Massachusetts Provincial Congress Seal
American Revolutionary War
The first overt act of Shrewsbury in the Revolutionary War was to send delegates to the first Provincial Congress, holden at Concord October 11, 1774. Artemas Ward had been chosen Representative from Shrewsbury to the General Court, which Governor Gage had ordered to meet at Salem October 5th. The Governor countermanded his order, but the Representatives met at Salem all the same and adjourned to Concord.
The recommendations of this Congress to the towns were forthwith carried into effect by the inhabitants of Shrewsbury.
They organized three companies of militia, one in the North Parish, Captain Asa Beaman, and two in the South Parish, Captain Job Cushing and Captain Asa Brigham.
They voted not to pay taxes to Mr. Treasurer Harrison Gray, but to Henry Gardner, of Stow, whom Congress had designated as its new Receiver-General.
They adopted the non-consumption agreement as to India teas and appointed an inspection committee of fifteen, five to be a quorum, whose duty it was to be to find out all such persons as sell or consume so extravagant and unnecessary an article of luxury and post their names in some public place.
The town also chose a committee of five to examine Reverend Ebenezer Morse, minister of the Second Parish, William Crawford and three others, all members of that parish, "as being suspected of Toryism." At an adjourned meeting the committee reported favorably as to the three others, but as to Rev. Ebenezer Morse, they said it appeared to them that he was not so friendly to the common cause as they could wish, and as to William Crawford, it appeared to the committee that he was wholly unfriendly and inclined rather to take up arms for the King.
Mr. Morse came before the town to answer for himself. He had prayed with much fervor in his pulpit for the King and royal family, and this was well known before to all the town. He now, in open town-meeting, declared himself a loyalist and reproved his fellow townsmen for disloyalty. The town thereupon directed the committee to take away the arms, ammunition and warlike implements of both Mr. Morse and Crawford, and voted that said Morse do not pass over the lines of the Second Parish on any occasion whatever without a permit, and that said Crawford remain within the bounds of his own land except on Sabbath-days, and then not go out of his parish without a permit.
Reverend Ebenezer Morse
In the time of the Revolution, regiments in Massachusetts were territorial - so many towns to a regiment. The county of Worcester was divided into seven regiments, and Shrewsbury, Grafton, Northborough, Westborough and Southborough were the Sixth Worcester Regiment, Jonathan Ward, of Southborough, colonel. Artemas Ward, of Shrewsbury, formerly colonel of this regiment, was elected by the first Provincial Congress, of which he was a member, with two others, to organize and command the militia, and the next Congress issued to him a commission as commander-in-chief of all the forces of Massachusetts and the other colonies, and shortly afterwards he was appointed by the Continental Congress major general and commander-in-chief.
Meantime the war had begun, and Captain Job Cushing, of Shrewsbury, had marched with his company to Lexington. About ten o'clock in the forenoon of April 19, 1775, passed like a flash through Shrewsbury a white horse, bloody with spurring and dripping with sweat, bearing a post-rider shouting as he rode: "To arms! To arms! The war has begun!" I have often heard my grandfather, Nathan Howe, the younger of that name, tell the story. He was then a boy fourteen years old, at work in the field with his father plowing, the team being a pair of oxen and a horse. His father, Ensign Howe, now lieutenant of Captain Cushing's company, immediately detached from the team and mounted his horse and set off to rally the company. There was hurrying to and fro and mounting in hot haste. The younger Nathan wanted dreadfully to go, too, and cried because his father would not let him. Of course the company, like many others as remote, did not arrive in time to take part in the fight.