The Edwards Family in Boston
Learn more about author and tour guide Ben Edwards’ ancestors who lived in Boston for one hundred fifty years as well as how old they were when certain key events occurred in Boston.
Captain Benjamin Edwards (1685-1751)
Born December 15, 1685
• Age 20 when Benjamin Franklin is born on Milk Street in 1706
• Age 27 when the second Town House (today’s Old State House) is dedicated in 1713
• Age 29 when Long Wharf is completed in 1715
• Age 36 when Benjamin Franklin writes his fourteen Silence Dogood letters between April and October of 1722
• Age 37 when Christ Church (Old North Church) is built in 1723
• Age 51 when Thomas Hancock’s mansion is built on Beacon Hill in 1737
• Age 54 when the steeple is added to Christ Church (Old North Church) in 1740
• Age 56 when Faneuil Hall is built in 1742 and its grasshopper weather vane installed
Captain Benjamin Edwards (1685-1751) was born in England. He married Hannah Harrod on December 10, 1706, at the Second Church (a congregational church also known as the Old North Meeting House) in Boston. They were married by Cotton Mather. Between 1709 and 1717 the couple had three children (two girls and one boy), all of whom died in infancy. In November 1719 Captain Edwards and 23 other men founded the New Brick Church. This congregational church was built in 1721 and stood on Middle Street, now Hanover Street in the North End.
The painting of the sea captain shown above is circa 1723. Captain Edwards attended the New Brick Church for thirty years. His wife Hannah died in 1728, after 22 years of marriage. Captain Edwards then married Bathsheba Evans on May 14, 1730, at the New Brick Church. They were married by Reverend William Welstead. Between 1731 and 1738 Benjamin and Bathsheba had seven children: five boys and two girls. Among these children were Captain Benjamin Edwards 2nd (born in 1731), a silversmith and soldier in the French and Indian War; Alexander Edwards (born in 1733), a cabinetmaker and member of the Sons of Liberty; and Dolling Edwards (born in 1737), a mastmaker and fifth-great-grandfather of tour guide Ben Edwards.
Dolling Edwards (1737-1773)
Born May 9, 1737
• Ages 14 and 15 during the town’s longest smallpox epidemic in 1752
• Age 18 when the Cape Ann Earthquake strikes Boston at about 4:30 am on November 18, 1755 (Estimated at between 6.0 and 6.3 on the Richter scale—close to 1,600 chimneys in the town are damaged in some way and the Faneuil Hall weather vane falls from the building.)
• Age 19 when the French and Indian War begins in 1756 (his brother Benjamin serves as a captain in the war)
• Age 27 when the Stamp Act is passed by the British Parliament on March 22, 1765
• Age 28 during the first Stamp Act protest when the Sons of Liberty hang an effigy of the stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver, from what would become Liberty Tree on August 14, 1765
• Age 29 when news of the repeal of the Stamp Act reaches Boston on May 16, 1766. Church bells ring and the town soon celebrates with bonfires and fireworks
• Age 30 when the Townshend Acts are passed by the British Parliament on June 29, 1767
• Age 31 when, on September 30, 1768, British warships, armed schooners, and transports arrive and anchor in Boston Harbor. At noon the following day two regiments of British troops land at Long Wharf and march up King Street with drums beating, fifes playing, and colors flying to occupy the town
• Age 32 when his brother Alexander Edwards and 300 other members of the Sons of Liberty meet at Robinson’s Tavern in Dorchester on August 14, 1769 to partake in a banquet to celebrate the 4th anniversary of their Stamp Act protest at Liberty Tree. Can you spot Alexander’s name on this list compiled by one of the participants?
• Age 32 when the Boston Massacre occurs on March 5, 1770
Dolling Edwards (1737-1773) married Rebecca Christie on September 21, 1758 at the New North Church. The New North was a congregational church in the North End and the minister at this time was Andrew Eliot. Mastmaker Dolling Edwards lived on Ship Street. Between 1759 and 1770 Dolling and Rebecca had five children: three boys and two girls. Among these children were Sally Edwards (born in 1761), who married silversmith Paul Revere Jr., firstborn son of the famous patriot; and Benjamin Edwards (born in 1765), a cooper and fourth-great-grandfather of tour guide Ben Edwards.
Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808)
Baptized April 14, 1765
• Age 8 when the Boston Tea Party takes place on December 16, 1773 (Ben’s uncle Alexander is surely in attendance at Old South Meeting House with many other members of the Sons of Liberty for the meeting held there prior to “the destruction of the tea.”)
• Age 9 when the Boston Port Bill, one of the Coercive Acts, closes the port of Boston on June 1, 1774
• Age 10 when Paul Revere makes his Midnight Ride and the Battles of Lexington and Concord are fought on April 18 and 19, 1775
• Age 10 when the Battle of Bunker Hill is fought on June 17, 1775 (Ben may have watched the battle from a rooftop in Boston as many did that day.)
• Age 11 when the Declaration of Independence is read to the citizens of Boston from the balcony of the Town House (soon called the State House and now known as the Old State House) on July 18, 1776
• Age 16 when Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown on October 19, 1781
• Age 17 when his older sister Sally Edwards marries Paul Revere Jr., firstborn son of Paul Revere, on August 22, 1782 at the New Brick (Second) Church. View the original church record.
• Age 21 when 20,000 spectators fill the town to celebrate the opening of the Charles River Bridge on June 17, 1786
• Age 24 when President George Washington visits Boston on his tour of the eastern states on October 24, 1789 (Ben may have marched with the coopers as part of the procession of artisans, tradesmen, and manufacturers that was formed to welcome the president.) View a printed broadside for the Order of Procession.
• Age 31 when the first Harrison Gray Otis House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, is completed at 141 Cambridge Street in 1796 (still stands today)
• Age 31 when John Adams is elected president on December 7, 1796
• Age 32 when USS Constitution is launched from Edmund Hartt’s shipyard in the North End on October 21, 1797
• Age 33 when the Massachusetts State House, designed by Charles Bulfinch, opens in 1798 (The dome is covered with wooden shingles.)
• Age 37 when copper sheeting, manufactured by Paul Revere at his copper rolling mill, replaces the wooden shingles on the dome of the Massachusetts State House in 1802
• Age 39 when the steeple of Christ Church (Old North Church) is blown down in the “great snow hurricane” of October 9-10, 1804
• Age 41 when the African Meeting House is dedicated on December 6, 1806 (Ben lives in the West End a short distance away on Belknap Street.)
Benjamin Edwards (1765-1808) married Polly Bangs at the First Church of Boston (congregational) on June 22, 1791. They were married by Reverend John Clarke. This church was located near the State House (today’s Old State House). Ben was an orphan by the time he was eight and he and his siblings likely lived with their uncle Alexander Edwards at the family home on Back Street. The Boston Directory of 1796 lists Benjamin Edwards as a cooper on Prince Street. This directory also lists him as a cooper on Back Street in 1798 and 1800, on Ship Street in 1803, on Buttolf Street in 1805, and on Belknap Street in 1807 with no occupation noted. Ben lived on Cambridge Street in 1808. Benjamin and Polly had five children: three boys and two girls. Among these children were Benjamin Edwards (born in 1793), who followed in his father’s footsteps as a cooper; Alexander Edwards (born in 1797), a blacksmith; and Joseph B. Edwards (born in 1799), a paver and third-great-grandfather of tour guide Ben Edwards.
Joseph B. Edwards (1799-1852)
Born December 29, 1799
• Age 6 when an enlarged Faneuil Hall (today’s building) opens to the public in 1806
• Age 12 when the War of 1812 begins on June 18, 1812
• Age 16 when the largest bell ever cast by Paul Revere (2,437 pounds) is installed in the bell tower of King’s Chapel on February 23, 1816
• Age 22 when the town of Boston is officially incorporated as a city on March 19, 1822
• Age 26 when Atwood’s Oyster House (today’s Union Oyster House) opens on Union Street in 1826
• Age 31 when the first issue of Boston’s abolitionist newspaper The Liberator is published on January 1, 1831
• Age 31 when Samuel Francis Smith’s hymn “America” (better known as “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”) is first sung on the steps of the Park Street Church by Park Street’s Children’s Choir on July 4, 1831
• Age 32 when William Lloyd Garrison and others found the New England Anti-Slavery Society at the African Meeting House on January 6, 1832
• Age 37 when the Boston Public Garden is established in 1837
• Age 48 when a 39-year-old congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln gives a stump speech for Zachary Taylor (the Whig candidate for president) at Tremont Temple on September 22, 1848
• Age 50 when the Fugitive Slave Act is passed on September 18, 1850, and slave catchers begin to roam the city. Abolitionist Lewis Hayden continues hiding slaves in his home—a site on the Underground Railroad
• Age 51 when escaped slave Shadrach Minkens is seized and arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act on February 15, 1851, and hundreds of anti-slavery activists rescue him from the courthouse where he is being held
Joseph B. Edwards (1799-1852) married Sarah Mace at the West Church in Boston (congregational) on October 30, 1823. They were married by Reverend Charles Lowell. Reverend Lowell hated slavery and supported the abolitionist cause. The church was one of the first in the country to integrate, giving open seating to blacks and whites alike, and is said to have served as a site on the Underground Railroad. The West Church still stands today at 131 Cambridge Street in the West End.
Joseph B. is listed as a paver in the Boston City Directory for most of the years from 1826 to 1845 at various locations including West Centre Street, Derne Street, 5 Spring Street, Fruit Street, 14 Second Street, 35 Brighton Street, 30 North Russell Street, and 67 Lowell Street. In 1852 he was at 151 Cambridge Street. Joseph B. and Sarah had five children: two boys and three girls. Their fourth child was Benjamin Edwards born on February 22, 1836. He is the second-great-grandfather of tour guide Ben Edwards and his last ancestor to live in Boston.
Benjamin Edwards (1836-1926) married Mary Elizabeth Sawtell at the First Baptist Church in Boston on April 23, 1856. They were married by Reverend Rollin H. Neale. This church was located at the corner of Hanover and Union streets. Benjamin lived in Boston for about twenty years before moving away (later residences included Chicago, Illinois; New York City; Hackensack, New Jersey (where he served as Town Clerk in 1866); and East Haddam, Connecticut (where he was a farmer after 1870). Ben passed down stories his father Joseph B. told him about how he would walk by Boston Common and see the cows graze (this ended in 1830). He would have witnessed the sad spectacle in Boston on June 2, 1854, of federal troops returning Anthony Burns to slavery. Ben’s marriage record lists his occupation as a jeweller and the Boston City Directory of 1855 shows him working in that profession at 121 Court Street and boarding at 14 Billerica Street.
Benjamin Edwards and Mary Elizabeth Sawtell had ten children including a son named Joseph B. Edwards who was born in New York City in 1861. Joseph B. Edwards (1861-1937) was a yard foreman for U.S. Rubber Company in Naugatuck, Connecticut—a small town that tour guide Ben Edwards’ grandfather and father (both named Benjamin Edwards) would grow up in.
The signature of Captain Edwards.
Captain Edwards’ 1708 family Bible.
Dolling Edwards document dated January 8, 1771. Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The Revere/Edwards family records penned by Paul Revere (b. 1789), son of Paul Revere Jr. and Sally Edwards.
Paul Revere (1789-1857) son of Paul Revere Jr. and Sally Edwards.
Second Church records – entry for the marriage of Paul Revere Jr. and Sally Edwards. Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
The birth records of Joseph B. Edwards (1799-1852) and his siblings in the 1812 Edwards family Bible.
Tour guide Ben Edwards and his father next to the original marker of Captain Edwards at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.
Tour guide Ben Edwards and his family at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in 1964.