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Papers of Timothy Bigelow (1739-1790)

Description

The strength of Bigelow’s papers is their reflection of his involvement with the Revolution. There are nine letters from Bigelow to his wife. These date from soon after his arrival in Cambridge in April, 1775, until shortly before his capture in Quebec the following winter. His concerns were mostly about his clothing and how his wife and children were faring. He also gave accounts of life in the army. His letter of 30 July 1775, while he was convalescing from a "disorder" which was afflicting both armies, describes the rigorous daily routine. In his letter of 23 August 1775, Bigelow claims that there was a high desertion rate for the British army. He told of someone swimming from Boston Common to Lechmere Point in Cambridge and speculated that many men had been lost attempting this. Among other letters in this collection is "the first [letter] I ever wrote" in 1778 by his eleven year old son, Andrew (1769-1787). There are three letters written after Bigelow's death from his widow to their youngest daughter, Clarissa, born in 1781. They were written in 1794 and 1798 and discuss daily matters, such as clothing. At the time, Clarissa was staying with a brother in Groton so she could attend the "academy." Another son, Rufus (1772-1813), was a merchant in Baltimore. In 1800, he wrote to a Boston merchant, Stephen Higginson, on the transfer of funds. Among Boston repositories, the Houghton Library at Harvard University has two letters to Bigelow from his son, Timothy Bigelow Jr. (1767-1821), dated 1786 and 1787. In the first, the son was at Harvard College. In the second, he was in the army in Springfield and concerned with Shay's Rebellion. The Boston Public Library has a broadside signed by Bigelow in 1777 asking a reward for Caleb Greene for passing counterfeit $30 bills, a 1775 note to the Committee of Supplies, and a 1779 pay abstract for the 13th Regiment. See also Theodore Chase, Jr. papers.

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Details

Collection Name
Codman family papers
Collection Code
MS001
Dates
1775-1800, undated
Collection Type
Manuscripts
Description Level
Series
GUSN
293732
Reference Code
MS001.01

Historical/Biographical Note

Colonel Timothy Bigelow was a Worcester blacksmith whose finest hour was during the American Revolution. In 1762, he married Anna Andrews (1747-1809), also of Worcester. This union resulted in six children. Bigelow's revolutionary activities began before the war. He was active in the American Political Society, a Whig organization in Worcester. In 1775, he was instrumental in removing safely the Massachusetts Spy and its editor Isaiah Thomas from Boston. The press and types were smuggled out during the night. Renamed the Massachusetts Spy, or American Oracle it resumed publication in Worcester at a safe distance from troubled Boston. A company of minutemen had enrolled under Bigelow during the summer of 1774. During the eventful night of 19 April 1775, Bigelow and his company marched to Cambridge. After spending the next few months training and fighting skirmishes, they set off for Quebec in the fall. Because of his explorations en route to Quebec, Mount Bigelow, near the source of the Kennebec River, received its name. In December, they were taken captive until a prisoner exchange the following summer. The winter of 1777-1778 he spent in Valley Forge, and in June participated in the Battle of Monmouth. After the war he returned to Worcester in poor health and with his personal property greatly diminished. In 1780, he and others obtained a land grant to found Montpelier, Vermont. The venture was apparently less than successful. He became overwhelmed by debt and died in prison. However, a number of his children lead successful lives. On 19 April 1862, a monument was dedicated to him in Worcester, given by his grandson, Colonel Timothy Bigelow of Boston, and designed by the Boston architect George Snell. A model of this monument is in the Boston Public Library. His relation to the Codmans was by marriage. Alice Bradlee, sister of Sarah Fletcher Bradlee Codman, married his great grandson Theodore Chase, Jr.

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