Those who keep up with our many events may have seen myself, along with Executive Director Erica McAvoy and Board Member Paul O’Shaughnessy, at the recent reenactment of British troops landing in Boston in 1768. This event was put on by Revolution250, a consortium of museums and other organizations who are planning Sestercentennial (that’s 250 years!) reenactments and events relating to the American Revolution in Massachusetts. The group organizers have also been sharing tidbits about other Revolutionary events to keep the interest going.
A couple of days ago, Rev250 posted on their Facebook page that it was the anniversary of Levi Ames’s hanging. That was a name I did not expect to see, and one with a Lexington connection at that!
Ames was a rather infamous cat burglar in the 1760s and 70s. Only a teenager, he was able to not only sneak into people’s homes undetected, but after being caught and released, his reputation was apparently so great that people were hiring him to rob their relatives and enemies. It wasn’t until May 22nd of 1773 that Ames made it to Lexington. He went straight for homes with money, starting with Reverend Jonas Clarke. While the family was asleep, recovering from a measles outbreak, Ames broke into the home and stole Lucy Clarke’s wedding silver, including a tankard, pepper box, and sugar tongs. The spree continued over the next few months, until the burglar was caught in August with stolen goods belonging to a man named Martin Bicker.
The first time he was caught, Ames was charged with simple theft and branded. This time he wasn’t so lucky. Justice Peter Oliver charged him with the capital crime of burglary and sentenced him to hang. Ames was only 21 years old.
After hearing of the sentencing, Reverend Clarke travelled to Boston to convince Ames to repent before his execution. We now know Clarke as a dynamic public speaker, but this was one of his greatest achievements – not only did he convince Ames to confess to stealing the family silver, but Ames also revealed where it was hidden, and Clarke happily returned home with his stolen goods that same day.
The execution took place on October 20th, which Clarke recorded briefly in his diary (“Levi Ames executed!”). Perhaps he also purchased a copy of one of the broadsides printed for the occasion, purporting to tell of Ames’s poetic last words eschewing all evil and preaching to the crowd to avoid his terrible fate.
Two of these broadsides are currently held in the Library of Congress, one titled “The Dying Groans of Levi Ames”, and the other, “An Address to the Inhabitants of Boston (Particularly the Thoughtless Youth)." (More on these items). Whether or not Clarke shared either of these to his children to scare them straight is sadly lost to history.
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Lexington Historical Society has a long history of partnering with other organizations in town, and I’m thrilled to announce that we will be working with New Legacy Culture Center in a new partnership this fall.
The New Legacy Cultural Center is a new organization focused on education and culture. It offers classes to people of all ages in Lexington such as Chinese brush painting, meditation, yoga, English language, and Chinese language. While many of the classes are centered around aspects of Chinese culture, the goal of New Legacy Cultural Center is to offer learning experiences to people in the community of all cultures. The classes take place on Saturdays at Lexington High School.
Ting Fang, one of the organization’s volunteers, met with me and Chris Kauffman, our Manager of Education and Interpretation, to see if Lexington Historical Society would have something to offer that might fit in with their mission. Since we’re all about learning here, we were very excited!
We’ve decided to offer a “Colonial Kids” program, similar to the Colonial Kids at the Depot. Each session will cover a historical topic designed in a way to help children grasp the concepts through a hands-on approach. Kids will learn about Lexington in the colonial era, and how life then compares to life today. The program will begin on Saturday, October 20 and will meet every Saturday for eight weeks (except November 24) from 1pm to 2pm.
Members of Lexington Historical Society get a discount on registration, and will pay just $80 for this program (email firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount code). The cost is $130 for non-members. Visit the New Legacy Cultural Center website to register.
We are thrilled to be working with the New Legacy Cultural Center, and look forward to discovering new partnership possibilities to bring history to the community!
-Erica McAvoy, Executive Director
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.