I came across these on eBay a couple of years ago, and snapped them up for literally a few dollars. I bought them because they show my great-grandfather, James Lawrence (1878-1969) and his friends and classmates at Groton, as they appeared in their youth.
Looking at them, I can’t help but be reminded of the wonderful scene in Dead Poets Society in which the main character, John Keating, played by Robin Williams, offers to his students the following timeless advice:
They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?… Carpe… Hear it?… Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
Groton School football team, 1894
Thomson, Lawrence, Hare, Craighead, Higginson, Cutting, Haughton, Sargent, Hooker, Diblee, Burden, Griswold
So far, in telling the story of our family’s involvement in the Revolutionary War, we’ve had ancestors who were founding members of the Sons of Liberty; who were Minute Men; marched to Lexington and Concord; officers who fought (on both sides) at Bunker Hill; were part of the Quebec campaign; were taken prisoner; wintered at Valley Forge; and were present at the surrender of Burgoyne.
Recently, I remarked in an email to my cousin, Elisha Lee, Jr., that – despite all this – to my knowledge, no one in our family had gone out that famous night, to The Boston Tea Party. One of the signal events of the Revolution in New England. It is true that not everyone who was there admitted it, for fear of the repercussions, but still. Just something interesting to note.
After about twelve hours of radio silence, but no more, Elisha got back to me with one name: Capt. Joseph Lee, an ancestor we both share. He was there, and helped to dump the tea in the harbor.
I consulted several lists of known participants. (Here is one; here is another.) Lee was mentioned on all of them. There appears to be no controversy.
So who was he? As a youngish man, he was a merchant on Long Wharf. He had a fleet of privateer ships during the Revolution, which he seems to have used both to aid his country and enrich himself. In addition, he was a shipbuilder, an engineer of public works, a distiller, a gardener, and a philanthropist. He had two wives and numerous children. While not a lot has been written about the man, in the sense of memoir or lengthy biographies, it appears he lived a full life indeed.
Here are a few available items to guide further research.