DAR - Colonel Timothy Bigelow's history


Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter DAR

Worcester, Massachusetts

  History of Our Namesake Patriot

  Colonel Timothy Bigelow

Chapter Wreath Laying Ceremony, 2009

Author Ray Raphael was a guest speaker at the wreath laying ceremony at the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Monument on the Worcester Common. 
In his new book, Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation, Mr. Raphael examines seven lead characters.  
One of the characters is "Timothy Bigelow, a small-town blacksmith, who helped engineer the first overthrow of British authority in 1774."

Author Ray Raphael



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Massachusetts Militia Drill Re-enactment

Colonel Timothy Bigelow

      The first record of Timothy Bigelow's lineage the first recorded marriage in Watertown (Cambridge area), of John (Biglo) Bigelow and Mary Warren in 1642. There is also a Watertown record of John setting up his smithy's forge in 1651. He was made a freeman (full rights as a citizen) in 1690. 

     Timothy Bigelow was born to a successful farming family in the Pakachoag Hill area of Worcester (now Auburn) on August 12, 1739. He was the fifth son of  Daniel and Elizabeth (Whitney) Bigelow. Two of his brothers, Nathaniel and Elijah, died before he was old enough to know them. Timothy chose at an early age to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, John, a successful blacksmith in Watertown. Timothy apprenticed as a blacksmith and was also successful in the smithy trade and as an innkeeper. Timothy was self educated and from his love of the printed word, grew a personal library of famous literary works. He also started "The Learned Blacksmiths" in Worcester.

      He became an eloquent speaker and was known throughout the area for his superior ability at debating. He was described as a man with a dynamic mind and generous warm heart. He was six feet two inches tall and had an admirable personal appearance that displayed a military bearing. The following is an anecdote told by the Rev. Andrew Bigelow about a conversation with an aged parishioner who saw Major Bigelow on his way to Cambridge, " Standing outside the tavern, many people coming and going, I spied a couple of officers walking up. One of them was a tall man, stepping very handsome; had a firm, quick gait, and no swagger. He was speaking to the other quite earnestly, and looked, somehow, serious.  He was a six-footer, and something more; carried himself straight; was broad-chested, not spare. I remember he was rather dark complected, but with a good brown color on his cheeks; his hair a jet-black, very full, and clubbed behind ( gathered in a pony tail ). I watched his eyes : they were very bright; blackish, or thereabouts; saw them plain, as he passed by and went into the house. When they had got in, I asked a countryman, standing by, who that tall officer was. He said, 'Major Bigelow: Major Bigelow of Worcester.'"

Timothy Bigelow expressed his anti-British sentiment early, both in his public speaking and in writing. With over a hundred years of American struggle under British rule in his family, he advocated the need for the formation of home rule. He fell in love with Anna Andrews, the young daughter of  Samuel and Anna (Rankin) Andrews. Her family in New Hampshire did not approve of 15 year old Anna associating with 23 year old Timothy, because he was not of equal financial standing. Anna was an orphan and heir of the tannery fortune Samuel Andrews had built. They continued to meet secretly in Worcester. Anna and Timothy eloped on July 7th, 1762. They produced six children: Nancy born 1765; Timothy born 1767; Andrew born 1769; Rufus born 1772;   Lucy born 1774; and Clarissa born 1781. The deep love of his wife and children could not subdue his strong feelings of patriotism.


      Timothy was an elected member of  the colonists' grievance committee, the "Committee of Correspondence." The open conflict between the colonies and England and lack of organization inspired Timothy to organize the "Political Society" in December of 1773. Their meetings were held in the Bigelow home. They arranged to form an agreement with each citizen of Worcester to provide arms and ammunition, an act of treason at that time Timothy Bigelow was unanimously chosen to command the group of minutemen.. The work of the political society broke the powerful control of the Tory party in Worcester. Every evening, their free time was spent in militia training and drills. In 1774, they went on to join the "Sons of Liberty." In March of 1775,  the Minutemen were ordered to train half a day a week. They were each paid half a shilling for their time. Capt. Timothy Bigelow's company had been training every day for months and already displayed prodigious military precision. Post express rider, Israel Bissell, rode from Boston to Philadelphia to deliver the message of war from General Palmer. On the morning of April 19th, he passed through Worcester calling " To Arms! To Arms! The war has begun!"  Within a short time, the minutemen were marching in Lincoln Square. 

Recorded in the regiment of Colonel Artemas Ward, Esq., for that day were the following men:

Captain Timothy Bigelow

Lieutenant Jonas Hubbard and Lieutenant John Smith

Sergeant William Gates, Sergeant Nathaniel Harrington, Sergeant John Kannaday, and  Sergeant William Dans

 Corporal John Pierce, Corporal Cyprian Stevens, Corporal Joel Smith, and Corporal Nathaniel Heywood 

 Drummer Eli Putnam

Fifers John Hair and Joseph Pierce



Joseph Ball

Benjamin Bennet

Samuel Bennett

Peter Boyden

Samuel Brown
David Chadwick
Eli Chapin

John Cole

Samuel Cook

Robert Crawford

Joseph Cunningham

Joseph Curtis

William Curtis
Philip Donehue

Thomas Drury

Samuel Dunham
Benjamin Estabrook

Josiah Ferry

Josiah Flagg

Nathaniel Flagg
Phineas Flagg


Josiah Gates
Thomas Gates 

 Jonathan Gleason

Gideon Griggs
William Griggs

Edward Hair
John Hall

Asa Harrington

Joshua Harrington

Samuel Harrington

Moses Hamilton

Daniel Haven

Adam Hemmenway

Samuel Hemmenway 
Artemas Knight

Thomas Knight
John Knower

Thomas Lynde

William Miles

Ephraim Miller

Joseph Miller

Joseph Morse

Jonas Nichols

Thomas Nichols

Josiah Pierce

Nicholas Powers

Jonathan Stone

Ithamar Smith
Solomon Smith

Edward Swan
James Taylor

Joseph Thorp

John Totman

William Treadwell
William Trowbridge

George Walker

William Walker

Asa Ward
Phinehas Ward
Samuel Wesson

Daniel Willington
James Wiser
Ebenezer Wiswall 


 In all, one hundred ten men marched off for Concord. Capt. Bigelow stopped to rest his men at Howe Tavern in Sudbury. They pressed on, and the organization of the army was made in Cambridge. As the first company was reviewed by General George Washington, he is reported to have said, "This is discipline, indeed." Capt. Bigelow marched at the Battle of Concord and Lexington, and soon after received from Congress the commission of Major.

     Timothy was also a member of Boston's Whig Club, and he was a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. As the conflict escalated, so did the threats against Isaiah Thomas, printer of the Massachusetts Spy newspaper.  Paper was in scarce supply. Getting the word out to supporters was such an important task that John Hancock suggested Isaiah Thomas move his Boston Press out to the country. With Timothy Bigelow's assistance, the press was hauled to the cellar of the Bigelow home in Worcester. The Massachusetts Spy continued publication. All of the Provincial Congress printing was done there until the presses were set up in Cambridge and Watertown. Isaiah Thomas also founded the American Antiquarian Society.

     In the fall of 1775 Major Bigelow volunteered, along with twelve soldiers from Worcester, to join forces with 750 hand-selected men to accompany Col. Benedict Arnold as part of a supporting eastern invasion force aimed at Quebec City. The expedition was a failure. Intentionally deceptive British maps, bad weather, difficult terrain, and a lack of proper supplies put the men into dire circumstances. Col. Arnold set out from Fort Western on September 25th with eleven hundred men. In six weeks time, he had only six hundred remaining. The men were forced to eat anything they could find to try to survive. 

Letter one from Timothy to his wife.


It was on this expedition that Major Bigelow was ordered  to the top of the mountain, near Chaudière Pond, and the headwaters of the Kennebec river, in search of reconnaissance information on the city of Quebec. He was said to have been the first white man to climb this mountain and it has been named Mt. Bigelow ever since. 

Letter two from Timothy to his wife.


Despite the hardships, Colonel Arnold believed that, if they joined with the remains of other forces, they could still take Quebec. In a daring night attack, during a snow storm, on December 31st, Major Bigelow and his few remaining men were captured by the British. He remained a prisoner of war for seven months. In the fall of 1776, he came home when a prisoner exchange was arranged. Timothy was again called to serve as a  Lieutenant Colonel,   in 1777 he was commissioned a full Colonel of the 15th regiment under General Gates. Colonel Bigelow and the men of the 15th were present at the surrender of  General Burgoyne. 

     Then they set off to support the army, under the command of General Washington, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At White Marsh General Washington recognized Col. Bigelow from their first meeting in Cambridge. While shaking Timothy's hand, he is reported to have said, "This, gentleman officers, is Col. Bigelow, and the 15th regiment of the Massachusetts line under his command. This gentleman is the man who vanquished the former royalists in his own native town. He marched the first company of Minutemen from Worcester at the Alarm from Lexington. He shared largely at the suffering of the campaign against Quebec, and was taken prisoner there. After his exchange he raised a regiment in his own neighborhood, and joining the northern army under General Gates, participated in the struggle with Burgoyne, and shares largely in the honor of that victory." A member of his troop said that this was a clear indication of  "the high estimation in which the commander-in-chief held Colonel Bigelow." With a lack of rest and necessities, the army was in wretched condition. The British took control of Philadelphia.  The American troops were all pushed back until they set up winter quarters in Valley Forge. Colonel Bigelow and the 15th were with them. When many men wanted to give up, Col. Bigelow reaffirmed his decision to stay with the American cause; come what may, he was a solider for life. 

     With the arrival of supplies, more troops, and spring weather, they moved out and began fighting the British troops as they moved onto the battle at Monmouth, 1778. Timothy was then under the command of General Lafayette. Col. Bigelow's troops were the last to quit the field. When one of his men was wounded he grabbed his musket from him and "fought more like a tiger than a man." The Americans took the field, and the British fled under the cover of night. Col. Bigelow was called to aid in many small skirmishes, breaking up nests of Tories and protecting the American people from the evils that wars bring. He kept watch on British troop movements in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. When Col. Bigelow heard that General Gates had left his command of the southern army to General Greene in1780, he requested and received orders for his regiment to join General Greene in the south.

 Colonel Bigelow was then assigned to fight under General Lafayette at Yorktown in 1781. The American successes at  the Battle of Yorktown laid the foundation for the end of the American Revolution and peace. Col. Bigelow and his regiment returned to West Point. He was then ordered to leave West Point for Rhode Island.  Colonel Bigelow returned to Worcester. He soon returned to West Point again and then was assigned to the arsenal at Springfield until his term was over. In 1782, the provisional articles for peace were signed. 

     Montpelier township was granted by the legislature of Vermont in October of 1780, and consisted of 22,640 acres. By charter from the governor, the town was conveyed to Colonial Timothy Bigelow and associates on August 14, 1781. When Timothy served on the staff of General Lafayette, he became close friends with the French aide-de-camp (Lafayette's personal assistant). In May of 1787, Colonel Bigelow and his French officer friend visited the area. When they reached its highest point, Colonel Bigelow is reported to have said to his friend, " This is my charter, but I do not know what to name it." The French officer replied, "The beauty of the scenery, the clarity of the air, the purity of the water, remind me of my native city in France, Montpelier. If you give your town that name, it will remind, in years to come, your descendants and mine of our mutual friendship begun in war, confirmed in peace." Colonel Bigelow decided it should be so. On this visit they were joined by Col. Jacob Davis and General Parley Davis, both associate grantees.  As Colonel Davis set up camp, he is said to have declared, "Here shall stand the capital of Vermont." He stayed and built a log home at that same location. Eighteen years later (1805), the Vermont legislature was looking for a permanent home and selected Montpelier as the capital city.

   Timothy returned to Worcester. The hardships of war had taken their toll. In 1999, a descendant of Asa Harrington posted finding an entry that showed Col. Timothy Bigelow was reported as "deranged" in 1781. At this time in history "deranged" was also term used to indicate a soldier’s "retirement."  Upon Timothy's return, he found his once impressive business and financial status grievously depreciated. Soldiers were paid in Continental paper money. Post-war time was hard, and this currency no longer held its value. The cost of necessities had risen 3,340 percent over pre-war prices. With his “can-do” spirit, he set about rebuilding his blacksmith; and innkeeper business. But with necessities like shoes costing $40 a pair, and the American dollar not yet adopted, one could only trade with credit. The brawn required by the Blacksmith trade had been stripped from Timothy by too many years of poor nutrition during the war. He was a shell of the man he once was, he faltered, and his business failed. His creditors mounted and he found himself so deep in debt, he could not see a way out. 

During this time, many patriots found themselves in debtors' prison. With the demons of war pursuing Him, and the death of his son Andrew in 1787, all of this was too much for him to bear. Plagued by depression, ill health, and unpaid loans, one of George Washington's best officers was sent to debtors' prison. The men who should have been Timothy's friends, and who owed much of their freedom to his patriotism, treated him poorly. Given the conditions of the prison at that time, this was a death sentence. Colonel Timothy Bigelow died in debtors' prison on  March 31, 1790, at the age of 51. The friend and patriot to whom he had given aid in saving his printing press, Isaac Thomas, placed only a single line in the Massachusetts Spy Newspaper, reporting Timothy's death.

Timothy's beloved wife, Anna, lived in Groton and died there in July of 1809, at the age of 63.

His eldest son, Timothy, apprenticed to Isaiah Thomas for two years. They remained friends. Mr. Thomas makes note of dining with him numerous times in his diary. Timothy joined his father during the Rhode Island campaign. He then returned home and graduated with honors from Harvard University.  He was accepted into the bar and became a successful lawyer in Groton. He went on to become representative to the general court, a state senator,  a member of the legislature for 18 years, and was also Speaker of the House. He died at the age of 54.

His first born daughter, Nancy, married the Honorable Abraham Lincoln of Worcester in 1784. Lincoln was a selectman, representative to the general court, and member of the council. He was certainly a man of position and influence in Worcester.

His son Andrew's death came swiftly. He died of consumption at 18 years of age. Today we know consumption was tuberculosis.

His son Rufus became a leading and well known merchant in Baltimore, Maryland. He was a friend and business partner with John Greene Proud. He died at the age of 41.

Daughter Lucy married Capt. Luther Lawrence of Groton in 1805, and it is said that after his death, she married his brother, William Lawrence, also of Groton.

Daughter Clarissa married her cousin, Tyler Bigelow, in 1806. Tyler graduated from Harvard University and studied law under Timothy, Jr., in Groton. He opened a practice in Watertown and rose in his profession. Upon his death in 1865, he left $10,000 to Harvard University,  to be used as a meritorious scholarship for poor students.

Several plaques at Valley Forge bear an inscription to Colonel Timothy Bigelow and the 15th Massachusetts Infantry.

The Bigelow Monument that sits on the Common in Worcester was a gift, in 1861, from Colonel Timothy Bigelow Lawrence of Boston, great-grandson of our namesake patriot. It was dedicated with great ceremony, despite the country's involvement in the Civil War. The Monument underwent cleaning and restoration in 2007, a Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter NSDAR project.

In 1935, our Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter NSDAR set a bronze marker at the foot of Mount Bigelow in Flagstaff, Maine. It was erected to honor Colonel Bigelow for his service and sacrifices in the Quebec campaign. In 1951, the marker was moved to make room for a new power plant reservoir and rededicated in New Flagstaff, Maine. 



Written by a member of Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter NSDAR


Bigelow Howe, Gilman. Genealogy of the Bigelow Family of America: From the Marriage in 1642 of John Biglo and Mary Warren to the year 1890. Charles Hamilton, 1890. Foty, Geraldine R. “Sunday Telegram, April 13, 1986.” The Bigelow Society. Web. 2008.

Hersey, Charles. Reminiscences of the Military Life and Sufferings of Col. Timothy Bigelow. Henry J. Howland. 1860.

Bigelow, Don. “Oath of a Freeman.” The Bigelow Society, Web. 2008.

Lincoln, Williams. History of Worcester, Massachusetts: From Its Earliest Settlement to September 1836. Moses D. Philips and Company, 1837.

Schutz, John A. Legislators of the Massachusetts General Court, 1691-1780: A Biographical Dictionary. Northeastern, June 5, 1997.

Doyle, Michael R. Events of This Day: Facts of Interest to Montpelier Folks Briefly Told Dorman B. E. Kent. iUniverse, Inc., June 2, 2005.

“Diary of Isaiah Thomas, 1805-1828.” Internet Archive. Web. 2008.



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