April 19th, 1775

(There's More)

The Daily Times and Chronicle, Tuesday, April 15, 1980

Burlington Past and Present, by John E. Fogelberg
(Article # 043)

During the early morning hours of the 18th of April in the
year 1775 one of Lexington's energetic lzaak Waltons must have
decided to go fishing.
That his patience and his efforts were rewarded there is
no doubt for he came home with at least one handsome large
salmon. That evening, to show his esteem and respect for the
two gentlemen then staying at the home of the Reverend Mr.
Clark of Lexington, he gave that delicacy to them so that they
might enjoy a fine meal next day either for breakfast or for
dinner. Immediate subsequent events prevented both John Hancock
and Samuel Adams from ever tasting that delicious salmon.
Every school boy and girl knows that the entire country-
side was aroused before sunup the next morning as the alarm
spread like wildfire that the British army was headed for
Lexington on the way to Concord. Here in Burlington, then
Woburn Second Parish, Captain Joshua Walker, Commander of the
precinct minutemen, had Jonathan Proctor spread the alarm. The
company met at the Meeting House before marching to Lexington,
arriving too late to get into the action there but moving on to
meet the British on their retreat from Concord at Merriam's
In the meantime, Hancock and Adams, having every reason to
fear capture by the British, decided after some argument that
the better part of valor was to retreat - which they did. Early
that morning they arrived at the home of James Reed, miller,
whose house once stood where the Mall parking lot is now. From
the Reed home the two sent back to the Clark house for the
Hancock coach, his fiancee, his aunt and the salmon.
When the coach and its passengers arrived, all moved up on
Lexington Street to the local parsonage, then standing where
the Anderson home is today, occupied by Madam Jones, wife of
the late Parish divine, and the new parson, the Rev. Mr.
Marrett. Here they stopped and Madam Jones offered to prepare
the salmon for their noonday meal. They eagerly accepted since
they had had no breakfast.
However, just as they sat down to enjoy what their Lexing-
ton admirer had caught and Madam Jones had prepared, they were
alerted that the British were on the way. Having no way of
knowing this to be a false alarm, once more the two departed,
this time in somewhat more of a hurry since they left the
steaming salmon on the table.
They arrived at the Amos Wyman house, just over the line
in Billerica late that afternoon where all poor Mrs. Wyman
could offer them was cold boiled potatoes, salt pork and dark
bread. No doubt the two were ravenous by that time and did as
much justice to that meal as Madam Jones and her two female
guests must have done to the salmon.
This little episode is seldom mentioned in the history
books for it is overshadowed by the far more important events
of that day just as is the fact that the only flag carried by
any minuteman company that day was the so-called Bedford flag,
now a treasured relic of the Town of Bedford, or that the Acton
minutemen, whose Captain was the first to fall at Concord
Bridge, marched to the fray to the tune of "The White Cockade"
played by their fifer Luther Blanchard, Walker's command had no
fifer but it did have a drummer, young Jacob Winn.
The Town of Burlington has celebrated the anniversary of
that memorable day many times. At a town meeting in March of
1875, it was voted to accept the invitation of the Town of
Lexington to participate in their ceremonies and the sum of
$350. was voted to defray expenses. A company of cavalry was
formed consisting of 46 citizens and four honorary members. The
officers were William E. Carter, Captain; George L. Tebbetts,
1st Lt.; James Graham, 2nd Lt.; George W. Austin, Quarter-
master; and Nathan H. Marion, Orderly Sergeant.
Austin's report to the town says in part, "I contracted
for the equipment, forage for horses, musicians, dinner for
Company, banner, flag, carriages for honorary members and in-
vited guests... $339.94. ... The uniforms of the company were
paid for by each member, at an expense of $2.79 each, amounting
to $128.34." (Walker's company in 1775 wore no uniforms as such
but hurriedly left their homes that morning wearing whatever
clothing was at hand.)
The troop in 1875 presented a fine appearance all dressed
in new uniforms and riding the best horses Burlington could
produce. They carried a handsome silk flag and a banner bearing
two views of the Sewall house. The troop escorted two car-
riages, one occupied by the selectmen, William Winn, Edward
Reed and Stephen Carter, and Town Clerk Samuel Sewall; the
other by Nathan Blanchard 74, David Skelton 82, Isiah Reed 81,
and Nahun Jennison 66, the honorary members, and Charles Foster
who went as caretaker. Stephen Carter, by the way, was to die
just 35 years later on April 19, aged 87.
On the way to Lexington the company stopped to pay their
respects to the Sewall house and to Francis Lincoln, a grandson
of Paul Revere who was living there at the time.
Another grand show was put on by Burlington in 1930 in
what the town called its Tercentenary Celebration. A banquet in
the Town Hall at 6:30 was followed by the presentation of the
Hancock and Adams incident. Madam Jones was played by Mrs.
Charles Washburn, wife of the minister then in the Burlington
church; Cuff, Madam Jones' black domestic, was represented by
Earl Potwin; Adams was portrayed by Selectman Ralph MacDonald;
and Hancock was played by Thomas W. Crawford. Whether a salmon
was produced that night is not mentioned.
There then followed a series of living pictures from
American history. Mrs. Ivanetta Smith, Chairlady of the School
Committee, attired in Colonial costume and with a white wig and
the beauty spots of 150 years earlier introduced each tableau.
Most of the 12 presentations were easily recognizable such
as "Pocahontas and Capt. John Smith" with Josephine Smith and
Judson Newcomb. Fred Waterman and William Graham were Indians;
or "Spirit of '76" with James McLaughlin as the grandfather,
Carl Bussey as father and David Skelton as the son. The story
behind a few probably had to be told such as "The Pine Tree
Shilling Bride" posed by Harriett Pearsons. Others were
"Liberty Enlightens the World," "The Landing of the Pilgrims,"
"Hope," "John Elliott Preaching to the Indians," "Ann Hutchin-
son and Her Granddaughter," "She Who Laughed on Sunday,"
"Abraham Lincoln and the Slave," "Wistler's Mother" and
"America's Gift to the War." What a program!
Among the invited guests were Mayor Gallagher of Woburn,
L. Waldo Thompson, Woburn historian; Senator and Mrs. Cotton of
Lexington; Rep. and Mrs. Brown of Billerica; Rep. and Mrs.
Wilford Walker of Woburn; J. Otis Simonds of Belmont; Rev.
Robert Grey of Woburn's Congregational Church and Mrs. Grey;
and Mr. James D. Haggerty of the Woburn Daily Times and Mrs.
Press accounts indicate everyone had a great time.