Silver Crown

[ object sketch ]

THE SILVER CROWN.

———

Nineteenth evening.

Hezekiah Pendleton was a Tory, in full sympathy with the Royalists, hence at enmity with all neighbors and people who set themselves against the oppressive measures of George III.

He claimed kinship with the house of Brunswick, the truth of which no one was at pains to verify, but many saw in his tyrannical disposition traits so much like those of the obnoxious sovereign that they were inclined to believe his claims were well founded.

He never manifested more joy than when the Stamp Act was proclaimed in the Province. He early made the acquaintance of Andrew Oliver, the appointed agent for stamped paper, and hoped to secure a quantity to sell at a profit to his town’s people. He made frequent calls at Oliver’s house, and was said to have been present when the effigy of the unpopular agent was burnt before his own door.

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Mr. Pendleton, in his younger days, made his trips to Boston in the night, and his sly acts were not so easily detected.

The elder Fuller reported that his neighbor Pendleton was in a rage when he called at his home soon after the destruction of Oliver’s house and the sacking of Chief Justice Hutchinson‘s. This convinced the people that the well-known Tory was aware of the bold proceedings, if not a sorrowful witness of the destruction.

He was served with a copy of the notice posted in Boston, which read as follows: —

“Pro Patria. [*1]

“The first man that either distributes or makes use of stamped paper, let him take care of his house, person, and effects.

“We dare. Vox Populi.” [*2]

There was rejoicing in the town when the Stamp Act was repealed, as there was among all who opposed the measure. The ranks of the Royalists were rapidly thinning, but few were now found in the little town who would shout with Hezekiah Pendleton: “God save King George!”

Mr. Pendleton heard the continual ringing of the bell at the training-field, and, foaming with indignation, galloped into the town, his faded scarlet cloak flapping in the breeze, reined up his steed, and ordered the bell-man to stop.

“You are one of them traitors, are yer? Do you mean to ruin the bell house?”

His authority was of no avail; the bell continued to ring, and he returned to his home filled with indignation.

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Some of General Gage‘s troops were occasionally seen galloping up the hill towards Mr. Pendleton’s, or dashing off the back way to Boston. As they molested no one, they were not disturbed until the time came when some decided action was apparent; [*3][*4] then the officers of the town’s militia set a guard and the movements of Hezekiah Pendleton were carefully noted.

The ministers who favored the cause of the Province were preaching against tyranny with all their eloquence, but the pastor of this town was silent on the question. “Not a fit subject for the pulpit,” he said. He entertained as strong Tory sentiments as prudence would allow. He knew that a large part of his flock was against him. He was, in reality, in full sympathy with Mr. Pendleton, and made frequent calls at the home of this unpopular parishioner. [^1]

While the people of the town were making sacrifices to aid the poor who were shut up in Boston, Mr. Pendleton was slyly communicating with the King’s officers, and supplying them with the best produce of his farm at fabulous prices and hoarding the proceeds away from the eyes of all. He boasted of having supplied the detested occupants of the Province House with his butter, eggs and poultry.

Mr. Pendleton declared, if the unsettled feelings ever culminated in open rebellion, he would pack his things and go to a province that was sensible.

“I’ll never pay a cent of tax to oppose cousin George!” [*5] shouted Mr. Pendleton in town meeting when the question was being discussed of raising money to meet the demands. This was the first time that the Tory had openly proclaimed the degree of relationship to the tyrant across the Atlantic. Could

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the arrogant monarch have seen his pretended kinsman we doubt not he would have been willing to sacrifice the aid being rendered his cause rather than have acknowledged the tie. It was on the last day of June of the same year that the freemen met at the meeting-house “To know and determine what measures are Proper to be taken at this present time of Trouble and Distress.” The minister opened the meeting with prayer, as was the custom. Every word of his petition was carefully watched to see if any Tory sentiment could be detected. He was apparently praying to the people rather than the Lord, and knew it would not be prudent to give utterance to what was in his heart.

Mr. Pendleton was early at the meeting, and attempted to express his ideas on the whole state of affairs, but found it difficult to be heard, as the many were against him and his lordly cousinship across the water. [*6] The question of providing for the poor who were being sent out from Boston to be supported by the towns was discussed at this time.

With all the other burdens falling upon the people this was a severe test of the patriotism of the voters. When Mr. Pendleton spoke on this subject they seemed more willing to listen: “You’ll every one of you be paupers ‘fore you git through this, and it’s what you deserve, too. Besides supporting our own poor, you see we’ve got a lot of them ragged rebels from Boston to feed,” said Mr. Pendleton. It was voted that when this town’s share arrived they should be sold at vendue, the lowest bidder to have one or more. [*7]

As the spring of 1775 drew near, an accommodating illness secured for Mr. Pendleton a relief from train-

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ing with the militia company to which he belonged. [*8] He had prided himself on being a faithful military subject of the King, and was always on duty at all trainings and musters; but he would not use his skill in preparing to oppose the mother country. There was no escape for his sons; they must join the minute men and be ready. “Ready for what?” said the father, when the constable called in the exercise of his duty. “Ready to meet Gage’s troops,” was the prompt reply. “You’d better never meet them unless you want to be swallowed — the whole of you,” said the Tory. “King George’ll find us a harder load to carry than the whale did when he took Jonah on board,” replied the constable, as he gave the official notice for Seth and Saul Pendleton to meet with the minute men on the following day for regular drill.

When away from the father’s influence the two young men fell into line in good order and required but little watching.

When the alarm of the movements of the British reached the Pendleton home on the night of April 18, Seth and Saul responded to the message, and were early at Fitch’s tavern, ready for marching orders. [*9] Hezekiah Pendleton boldly declared that he hoped every one of the rebels would be killed, not withholding his own sons from the sweeping denunciation. Even the persuasions of his old neighbor Maxwell, with whom he had fought the French, were not sufficient to turn him from his Tory sentiments.

It was fortunate that the Pendleton home was not on the line of the march of the militia and minute men of the town, or it would have been destroyed; for the Tory had displayed a rude design representing the Lion and Unicorn, the arms of the kingdom.

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[ house sketch ]
Fitch’s Tavern.

Later in the day, when the sad tidings of the fight at Concord reached Mr. Pendleton, and the death of his neighbor, Capt. Willson of the minute men, was announced, [^2] and also the wounded condition of another made known, [*10] he simply said: “I told you so. You ought to have known better,” and then shut himself away from the sight of those who, in their sorrow and excitement, went from house to house to discuss the whole affair.

Mrs. Pendleton would gladly have gone to work, as did her neighbors, in the preparation of food for the army at Cambridge, but the head of the family effectually vetoed any such action, and succeeded in withholding his sons from voluntarily going into camp at Cambridge, which they were ready to do.

It soon became impossible for the Tory to dispose

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of his produce to the British officers, and his greed for gain led him to look about for a way to make something out of the Continental army. He had refused to acknowledge the commissions of the officers of the army, but after all other sources of income had vanished, was ready to turn about, so far as there was money to be gained from acknowledging the authority of the Congress of which John Hancock was president. Mr. Pendleton had some personal acquaintance with him, and esteemed him as a friend. He had emptied his saddlebags many times at the Hancock warehouse, sampled the liquors and reloaded with merchandise for home and neighborhood use. He had hoarded away many a coin from the Hancock till. His love for money overcame his prejudice for those now in power who had a liberal portion of wealth. He carefully scrutinized each coin paid to him, and kept a set of small scales in which to test the value. When the Continental bills were issued he sternly refused to accept them as of any value, ignoring paper currency as long as he could, but at length accepted a quantity which he stored away, having a silent belief that it would greatly increase his wealth at some future time.

The officers of the town correctly interpreted the change in the attitude of the Tory towards the authorities, and when they were called upon to supply hay and wood for the army, refused to purchase of him. This was a great trouble to the man, for he had a large quantity of the best of wood, and here was a good market, with the town as paymaster. His sentiments had been too freely expressed to be overlooked for his advantage, and while six cords of wood and two loads of hay were being taken to

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Cambridge daily from the town, none of Mr. Pendleton’s stock would be accepted. This so angered him that he refused to pay the oft-repeated call for taxes. He declared he had no money, and dared the constables to make the collection. Men who did not cringe at the point of the bayonet at Concord and Bunker Hill were not to be baffled by one Tory, and they levied on his stock of oak and maple, and took it away for the tax to help support the army fighting against the cause that Mr. Pendleton claimed was just and right in the sight of all good men and God as well. Mrs. Pendleton did not sympathize with her husband in his unpopular sentiments, and would gladly have spun and woven to make blankets for the soldiers, but she was not allowed to do anything of the kind. It was almost impossible to find another house in the town, save that of the parson, where the wheel and loom were not kept busy in the preparation of supplies for the army.

When the town’s share of Boston poor was put at vendue, Hezekiah Pendleton was in attendance. He saw a possible chance to make some money; all other families were busy in the interests of the “rebel army,” and this was his opportunity. So he bid the lowest, and four of the poor, frightened mortals — one family — were set off to the Tory at ten shillings a week, “hard money,” and what they could do. Their lot was hard enough — willing to work at home, but deprived of its meagre comforts, and parceled out in this way was cruel indeed. It was one of the many sufferings that war entails. The able-bodied men were in the army; the aged and infirm, with women and children, constituted the company of enforced paupers.

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The town’s folks generally regretted the result of this provision for the poor of Boston.

The only hope of just treatment being rendered at the Tory’s home was the kind heart of the mother and the willingness of the daughters to aid in carrying out her wishes as far as it was possible.

The selectmen had received this notice: —

Boston, May 7, 1775. The bearer, Mrs. Mehitable Melville, and her family, removing out of the town of Boston, are recommended to the charity and assistance of our Benevolent, Sympathizing Brethren in the several towns in this Province. By order of the Committee of Donations.

Alex Hodgdon, Clerk.”

Catnip had been the family beverage at the Pendletons’ before the opposition to the tax on tea and other articles was publicly announced. [^3] The poor fared the same as the family in this particular, but it was only the beginning of their hardships. They were too feeble to work, but compelled to do service on the farm, and scantily and poorly fed, only when something extra was slyly passed out to them by those who did not sympathize with the head of the family. They were allowed to serve the neighbors, after having done a day’s work for Mr. Pendleton; and there were several people who were actuated by sympathy to employ them. The feeble mother in this family of Boston’s poor was a capable woman, and her ability soon recommended her to a neighbor of means. She supplemented her day’s work for the Tory by faithful

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service for this new friend, for which she was well paid. Her hard-earned coin prompted the avaricious tyrant to offer her better food and more of it, and she thereby gained strength for her double service. It was not for herself; her mother’s heart prompted her to exert every power to satisfy the yearnings of young children who could not understand why these privations were inflicted. She continued to perform these duties until illness prevented, when it was more difficult to endure the hardships, for they increased rather than lessened.

Mehitable Melville was the head of the unfortunate family. In addition to the privations at the Pendletons’, [^4] she had reason to believe that her husband had been killed in the army, or taken as a prisoner of war. Her last and only hope of securing anything beyond the bare necessities of life was a string of gold beads which she held as an heirloom and which she had frequently noticed attracted the attention of her Tory keeper.

It was the pastor who was expected to look after all cases of poverty or injustice in the town, and one might have wondered why it was that these poor strangers in his midst were so neglected. While Mr. Pendleton denied his family many of the necessaries of life, he did not fail to occasionally leave a cheese or sparerib at his pastor’s door. This inclined the clergyman to the belief that his parishioner was judged too severely. [^5] The fact that the parson and Tory were in sympathy on the political questions of the day might have been received as a partial explanation of neglect of duty.

Mehitable Melville was missed from her allotted

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task one cold day, and her youngest child was also missing; the latter caused no anxiety to the Tory, it was the mother who must be found. Search being made, her hiding-place was detected by the voice of the child in seeming distress. It was ill and the mother was stealing her time to care for it. The privilege was not denied the woman, although Mr. Pendleton growled not a little at the “waste of time.” The child grew worse. Mrs. Pendleton and her daughters did all in their power to aid and relieve the sufferer. Doctor Ballard came, his benignant face gleaming with light and cheer, and brought sunshine to the heart of the troubled mother, although he was obliged to tell her that she must part with the child. [*11] Once it would have been much harder for the mother to meet this sorrow. She was granted extra comfort in the home. It would not do to allow the good doctor to see what privations she had endured. He was a determined opponent to King George, having served the town as a member of the Provincial Congress. Mr. Pendleton did not refuse to allow the mother and child the comfort of an extra fire on the hearth, and other things for which she was told she must pay him, even to the sacrifice of her gold necklace.

At length the child died, and was buried among strangers in the village burial yard. [*12]

When life seemed the darkest to Mrs. Melville relief came to her troubled heart. The way was opened for the poor to return to Boston. Col. Melville was alive. Into the arms of her faithful husband she rushed, and to their former home they joyfully returned, where, as never before, they appre-

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ciated all that could be enjoyed in a once-divided, but now reunited family.

“But one dead lamb was there.” [*13]

Notwithstanding all the sorrow experienced at the home of the Pendletons, Mrs. Melville often longed to go back. It was the vacant chair at her fireside that caused these yearnings. Her husband had received part payment for his services in the army in worthless paper currency, and they now were obliged to struggle together for the necessaries of life.

At length came relief to the colony from “His Most Christian Majesty, our excellent ally.” The fleet of d’Estaing was loaded with King Louis’ silver crowns. [^6] This precious freight was stored in Hancock’s building, where was the office of the deputy paymaster-general of the Continental Army. Col. Melville, with the others, received, a share of these bright crowns, bearing the impress of Louis XV; [^7][^8] and the relief, so long delayed, was now at hand. Hezekiah Pendleton was the only man known by Mrs. Melville who could tell where the stranger’s grave was made in the burial yard, and to him was entrusted the duty of erecting a little stone at the lonely mound. He performed his duty. More than a century has passed, but the little moss-covered stone, half hidden in the midst of the grass and daisies, tells its story, and suggests to the thoughtful wanderer among the memorials of the past, an unwritten volume of sorrow and sacrifices, in part the price of our liberty.

To pay for this little memorial of a parent’s love, Mehitable Melville parted with her brightest crown;

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and it was added to the hidden store of the Pendleton home, there to remain till death broke the seal, and the mysterious room gave up its contents.

[ cemetery sketch ]
The little Grave among the Daisies.

“Every name we read in rugged and half-worn capitals recalls some page of romantic history, some career over which the archaeologist may linger with affectionate remembrance; wafts legendary stories from the dim twilight of the past, and recalls traditions which years may have buried amid the lumber of our recollections.” — Tennyson. [*14]


SOURCE TEXT


EMENDATIONS

  1. parishioner. ∨ parishoner.
  2. Willson ∨ Wilson
  3. Pendletons’ ∨ Pendleton’s
  4. Pendletons’, ∨ Pendleton’s,
  5. parishioner ∨ parishoner
  6. d’Estaing ∨ D’Estaing
  7. Melville, ∨ Mellville,
  8. Louis XV; ∨ Louis XV.;

ANNOTATIONS

  1. “Pro Patria”: [ Latin ]: For the Fatherland
  2. “Vox Populi”: [ Latin ]: Voice of the People
  3. “molested”: bothered
  4. “decided”: unambiguous
  5. “cousin”: kinsman
  6. “cousinship”: [ sarcastic ]: kinship
  7. “vendue”: public auction
  8. “accommodating”: [ sarcastic ]: convenient
  9. “Fitch’s tavern”: (what was then) Fitch Tavern
    Now a private residence: 12 Great Road
  10. “another”: [ presumably ] Job Lane
  11. “benignant”: kindly
  12. “the village burial yard”: the Old Burying Ground: 7 Springs Road
  13. cf. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Resignation”
    in his The seaside and the fireside (1850) pp 51-54
  14. cf. Hodgman’s History of the town of Westford (1883) p 80
    NB: This quotation is evidently not from Tennyson but instead from a passage in Hodgman’s History that includes a quotation from Tennyson.
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