The Battle of Bunker Hill Seen As A Family Affair, And Other Odd Observations

My cousin, Elisha Lee, raised an interesting point last fall. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that if you could go back in time and visit certain key events as they happened, such as the Battle of Bunker Hill, you could more or less pick out numerous ancestors fighting, if not side by side, then at least on the same field. At that particular moment, they had nothing to do with each other, no outstanding connections other than their shared service, but within a century or so, they would, many of them, be united by the bonds of family. The same could be said of the ill-fated Quebec expedition, which saw its members imprisoned by the British.

With this thought experiment in mind, I thought I’d put together a list of events where we either know or are pretty sure that certain ancestors would have likely crossed paths with one another.

I’ve also included a couple other quirky lists, which might just double as Jeopardy topics. These include:  “Tutored by John Adams,” and “Father/ Son Military Service in the Same War.”

Where else were they going to go?


Passage on the Mayflower & Life in the Early Massachusetts Bay Colony

  • William Bradford
  • John Alden and Priscilla Mullens Alden
  • William Mullens and Alice Mullens
  • Edward Doty
  • Isaac Allerton and Mary Norris Allerton
  • John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley Howland
  • John Tilley and Joan Hurst Rogers Tilley


The Battle of Lexington and Concord

  • Timothy Bigelow, Sr.
  • Samuel Farrar, Sr. (aged 66 at  the time!)
  • Samuel Farrar, Jr.
  • (Note: Samuel Lawrence and the Groton company marched at the alarm, but didn’t arrive in time.)


The Battle of Bunker Hill

  • Willam Prescott
  • John Linzee
  • Samuel Lawrence
  • Samuel Farrar, Jr.
  • Jonathan French, Sr.
  • Elishama Brandegee


Quebec Expedition and Life as a POW

  • Timothy Bigelow
  • Elishama Brandegee


The Surrender of Burgoyne

  • William Prescott
  • Samuel Farrar, Jr.


Tutored by John Adams

  • Timothy Bigelow
  • William Paine


Father/ Son Military Service in the Same War

  • Timothy Bigelow, Sr. & Timothy Bigelow, Jr.
  • Samuel Farrar, Sr. & Samuel Farrar, Jr.


If you can think of others, drop me a line!

Timothy Bigelow, Jr.’s Eulogy for George Washington

Timothy Bigelow, Jr., the son of the Revolutionary War colonel, was, among other things, a prominent mason. When George Washington, who was a very prominent mason, died, Bigelow wrote this eulogy for his ‘brother.’

It’s the only substantive piece of his writing that I have found, and for that reason, not to mention the association with the father of our country, I thought it worth including.




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Hon. Timothy Bigelow

Moving now to the next generation below the Revolutionary War soldiers, we come to Timothy Bigelow, Jr., or as he would be known during his distinguished legal career, Hon. Timothy Bigelow. He is a transitional figure of sorts, as he too was also a soldier in the war, serving alongside his father at the tender age of twelve. Here, in brief, is his story.

Timothy Bigelow - But father or son?

A portrait of Hon. Timothy Bigelow, from his Masonic biography, available online, here.



from The Bigelow Society Quarterly April 1986 Vol. 15, No. 2, p 29.


Worcester, Massachusetts has produced its share of illustrious Bigelows, none better known than Col. Timothy Bigelow of Revolutionary War fame. His son Timothy Jr. of Medford, MA was also well-known, and native to Worcester.

Timothy5 Bigelow, son of Col. Timothy4 (Daniel3, Joshua2, John1) and Anna (Andrews) Bigelow.

Born there 30 April 1767, he was a mere boy when his father became active in the war, so that the son was left to his mother’s upbringing. He entered a printing firm, but his interest lay more in the reading of, than the printing of, books. In 1778 he was sent to study with the Rev. Joseph Pope, but the following year, 1779, he joined his father in the Continental Army on the Rhode Island campaign.

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The Dedication of the Timothy Bigelow Monument in Worcester

Eventually, in the mid-19th century, the citizens of Worcester rediscovered Timothy Bigelow, and decided to right the wrongs of his death with a memorial.

The following is a contemporary description of the events surrounding the dedication. It includes, in addition to lists of all the dignitaries and fire companies and Bigelow relatives present, a detailed description – in typical 19th century fashion – of the exhumation of his grave, and the careful inspection of his remains.

Reading it, you can almost imagine how Mark Twain would have described the affair. How times had changed! I wonder what the Colonel  would have thought.


available online at

and originally from History of Worcester, Massachusetts: From Its Earliest Settlement to September 1836, by William Lincoln, published in 1862.


City of Worcester,

Whereas, by a resolve of the City Council, passed Dec. 23, A. D., 1859, leave was granted to Timothy Bigelow Lawrence to erect a Monument over the remains of Colonel Timothy Bigelow; and, by said resolve, the Mayor was empowered to designate a suitable lot for that purpose, where said remains now lie, — the same not to include the remains of persons of any other family; and it was further resolved, that said lot be forever appropriated and devoted to said purpose —

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The Life of Timothy Bigelow, Crowdsourced


Rounding out these readings on Col. Timothy Bigelow is his Wikipedia entry. I am not including the entries from Wikipedia for most of our more famous ancestors, but here I’m making  an exception. The description of the incident with the British spies, as well as the expedition under Arnold to Quebec, and the log entry of his jailer noting that he had been discharged “By Deth” provide justification enough.


from Wikipedia

Timothy Bigelow (August 12, 1739, Worcester, Massachusetts – March 31, 1790, Worcester)

Timothy Bigelow was born on 2 Aug 1739 in a part of Worcester known as Pakachoag or College Hill, located in Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA. son of Daniel Bigelow and Elizabeth Whitney. Timothy Bigelow’s father was a farmer, the owner of 100 acres of land on “Little Packachoag Hill.” Timothy and his brothers grew up in the ways and manners of the times. Chores, assisting their father and in “off hours” the boys enjoyed swimming and fishing in the summertime, fishing in the winter, because a stream, called the French River, divided the northerly section of the farm.

He was early apprenticed to the blacksmith trade, and carried on that occupation most of his life. He was self-educated, and as a young man was widely-read, became a fluent speaker, and accumulated a little library. Future President John Adams was Timothy’s teacher. He was known locally for his prowess at debating. In the rear of the Andrews home Tim Bigelow had a blacksmith’s shop where he blew the bellows, heated and hammered the iron, and shod the horses and oxen and mended the plows and chains for the farmers of the country about him. As described in the history books, Tim was as bright as a button, more than six feet high, straight and handsome, and walked upon the earth with a natural air and grace that was quite captivating.

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The Muster Roll for the Thirteenth Regiment of Foot, commander Timothy Bigelow

I recently came across this at the excellent website, It is the muster roll for Timothy Bigelow’s regiment. The original entry is here.


Muster roll for the Thirteenth Regiment of Foot, commander Timothy Bigelow [manuscript]

 by Bigelow, Timothy, 1739-1790; Glover, John, 1732-1797; Boston Public Library. American Revolutionary War Manuscripts Collection; United States. Continental Army. Massachusetts Regiment, 15th
Dated: Providence, Apr. 27, 1779

Holograph, signed

Pay abstract for the month of January, 1779

Signed by John Glover, B. General

The Boston Public Library’s American Revolutionary War Manuscripts Collection


Reminiscences of the Military Life and Sufferings of Col. Timothy Bigelow

Last year, I was lucky enough to happen across the actual war memoirs of Col. Timothy Bigelow, as recalled by his family. It’s the most detailed account I have located of his service, and worth reading in its entirety.













212 Main Street.




The writer of the following pages was dandled upon the knee of a worthy sire, who had spent eight years of his life in the struggle for Independence, and taught me the name of Col. Bigelow, long before I was able to articulate his name. Many have been the times, while sitting on my father’s lap around the old hearthstone, now more than fifty years since, that I listened to affecting reminiscences of Col. Bigelow and others, until his voice would falter, and tears would flow down his aged and careworn face, and then my mother and elder members of the family would laugh, and inquire, “what is there in all of that, that should make you weep?” but I always rejoiced with him, and wept when I saw him weep. After the death of my father, having engaged in the active scenes of life, those childish memories in some degree wore away, but the happiest moments of my life have been spent in company with some old Revolutionary Patriot, while I listened to the recital of their sufferings and their final conquest.

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An Account of Timothy Bigelow’s Courtship and Marriage

This is an account of Bigelow’s life, his wife’s genealogy, and perhaps most interestingly, his courtship and marriage.


from the site Revolutionary Oaks, The History of the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter in Worcester, Massachusetts, of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution:



by Jeanette A. W. Ramsay, D.A.R.

March 9, 1909


Among the Scotch settlers in Worcester, there came over an Irish family by the name of Rankin.  They had several daughters, the youngest of whom was Anna — beautiful Anna Rankin!

At that time there was a family here, very respectable for the times, by the name of Andrews. One of the boys was named Samuel, who was at the time an undergraduate in Harvard College.

Samuel came home to spend a vacation and while at home he saw Anna Rankin and taking a liking to “her neck,” which, like Kathleen Bawn’s, was “so soft and smooth without a freckle or speck,” he “fell in love,” as the novel-writers say.  He forthwith threw Latin and Greek to the dogs, mad love to Anna and in due time married, and purchasing a farm on the west side of Quinsigamond Lake, he settled down and became an industrious and frugal yeoman.

In that occupation he prospered so well that in a few years he quitted his farm and moved to the village, and built him a house on the very spot where the stone jail was subsequently erected (on the corner of Lincoln square and northwest corner of Summer Street).

Afterward he built him a larger and better house on the ground now occupied by the block of brick houses, opposite the Courthouse. (Please note the locality.  Lincoln in his History gives it so, page 281, also using the word “dwellings.”)

Father and mother both died, leaving an only daughter named Anna, after her mother Anna Rankin, with an estate that made her the principal heiress of Worcester in those times.

In the rear of the Andrews house, “Tim” Bigleow had a blacksmith’s shop where he blew the bellows, heated and hammered the iron, shod the horses and oxen, and mended the ploughs and chains for the farmers of the country about him.

Now Tim “was as bright as a button,” more than six feet high, straight and handsome, and walked upon the earth with a natural air and grace that was quite captivating.

Tim saw Anna and Anna saw Tim and they were well satisfied with each other.

But as he was then, nothing but Tim Bigelow, “the blacksmith,” the lady’s friends, whose ward she was would would not give their consent to a marriage.  So, watching for an opportunity, the lovers mounted fleet horses and rode a hundred miles to Hampton, in New Hampshire, which lies on the coast between Newburyport and Portsmouth, and was at that time the “Gretna Green” for all young men and maidens for whom true love did not run a smooth course in Massachusetts.

They came back to Worcester as Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Bigelow.

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The Life of Col. Timothy Bigelow as Recounted in the History of Worcester

The title says it all. The man’s story almost reminds me of Mozart and his relationship with Vienna. A leading citizen of a city. An influential, highly regarded man. Active life. Hard times. Ignominy. Death as pauper, at a youngish age. Resurrection, in reputation if nothing else. Monuments, ceremonies, and shared pride once again in the man their fathers and grandfathers had treated so badly.


from History of Worcester, Massachusetts, from its earliest settlement to September, 1836; with various notices relating to the history of Worcester County, by Willam Lincoln, Worcester, 1837. Ebook available here.



Col. Timothy Bigelow, was born in Worcester, August 12, 1739. His father, Daniel Bigelow, was of that class of substantial farmers who have been distinguished here for independence, good sense, industry and probity. [1] The youngest son, the subject of this sketch, was first apprenticed to a mechanic trade, and afterwards prosecuted the business of a blacksmith with diligence.[2] He was soon ranked among the most energetic and prosperous of the young men of the village. With strong native power, and shrewd observation of men and things, he labored to supply the want of the advantages of education: he collected a small but well selected library, became acquainted with some of the best English authors, and gained the art of speaking with directness and force, and of writing with point and accuracy. These acquisitions were soon called into full exercise.

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Col. Timothy Bigelow: An Introduction

Col. Timothy Bigelow (1739-1790) is one of the most fascinating and utterly admirable people I have come across in my exploration of our ancestors.

Timothy Bigelow

  • In his youth, he was tutored by John Adams, the future patriot and U.S. president.
  • In his twenties, he eloped with his heiress fiancee, riding with her on horseback to a clandestine ceremony more than a hundred miles away in Hampton, New Hampshire.
  • In his early civilian life, he was a blacksmith, but his passions ran to the political issues of the day, and from the political to the military.
  • He was a member – in the run up to the revolutionary period –  of the Committee of Correspondence.
  • He was an early member of the Sons of Liberty, a clandestine loose affiliation of colonists dedicated to resisting British rule.
  • He was a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for its first two sessions.
  • He was the first, unanimously chosen, commander of the Minute Men of Worcester, and marched with them following the call to the Battle of Lexington and Concord.
  • In the Continental Army, he served under, among others, Arnold, Gates, and Lafayette.
  • He fought – seemingly – everywhere: at Quebec, Monmouth, Saratoga, Verplanck’s Point, Peekskill, Valley Forge, and Yorktown, and was present at the surrender of Burgoyne.
  • He was captured and held as a prisoner of war, by the British in Canada, before being exchanged back.
  • He retired a full Colonel.
  • Following the war, Congress granted him 23,040 acres of land in Vermont, in lieu of money, on which was founded the town of Montpelier, VT; he never saw the grant, however.
  • He returned to civilian life almost certainly suffering from what is today called PTSD. The description of his symptoms, written in the vernacular of the 18th century, is both absorbing and heart wrenching.
  • Following the death of his teenaged son, he developed a severe depression, and, financially destitute, died in debtor’s prison at the age of 5o.

In the next several posts, I’m going to reproduce a number of the materials I have found on this man: admittedly, some of it is a little dry, some of it repeats what has appeared elsewhere, but…each item offers something unique as well: some new anecdote, a letter from his wife, the entry of his jailer on his death, etc.; together they present multiple perspectives on an individual whom – I believe – history needs to acknowledge once again.

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