1774 remembered; Bigelow lead act of defiance in Worcester.
Revolutionary War hero Col. Timothy Bigelow, the leader of the Worcester Revolution of 1774, was a blacksmith born on Aug. 12, 1739 to a farmer on Pakachoag Hill in what is now Auburn.
Representatives of the American Antiquarian Society, Timothy Bigelow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Preservation Worcester, Worcester Historical Society and other members of the Worcester Revolution of 1774 Project met at the Elks Club hall in Auburn on Mr. Bigelow's birthday to discuss their upcoming celebration of the 240th anniversary of the local revolt, led by Mr. Bigelow, that overthrew British rule in Central Massachusetts in 1774.
Mr. Bigelow, portrayed by Boston actor Harry Aspinwall, is featured in a new documentary short created by Maureen McNamara of Kendall Productions for the Worcester Revolution Project.
That organization will host a festival of free events from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 7 in and around Institute Park in Worcester. The documentary is a call to action seeking volunteers of all ages to help with the celebration of the Worcester Revolution, which predated the Lexington-Concord "shots heard round the world'' by eight months.
The celebration is to include tours of the Daughters of the American Revolution's Col. Timothy Bigelow Chapter house, "The Oaks,'' at 140 Lincoln St.; two bus tours of the area, hosted by Preservation Worcester and including a visit to the Timothy Bigelow Monument; lectures; exhibits; Colonial militia reenactments; a professionally performed interactive drama by James David Moran, director of outreach for the American Antiquarian Society; a reenactment of the courthouse Gauntlet of 1774; and more. Visit www.revolution1774.org for more information and event details or to volunteer.
Mr. Moran said, "We are the beginning of the American Revolution. The transfer of power begins here.''
He said that in 1774, the courts represented the rule of British law after the Intolerable Acts or Coercive Acts revoked the Massachusetts Charter and took away colonists' rights. Those acts were passed by Parliament in 1774 in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party and other acts of defiance.
Mr. Bigelow, an elected member of the Committee of Correspondence and delegate to the Provincial Congress, was the commander of the Minute Men of Worcester and gave a call to arms.
Michael Fishbein, president of the Massachusetts Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, said that 4,622 militiamen from 37 communities in Central Massachusetts answered the call put out by Mr. Bigelow and marched into Worcester, "shiretown for the county,'' on Sept. 6, 1774, to close the British courts.
Those men represented "half the adult male population of those towns. Today, we can't get two towns to agree on anything. This was 37 towns working together in unison.''
Among the towns responding were Worcester, which included what today is part of Auburn; North Shrewsbury, which today is Boylston and West Boylston; Duglass; Lunenbourg, which today is Lunenburg and Fitchburg; Oxford; Sutton; Chauxitt, which is now Sterling; and New Braintry, Mr. Fishbein said.
These militiamen formed two long lines leading from the courthouse and forced all court officials to "walk the Gauntlet'' between the lines of men and renounce their allegiance to the British crown.
"The militia won without firing a single shot. All of rural Massachusetts was no longer under British rule,'' Mr. Moran said.
Following the Worcester Revolution, Mr. Bigelow continued to serve in the American Revolution, leading a company of men to Lexington and Concord. He was with Benedict Arnold in the 1775 Expedition to Quebec, where he was captured and was a British prisoner of war until 1776. On the way to Quebec, Capt. Bigelow was ordered to climb a mountain in Maine on a reconnaissance mission. That mountain was named Mount Bigelow in his honor.
He returned and served in the 15th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army under Col. Artemas Ward, for whom the town that later became Auburn was named in 1778.
Col. Bigelow served at West Point during Benedict Arnold's treachery, and continued serving at Valley Forge and Yorktown, among other battle sites.
After the war, the hero, soldier, husband and father returned to Worcester to pick up his civilian life. He was granted land in Vermont, which became the site of that state's capital, Montpelier, but never traveled there.
His blacksmith business failed, and he was thrown into debtors' prison on Feb. 15, 1790, when he could not meet his financial obligations. He died in that prison six weeks later on March 31, 1790.
In 1861, his great-grandson Timothy Bigelow Lawrence of Boston commissioned a large granite and marble monument that still stands in the center of Worcester Common in honor of his namesake.
The monument has been restored at least twice, once after being blown down by the hurricane of 1938 and again in 2006, in a joint effort by Preservation Worcester, the Timothy Bigelow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and others.
Mr. Moran said Col. Bigelow and his Minute Men were among the first to end British rule in America, and had an enormous impact on the Revolutionary War.
"When Gen. Gage decided to attack, he was told not to go to Worcester, where the patriots were too strong, but to go to Lexington and Concord instead. The battles started there, but the revolution started here.''