Hon. William Prescott

The son of Col. William Prescott, also William, was known during his life, which was devoted to the law, as Hon. William Prescott. Here is a brief biography.

 

hon-wm-prescott-by-gilbert-stuart-alt1

Hon. William Prescott, painted by Gilbert Stuart

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from the Prescott Memorial, pp.75-76.

 

Hon. William b. at Pepperell, Aug. 19, 1762. In 1776, at the age of fourteen, he was placed under the instruction of “Master Moody,” the then celebrated teacher of Dummer Academy in Newbury, Essex Co., Mass. Here he remained three years, when he entered Harvard College, where he graduated in 1783, with high honors. His father, partaking largely of that liberality so common among the officers of the Revolutionary army, had accumulated hut a small estate, and young Mr. Prescott found it necessary to be earning something to help him finish his professional education, upon which he was about to enter; accordingly he took charge of an academy at Beverly, where he continued two years, and where he studied his procession, (that of law,) with the Hon. Nathan Dane, an able and learned jurist and statesman. While here he received an invitation to become a member of Gen. Washington’s household, to act as a private teacher while he was prosecuting his legal studies, but. previous engagements compelled him to decline the proffered boon, and his classmate in college, Mr. Tobias Lear, obtained it.

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A Prescott Writes About a Lawrence

In the long  list of works by William Hickling Prescott, there is this: the Memoir of the Hon. Abbott Lawrence (available here at the Internet Archive).

It’s an interesting account, not least because it was written by another of our ancestors, but also, only somewhat off topic, because Prescott is the only researcher I know of (and I think, all things equal, he’s a pretty reliable one)  who definitively places Samuel Lawrence at Bunker Hill, in the thick of the fighting.

I think, also, that Uncle Johnny (John Endicott Lawrence, Sr.) must have read this account and really internalized it, as it contains several of the stories he related to me on my visits to him.

At any rate, have a read…

 

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MEMOIR

HONORABLE ABBOTT LAWRENCE,

PREPARED FOR THE

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY,

by

WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT, ESQ.

EXTRACTED FROM THE WORK BV PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHERS.

PRINTED FOR PRIVATE DISTRIBUTION.

1856.

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MEMOIR.

 

IN the following pages, we shall endeavor to present a sketch of the life and character of Abbott Lawrence, now that the grave has closed over him, and while his virtues are yet fresh in the memory of his countrymen.

The name of Lawrence is one of the earliest to be found among the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts. John Lawrence, the first emigrant of the name, was established in Watertown as early as 1635, and may have come over at the same time with Governor Winthrop. He afterwards removed, with his wife, to Groton, where lie lived to a good old age; leaving, at his death, a numerous family of sons and daughters. From one of the former was descended the subject of the present memoir. His father, Samuel Lawrence, was a soldier of the Revolution. On the breaking out of the war with the mother-country, he was among the first to bear arms; and was one of the little band of heroes who accompanied Colonel Prescott, and fought by his side at the battle of Bunker’s Hill. His regiment was accordingly in the hottest of the action; being stationed at the redoubt, the principal point of attack. It had nearly proved a fatal day to the young soldier, who, besides a wound in the arm, had his hat pierced by a musket-ball, which grazed his temples, and carried off part of the hair. He remained in the army till 1778, filling the post of adjutant under General Sullivan at Rhode Island. He was a man of much firmness of character, of unblemished integrity, and of such frank and open manners as made him popular with his townsmen. He lived till 1827; long enough to receive the best reward of a parent, in witnessing the complete success of his children.

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The Prescott-Linzee “Crossed Swords”

And now we come to the famous crossed swords…

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On the library wall of one of the most famous writers of America, there hang two crossed swords, which his relatives wore in the great War of Independence. The one sword was gallantly drawn in the service of the king, the other was the weapon of a brave and honoured republican soldier….

Thackeray , The Virginians

 

Prescott Linzee Crossed Swords from MHS medium sized

 

As I said when I introduced the subject of Capt. John Linzee, it is at least somewhat ironic that the American commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Col. William Prescott, and the captain of the British war sloop Falcon, John Linzee, RN, charged with providing cover fire for the redcoats attacking the hill, should one day produce grandchildren who would fall in love and marry.

Eventually, the swords referenced by Thackeray made their way out of W.H. Prescott’s library, and were placed on a tablet, currently displayed at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

prescotthouse_wall_950

The following statement accompanies the tablet:

THE SWORD
OF
COLONEL WILLIAM PRESCOTT
WORN BY HIM
WHILE IN COMMAND OF THEPROVINCIAL FORCES
AT THE
BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL
17 JUNE, 1775,
AND
BEQUEATHED TO THE
MASS: HIST: SOCIETY
BY HIS GRANDSON
WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT.
THE SWORD
OF
CAPTAIN JOHN LINZEE, R.N.,
WHO COMMANDED THE
BRITISH SLOOP OF WAR FALCON WHILE
ACTING AGAINST THE AMERICANS
DURING THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.
PRESENTED TO THE
MASS: HIST: SOCIETY
14 APRIL, 1859,
BY HIS GRANDCHILDREN,
THOMAS C. A. LINZEE
AND
MRS. WM. H. PRESCOTT.

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Citizens’ Letters RE The Actions of One Capt. John Linzee, RN

Up to this point, I’ve kept the spotlight on Col. William Prescott, and this has seemed sensible given limitations of space and the need to sequence these posts. There is another of our ancestors, however, less famous, but not really any less interesting, who was also present at the Battle of Bunker Hill. And he is owed his moment, too. He was a British naval captain, commanding HMS Falcon, a sloop-of-war, and it was his sworn duty to direct canon fire to the hill, killing or wounding as many Americans as possible. His name was Capt. John Linzee, RN.

The two hundred and fifty year-old joke in our family, though, if something like a joke can be salvaged from such a day, is that this is not simply a case of having two ancestors at the same military action. After Prescott and his men had won their war, and after Linzee had retired to – of all places – Milton, MA, their grandchildren, Prescott’s grandson and Linzee’s granddaughter, would actually fall in love and marry. And eventually, the swords of the two men, would hang together, crossed, in their descendant’s library. But I’m getting ahead of myself. All things in good time.

Before getting into Linzee’s life and career, here’s a preamble of sorts, something to set the scene: two letters from colonists to the powers that be, complaining about a particular British captain and his sloop.

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The Prescott Homestead at Pepperell

The following excerpts come from a text called Beside Old Hearthstones, available online here.

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from  Beside Old Hearthstones, Chapter 3.

 

Prescott Homestead Pepperell, MA

THE Prescott family home is on the northern border of the town of Pepperell, and on the rising around that soon merges into the hills of the Granite State….

…Weary with the tumult of war, Colonel William Prescott, in the spirit of a Cincinnatus, returned to his home, and resumed the peaceful employment of cultivating his paternal acres.

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Oliver Prescott, Remembered by Rev. Timothy Alden

Oliver Prescott should, by now, need very little introduction. The Rev. Timothy Alden, on the other hand, was a Protestant minister in New England, active in the early 19th century. He was also an associate of the Rev. Jonathan French, an ancestor from my mother’s side. In 1814, Alden published a sort of anthology of various things he and others had written; a mix of biography and brief obituaries…summaries, in one form or another, of people’s lives. To my 21st century mind, it’s a distinctly odd book. At any rate, I found among its pages the following tribute to the multi-talented doctor, general, and judge, Oliver Prescott. As it was written by and for people who knew the man, it is pretty much a primary source, and worth including here.

[A brief word on punctuation: I have more or less left the text as is, which includes a failure to capitalize titles, such as Rev. or Dr., etc., and other customs different from our own. Where absolutely necessary, I have edited lightly, to preserve the flow of the prose.–LSL]

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A collection of American epitaphs and inscriptions, with occasional notes 2nd ed. by Alden, Timothy

Published 1814 by [S. Marks, Printer] in New-York .

Online text available here.

 

GROTON, MASS.

299. Erected to the memory of the hon. Oliver Prescott, esquire, M. D. A. A. S. M. M. S. S. who departed this life, 17 November, A. D. 1804, aged 73 years, 6 months, and 9 days ; also, of Mrs. Lydia Prescott, consort of the above said Oliver Prescott, and daughter of the late David Baldwin, esq. of Sudbury, who died, 27 Sept. A.D. 1798, aged 62 years, 11 months, and 11 days.

Note.— The following sketch of the character of the hon. judge Prescott is drawn, principally, from a sermon, delivered, on the sabbath succeeding his interment, by a very respectable and worthy clergyman, who had enjoyed a long and intimate personal acquaintance with him, and who had the means of correct information.

He was born at Groton, Massachusetts, 27 April 1731. His father was the hon. Benjamin Prescott, of the same town, a very distinguished statesman, who died, 3 August 1T38, in the 43 year of his age, v/hen the subject of this article was about 7 years old. His mother was Abigail, daughter of the hon. Thomas Oliver, of Cambridge, a near relation of the provincial governour of that name. She died at Groton, 13 September, 1765, in the 69 year of her age. Judge Prescott w as educated at Harvard university, Cambridge, where he received his first degree in 1750. During the course of his collegiate studies he acquired and supported a distinguished character, not only for the regularity of his behaviour, but for his great literary attainments ; and this has been the case ever since that period. Accordingly, he was early noticed and his name enrolled as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Soon after receiving his baccalaureate he commenced the study of physick under the tuition of doctor Roby, of Sudbury, a disciple of the celebrated Boerhaave. His distinguished professional acquirements, his prompt and unremitting attention to his patients, his peculiarly tender and pleasant manner of treating them in their distress, his moderate charges, and forbearance towards the poor and the general success, which attended his practice, operated to render him, for nearly half a century, one of the most popular, while he was, unquestionably, one of the most eminent and useful physicians in the commonwealth. As an instrument in the hand of Providence, he saved the lives of thousands. His high standing, among his brethren of the faculty, gave him a place in the Massachusetts Medical Society at the time of its institution. He was also an honorary fellow of several Medical Societies out of the commonwealth. He was likewise president of the Middlesex Medical Society, and, many years previous to his death, received from Harvard university the honorary degree of doctor of physick.

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Dr. Oliver Prescott

Oliver Prescott received less press in his lifetime than his world famous brother, but was in many ways an equally – if not more –  fascinating person, for reasons that the following makes clear. This is also from the Prescott Memorial, pp.59-60.

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Doctor Oliver b. April 27, 1731 ; m. Feb., 1756, Lydia. daughter of David and Abigail Baldwin, Esq., of Sudbury, b. Oct. 15, 1735; ten children. He graduated at Harvard College 1750, and was distinguished at college for his literary attainments and correct deportment. He studied physic with Dr. Roby of Sudbury, who had been educated in Europe, and a disciple of the renowned Boer­haave, and was an eminent physician. He settled in Groton, his native town, and for many years was extensively patronized, not only by that, but by the neighboring towns. It is said by his biographer that he had a careful and trusty horse, on whom he would frequently sleep when deprived of his rest in bed. His distinguished professional acquire­ments; his prompt and unremitted attention to the sick; his tender and pleasant demeanor while treating them in their distress; his moderate charges and forbearance toward the poor, together with the general success which attended. his practice, operated to render him for nearly half a century, one of the most popular, while he was one of the most eminent and useful physicians in the Common­wealth. He was one of the original members of the Mass. Medical Society at its incorporation in 1781, and an hono­rary member of sundry medical societies. He was presi­dent of the Middlesex Medical Society during the whole period of its existence.

Dr. Oliver Prescott, Groton, Massachusetts - Treated the wounded at Lexington & Concord and Bunker Hill, a Major General of Massachusetts Militia, State Muster Master document.

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