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
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 of Worcester.'"
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
in the regiment of Colonel Artemas Ward, Esq., for that day were
the following men:
Jonas Hubbard and Lieutenant John Smith
William Gates, Sergeant Nathaniel Harrington, Sergeant John Kannaday,
and Sergeant William Dans
John Pierce, Corporal Cyprian Stevens, Corporal Joel Smith, and
Corporal Nathaniel Heywood
Drummer Eli Putnam
Fifers John Hair and Joseph Pierce
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
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
In six weeks time, he had only six hundred remaining. The men were forced to eat
anything they could find to try to survive.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
beloved wife, Anna, lived in Groton and died there in July of 1809, at the
age of 63.
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.
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.
son Andrew's death came swiftly. He died of consumption at 18 years of
age. Today we know consumption was tuberculosis.
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.
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.
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.
plaques at Valley Forge bear an inscription to Colonel Timothy Bigelow and the 15th Massachusetts
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.
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.