Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

Chapter XII

THE BEGINNING OF THE REVOLUTION.--HOLLIS TOWN MEETINGS.--PATRIOTIC
RESOLUTIONS.--HOLLIS MILITIA.--ALARM LIST.--THE
COUNTY CONGRESS AT AMHERST.--COMPANY OF MINUTE
MEN TO LEXINGTON AND CAMBRIDGE APRIL 19.--OFFICERS AND
ROLL OF THIS COMPANY.--WAGES OF THE MEN.

Written history as well as tradition, and the provincial and early State records, alike with the records of many of the older towns in New Hampshire, bear ample testimony to the unanimity, courage, constancy and sacrifices of the people of the then province in the cause of our national independence. The town meeting of those times, the family gathering of a sturdy, grave and thoughtful yeomanry, was near of kin and the next door neighbor to the family altar and hearth-stone. It was an original New England invention--the rude, it may be, but fitting cradle of American Independence--alike the admiration and despair of the friends of constitutional liberty the world over.

"Stern rugged nurse, thy rigid lore
With patience many a year she bore,
What sorrow was thou badst her know."

One could hardly find or hope for a better or more perfect working model of this novel political machinery than was to be met with in the town meetings of Hollis from the year 1775 to 1783. There is abundant evidence that the like spirit and patriotism animated many of the other New Hampshire towns as were manifested in the town meetings and doings of the people of Hollis, though it is believed that in but few of them were their revolutionary records and documents, at the time, so carefully kept, and since then so well preserved. In what I have to say of the doings of Hollis, in the Revolution, it is not my wish or purpose to make any invidious comparison between those doings and what was done in the same cause in the same years by other New Hampshire towns, but rather to present this sketch of Hollis as an illustration of the predominance of the public sentiment of the province. Ab uno disce omnes.

Hollis (spelled Holles in the town charter as well as in all the early town records) was on the south line of the province, adjoining Pepperell, about forty-five miles northwest of Boston and twenty-three from Concord, Mass. By the census taken in September, 1775, the whole number of its inhabitants was 1255, of whom 174 were males between the ages of 16 and 50, 71 males over 50, 60 of its men then in the army, besides the eleven who had before been killed in the service or died of sickness.(*) There were also in the town one hundred and thirty-one fire-arms, and one hundred and eleven pounds of powder, the property of private persons, but none at that date in the town store, the ammunition of the town having been all exhausted the spring previous.

In respect to what was done by the town in the war that followed, the "coming events cast their shadows before" in the resolutions and doings of several town meetings held long before the first blood was shed at Lexington. The records of these first gatherings, and of all other meetings of the town, for the like purpose held till the war was ended, tell their own story in plain, blunt, terse Anglo Saxon, and need no comment of mine to add force or point to their meaning, or to make them more intelligible. Where my limits will permit, it is my purpose to let them speak in their own language.

In the record of a special town meeting held November 7, 1774, more than five months before the battle at Lexington, I find the first recorded allusion to the existing political troubles and forthcoming conflict. This meeting was called to choose delegates for the town to a County Congress (so-called) for Hillsborough County, to be held the next day, (November 8,) at Amherst, this being the first of three special Hollis town meetings called for the like purpose. After having made choice of "Dea. Stephen Jewett, Ensign Stephen Ames and Lieut. Reuben Dow" to represent the town at that Congress, the following preamble and resolution, with three other resolutions of the like tenor, were adopted by the meeting:

"PREAMBLE.--We, the inhabitants of the town of Holles, having taken into our most serious consideration the precarious and most alarming affairs of our land at the present day, do firmly enter into the following resolutions:

(*)N. H. Hist. Coll., v. 1, p. 233.

1st. "That we will at all times endeavor to maintain our liberty and privileges, both civil and sacred, even at the risque of our lives and fortunes, and will not only disapprove, but wholly despise all such persons as we have just and solid reasons to think even wish us in any measure to be deprived of them."

This year, (1774) it appears from the tax list, that the sum of œ27, 16s. 3d. was assessed upon the inhabitants for ammunition for the town, as a part of the annual tax.

The next special town meeting was held December 30, 1774 to choose delegates to a Provincial Congress at Exeter, called to advise in respect to a Continental Congress. At this meeting, as shown by the record, the following votes were passed:

"1st. Voted to send a delegate to Exeter to meet the delegates of this province to consult on a Continental Congress, and John Hale, Esq., was chosen said delegate.

"2d. Voted that we do cordially accede to the just statement of the rights and grievances of the British colonies and the measures adopted and recommended by the Continental Congress for the restoration and establishment of the former, and for the redress of the latter.

"3d. Voted that Col. John Hale, Dea. Stephen Jewett, Dea. John Boynton, Ensign Stephen Ames, Dea. Enoch Noyes, Ensign Noah Worcester, Daniel Kendrick, Jeremiah Ames, William Brown and William Nevins or the major part of them, be a committee in behalf of the town to observe the conduct of all persons touching the association agreement.

"4th. Voted to raise œ16. 13s. 8d. as a donation to the poor of Boston."

There are still to be found among the revolutionary documents of Hollis, three original rolls of military companies, all made in the year 1775. The two oldest of these rolls bear date January 26, 1775, and the third of them June 7, of the same year, ten days before the battle of Bunker Hill. The heading of one of the two oldest rolls is "A List of the Company of Militia in Holles under the command of Capt. foshua Wright, made fanuary 26, 1775. Of this company, Reuben Dow was Lieutenant and Noah Worcester, Ensign. There were also four Sergeants, viz., John Atwell, Jacob Jewett, Jun., John Cumings and William Brooks. Besides those officers, this roll contains the names of one Corporal, one Drummer, one Fifer, and 214, rank and file--224 in all--supposed to have been the names of all the able bodied men in the town liable under the law to do military service.

The caption of the second roll is the "Alarm List" made January 26th, 1775. On this list are 100 names, and it is supposed to include the names of all such able bodied men of the town as by the province law were exempt from military duty, either on account of age or other cause specified in the law. The list contains the names of two millers, viz., Thomas Jaquith and Enoch Noyes,--millers then being excused from doing military duty. It also contained the names of twenty-seven persons who were designated with the title senior, indicating that each of the twenty-seven had a son of the same name. For the purpose of exhibiting the character of this roll as a curiosity of the times the first twenty-four names, copied from it in the order in which they stood upon the list, are
presented below with the several titles prefixed or appended to each of them. Whether or not this order is intended to indicate the relative social rank and standing of these dignitaries is left to conjecture.

Capt. LEONARD WHITING,   Ensign DANIEL MERRILL,
BENJAMIN WHITING, Esq.,   Ensign JONAS FLAGG,
RICHARD CUTTS SHANNON, Esq.,   Ensign BENJAMIN PARKER,
SAMUEL CUMINGS, Esq.,   Rev. DANIEL EMERSON,
DANIEL EMERSON, Jun., Esq.,   Dea. SAMUEL GOODHUE,
Lieut. BENJAMIN FARLEY,   Dea. NATHANIEL JEWETT,
Lt. SAMUEL FARLEY,   Dea. ENOCH NOYES,
Lt. DAVID FARNSWORTH,   Dea. JOHN BOYNTON,
Lt. AMOS EASTMAN,   Dea. STEPHEN JEWETT,
Lt. ROBERT COLBURN,   WILLIAM CUMINGS, Sch. Master,
Lt. SAMUEL GRIDLEY,   JOHN HALE, Physician,
Ensign STEPHEN AMES,   SAMUEL HOSLEY, do.

The title of the third of those rolls is as follows: "The List of the present Militia Campany of Holles, Exclusive of the Minute Men and all that have gone into the army fune ye 7th, 1775." Of this Company Noah Worcester was Captain, Daniel Kendrick, Lieutenant, and Jacob Jewett, Ensign, and inclusive of these officers this roll contains 122 names, 102 less than the militia company roll made on the previous 26th of January.

In the record of the annual town meeting of March 6, 1775, no reference in any way was made to the impending troubles, but on the 3d of April following, a special town meeting was summoned to choose delegates to a second County Congress to be held at Amherst on the 5th of that month, "and to see what method should be taken to raise money for the Continental Congress at Philadelphia."

Having made choice of "Dea. Stephen Jewett" and "Dea. Enoch Noyes" as delegates to that Congress, and voted such instructions to them as the meeting thought prudent, it also "Voted that all persons who shall pay money by subscription to send now to the Continental Congress, shall have the same deducted out of their Province Rates."

The next special town meeting was held April 23, 1775, upon the receipt of the following letter from Col. John Wentworth, written the day after the battle of Lexington, to the selectmen of Hollis, in behalf of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, and which forms a part of the record of the meeting:

"Gentlemen: This moment melancholy intelligence has been received of hostilities being commenced between the troops under the command of General Gage and our brethren of the Massachusetts Bay. The importance of our exerting ourselves at this critical moment has caused the provincial committee to meet at Exeter, and you are requested instantly to choose and hasten forward a delegate or delegates to join the committee and aid them in consulting measures necessary for our safety.

J. WENTWORTH,  
In behalf of the Committee of Safety."  
"Province of New Hampshire,   Special town meeting, April
Hillsborough County, SS.   23, 1775.

"Pursuant to the above notice and request, the inhabitants of the town of Holles being met, unanimously voted, that Samuel Hobart, Esq., be and hereby is appointed to represent this town at Exeter, with other delegates, that are or shall be appointed by the several towns of this Province for the purpose above mentioned.

NOAH WORCESTER, Town Clerk."

Back to the History of Hollis