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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.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Rev Ebenezer Morse.JPG
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!" 

Immediately after the Lexington alarm the principal occupation of able-bodied men in the province of Massachusetts Bay was organizing and drilling, and before the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775, a large body of troops was at Cambridge, under command of General Artemas Ward, of Shrewsbury. Captain Ezra Beaman and Captain Job Cushing, with their companies from Shrewsbury, were both there.
Howe Stone.JPG
Nathan Howe was plowing at the time he heard the cry, with a horse and a pair of oxen; mounting the horse he set off to rally the men.  There was hurrying to and fro and mounting in hot haste. The company, like many others as remote, did not arrive in time to take part in the fight.
D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Worcester County Massachusetts with Historical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men (Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1889), vol. I, pp. 780-810.
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