Single House for Rent Complete with Ailing Widow, Maid, and Slave

in about Warren

Date: December 5, 1770

Author: George Green to his brother Joseph Green

“My mother has let out the house to one Doctor Warren, & boards with him, as she did not choose to move out of a place she has been so long us’d to. She reserves to herself the 2 front chambers and keeps her maid & negro man; is very infirm, often speaks of you with great tenderness & affection, & wishes to see you.  I think she is settled now, in the best manner she cou’d have been, if any alteration was made in ye manner of her living, & some alteration seem’d really necessary, upon several accounts.”

“Your mother is wholly confined, is so lame she can’t walk the room without help, & is much troubled with the asthma & a constant thirst, under wch she makes great use of your tamarinds wch have been very serviceable to her.  I give you these particulars because I think that were I in yr. situation, I should be glad to know them myself.  Hope they will be acceptable.” [extracts of the original letter]

Sources: A letter transcribed in: Green, Samuel Abbott. An Account of Percival and Ellen Green and of Some of Their Descendents  Groton, MA. Privately printed, 1876.   “Remarks of Dr. Green.” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society Vol. 14, 1875: extract of the same letter on p. 101.

Commentary: I am much obliged to Brian Keith Self, who discovered in the privately printed 19th century Green family memoirs intriguing circumstances of Joseph Warren’s move into his Hanover Street rental home and office. Mr. Self has devoted much thought to envisioning locales and episodes in the life of Joseph Warren. He kindly shared his researches on this topic in a private email communication.

According to the Green family documentation and Mr. Self’s analysis, Joseph Warren rented the widow Green’s home, leasing it around October 21, 1770. Mrs. Green, who retained a maid and black male servant, lived in two first floor rooms. She was seriously ill and did not survive the year. “At this time she was very feeble and she lived only ten weeks after the new arrangement was made. (Green, op. cit., p. 61).”

Mrs. Anna Peirce Green, the widow of Joseph Green (1703-1765) was born September 10, 1702, and died December 28, 1770, “…after two days illness with the asthma and something of the paralytic kind (Ibid, p. 16).” Joseph Warren may have medically attended Mrs. Green during her terminal illness. His account books have not survived for 1770, so this remains as conjecture. Warren and his expanding household – including spouse Elizabeth, children, apprentices, and one or more servants – presumably took over the entire rental house following Mrs. Green’s passing.

I found later dates than 1770 in the Thwing database of Boston real estate for Warren’s renting of his Hanover Street residence [Thwing. Database of Boston Property Transactions Boston: New England Historical and Genealogical Society]. Thwing is best known and indispensable for integrating sales and ownership records of Boston Colonial era properties. It is less systematic about recording interesting rental situations such as Warren’s.

Warren had other dealings with members of the Green family, some of whom were his patients. He purchased a negro boy slave from Joshua Green the previous June.

Joseph Warren initially set up his fledgling medical practice for a year beginning in the summer of 1763 as a tenant or boarder of merchant and tailor John Wheatley. This is the same Wheatley family as owned the enslaved literary prodigy Phillis Wheatley. The exact location of Warren’s practice from mid-1764 until October 1770 remains unknown. Circumstantial evidence indicates that his practice in Boston was always located in the North End from its inception through April 1775.

Aspects of this long-gone structure are of more than passing interest. From here, on the evening of April 18, 1775, at approximately 10 PM, Dr. Joseph Warren dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes on their iconic Midnight Rides. It was the proximate act beginning the Revolutionary War.

Previous post:

Next post: