|Dara, Liz, and a trio of Lexington Minutemen ~ July 2010|
"By The Rude Bridge That Arched The Flood,
Their Flag to April's Breeze Unfurled,
Here Once The Embattled Farmers Stood,
And Fired The Shot Heard Round The World."
|The struggle at the North Bridge|
|An engraving of the battle.|
|The blaze of redcoats in the distance.|
Jonas Parker's story is just one of many hidden, untold tales from the time, of heroic deeds and dramatic displays of valor. I'd like to think that some day I could tell his wife Lucy's story a little bit more, after all, the women of the Revolutionary Era were truly the unsung heroes, women like Jonas' wife, Lucy Munroe Parker, who were forced to take strong political stands and actions, and to make great personal sacrifices and struggle alongside their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. Jonas' devotion to the cause often no doubt meant that Lucy, like other women of her time, was taking care of more than the usual domestic responsibilities at home--children, animals, farms, cleaning, sewing, cooking, spinning, weaving, hauling--while at the same time finding time to mend uniforms and bandages, boycott tea and British goods, melt down pewter for ammunition, bring water to the soldiers on the battle fields, tend to injured soldiers, often, take up arms to protect their families. As Martha Washington, who was well known and respected for her humility and hard work, said, "Whilst our husbands and brothers are examples of patriotism, we must be patterns of industry." These women often took up the cause alongside their husbands, and yet, it is their stories that for the most part remain undiscovered. I am determined to more fully flesh out the stories of these ancestral women--for now, I offer a Patriot's Day tale full of drama and grit...
|The British Expedition and Patriot Messengers: the Road to Lexington and Concord|
"Every man of you who is equipped follow me, and those of you who are not go into the meeting house and furnish himself from the magazine and immediately join the company."
|A formidable force in Lexington|
|A re-enactment of Parker's end|
Out of the roughly eighty men who turned out that morning in Lexington to face the British threat head-on, fifty-two fled unhurt. Ten more were wounded. And out of the eight who fell that morning on Lexington Green, six had ties to the Munroe family. Lucy Munroe Parker, Jonas' wife, and mother to their ten children, lost not only her husband that day, but her brother as well. Robert "Ensign" Munroe (1712-1775), another veteran of the French and Indian War, was well-known for having held the banner at the Battle of Louisburg in Nova Scotia thirty years earlier. Robert Munroe had joined Jonas Parker, his brother-in-law, on the front line, and were the first two killed by British bayonet. Quite remarkably, Robert, the oldest man on the battlefield, was 62, Jonas 53.
A few days after the Battles, when eyewitnesses gave depositions to the Colonists to show that the British had fired at the Militia without provocation, Captain Parker would say "I immediately ordered our militia to disperse and not to fire." Since several of the wounded and killed militia members had been shot in the backs, the deposition signed by 34 Lexington Militiamen that declared "Whilst our backs were turned on the troops, we were fired on by them, and...not a gun was fired by any person in our company...before they fired on us," rings true, and yet, the matter is still undecided today, all these years later.
|Captain John Parker, the Lexington Minuteman|
In an address in 1799 at the dedication of the memorial monument erected on the Battle Green to honor those who "fell on this field, the first Victims to the Sword of British Tyranny & Oppression," the famed statesmen Edward Everett captured the story of Jonas Parker in a powerful speech that lauded the courage shown by all on the battlefield that day: "History, Roman history, does not furnish an example of bravery that outshines that of Jonas Parker."
Amy Parker is the perfect example of the Puritan woman. The very "ethic of submissiveness to divine will that was the underpinning of the Puritan way of life" not only silenced her but erased her as well. We don't know her surname, where she was from, when she was born. We do know what life might have been like for her. These New England Good Wives--who had to create lives out of nothing--bore excessive numbers of children, and endured often appalling living conditions, epidemics, a high infant mortality rate, and a life of hard physical work (despite the male observation that it was just "righting up the house"). Many were used to single mothering. Most were illiterate. Women were forbidden to speak in church except to confess a sin or to sing. They were silenced on most matters of faith, politics, and even family. And when a woman married, she ceased to exist legally. Her husband, head of household, had all the rights, owned all the property and made all the financial decisions, while she became a "femme covert," with him representing her interests, as he saw them, to the world. A married woman could not sell or purchase land, make a will, sue or be sued, or sign contracts. "Her children, her earnings, and even her body did not legally belong to her. (Women Making America, Hemming/Savage) No wonder Amy vanished.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her book The Pearl of Orr's Island (another ancestral home and haunt), wrote, "In the old times, women did not get their lives written, though I don't doubt many of them were much better worth writing than the men's." Amen, sister.
|The Old Burying Ground in Lexington|
Whew! Despite the show of better spelling, the juxtaposition of the lack of commas, the randomness of capital letters, and preponderance of run-on sentences is curiously endearing. I love, too, the observation here that Mary can think for herself--"if she cause"--along with the inclusion of "so long as she shall live and remain my widow." Sorry, Mary, dear, but if you die or marry someone else, you no longer will have access to that "sufficient garden Spott." Hananiah's provisions for his wife are extensive and vividly detailed, and include "firewood sufficient to be brought ready cut for her use and laid conveniently near her door by my Executor (who?)", "so many apples as she need to lay in for Winter; also one barrel of Cyder to be placed in her cellar annually." Any more than one barrel and she might risk getting bit by a barn weasel, or go on a bender, and forget to tend to her roots, beans, and squashes. He's taken good care of her, and with much tenderness, set it up so that she will be taken good care of in his absence, with a lifelong supply of firewood, apples, and Cyder, "her gardens and part of housing be kept in good Repair and all taxes lawfully set thereon and demanded to be paid by my second Executor."
|Only One Barrel of Cyder for Mary|
"Ever Honored father and mother after my Deuty Remembered to you and to my Grandfather and Grandmother: and my Love to all my brothers and all my friends--Hoping theas few lines of my Love Will find you in as Good health as I am at this present Writting, Blessed be God for it. And this is to let you understand that I Recived youer Second Letter, and that is a verey sickly time with us and we have Lost above Three Scor men that belong to New England and thear is above fifty men sick. Barnabas Cook is sick; Daniel Dove is sick; William Hopkins is sick; Benjamin Johnson is amost well of his wounds bu the has had a verey bad sweling upon his thigh above his wounds but we hope he will doe well."
“John Parker, Senr, Joiner, of Redding, purchased in Cambridge Farms” one small Mansion house and sixty acres of land, bounded southwesterly on Watertown line, Elsewhere by Daniel White, John Stone and Thomas Cutler, and of Thomas Cutler. He bought “a certain messuage or Tenement lying and being scituate in Cambridge, In the Farms, containing one mansion house, barn, and about one hundred and ninety acres of land.”
|I don't know if the iconic stone walls of the old New England landscape were included in the fence viewing or not.|
"Andrew Parker lived in the reigns of five English sovereigns, was seven years of age when the year 1700 came, and yet lived to see the first armed expedition of British soldiers against the colonists put to rout at Concord and Lexington, June 19, 1775, and this accomplished partly by his own family."
|The Munroe Tavern|
Lucy's grandfather, William Munroe, settled in the northeasterly part of Cambridge Farms, or Lexington, around 1660 in a part of town that was then called "Scotland." With his first wife, Martha George, he had many sons, and it is said that his old house "looked like a rope walk, with so many additions made to accommodate his sons, as they settled in life"--a recreation of Clan Munro, clearly. The Munroes established a tavern in Lexington in 1695, which, during the Revolution, was owned by William Munroe, great grandson to the banished William, and an Orderly Sergeant in Captain John Parker's Minuteman Company. The Tavern, as did other taverns of the time, served as a meeting spot for colonials and rabble-rousers, and later, as a a field hospital by Lt. Gen. Hugh Percy for retreating British soldiers, who tried to burn it down on their retreat. William would rally his Munro Clan that day, to summon their Scots warrior roots, and fight at the Battle of Lexington Green with those equally as Plucky Parkers. Together, the Munroes and the Parkers accounted for a huge number of those that fought at the Battle of Lexington and Concord. In fact, there were eight Munroes fighting on the Green that day, and later that day, as troops from surrounded towns arrived, 17 came from Reading who bore the name Parker. Deacon Thomas Parker and William Munroe would be proud. I know I am!