previous next

The loyalists of Medford.

by Grace L. Sargent.
[Read before the Medford Historical Society, April 17, 1905.]

THE loyalists represented the conservative and aristocratic element in colonial politics. Many of them bore names that had been connected with the royal government for several generations. They had a firm conviction that ‘the powers that be’ were in the right and that the existing order of things could not be overthrown by a parcel of rebels, as they considered their opponents. The result of the siege of Boston and its evacuation by the British was a great blow to them. Through the hard winter of 1775-76 upward of a thousand of them had been shut up in Boston, whither they had fled for protection, exposed to hunger, cold and the loathsome disease small pox. The versatile Burgoyne, leaving for a while his complaints against his brother chiefs, sought to enliven that dreary winter by organizing plays which were performed in Faneuil Hall, ‘the cradle of liberty.’ One farce ‘The Blockade of Boston,’ in which Washington was caricatured, was said to be his own production. Washington remarked that it might turn out a tragedy. His words were justified when the British awoke one morning in March to find Dorchester Heights occupied by the enemy and their own position no longer tenable. On the seventeenth of March, 1776, the obnoxious British soldiers left Boston to the triumphant Americans, and with them went more than a thousand loyalists, including men, women, and children. Sabine says, ‘Of members of the Council, commissioners, officers of the [p. 50] customs and other officials, there were one hundred and two; of clergymen, eighteen; of merchants and other persons who resided in Boston, two hundred and thirteen; of farmers, mechanics and traders, three hundred and eighty-two.’ Most of these found new homes in Halifax; some few went to England or to colonies belonging to Great Britain, but all had to commence life anew, exiled from their native land, and many of them stripped of the greater part of their property.

The Americans now found time to formulate laws against the loyalists. Van Tyne says ‘In Massachusetts a very perfect piece of machinery was at once invented for weeding out the Tories. The selectmen of each town were to “warn a meeting” of the inhabitants. Some person firmly attached to the American cause was to be chosen by ballot. The person thus elected was charged with the duty of laying before the courts evidence to prove the inimical character of any inhabitant whom the freeholders charged with favoring the British cause. The Selectmen were to make a list of men who had shown Tory sympathies since the Battle of Lexington. Any one present at the meeting might suggest a name to the moderator or chairman. This name was added to the list if a majority of those present so voted. The completed list was given to two or more justices of the peace who issued warrants for the arrest of the proscribed persons.’ The first test law of Massachusetts, dated May I, 1776, was among the earliest passed by any of the colonies; it was general in its application, affecting all males over sixteen. It obliged people to swear that the war was just and necessary on the part of the colonies, that they would not aid the British in any way, but would use their best power and ability to defend the American colonies. The refusal to subscribe to this oath made the offender subject to trial by jury as an enemy to his country and if found guilty he could neither hold office nor vote. If he were a minister, schoolmaster, or a governor of Harvard college he was to lose his salary. [p. 51]

The second test law, January (?), 1778, affected persons suspected of being inimical (except mandamus councillors who had accepted office and all who since April 19, 1775, had joined the enemy or enlisted men for his service—these were not even allowed to take the oath.) Anyone under this law found guilty of refusing to subscribe the test oath was to be committed to jail (he to pay the costs) and sent to British territory within forty days. If he returned, he incurred the penalty of death. The other laws passed in 1778 affected specific classes, members of the General Assembly, civic and military officers, attorneys at law, so that virtually a loyalist lawyer was debarred from the practice of his profession.

Massachusetts passed one law restricting freedom of speech, February 4, 1777, under the title ‘A law for the punishment of crimes below the degree of treason and misprison of treason,’ which was directed especially against those who censured the Declaration of July 4, 1776. The penalty attached to such a crime was a fine not to exceed £ 50 nor to be less than 20s or confinement in jail.

April 9, 1777, there was passed ‘An Act to prevent the waste of the estates of loyalists leaving estate of £ 20 or more within the state.’ Under this Act the Judges of Probate were authorized to appoint agents for such estates, preference being given to the principal creditor provided he were not a relative. The agent was to take possession of the goods and estate of the absentee as if he were administrator of a deceased person's estate, to file an inventory and render accounts of his doings from time to time as ordered by the Judge of Probate. The wife of the absentee, if she remained, was entitled to have the use of one-third of the real estate.

An Act to prevent the return to the state of certain persons therein named was passed in 1778 and included the names of Isaac Royall and his son-in-law, Sir William Pepperell. Any one named in this Act having the temerity to return might be arrested and put into jail, [p. 52] transported to some province of Great Britain at his own expense if possible, otherwise at the expense of the state. If he persisted in returning after such banishment, death without benefit of clergy would be the punishment of his crime.

Two Acts to confiscate were passed April 30, 1779; one entitled ‘An Act to confiscate the estates of certain persons commonly called absentees;’ the other, ‘An Act to confiscate the estates of certain notorious conspirators against the government.’ All debts due before April 19, 1775, were to be paid; the wife or widow was to have the use of one-third of the personal estate and her dower in the real estate set off.

An Act passed in 1781 empowered commissioners for the different counties to make sale of the estates of absentees named in the two foregoing Acts. The commissioners for the County of Middlesex were James Prescott, Joseph Hosmer and Samuel Thacher, and by them were sold the estate of Joseph Thompson of Medford and certain estate in Medford, the property of one Charles Ward Apthorp of Boston (?).

The absentees of Medford were few in number; in fact, two only, Isaac Royall and Joseph Thompson, resided here. Both were descended from the early settlers; Isaac Royall from William Ryall who first settled at Salem, having a large grant of land called Ryall Side (a name still applied to a part of Beverly), and who early removed to Maine; Joseph Thompson, from James Thompson who came to Charlestown (1630) and who subsequently became one of the founders of Woburn. Daniel Thompson, the ‘martyr hero’ of Woburn who fell at the Battle of Lexington, and Benjamin Thompson, better known as Count Rumford, descended from the same stock.

Isaac Royall was born on the island of Antigua, 1719, and was the son of Isaac and Elizabeth Royall. It may be inferred from various items in the account of Jacob Royall, the executor of his father's will, that young Isaac, [p. 53] together with a brother William and his sister Penelope, were sent to New England to be educated. Jacob seems to have acted as his brother's agent until he came to Charlestown, even making the purchase of the Usher estate, of which the present Royall house and grounds is only a very small part. The intention of Isaac Royall, senior, seems to have been to found an estate that should descend in regular succession after the English fashion, and perpetuate the name of Royall for several generations; for after dividing his Antiguan property equally between his two remaining children, Isaac and Penelope, and bequeathing his estate in Maine and in Worcester County to Isaac, he wills his estate in Medford, Charlestown and Woburn, and also that in Bristol County to his brother, Jacob Royall, in trust for ‘my son Isaac’ for life, and afterwards to the sons of his son Isaac, in regular succession, and to their heirs, preference being given to the eldest. In default of male heirs of son Isaac at the time of the death of the testator the estate was to descend in tail to the daughters of Isaac. Failing heirs in the male line, the entailed estate was to be held in trust for Penelope on the same terms as for Isaac, with this proviso, that her husband ‘should change his Sirname and call himself by the name of Royall.’ Further provision was made for the succession of his brother Samuel's children and their heirs male. There is another clause in the will of Isaac Royall, senior, which has given rise to ingenious surmising as to the identity of his wife. He leaves certain property to ‘my daughter-in-law, Ann Oliver, the wife of Robert Oliver of Dorchester.’ Brooks (History of Medford) and Harris (New England Royalls) state that Isaac Royal married Elizabeth, daughter of Asaph Elliot of Boston, which is undoubtedly correct. Harris further states that this Elizabeth had been previously married to one Oliver by whom she had a male child (presumably Robert Oliver). But the Elizabeth Royall who came to Charlestown with her husband was the widow of James Brown of Antigua, [p. 54] and was married to Isaac Royall in Antigua, June 3, 1707. Her daughter by her former husband, Ann Brown, married (also in Antigua), February 3, 1721, Robert Oliver. This seems more reasonable than to suppose that a widow Oliver should have been married a second time under her maiden name of Elliot, for so the record stands. Brooks speaks of the suspicion that naturally fell upon our Isaac Royall on account of his affiliation with the Vassalls of Cambridge. Penelope Royall's husband was Henry Vassall of Cambridge, who died about 1769. His brother John, who built the Longfellow house, left several children, one of whom (John) married Elizabeth, the daughter of Ann and Robert Oliver; his sister, Elizabeth Vassall, married Ann Oliver's son Thomas, who was the last royal lieutenant-governor, and who suffered at the hands of a Cambridge mob because of his appointment as one of the mandamus councillors.

Isaac Royall of Medford was married in Kings Chapel, March 27, 1738, to Elizabeth Mackintosh, and lived on the estate left by his father in Charlestown (afterward a part of Medford). Here his children were born and brought up and here he delighted to entertain his friends after a right royal fashion. He was a good citizen, interested in all that concerned the town and colony, loved and respected by his fellow townsmen, and very liberal. In the parish records of the First Church of Medford maybe found the following: ‘1755, August 3. Received a Folio Bible of the Honble I. Royall & voted Thanks.’ Another gift was a large handled cup inscribed ‘The gift of the Hon. Isaac Royall, Esq., to the Church of Christ in Medford.’ This is the cup referred to in the Church records under date of October 9, 1781. ‘At a meeting of ye Brethren this Day information was given yt Isaac Royall late of this Town, Esq., an absentee had in a letter to his attorney dated Nov. 9, 1778, ordered yt a Silver Cup left among his Effects shd be presented to this Chh: but inasmuch as ye Effects of the sd Absentee had been sequestered by ye Commonwealth [p. 55] & ye sd Cup was now in ye Care of ye Agent for his Estate, ye Chh could not obtain it without leave from the Genl Court.’ October 26, 1781, on petition of David Osgood, pastor of the Church of Christ in Medford, it was resolved by the General Court that the agent of the estate of Isaac Royall be directed to deliver a certain silver cup to the Church of Medford. Absence did not lessen his interest in the town where he had lived so long, for in his will he bequeathes to the Church of Medford a piece of plate to the value of £ 10. This is noted in a list of plate belonging to the church November 1, 1793, as ‘a dish for the bread inscribed “The legacy of the Hon. Isaac Royal, Esq., to the Church of Christ in Medford, 1781.” ’

The children of Isaac Royal were Elizabeth, mentioned in her grandmother's will as one of her god-daughters, and who died young; Mary Mackintosh, the wife of George Erving of Boston (an absentee); a second Elizabeth, who became the wife of Sir William Pepperell, and who died on the voyage to England; Miriam, who married Thomas Savel and some of whose descendants still live in Medford. It seems singular that no mention is made of this last named daughter either in the will of Isaac Royall or in that of his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1770.

Isaac Royall left Medford April 16, 1775, as he states in his will, leaving his estate in the care of his friend, Dr. Simon Tufts. It was his intention to retire for a time to his estate in Antigua, but finding it impossible to obtain a passage thither, he went to Halifax and finally to England, where the remaining years of his life were spent; he regretted the necessity for his exile and was always looking forward to the time when he might return to his old home.

On the 23d of April, 1778, on petition of Simon Tufts, agent of Isaac Royall, it was resolved by the General Court that he be directed to deliver into the hands of the Committee of Correspondence of the Town of Medford all the estate of Isaac Royall, and the said Committee [p. 56] were directed to receive the same and to improve it in the most ‘prudent manner they can.’ Later however, in June, 1778, after the filing a certificate signed by the major part of the Selectmen of Medford (Stephen Hall tertius, Ebenezer Hall & Benjamin Hall), Simon Tufts was formally appointed agent of the estate by the Judge of Probate, he giving a bond for £ 1,000 for the faithful performance of his trust. In this bond it is stated that Isaac Royall has fled to our enemies for protection. The real estate, including the farm at Foxborough, was valued at £ 47,098, and the personal estate at £ 3,603-7-4; the rents of the real estate at the time of the inventory were valued at £ 434-4-8. The estate was rented or leased to different persons, and after the payment of necessary expenses, the balance of the receipts was turned over to the State Treasurer. One account allowed September 5, 1781, states that £ 35,082-5 was received by the sale of furniture, the chariot, etc., of which £ 28,351-17-4 was turned over to Treasurer Gardner. In a list of absentees on file in the Probate Office with the amounts handed over to the Treasurer from the rents of their estates while in the hands of agents, Isaac Royall's agent is credited with paying into the State Treasury £ 758-3-7 1/2, in hard money, or rather the heading reads ‘paid or ordered to be paid to the State Treasurer.’ A commission in insolvency was issued April 5, 1781, to Thomas Brooks, Aaron Hall and Moses Billings of Medford. Their report was filed, but ‘the creditors refuse to have their claims liquidated on account of fluctuations in the currency.’

Isaac Royall died of small pox in London, England, in 1781, and his will written on parchment was probated there so far as relates to the estate in Antigua, Sir William Pepperell being appointed executor. He had expressed a wish that his will should also be recorded in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, so it may be found in the records of the Probate Office in Boston. After leaving small legacies to different relatives, handsome [p. 57] enamelled mourning rings to friends (among others to Ebenezer Tirell (?) and David Osgood), he gives to the Town of Medford for the support of schools 100 acres of land in Granby formerly known by the name of South Hadley. All the remaining land in Granby (809 acres) and his right of land in the county of Worcester (928 acres) which he bought December 28, 1752, in company with the Hon. James Otis, John Chandler and Caleb Daney, he gives to the Overseers and Corporation of Harvard College to endow a professorship of laws or physics and anatomy, and they shall have full power to sell said lands and to put the money out at interest, the income whereof shall be for the aforesaid purpose. The simple professorship of laws led the way to the establishment of the Harvard Law School, so that our Cambridge University has much to thank Isaac Royall for.

A special bequest gives to Harriot Pepperell, a granddaughter, four pieces of land in Medford; namely: 3 acres forming part of the land leased to Gershom Williams, a wood lot 14 1/2 acres commonly called Turkey Swamp; two more wood lots under one inclosure 29 acres 26 rods on the hill commonly called Pine Hill. These lots were purchased by him after the death of his father.

The rest of the real estate in Medford, the house and land in Walpole, he leaves in trust to Dr. Simon Tufts, Jacob Royall and Thomas Palmer as an entailed estate to be held in trust for Mary McIntosh Royall during her life, then to go to her first son and his issue, then to her other sons in succession and, failing sons, to her daughters. Failing heirs in this line, then to his grandson William Pepperell for life, and then to his heirs. Further provision is made that the estate shall descend in the following order; to Elizabeth Royall Pepperell and her heirs; Penelope Vassall, and, after her, to her daughter Elizabeth; then to William Royall, Jacob Royall, and Elia Royall. The estate was not to descend to the heirs of the last three named. This entailed estate was to be [p. 58] called Royall Ville. Failing heirs, one half the income was to be expended to found a hospital in Medford or Charlestown; the other half for the support of a professor of laws at Harvard College.

The estate was never sold by the government, so that after the passage of a law for the barring of entails, the heirs were enabled to sell the entailed estate. A deed on record in the Middlesex South District Registry of Deeds shows that James Sullivan and Christopher Gore as representing the heirs sold to one Robert Fletcher the entailed estate of Isaac Royall for the purchase money according to a Decree of the Court of Chancery (England). This included the Royall Farm and a lot of land north of the Great Brickyard (520 acres), and a pew in the Parish Church, all in Medford, also the estate in Foxborough known as the Royall Foxborough Farm (500 acres.) Later it was disposed of to different individuals, a part being sold for the old Middlesex Canal.

Joseph Thompson was the son of Joseph and Sarah Thompson, who were located in Medford at least as early as 1722, coming here from Woburn, and who were admitted to full communion with the church of Medford in 1728. They lie buried side by side in the little burial ground on Salem street. Joseph, the subject of this sketch, was born May 16, 1734, and his baptism is recorded May 19, 1734. He was married in Boston, June 26, 1759, to Rebecea Gallup, whom Isaac Royal refers to in his will as a kinswoman of his wife, leaving her £ 3 to buy a mourning ring or to expend in some other way if more agreeable to her. As the eldest son a double portion was assigned to him out of his father's estate after the widow's dower was set off (1758). He added to this by the purchase from time to time of small estates, the records of his real estate transactions in the Registry of Deeds at East Cambridge extending from 1759 to 1774, and his occupation is given therein as merchant. He had several sisters who married and settled in Medford: Sarah, the wife of Jonathan Tufts; Mary, of Samuel [p. 59] Kidder; Frances, of Joseph Calef; Ruth, of Benjamin Floyd; Susannah, of Ebenezer Brooks; and one brother, William, who died unmarried. At the settlement of the dower estate, Joseph and two sisters, Ruth Floyd and Susannah Brooks, were the only surviving children, and that part of the estate, after setting aside two shares for the heirs of Joseph, now an absentee, was assigned to Samuel Kidder, a grandson.

Sabine states that in June, 1775, news reached the Provincial Congress that the Irvings of Boston had fitted out under color of chartering to Thompson, a schooner of their own, to make a voyage to New Providence to procure provision for the British troops shut up in Boston. One Captain Samuel Webb was sent to Salem and Marblehead to secure Thompson and prevent the vessel from making the voyage. Thompson, however, made good his escape.

March 1, 1779, his estate was put into the hands of Richard Hall of Medford as agent. No inventory was filed, but on April 6, 1780, an account was allowed, the balance of which, £ 446-2, was assigned to his wife, Rebecca Thompson, for her support. On June 3, 1780, on the petition of Rebecca Thompson asking that she be granted leave to rejoin her husband in England on the first convenient opportunity, and also to return again to this state, the General Court decreed that the said petition be so far granted as to allow her to go, but she might not return without leave being first obtained of the General Court, and the Committee of Inspection for Medford was directed to see that she carried no letters nor papers that might be detrimental to this or any of the United States of America.

Joseph Thompson's real estate was sold in 1782 and 1783 by the committee appointed to dispose of the estates of absentees. The deeds all begin with the following preamble, ‘Commonwealth of Massachusetts. To all People to whom these Presents shall come: Greeting-Whereas in and by an Act of the great and general [p. 60] Court passed and enacted on the thirtieth day of April in the Year of our Lord One Thousand seven hundred & seventy nine the Estate of the Persons therein mentioned for the Reasons in the same Act set forth are declared to be forfeited & ordered to be confiscated to the use of the Government, And Whereas by another Act of the same Court passed in the same Year the Estates of all Persons guilty of the Crimes therein mentioned & described are made confiscable in manner as by the same Act is provided. And by another Act passed in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & eighty one empowering us James Prescott Joseph Hosmer and Samuel Thatcher Esqrs to make sale of certain Estates situate in the County of Middlesex aforesaid confiscated as aforesaid to the Use of the Government. And there being a due & legal Confiscation of the Estate of Joseph Thompson Merchant situate in Medford in the County aforesaid;’ then follows the description of the land as in an ordinary deed. In this way 6 acres of salt marsh bordering on Medford river were sold at public vendue to Ebenezer Hall, Jr., for £ 70; a dwelling house and yard bounded south on the great road to Thomas Patten for £ 295; 1 1/2 rods of land (part of the dower estate of his mother) with 3-16 of the dwelling house 1/4 of an acre of mowing land, 20 rods of plow land to Samuel Kidder for £ 24-15; a pew in the meeting-house to Susanna Brooks, widow, for £ 10; 8 acres of land bounded south on the great road and west on Proprietor's Way, and situated near the Hay Market to Jonathan Foster for £ 252-10; and about 10 poles of land with a joiner's shop thereon bounded north on the road to Malden to Ebenezer Hall for £ 40-5; making a total of £ 692-5.

The Committee of Correspondence of Medford rendered two accounts into the Probate Office of their care of the estates in their charge. In the account filed May 3, 1779, Thompson's house, shop, 8 acres of upland and his pew in the church; Clewly's pasture and mowing [p. 61] land; Pepperell's house and his pew in the church are mentioned. Their account allowed April 6, 1780, accounts for the rent of Sir William Pepperell's house and pew, and about 14 acres of pasture and 14 acres of mowing land belonging to the estate of Isaac Clewly.

Brooks states that the Committee of Correspondence had under its care the estate of one Clewly who was a resident of Halifax and whose agent was Ichabod Jones. In that case the estate referred to in the accounts of the committee was that of John Clewly of Halifax, a carpenter, who held a mortgage on the estate of Francis Whitmore, a resident of Medford at the time the deed was given. His estate in Middlesex County was not sold by the state, but it was settled in 795 by his administrator, John C. Jones; his real estate, which consisted of about 22 acres in Medford and 6 1/4 acres in Weston, was sold by his administrator, and after the payment of debts, the balance was ordered to be paid to his surviving brother and sister, Isaac Clewly and Bathsheba Wetherbee, and to the children of his deceased sister, Anna Jones.

Sir William Pepperell was the grandson of the first Sir William Pepperell of Kittery, Me., and the son of Elizabeth (Pepperell) and Nathaniel Sparhawk of Kittery, and was named William Pepperell Sparhawk. In accordance with the terms of his grandfather's will, on his coming of age he procured an act of legislature to drop the name of Sparhawk and call himself William Pepperell, and later he was allowed to take his grandfather's title also. He was proscribed and banished and his estate confiscated. He went to England in 1775, and his wife, Elizabeth, a daughter of Isaac Royall, died on the passage. He died in England, 1816, and with him the baronetcy became extinct.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Isaac Royall (24)
William Pepperell (9)
Robert Oliver (6)
Joseph Thompson (5)
Jacob Royall (5)
Simon Tufts (4)
Sarah Thompson (4)
Samuel Kidder (3)
Rebecca Thompson (2)
William Pepperell Sparhawk (2)
Penelope (2)
Ann Oliver (2)
Elizabeth Harris (2)
Asaph Elliot (2)
Helen Elizabeth (2)
Isaac Clewly (2)
Susanna Brooks (2)
Caleb Brooks (2)
Gershom Williams (1)
Francis Whitmore (1)
Bathsheba Wetherbee (1)
Samuel Webb (1)
George Washington (1)
Penelope Vassall (1)
Henry Vassall (1)
Elizabeth Vassall (1)
Tyne (1)
Jonathan Tufts (1)
Ebenezer Tirell (1)
Daniel Thompson (1)
Benjamin Thompson (1)
Frederick D. H. Thomas (1)
Samuel Thacher (1)
James Sullivan (1)
Nathaniel Sparhawk (1)
Thomas Savel (1)
Grace L. Sargent (1)
William Ryall (1)
Ruth (1)
Rumford (1)
Royalls (1)
William Royall (1)
PENELOPE Royall (1)
Mary McIntosh Royall (1)
Elizabeth Royall (1)
Elia Royall (1)
Isaac Royal (1)
James Prescott (1)
Harriot Pepperell (1)
Elizabeth Royall Pepperell (1)
Thomas Patten (1)
Thomas Palmer (1)
James Otis (1)
Miriam (1)
Mary Mackintosh (1)
Elizabeth Mackintosh (1)
John C. Jones (1)
Ichabod Jones (1)
Anna Jones (1)
Joseph Hosmer (1)
James Prescott Joseph Hosmer (1)
Christopher Gore (1)
Thomas Gardner (1)
Rebecea Gallup (1)
Jonathan Foster (1)
Ruth Floyd (1)
Benjamin Floyd (1)
Robert Fletcher (1)
Samuel Thatcher Esqrs (1)
George Erving (1)
Caleb Daney (1)
John Clewly (1)
John Chandler (1)
Joseph Calef (1)
James Brown (1)
Ann Brown (1)
Susannah Brooks (1)
Moses Billings (1)
Charles Ward Apthorp (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: