Major Thomas Hovey
Major Thomas Hovey was born in Newton, Massachusetts on August 14, 1740.
He was probably brought up in Watertown and lived there until 1762 when he moved to
Cambridge, and settled in Brighton in 1776. All of these places were in close proximity
or part of Boston.
This was an important time in the history of the what would become the United
States of America. When Thomas was born, King George II sat on the throne of
England, having succeeded his father, George I, in 1727. King George II was more
involved in the governing of England, but had a problem in not being able to grasp the
concept of diplomacy. Any slight or injustice he perceived was taken personally and he
would retaliate without regard to long-term effects. It was in this manner that War with
France began in 1757, when Thomas was only 17 years old. Knowing that Britain
lacked the resources to wage a effective campaign on the European Continent, Prime
Minister William Pitt transferred the theater of War to the colonies, thus becoming the
French and Indian War. The War bankrupted England but, due to glowing promises
made to the colonists to gain their support, the combined forces of the British army and
the colonist forces defeated the French. The Treaty of Paris of 1763 had France
surrender all of their possession in North America except for Louisiana. George II did
not live to see this treaty, having died in 1760. His son, George III, assumed the
Following the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the colonists sought the
opportunity to realize some of the promises they received for their support. However,
with a new King, all old promises evaporated. Stringent control of the colonies was
tightened, rather than loosened. Writs of Convenience, begun during George II's reign,
continued with the new King. This allowed royal customs officials to enter private
residences and bedrooms at any hour of the day or not, presumable to search for
evidence of smuggling, but no reason or warning need be given. England decided to
shift the financial burden of the late war squarely onto the shoulders of the colonies;
after all it was all for their benefit, wasn't it? In reality, the colonist saw no reason for
the war and only participated as a result of the promises made by the crown at the
time. The quarrel with France was limited to Europe until the King decided to make it
an American conflict.
So began the litany of Acts which increasingly alienated the American colonists
and drove them further from identifying with "Mother England." The Sugar Act of 1763,
which stipulated that violators were to be tried in military courts without jury. The
Stamp Act of 1765 was next. The Quartering Act of 1765 was especially curious --
every house holder had to provide living quarters for His Majesty's soldiers. However,
this was a time of peace. No such requirements had been necessary during the French
and Indian War. All of these Acts led to boycotts and protests. In 1767 the Townshend
Act was followed by a Tea Tax. In December of 1773 the Boston Tea Party occurred
as American Patriots protested the tax by dumping a ship load of tea into Boston
harbor. Parliament then passed the Intolerable Acts to punish Massachusetts: The port
of Boston was closed, all Massachusetts courts were abolished and court cases had to
be heard in London, all elected officials were replaced with appointees from the Crown,
and town hall meetings were limited to only once per year. Tensions increased until
April 19, 1775 when the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at the Battle
of Lexington and Concord -- only a few miles from where Thomas lived! Thomas was
all of 35 years of age when this event occurred.
When the first shots were fired at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, General
Gage led his British troops back to Boston. However, the American Minutemen did not
disperse. The call to arms had gone out. First, they came from other Massachusetts
towns. Within days volunteers began arriving from other colonies. General Gage and
his undermanned British garrison now found themselves under siege from all sides.
Two months later, reinforced by only 1100 troops, Gage attempted to break the colonial
lines ringing Boston. He fought colonial militia entrenched on two strategic high points,
Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill. Thomas was in the Battle of Bunker Hill, fighting
alongside his fellow colonists against the British. After a furious day's fighting, on June
17, the British cleared both hills of American soldiers. The cost was high. The British
suffered 50% casualties while the Americans counted fewer than 450 men killed,
wounded, or captured. As one of Gage's officers aptly remarked, "another such victory
would have ruined us." One year later, on July 4, the Declaration of Independence was
signed, giving a focus to the hostilities -- nothing less than total independence from
Mother England. Subsequently Thomas served in Washington's army as a major
drummer. Thomas was 41 when Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington at the
Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781.
Thomas taught school in Brighton for about twenty winters, and also in
Watertown and Newton. He lived in Newton following the War, from 1792, and at other
times resided in Cambridge, Roxbury, Lunenburg, and finally in Brighton. All of these
towns were either part of modern Boston, today, or within a 7 mile radius. Thomas was
listed as a currier in Lunenburg in 1770, before the War. A currier was one who
dresses the coat of a horse with a curry comb, or one who tanned leather by
incorporating oil or grease.
Mr. Hovey married Miss Elizabeth, daughter of Josiah Brown and Mary Seaver
of Brighton, on April 21, 1763. (Josiah Brown was born October 22, 1706.)
Thomas saw many early events in U.S. history before his life was over. The
Constitution of the United States was drafted in 1787, when Thomas was 47. George
Washington, Thomas' former commander, became the first President of the United
States in April 1789 and served until March of 1797. John Adams was the second
President, from 1797 to 1801. Thomas lived to see Thomas Jefferson become
President in March of 1801.
Thomas died in Brighton on May 8, 1807, at the age of sixty-six. He died of consumption (tuberculosis), and from Thanksgiving day in 1806 until he died, because of the peculiar nature of his disease, he could not lie down. If he tried to recline, he would suffer from severe coughing. All of his sleep had to be obtained by someone rubbing his head. Often he remarked, "How good that bed looks. Oh! If I could lie down but one hour, but that is impossible, it distresses me. No one can tell but myself."
At first be was irreconciled to leaving this attractive world, not that he was afraid to die,
but his love for his family was so strong he could not bear to break the tie. He looked
upon his wife with most lamentable sighs, saying, "How can I leave you; how can I
leave my dear children? This world looks beautiful and pleasant to me, and I know that
I am attached to it and my family." "Oh!" said he, "if it could be consistent with the Lord
to spare me a few years longer, that I might see my children settled around me, it would
be exceedingly pleasant, but if God has otherwise determined, I hope and pray that I
may be reconciled." He truly saw that happy day and often said, "Forever, oh! Lord, thy
word is settled in Heaven." A few minutes before he died he was asked where those
words were that he so often repeated, and replied, "You will find them in Psalms, 119,
His wife joined the Baptist church in Newton after the death of her husband; and
she died January 14, 1821, in Rutland, Massachusetts, at the age of seventy-four. Her
death was peaceful and happy. Rev. Mr. Clark said to her, "You will soon go to Jesus."
She replied, "Oh! Yes, I shall soon see Him as he is." Being asked if she had peace,
she said, "Perfect peace. I feel happy, -- happy, -- happy;" and then she closed her
eyes, dying without a sigh or groan.
Their 16 children were as follows:
I. Josiah, born December 24, 1763 in Brighton, and died in Cambridgeport March 29, 1847, at the age of 83. He left a considerable estate to Baptist charities. He fathered 1 child.
II. Mary, born July 1, 1765, in Brighton and died at Roxbury Dec. 19, 1846 at the age of 81. She had 6 children.
III. Thomas (see Deacon Thomas Hovey)
IV. James, born Feb. 8, 1768 in Roxbury and died in Brighton Sept. 21, 1831 at the age of 63. He was the founder of the First Baptist Church at Central Square in Cambridge. He fathered six children.
V. Ebenezer, born June 8, 1768 in Lunenburg and died Nov. 28, 1799 at the age of 61. He fathered 12 children.
VI. Phineas Brown, born Nov. 8, 1770 and died April 19, 1852 at the age of 80. He fathered 7 children.
VII. Elizabeth Johnson, born July 4, 1772 in Lunenburg and died Sept 30, 1850 at the age of 78. She was the mother of 4 children, one by her first husband and the remaining 3 by her second.
VIII. Stephen, born June 23, 1774 in Lunenburg and died Dec. 25, 1796 at the age of 22. He died at sea as a seaman when he fell to the deck from the rigging during a violent storm. He never married.
IX. Washington, born Aug 26, 1777 in Brighton. He traveled to the South and was never heard from again but supposedly perished in a fire that destroyed the Richmond theater in 1811. He never married.
X. Eleanor Dana, born Feb. 23, 1779 and died Feb. 15, 1813 at the age of 33. She had 4 children.
XI. John, born Jan. 23, 1781 and died Dec. 11, 1853 at the age of 72.
XII. Sarah, born Sept. 26, 1782 and died Jan. 7, 1862 at the age of 79.
XIII. Anna, born Sept. 3, 1784 and died May 10, 1860 at the age of 75.
XIV. William, born Aug. 4, 1786 and died of measles May, 1790 at age 3.
XV. Susannah Jordan, born April 5, 1791 and died Feb. 9, 1828 at age 36. She had 3 children.
XVI. (An unnamed child, who died young.)