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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