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Help Comes to Gloucester from Chebacco (Essex)

In the aftermath of the Battle of Gloucester, local inland towns sent militiamen to assist in Gloucester’s defense in case of British retaliation. Robert Crowell’s History of the town of Essex: from 1634 to 1868 (pp. 208-209) relates the events of August 1775 and its aftermath, including the interruption of a patriotic parson’s prayer (relevant portion in bold):

On the 9th of August, the Falcon sloop-of-war, having chased an American vessel into Gloucester harbor, dispatched three boats with about forty men, to bring her off, when the party were so warmly received by the militia, who had collected on the shore, that the captain thought it necessary to send a reinforcement, and to commence cannonading the town. A very smart action ensued, which was kept up for several hours, but resulted in the complete defeat of the assailants, leaving upwards of thirty prisoners in the hands of the Americans. Many people there were so alarmed at the approach of the enemy that they fled with their valuables into the interior. Some only came as far as this place [the town of Essex], bringing silver plate and other valuables with them, and tarried awhile until the danger seemed to be over. For the defence and protection of the coast of Cape Ann, a force of militia from the more inland towns was drafted, to be stationed there. On their march thither they passed through Chebacco, halted and were paraded on the common (near the present North meeting-house), where they received their Chebacco fellow-soldiers. On this occasion, a prayer was offered by the ardent and patriotic Cleaveland. While he was praying in his stentorian voice “that the enemy might be blown” — “to hell and damnation,” loudly interrupted an excited soldier — “to the land of tyranny from whence they came,” continued the undisturbed chaplain, without altering his tone or apparently noticing the interruption.

John Cleaveland was pastor of a “separatist” or “revivalist” movement that broke away from local Congregationalists during the revivals of the 18th century. He served as chaplain to British troops stationed in Albany during the French & Indian War. Later (in the 1760’s) he was a supporter of the Sons of Liberty and wrote for the cause under then name Johannis in Eremo “John in the Wilderness” in the Essex Gazette. He served as a chaplain at Bunker Hill and his four sons also joined the rebellion.

You can read more about Cleaveland at the Historic Essex Walking Tour website, and read his papers at the Congregational Library and Archives digital collection. The finding aid for an archive of Cleaveland’s sermons at Yale University also has a brief biography. I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently a biography was written about Cleaveland by Christopher M. Jedrey: The World of John Cleaveland: Family and Community in Eighteenth-Century New England (New York: Norton, 1979).

The Battle of Gloucester – August 8, 1775

On this day in 1775, militiamen thwarted a British attack on Gloucester Harbor. Pringle’s History of the Town and City of Gloucester (pp. 76-77) describes the events:

Francis Swaine, An English Sloop Becalmed near the Shore

The fears of the inhabitants that an attack would be made on the town, presumably from the sea, were realized in August, 1775, when the sloop of war Falcon, Capt. Lindsay (or Linzee) appeared in Ipswich Bay, hove to, and sent a barge containing about 50 men ashore to secure a supply of mutton from the flock of sheep grazing on the Coffin farm at West Gloucester. Major Coffin observed their movements and anticipated their design. He hastily gathered some half dozen men, armed them with rifles and, concealed behind sand mounds, kept up such a brisk firing that the sailors in the barge, supposing that a large company were ready to receive them, thought it prudent to desist from their sheep foraging intentions. On returning the barge’s load captured a sand lugger, supposing the craft to be from the West Indies. Linzee continued to cruise in Massachusetts bay and on the 8th of the month intercepted two West Indianmen bound for Salem. He captured one and chased the other into Gloucester harbor, the craft being run ashore on the flats near Ten Pound island.

This episode, of course, had been observed from the shore and a large concourse of citizens had assembled near the spot where the schooner lay. They resolved to defend the craft at all hazards. Linzee anchored his ship and prepared to take possession of the prize. He sent in three barges containing 22 men armed with muskets and swivels. These boarded the craft but had no sooner reached the deck than a sharp fusilade was opened upon them from two old swivels and a company of men with muskets stationed at Vinson’s Cove. Three of the boarding party were killed at the first volley, and the lieutenant in command wounded in the leg, the fierce fire compelling the detail to return to their ship. Linzee then sent in a small schooner and a cutter, armed with a full complement of men, to secure the merchantman. He also dispatched a boat load of men ashore at Fort Point to fire the town, at the same time directing a vigorous bombardment at the center of the village, one shot taking effect in what is now the Unitarian church, where, suspended above the entrance to the vestry it may be seen today. A detail of the citizens observing the boat load of men headed for the fish sheds on Fort Point, quietly repaired to the place, and made the firing party prisoners before they could execute their designs.

A fierce fight took place for the possession of the beleaguered ship. Finally the villagers triumphed and captured the entire party, several of whom were wounded severely, one dying a short time after. Twenty-four of the company were sent to the American camp at Cambridge, and a number of impressed men to their homes. Two of the citizens, Benjamin Rowe, who was killed instantly, and Peter Purvey, mortally wounded, comprised the number of the town’s loss in the affray. The centennial of this event was observed in 1875 by a grand patriotic celebration at Cape Pond grove at which Governor Gaston and other notables were present and made fitting addresses. The sword of Captain Linzee crossed with that of Colonel Prescott, a Revolutionary patriot, may be seen at the rooms of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

In order to be better prepared for future assaults breastworks were thrown up at Stage Fort, the Cut, Duncan’s Point and Fort Point. This, however, was the last attack by sea or land that the people experienced.

A reenactment of this event will be held at Pavilion Beach on August 11, 2018! See details here and here. Joseph Garland wrote a detailed account of the battle and other details surrounding Gloucester during the War for Independence in his book, The Fish and the Falcon: Gloucester’s Resolute Role in America’s Fight for FreedomSee also John Babson’s History of the Town of Gloucester, Cape Anne, Including the Town of Rockport (pp. 393 ff.).

A Hitherto Unknown Babson Boulder?

Recently, while researching a Goddard Library collection obtained in the 1970’s from the “Open Church Foundation Bible Museum.” I stumbled upon piece of local history (Gloucester), institutional history (GCTS), and ecclesiastical history…

The Open Church Foundation Bible Museum was once housed at 62 Middle Street in Gloucester.  In forwarding information to a scholar who recently visited the collection, I came across this little nugget in a New York Times article:

On a monument to the west of the building is a marble Bible and a dedication to another of Roger Babson’s forebears, the Rev. John Rogers, who was burned at the stake in England in 1555. He was the first Protestant martyr of Mary Tudor’s Reign (Lawn, 1963).

This piqued my interest as a Gloucester resident and theological librarian. But as far as I can tell (and I plan to verify soon), no such monument now exists at 62 Middle Street.

Roger Babson was quite the character. In Gloucester, the Babson name is well known, as family ties go back to the 17th century. Babson has a national legacy as well, having run for President on the “Prohibition Party ticket” in 1940. He was also responsible for the founding of Babson College. Locally, though, Babson is most well known for the “Babson Boulders” of Dogtown (which are noteworthy enough to make it into the Atlas Obscura). The Babson Boulders are Depression-era ‘motivational posters’ with carved slogans like: “HELP MOTHER,” “KEEP OUT OF DEBT,” or “IF WORK STOPS VALUES DECAY.” Babson commissioned local workers to ‘decorate’ the Dogtown landscape with these glacial monuments, and it’s worth a hike in the woods to find them.

Now, in search of Babson’s “Marble Bible,” I employed my library-ninja skills and ‘googled’ <<Babson marble Bible>> and found this image:

Marble Bible
“Marble Bible” (John Rogers Memorial – Wikimedia Commons)

The above photo might just show another example of Babson-commissioned ‘masonry.’ And it may just be the “marble Bible” that once sat west of the Open Church Bible Museum. The monument is located at Babson College in front of Coleman Hall). A short article highlighting Babson College’s collection of landmarks notes that as of 2013, “No one interviewed for this story knew anything about the monument.” The marble Bible is inscribed “Holy Bible 1537” and sits upon a granite foundation bearing the inscription: “Erected By Roger W. Babson In Honor of His Ancestor Reverend John Rogers ¶ Burned at the stake February 1, 1555 in London for translating the Bible into English and preaching the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy.” (See Dt. 8.) As the museum closed, perhaps Rogers decided to move the monument to the college he had founded (if they want, they can move it to Goddard!).

Babson was a deeply religious person. He was raised in the church in Gloucester. He came to Christ at age fifteen and described this experience at a Methodist revival meeting as “the greatest event of my life.” He remained “an emotional praying Christian” (see pgs. 6-7 in ch. 1 of John Mulkern’s history of Babson College). In the 30’s, he served as “National Church Moderator for the General Council on the Congregational-Christian Churches (later known as the United Church),” where he put his statistical prowess in service of examining trends in the health of the church (see under “The Babson Legacy” here).  He went on to found the Open Church Foundation in response to a personal experience of walking into an open church and receiving peace and encouragement during a time of crisis. Regarding Babson’s connection to the faith of his forebears, his NYT obituary (1967), states:

Mr. Babson, who was born in Gloucester, Mass., was directly descended from Israel Putnam, the Rev. John Wise and John Rogers. ¶ “I can see myself,” he said, “as a combination of these fighting, religious and educational strains. Another strain, the commercial, comes from my sea ancestry.”
Babson’s connection with John Rogers is readily seen in the pencil-marked pages of Goddard Library’s 1576 edition of Foxe’s Eccleſiaſticall Hiſtory. There, Babson documented his family ties with Rogers for those who viewed the book when it was housed on Middle Street. Below is a small gallery of images:
Goddard’s 1576 edition of Foxe
Note the pencil marks at the foot of the page: “From whom Roger W. and other Babsons descended. Engraved 1576.”
John Rogers of Ipswich (d. 1745) traced back to John Rogers, the martyr.
The two-volume copy of Foxe was rebound in calf.
“…the bloudy murthering of Gods Saintes, with the particular proceſſes and names of ſuche good Martyrs both men and women, as in this tyme of Queene Mary were put to death.”
Title page of vol. 2.

So, there you have it… Goddard now houses a large portion of the Open Church Foundation Bible Museum that Roger Babson founded, and we may have connected an obscure monument at Babson College with the Babson Boulders in Gloucester! Well… kind of!

References (other than hyperlinks above):
  • Victor H. Lawn, “Bible Museum on Cape Ann: Landmark in Gloucester Attracts Sightseers,” New York Times (October 20, 1963): pg. 392.
  • Obituary, “Roger Babson, 92, Economist, Dead: Founded Advisory Service on Stock Market Trends,” New York Times (Mar 6, 1967): pg. 33.