, however, while attending an auction sale, Simeon Sturtevant was asked how much he would take for a certain piece of land, and replying, “Fifteen hundred dollars,” his interlocutor, having come prepared to purchase, laid down the money and the sale was effected, greatly to the chagrin on Mr. Sturtevant. A gentleman who owns land adjoining the estate of the Sturtevants, describes them as tall, stalwart men, Simeon being over six feet in stature. He is of opinion that they had in their possession a considerable sum of money at the time of the murder, which fact being known to the perpetrator of the crime, induced its commission.


Bridgewater, Mass. Feb. 17. Plymouth county and the country for miles around is in great excitement over the triple murder Sunday night, in Halifax, and hundreds are in an about the house where the crime was committed. Detective Philbrooks [sic], who arrived this morning, W. H. Crocker and Town Constable Kingman of Bridgewater are engaged in working up the case, which now looks dark, as so much time has been lost by delaying to notify experienced officers. The people have not developed anything. The story of the murder as far as known was given in the dispatch to this morning’s Journal. An inquest is being held in the house occupied by the Sturtevants, and the jury is composed of A. B. Thompson, C. H. Paine, J. T. Z. Thompson, Edwin Boyden, Martin Horsland [sic], and C. P. Lyon. Philip D. Kingman is the Coroner. An autopsy being made by Drs. Millett, Brewster, and Pillsbury. The principal testimony taken relates to the discovery of the bodies. Mr. Thompson, a near neighbor, called at the house Sunday evening and left about seven o’clock with some papers he had borrowed of Mrs. Buckley, the cousin who lived with the Sturtevant Brothers. Thomas, the elder aged seventy years, had brought in the night’s wood and completed his chores. He saw no one in or near the house besides the occupants. Mrs. Buckley, taking up two papers, said she was going to read that evening. About 9 o’clock he looked from his window and noticed a light in Sturtevant’s. [TO BE CONTINUED]

THE HALIFAX TRAGEDY. Additional Particulars. [Continued from Second Page]

The lamp Mrs. Buckley sat down to read by had been blown out, and was found half full of oil in the morning. With the story of Stephen P. Lull, that the body of Thomas Sturtivant found near the door in the porch was warm, and the blood oozing from Simeon in the bed looks as if the murder was committed that morning, probably at daybreak.

Theories as to the Murderer.

There are two theories as to who the murderer was, and but one as to the incentive, which was doubtless robbery. A nephew of Thomas Sturtevant, who bears a bad character, has been on the school ship and in Plymouth jail for stealing, and his name is associated with it. He lives in Hanson, but the fact that Mrs. Buckley’s trunk was left untouched, and contained $1000 and a gold watch which he must have known of, points stronger towards the tramp theory. Only $600 were taken.

It is believed that Mrs. Buckley was sent out on some pretext or had an errand to her niece’s on the Middleborough and Halifax road, across lots, that Thomas had his lantern going to the barn when struck down, that Simeon, who was infirm and weak of mind, was afterward beaten to death as he lay in bed, and that the murderer overtook the old lady and terminated her life with two blows to the head. Some pieces of money were found in the path near the woman’s body, and also the club with which all were killed. The club was a birch one, roughly cut for a cart stake, and nor like any belonging on the premises. The house was found little disturbed, but blood was on every hand, giving to the large square rooms a ghastly appearance.

The Victims.

The history of the people shows that they have been frugal and industrious, and it was generally believed that they had money in the house, for they distrusted all banking institutions. In their day the men were prominent citizens. Both were born in the house they were murdered in, and Mrs. Buckley, after the death of her husband, lived as a nurse and seamstress in Boston, where she has many friends. Her age was sixty-eight years.


The neighbors have not noticed tramps of late, but people in Hanson and adjoining towns have been alarmed by a gang of fellows who have been scouting round, sleeping in barns, looking in windows, opening shoemaker shops and school-houses nights and building fires to warm themselves. No arrests have been made, but it is thought by the officers that the clue as to where the stake came from, when found, will give them something to act upon.


The scene of the crime attracted a great deal of excitement, and as the week went on, several thousand people passed through the small town of Halifax.

Boston Globe, 18 Feb. 1874, p. 5. The Triple Murder at Halifax – No New Details.

…People came from far and near to see the scene of the tragedy, and, yesterday morning, while the jury of inquest was in session in the sitting room, surrounded by thirty or forty persons, witnesses and spectators, the body of the elderly brother, Thomas, was lying in the centre room, in which and in the kitchen there were many people, including a number of ladies who gathered at the kitchen stove; and at the same time, in the front bedroom, Dr. Millett of East Bridgewater was holding a post-mortem examination on the body of Simeon Sturtevant, especially with reference to the character of the wounds on the head, assisted by Dr. Brewster of Plymouth, and Dr. Pillsbury. The jury of inquest consists of Messrs. E. B. Thompson, C. H. Paine, clerk, J. T. Z. Thompson, Edwin Boyden, Martin Howland, and C. P. Lyon. The last person who saw the victims alive on Sunday evening, was a neighbor, Mr. Blake, who was in the house at about 6 o’clock, when Miss Buckley carried some wood into the apartment of the younger brother to make a fire there, he being somewhat infirm. Neither Mr. Blake nor the others in the vicinity remember seeing any strangers around on Sunday afternoon or evening. There have been some tramps hanging around the town for a week, but the deed is not charged, as yet, directly upon any one. Some town folks express suspicions that the deed might have been done by a person well acquainted with the premises, and suggest a young man living several miles away; but up to the close of the morning session of the inquest there did not appear anything to corroborate such a surmise, which appears to be a sort of jumping at a conclusion which is very common where people endeavor by guess to find out what something more definite is required to establish as fact. Possibly, with the aid of the detective, and from the testimony of many persons, there may be developments made on the point in question by the time the inquest draws to its conclusion.

Next Up: A Suspicious Nephew

Previously: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Two: News Spreads Like Wildfire

Previously: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part One: A Ghastly Discovery


[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for Genealogists


The family historian in your life will enjoy these ideas to organize their family tree, make their next research trip more productive, or show off their love of investigating the past!

  1. A membership to the New England Historic Genealogical Society – definitely worth visiting during the year, but even if you don’t live nearby they have awesome digital collections that they are always adding new databases to!
  2. Show off your love of books with this Book Nerd enamel pin.
  3. Genealogists will love this fascinating new biography about the lives of the five victims of Jack the Ripper, using a wonderful plethora of genealogical resources – The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper
  4. RootsMagic, a fantastic genealogy program for your family tree!
  5. Wise words from Hermione Granger on a tote bag for all your visits to the archives: When In Doubt, Go To The Library.
  6. For your next on-site visit to the library or archives, the Flip-Pal mobile scanner make copying your resources a breeze, and is so portable and handy.
  7.  This pack of six clipboards helps keep all your miscellaneous genealogy notes and bits and bobs organized.
  8.  Turn your family tree into beautiful posters with awesome graphic designs by FamilyTreePrints.
  9.  Etsy artist Foxbairn creates gorgeous custom family trees on wood slices that make amazing heirloom pieces.
  10. Rock a Genealogist t-shirt to your next genealogy conference or library visit!

And be sure to check out these other gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for History Buffs


Here’s a few gift ideas for your favorite history buff to read, watch, wear, and listen to!

  1. These Edgar Allan Poe socks are comfy and weird – may your feet be cold nevermore!
  2. The Trial of Lizzie Borden is a new fascinating look at the murder trial of Lizzie Borden, who took an ax…
  3. For a fantastic binge-watch, you should absolutely check out the DVD box set of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 1-3 which is a hilarious and fun show featuring the glamourous private detective Miss Phryne Fisher and her escapades across 1920s Australia.
  4. This book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective was recently made into an ITV series, so check out the original book of the undoing of early Scotland Yard detective Jonathan Whicher as he investigates the murder of a young boy from a wealthy British family.
  5. With so many great history podcasts being produced, give a Spotify gift card for all your podcast listening needs!
  6. The lives and philosophical, feminist, horror, and gothic writings of mother and daughter authors Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley are given a fantastic deep dive in Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley
  7.   Hamilton: The Revolution provides tons of insightful behind-the-scenes details about the creation of the brilliant musical Hamilton.
  8.  Flex your love of history with this long-sleeve History Buff t-shirt!
  9. Kate Beaton’s hilarious historical comics are compiled in the awesome collection Hark! A Vagrant
  10. Start the new year off right with a look back at all the Bad Days in History: A Gleefully Grim Chronicle of Misfortune, Mayhem, and Misery for Every Day of the Year.

And stay tuned for more gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

Holiday Gift Guide – Gifts for Family Archivists


The family archivist has gathered a collection of photographs, documents, and artifacts that tell the fascinating tale of your family’s past – here’s some gift ideas to help get all of those treasures organized!

  1. Treat your heirloom ornaments to a special upgrade this season and invest in an archival quality storage box to safeguard your holiday ornaments to pass down to future generations. Lineco Archival Divided Ornament Storage Box
  2. Denise May Levenick’s excellent How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records is a great guide to how to organize those boxes of family keepsakes that have been waiting in a closet or basement as a future “to-do” project.
  3. Gaylord Archival My Family History Kit is a wonderful place to start organizing your valuable records.
  4.  Scrapbook lovers can use these great 12×12 photo sleeve sheet protectors, which are a great way to fit a lot of photographs in one album.
  5.  Create easy categories for your historic documents with Gaylord Archival Letter-Size File Folders These folders are acid-free, lignin-free, and passed the Photographic Activity Test.
  6. Your family records should ideally be kept in temperature-controlled indoor spaces. But if you don’t yet have the time to organize your papers and they are still sitting in a basement or attic, at the very least grab some weather-tight storage boxes to keep out bugs or water, like this 19 quart IRIS Weathertight Storage Box.
  7.  Savor’s Artwork and School Memories Keepsake Box is an elegant storage system for baby items or childhood school papers. The School Years Edition Keepsake Box has lots of customizable storage options for important childhood memories. The box comes with envelopes and vertical storage for document, plus drawers for small artifacts, with numerous illustrated labels. A great keepsake box!
  8. Have a really big photo project on the horizon? Investing in the incredible Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo printer allows you to autoscan hundreds or thousands of photograph, allowing for custom sizing and file naming to assist in your next digitization project.
  9. Once those photos have been scanned, check out this great source on how to organize and make sense of all your old photos with How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally.
  10. Archivist Shirt – for the archivist in your life to let everyone know who puts the “special” in Special Collections!

And stay tuned for some awesome gift ideas for all the history lovers in your life this holiday season!

The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Two: News Spreads Like Wildfire

Sturtevant Murder


In 1856, a telegraph line was constructed along the Fall River Railroad track from Myrick’s Station in Berkley, Massachusetts to Boston, passing through Bridgewater.  [Kingman, History of North Bridgewater, p. 347] Following the discovery of the Sturtevant murders on Monday, February 16th, someone ran to the Bridgewater telegraph office and sent a telegraph far and wide to newspapers across the nation. On Tuesday morning,  February 17th, before any arrests had been made in the case,  newspapers in Vermont, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Iowa, Michigan, Los Angeles, and more ran the horrific details of the “Triple Tragedy”.


Map showing lines of Old Colony Railroad (O.C.R.R.) and Fall River Railroad (F.R.R.R.) in 1846. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s a sample of the telegraph, as reported in the St. Albans Daily Messenger in St. Albans, Vermont:


Horrible Tragedy in Massachusetts.


Boston, 17 [February].

Details of the triple tragedy at Halifax, Mass., show that on Monday morning, a shoemaker by the name of Lull, having occasion to visit a neighbor, stumbled upon the body of a maiden lady, about seventy years of age, lying on a cross path about thirty rods from the farm house of Thomas and Simeon Sturtevant, with whom she lived in the capacity of house keeper. She was lying face downward, and the back of her head had been crushed. In hastening on to inform the Sturtevants, the man found the body of Thomas Sturtevant stretched full length in the porch of the dwelling, cold in the embrace of death, with a lantern by his side. His face was most brutally mangled. In a bed-room was found the remains of Simeon Sturtevant. The walls and ceilings of the apartment were bespattered with blood. The weapon with which all the murders were committed was evidently a sled stake about four feet in length, as one was found blood-stained, near where the body of the woman was discovered. The village where the murder was committed is a thriving little hamlet, thirty miles distant from this city, and contains a population of less than 800. The brothers, Sturtevant, were the wealthiest citizens of that town and highly respected. The murder was evidently committed for money. There is no clue to the assassin.”


1874-02-17 St Albans Sturtevant Murder

St. Albans Daily Messenger (St. Albans, Vt.) 17 Feb. 1874, p. 3.

Telegraph lines enabled news of the terrible murders to spread thousands of miles across the country before police could even begin their investigation in earnest. And what would they discover upon their arrival?

Next Up: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: Part Three: “Horrors Truly Multiply”

Previously: The Sturtevant Triple Murder: A Ghastly Discovery


[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]