Get My Goods and Family Out of Harm’s Way

in by Warren

Date: April 10, 1775

“[to Dr. Dix] Boston [Monday] April 10, 1775

Sir my Goods are many of them out of Town. I must pray you to hire a Couple of Waggons for me and direct them to go to the House of Mrs Mary Warren in Roxbury for as many of my Goods as they can carry my children & Family I hope will arrive at Worcester by next Thursday Night [i.e. April 20th] where I rely upon your Kindness to give them the best Directions in your Power

I am your most obedt Servt

Jos Warren”

Source: Transcribed from image in Christie’s on-line auction catalog, New York, Sale 9178, June 9, 1999. The document is pictured on this website’s images page under ‘Documents and Maps.’ From Christie’s auction catalog: “WARREN, Joseph, patriot, Major General of Militia. Autograph letter signed (“Jos Warren”), Boston, 10 April 1775. 1 page, 4to, evidence of mounting in left margin, endorsed on verso, fine. RARE.” As lot 295 it realized $16,100.

Author and independent scholar Derek Beck reconstructed this letter from obscure secondary sources concerning a late 19th century accumulation of Warrenalia by E.H. Leffingwell. Mr. Beck’s text was 100% accurate as compared to the actual document as pictured in the Christie’s catalog. Present whereabouts of the ms letter is unknown to me.

Commentary: Joseph Warren moved his four children, in the company of Miss Mercy Scollay, out of British occupied Boston to safe haven in Worcester, Massachusetts, prior to the outbreak of armed hostilities on April 19, 1775. He had contemplated the move almost eight weeks beforehand on February 25th. Absence of punctuation, typical of the time frame in this rare surviving informal letter by Joseph Warren, leaves uncertain whether Miss Scollay and the four children traveled to Worcester from Roxbury in the same conveyance as the baggage, or departed separately from his or the Scollay’s house in Boston.

The hiring of teamsters and carts must have been difficult in and around Boston, as some Patriot families and business sought to remove their belongings from town as war clouds gathered, and the Provincial Congress moved military stores among depot sites including the town of Concord. Here Dr. Warren requests his correspondent to hire a cart in Worcester, travel to his home in Roxbury, and return to Worcester with the goods. Subsequent documents suggest that some of Warren’s household belongings remained in Roxbury and others in Boston, leaving them dispersed at the time of his demise in June of 1775.

Warren refers here to Miss Scollay as family, corroborating her labeling by others as the widower’s his fiancée by April of 1775. That situation must have been recent. Just weeks before, in March of 1775, Mercy is listed in Dr. Warren’s account book ledger for a patient visit charged to her father John Scollay. That may indicate that as late as March 19th, Mercy was not yet ‘under the protection’ of Dr. Joseph Warren, nor a resident in his Hanover Street House. One may compare Mercy’s situation to that of Dorothy ‘Dolly’ Quincy, where the fiancée of John Hancock resided with him, her aunt, and Samuel Adams as refugees in Lexington at the Reverend Jonas Clarke’s house by the second week in April.

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