Wiswall Kept a House of Ill Fame for Some Time

in about Warren

Date: November 2, 1775

[John Andrews to William Barrell of Philadelphia]


“November 2nd. Last evening the Overseers of the poor here, as is their custom, took up the Mistress, or house keeper of one Wiswall, a shoemaker (who formerly belong’d to Cambridge, but since the troops have been here has got to work for one of the Regiments and remov’d into town, where he has kept a house of ill fame for some time past), and committed her to the charge of a constable, to be deliver’d to the care of another constable at Charlestown, and so on till they get her to the town from whence she came ; — upon which Wiswall apply’d to the Colonel of the Regiment, and told him they had taken away his wife because he work’d for them. In consequence of which, the colonel immediately orders a guard of men in pursuit of her, who came up with her at Charlestown and forcibly took her from the Constables and convey’d her to the Camp. Upon application of the Gentlemen Overseers to the General, he not only order’d her to be deliver’d immediately — but very severely reprimanded the Colonel for medling in the matter — and likewise thoroughly assur’d, as well as convince’d, the Overseers and Selectmen, that he was more dispos’d to support the civil or Common Law, than Military Law in this town.”

Source: Andrews, John, and Winthrop Sargent, editor. Letters of John Andrews, Esq. of Boston 1772-1776. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Wilson and Sons, 1866, pp. 86-87.

Commentary: John Andrews wrote to his friend and business associate in Philadelphia, William Barrell, of incidents he witnessed or heard about in British occupied Boston. The Boston Port Bill and later the Siege of Boston crippled his business and his debtors’ ability to pay him.

With little to do, he candidly journalized his experiences for the benefit of his distant friend and, coincidentally, later historians. The Andrews letters were published in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society and, in 1866, book form.

To Whig sympathizers each incident of British soldiers’ misbehavior offered proof of despotic Ministerial intent and collusion by Loyalists in suppressing American liberties. The incident of Wiswall’s alleged mistress is also found in a gossipy contemporaneous letter by assistant school master James Lovell and in minutes of the Boston town selectmen. Curiously, a Daniel Wiswell, shoemaker, had been a patient of Dr. Joseph Warren’s in the 1760’s and sold two pairs of shoes to the young physician.

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