Lexington -- Outside Munroe Tavern, residents were encouraged to drink coffee and hot chocolate to keep warm, but absolutely no tea, as Lexingtonians celebrated one of the first known instances of Colonial rebellion.
Almost 200 people, some in Colonial garb, gathered for the Lexington Historical Society’s reenactment of the “Burning of the Tea” on Saturday, Dec. 15. More than 10 pounds of loose tea leaves (provided by Peet’s Coffee and Tea) were burned as a tribute to what some believe was America’s first tea-based protest.
The reenactment recalls the events of Dec. 13, 1773 — three days before the Boston Tea Party — when Lexington residents gathered to pass a resolution written by the Rev. Jonas Clarke that would essentially ban all British tea in town. A few days prior, patriots blocked Boston Harbor to prevent East India Company ships from docking, in an attempt to break up their monopoly imposed by British Parliament.
The Rev. Peter Meek portrayed Clarke, reading the fiery resolution in front of a bonfire built by Boy Scout troops 119, 160 and 10. As he read, members of the crowd showed their support with shouts of “huzzah!” and “indubitably!”
“That we will not be concerned in landing, receiving, buying or selling, any of the teas sent out by the East India Company for the purpose of raising a revenue in America,” Meek read.
After Meek finished, all members of the crowd were invited to grab a handful of loose tea and throw it triumphantly into the fire as a way to protest “overbearing British rule.”
Elaine Doran, the archivist and curator for the Lexington Historical Society, said the event was a great way to build a sense of community as it brought people together around local history.
“Most people didn’t know there were other tea burnings prior to the one in Boston, so this is a great way to educate residents,” Doran said.
Doran said the Historical Society is hoping to make the Burning of the Tea reenactment an annual December tradition. There are no other reenactments in the winter, and unlike the battle reenactments, the Burning of the Tea allows for more active participation by women and children.
Ahead of the curve
Writer and filmmaker Rick Beyer first became interested in the Burning of the Tea while doing research for his film “First Shot: The Day the Revolution Began,” which was released in 2009 as an orientation film for the Historical Society. Beyer said wanted to know more about the events leading up to the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the answer to the question: “Why did all this happen in Lexington?”
As he was doing his research, members of the Historical Society stumbled upon an article written by Anita Worthen in the 1970s about the Burning of the Tea — a largely forgotten event in Lexington history.
“It’s a cool story,” Beyer said. “There were a lot of places in the colonies that did tea protest. The Boston Tea Party had one of the most notable ones, but there were other situations where they impounded tea or burned tea.”
“I don’t know of any that happened before Lexington,” he said. “I think we were the first and that’s pretty interesting to me. This town is just ahead of the curve.”
Beyer said he doesn’t know if Lexington’s tea protest directly influenced the Boston Tea Party, but he believes it acted as reinforcement to those who had already planned to dump the tea in Boston Harbor.
Beyer and his crew did their own private tea burning for “First Shot,” but last Saturday’s reenactment was the first time the public was invited.
A step toward revolution
Beyer said one of the most interesting things about the Burning of the Tea was the inspirational language of Clarke’s resolution. According to Beyer, it is believed Clarke wrote most of the town’s resolutions leading up to the American Revolution.
Although it isn’t known exactly when the tea burning took place, Beyer said it makes the most sense that people were so inspired by Clarke’s words, they immediately grabbed all the British tea in town and burned it on the spot.
Beyer said Clarke’s resolution is one of the first instances of colonists thinking about a separate identity from the British motherland. His wife, Marilyn Rea-Beyer, pointed out the language refers to the colonies as a country, years before the start of the Revolutionary War.
The passage reads: “… If any Head of a Family in this Town, or any Person shall purchase or consume any Tea, such person shall be looked upon as an Enemy to this Town, & to this Country, and shall by this Town be treated with Neglect & Contempt.”
“What country?” Beyer said. “There was no country. But the language indicates people in Lexington wanting to build an identity as a country with its own needs. And this was before the Battle of Lexington and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”
“Unless you know some of the history, it can be very hard to know what it’s about.”
Taraz said music around the time of the Revolutionary War was “like propaganda.”
“We have songs that the British soldiers sung and we have songs the Colonials liked to sing,” she said in between demonstrations on Tuesday.
Taraz said she is particularly interested in songs about Colonial women. She has found many songs about “camp following,” an old term referring to soldiers’ wives and families following them from place to place, or “camp to camp.”
Taraz said women often went to the battlefield with their husbands, even joining the fight if their spouse was injured.
Another song Taraz referred to is about the boycott against imported goods from England.
“One song’s lyrics said, ‘Grace your smooth locks with a twined string,’” she said. “They were always about fashion.”
Researching the role
Taraz said part of the fun of what she does is dressing up in period clothing. She is constantly researching and looking for paintings and pictures of Colonists in Lexington to learn more about what they wore.
“Nowadays women’s clothing is so fussed over, but back then the men’s clothing was so elaborate,” she said, describing men’s clothing detailed with lace and intricate hats.
Taraz also does research to add more songs to her repertoire. She tries to use primary sources but says they are difficult to come by.
“History is like a game of telephone,” she said.
Taraz mostly uses musical magazines and publications from the time that were printed with the sole purpose of preserving the music. According to Taraz, because printing was so expensive, most of the music was never made into sheet music.
“The folk songs were passed down just by being sung,” she said.
A direct connection
Lisa and Bob Byerts of York, Penn. visited the Living History Center during a weeklong trip to Boston. Lisa Byerts said she and her husband belong to their local historical society and wanted to see what Lexington had to offer.
“We’re interested in anything historical,” said Byerts, who lives just 30 minutes from Gettysburg.
Taraz believes the Living History Center helps visitors like the Byertses understand what life was like for Colonists and makes them seem more real.
“I think it really helps the people from back then come to life,” she said. “When you sing a song that they sang and you hear their words and melodies, it’s a direct connection.”
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in 2010, but his love of his hometown lives on in the new book “Lexington Through the Years,’’ edited by 18-year-old S. Levi “Sam’’ Doran.
Doran, a high school senior who painstakingly assembled the collection, said it bothered him when Whipple dismissed references to himself as a “scholarly’’ historian, insisting that only those with published books to their name deserve such a title. With this bound volume spanning the first 300 years of town history, Doran believes Whipple should now be indisputably viewed as an accomplished scholar who gave “due focus to preservation of the past, documentation of the present, and planning for the future.’’
Susan Bennett, executive director of the Lexington Historical Society, acknowledges that many young people have a passion for history. What distinguishes Doran, she said, is the intensity and depth of his interest and knowledge, as well as his exceptional maturity in celebrating the life's work of his mentor.
“Sam really pulled this book together from A to Z, and every step of the way proved himself to be the equal of any adult,’’ she said, noting that she insisted over Sam's repeated objections that his name accompany Whipple's on the front cover.
The book's 39 essays, which date back to 1971, are written in the news style that Whipple perfected while working as an editor for WBZ NewsRadio during World War II. His work cites books and manuscripts, and also quotes from oral histories that Whipple recorded from dozens of elderly residents so their stories would not be lost to the ages.
Eight of the vintage photographs were taken by Whipple, including the cover shot of one of the town's last passenger trains pulling away from the East Lexington Depot.
Topics include early female aviator Peggy Kimball, holiday celebrations, the Colonial Pharmacy, tributes to citizens such as former Lexington Minuteman publisher Alan G. Adams, the eventual replacement of the railroad with the Minuteman Bikeway, and perhaps Whipple's greatest personal interest: the history of ice cream in town.
“Larry had quite a sweet tooth,’’ Doran recalled.
Jim Shaw, publisher of the Lexington-based Colonial Times, said Doran similarly demonstrated expertise and communication skills beyond his years while writing pro bono for the newspaper from ages 14 to 16. Shaw, who is also vice president of the Rotary Club of Lexington, arranged for Doran to be the featured speaker at the first-ever joint meeting of the Lexington and Concord rotary clubs April 9.
“There was no second choice,’’ Shaw said. “He is an extraordinary young man who has a gift for sharing the wealth of knowledge he has accumulated in his young life. Everybody wants to hear from Sam.’’
Colonial Times managing editor Laurie Atwater said she is pleased the newspaper provided an early platform through which Doran could showcase his considerable talents. His most popular series was a “then and now’’ column featuring photos illustrating changes at various sites in town. Determined to recapture the exact angle of one particular historic aerial view, he sought permission to gain access to the roof of the Lexington Savings Bank building in order to gain the perfect perspective.
“That's Sam. The kid doesn't miss a detail or a deadline,’’ said Atwater, recalling how Doran’s father, Guy, would sit in his car in the driveway of her home for an hour or two at a time while she and Sam combed through his “meticulously prepared’’ manuscripts.
“That was part of having Sam as a son,’’ said Guy Doran. “His interest was different than most kids.’’ He said he has long searched for old books and antiques rather than the latest electronics as presents for his son.
“The only credit Elaine [Sam’s mom] and I can take is doing our best to make opportunities available to him.’’
Sam was raised in an environment that nurtured respect for history.
In 1893, Sam's great-great-grandfather, Levi Doran, established a farming and greenhouse business that remained in the family (most recently as Doran's Greenhouses) through 2006.
His parents, who are lifetime members of the Lexington Historical Society, got him his very own lifetime membership when he was 3 or 4 years old. The family even lives in a historic home, built in 1786 by Lexington Minuteman Isaac Blodgett.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Doran says he has been interested in Lexington's storied past “for as long as I can remember.’’
Whipple was a similarly familiar presence in his life, a family friend who regularly had dinner and celebrated birthdays and holidays at their home.According to Elaine Doran, Whipple and her son’s shared love of Lexington bridged the generation gap. The owner of a framing business, Whipple was widely considered the town historian and was frequently sought by real estate developers for property history and advice on historically appropriate street names.
A 56-year member of the Lexington Historical Society, Whipple was also head of the Battle Green tour guides, active in gravestone preservation at the town's Old Burying Ground, and an accomplished photographer, watercolorist, tennis player, and cook who was known for his homemade blueberry muffins and meatloaf from his mother’s recipe.
Elaine Doran, who is collections manager at the Lexington Historical Society, said Whipple was pleased that her son loved local history as much as he did. She first recognized this passion in Sam when, at 5 years old, he excitedly showed her the museum he had fashioned in the family’s barn with horseshoes, pieces of china, and other carefully labeled relics dug up from the yard.
Sam Doran began visiting Lexington Historical Society buildings at a very young age. By seventh grade, he was volunteering as an archives assistant.
“I'd come home from work and mention that someone was looking for a photograph I've never seen and isn’t in the database, and Sam would tell me exactly where to find it,’’ Elaine Doran said. “And believe me, you name it, it's down there. It amazes me what he remembers.’’
Although Sam Doran said he thought for years that Whipple’s essays would make a great book, he began working on the project in earnest when he received a grant from the Dan H. Fenn/Lexington Minute Men Award in April 2010. That summer, Doran worked as a tour guide in the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington in the mornings before descending into the building's basement in the afternoons to research the Lexington Historical Society archives for Whipple's essays.
Doran said he is privileged to now own Whipple's favorite 1940s Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter, on which Doran typed the preface so that every page of the book would have originally been typewritten.
While joking that he is “just waiting for some other essay to pop up that I didn't know about,’’ he believes Whipple would be pleased by the book, which he hopes will interest readers of all ages.
This past school year, Doran was captain of the cross-country team, a member of the Lexington Minute Men Company, and yearbook editor at Lexington Christian Academy, from which he will graduate on June 9.
While he is still debating his future college and major, he will gain valuable experience as an intern for state Representative Jay Kaufman this summer.
Kaufman said he intends to expose Doran to a wide range of opportunities. “It's a little unusual for a high school student to have an internship of this sort, but it's a little unusual for a high school student to be as focused and self-energized as Sam,’’ Kaufman said. “I'm expecting great things of him.’’
© 2012 NY Times Co.
Lexington —For more than a century, the Lexington Historical Society has been the steward and self-proclaimed protector of Lexington’s rich history. Now the organization is taking time to celebrate its own history with a 125th birthday party on Friday, July 29, at the Lexington Depot Building.
Thanks largely to the efforts of the Society and its many dedicated volunteers, Lexington has become synonymous with American history, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“The centennial of the Battle of Lexington was in 1875 and the town had a big
“[Munroe Tavern] has been a really wonderful project and a very cooperative community effort,” Bennett said.
The house museum reopened to the public last month after an extensive restoration that included rebranding the Munroe Tavern with the new subhead: “Museum of the British Redcoats and Munroe Family Home.” A grand reopening celebration is planned for September.
A changing role
But the role of the Society is changing. Its current mission not only requires it to take on local preservation tasks but also to serve as an educational institution as well as to provide programming for the community.
“The original mission was to really focus on the commemoration of the Battle at Lexington and the early days of the revolution, as well as the three houses that we oversee [Buckman Tavern, the Munroe Tavern and the Hancock-Clarke House],” Bennett said.
But now, the Society is also instrumental to the tourist culture.
“We have strong visitation to our houses. We feel we are very much a part of not only the tourism, but the economic life of the community,” Bennett said.
The Society is continually adding to a wealth of educational materials.
In 2009, Society member and documentary filmmaker Rick Beyer wrote, directed and produced the orientation film, “First Shot! The Day the Revolution Began,” which welcomes every tour group that visits the Hancock-Clarke House.
This year, Beyer worked with fellow Society members to complete “First Shot,” a new illustrated guidebook to historic Lexington — the fourth guidebook published by the Society since 1890.
Along with the reopening of Munroe Tavern, the Society has several events and programs planned. Fundraisers include a springtime auction and a progressive dinner in January, as well as a veritable cornucopia of events during the annual Patriots’ Day commemoration.
Ross said the Society offers a great variety of programs, which sometimes attract standing room-only crowds.
“Some people think the Historical Society [is] fussy and dated and historical,” Ross said. “But our organization is alive and vibrant.”
Samantha Allen can be reached at 781-674-7722 or email@example.com.
From the Lexington Minuteman
'First Shot’ premieres at the Flick
By Jenny Marz/Special to the Minuteman
Wed Jun 17, 2009, 06:53 PM EDT
Lexington - More than 200 people filled the Lexington Flick on Saturday night for the premiere showing of “First Shot: The Day the Revolution Began.”
The sold-out event marked the culmination of the long journey that filmmaker Rick Beyer and the Lexington Historical Society began two years ago when they decided to make an orientation film for visitors touring historic Lexington.
Beyer’s filmmaking experience and passion for history, especially the first 24 hours of the Revolution, made him the best candidate to write, produce and direct the film, said Susan Bennett, executive director of the Lexington Historical Society.
“Rick is a creative filmmaker, a wonderful historical interpreter, and he knows Lexington’s story inside and out,” she said.
Lexington is well-known for its Revolutionary history, but the film aimed to tell the back-story of the town, and the events that led to the first shot fired on the Battle Green.
“Lexington did not spring into existence on the night of April 18, 1775,” Beyer said. “It actually was here before Paul Revere arrived. So we wanted to answer the questions: Why did these people become revolutionaries? How did that happen? Why Lexington?”
Shining new light on life before Revolution
By Bob Clark
Globe Correspondent / October 7, 2010© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.
Stored and forgotten for decades, artifacts from the site of Lexington’s historic Hancock-Clarke House will soon offer a rare glimpse into family life in the early 18th century.
“It’s a really outstanding collection,’’ said Christa Beranek, a research archeologist who is helping to organize a display of the items for three successive Sundays starting Oct. 17 at Lexington’s Buckman Tavern. “I have not seen another like it from rural Massachusetts in this period.’’
Beranek leads a team from the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at University of Massachusetts Boston that has been cataloging the items and studying their significance. “I’ve always been interested in people’s stuff,’’ she said.
Picture Caption: Lexington Historical Society member Elaine Doran works on the show of rediscovered Hancock-Clarke House artifacts to open Oct. 17 at Buckman Tavern. (Evan Mcglinn for The Boston Globe)
And quite a lot of stuff there is — including ceramics, glassware, metal tools, buttons, buckles, and other items dating from about 1690 to 1740. They offer a window into everyday life in Lexington before the Revolutionary War.
The house, built in 1737, served as the parsonage for the Rev. John Hancock and his wife, Elizabeth. Their grandson John, whose famous signature has a prominent place on the Declaration of Independence, lived in the house for several years after the death of his father in the 1740s.
The Lexington Historical Society bought the house in 1896 with the proviso that it be moved across the street to preserve it. Then in the 1960s, the society acquired the original land and moved the house back.
But first, it arranged for a dig led by archaeologist Roland Robbins, who had help from many community volunteers. Some 40 boxes of artifacts were collected, stored, and forgotten.
Fast-forward to 2007, when the society was getting ready to do an extensive restoration of the Hancock-Clarke House.
Susan Bennett, the society’s executive director, “asked me to find the collection’’ of artifacts from the house, recalled Elaine Doran, its collections manager. “I couldn’t come up with it.’’
But Doran found a newspaper article from the 1960s showing people working with the artifacts in the basement of the town’s visitors center. Based on the clue, Doran starting poking around in the dusty space, and pushed open a closet door that had been swollen shut.
“There was this sort of ‘Eureka!’ moment when she opened the closet door and there they were,’’ Bennett said.
“I was so excited,’’ Doran said.
The Fiske Center was contacted, and its team began to study the findings.
Beranek said she believes the artifacts date from when the elder Hancock and his family — his wife, three sons, and two daughters — lived in a smaller, earlier home on the site. They show that the Hancocks lived quite well for their time.
“For a rural collection it includes lots of imported ceramics and other things that no one else in Lexington probably had around then,’’ Beranek said.
But at the same time, she said, “It was a working, farming household.’’ They had to produce a fair amount of their own food and things to sell, such as butter.
In 1728, Doran said, the town allocated money so that Hancock could buy a “servant’’ — actually a slave — named Jack. Little is known about Jack, but records show there were 20 slaves in the town as of 1735. Slavery was not abolished in Massachusetts until 1783.
The artifacts exhibition is scheduled for three Sundays, Oct. 17, 24, and 31, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Buckman Tavern, coinciding with Massachusetts Archaeology Month.
There will be additional viewing hours in the new year, Bennett said.
Doran hopes the display will provide a new appreciation of Lexington’s past. “A lot of people who live here who haven’t lived here for a long time don’t realize what the community was all about,’’ she said. “It was one of the places to live back then.’’
The Hancock-Clarke House also played a role in the American Revolution, when it was owned by Hancock’s successor as the town’s minister, the Rev. Jonas Clarke.
The younger John Hancock and Samuel Adams were Clarke’s guests on the night of April 18, 1775, when Paul Revere and William Dawes both stopped on their separate rides to Concord to warn them that the British were coming.
© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.