The Samuel Gray Society

dedicated to preserving the history of colonial America and its people


Any complete story of Boston must begin in England, wherein a 1603 proclamation by King James ordering Puritans to reform ultimately ended in the Great Migration of 1630-1640, when some 20,000 pilgrims emigrated to into New England and Massachusetts Bay.  John Winthrop was among its first settlers in the spring of 1630, who, along with about 1500 persons settled south of Charlestown.  On September 7, 1630 ministers officially renamed what was then called Tri-Mountain to Boston, electing Winthrop its first governor.1

In 1648 Boston saw its first execution for witchcraft, 44 years prior to the hysteria of the Salem witchcraft trials that saw 19 persons hanged and one man buried alive under heavy stones.

The first market and town hall in Boston was erected by Peter Faneuil  at his own expense.2  After a fire destroyed most of the structure in 1761, it was rebuilt and expanded in 1763, 1805, 1826 and finally in 1976 where it is today known as Faneuil Hall Marketplace and hosts 20 million visitors annually.

Historical map of Boston from the

Antiquarian Society, CY3807822697

  1. 1. “A History of Boston” by Caleb Hopkins Snow, Boston 1825.

  2. 2.  A Municipal History of the Town and City of Boston During Two Centuries” by Josiah Quincy, Boston 1852.

  3. 3.  “A History of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, Consisting of the Narrative of the Town, the Trial of the Soldiers, and a Historical Introduction” by Frederic Kidder,  Albany, NY, 1870.

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During the fateful spring of 1770, a fatal shooting of colonial residents by British occupying soldiers, today known as the Boston Massacre, would forever mark the town’s populace as integral to the start of the revolution.  But in fact, the massacre was one of several events, such as the Stamp Act of 1765, that fueled rising dissent in 18th century New England.  While eye-witness testimonies to the incident vary significantly, a synopsis of the event is possible.  In the evening of March 5, tensions from an earlier altercation between workers of John Gray’s Ropewalks and British foot soldiers erupted in a violent clash. 

Accounts of the event describe a rabble of approximately 50-60

townsmen (although British accounts list numbers up to 200), some of whom were armed with large Wouldring sticks, as surrounding 9 guards under the command of Captain Thomas Preston.  Cornered on King Street by the crowd, the soldiers believed themselves threatened, leading to shots being fired, apparently with no order from a commanding officer.  In the horror of the next several minutes, four men lay dead, a fifth mortally wounded.  Among those instantly killed were Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, and James Caldwell.  A trial for the murder of these men followed, with Samuel Quincy as the prosecutor and Josiah Quincy and John Adams in defense of the British.  8 soldiers were indicted along with Capt. Preston.  Ultimately, Preston was acquitted of all charges, as were 6 of the 8 soldiers.  Two of the soldiers, Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Killroy, were convicted of manslaughter.3

Three years later, in protest of the Tea Act, a group of men in disguise boarded the vessels Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver and unloaded 342 crates of tea into Boston harbor, today known as the Boston Tea Party.  Reaction was swift, in March 30, 1774 the British Parliament ratified the Harbor Act, effectively closing Boston to all maritime trade.

By 1790, after the American Revolution and ratification of the Constitution, Boston had a population of approximately 18,000 people and seven town schools.  It was chartered as a city in 1822 and soon became one of America’s wealthiest and busiest ports.  The naval act of 1794 mandated the design and construction of six frigates for the United States Navy, the most famous of which, The U.S.S. Constitution, was completed in Boston by 1797.  Today it remains the oldest commissioned naval vessel in the world and anchors one end of Boston’s famed “Freedom Trail”