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Fear and Hiding on April 19, 1775

Very near Farrar Pond Village, an event related to the American Revolution occurred on April 19, 1775. The story involves Mercy Hoar Farrar, wife of Lt. Samuel Farrar, Jr., a Lincoln Minute Man who fought in the Battle of Concord and Lexington. The event involving Mercy Farrar may have occurred because of fears aroused on April 19 when news of the fighting in Lexington and Concord and the burning of Colonial military stores reached Lincoln. The Colonials did not know which route the British would take to return to Boston, and many families gathered their household goods and fled because they feared their homes might be burned or shot at by retreating troops.

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The community around Farrar Pond-to-be        (click to enlarge)

The Farrar homestead, which had been built in 1692, was located on Sudbury Way (now Concord Road or Route 126). It stood in a spot near where mailboxes for 216 and 217 Concord Road now stand. On April 19, the house was a gathering place for women and children from Concord. Mercy Farrar fled with her family, including her baby Samuel 3rd, and others, down to Oakey Bottom, a forested area below the rear of the house at the southeastern edge of a marshy meadow (now Farrar Pond) through which Half-Way Brook flowed.

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Farrar Homestead, original image available from Lincoln Archives        (click to enlarge)

You might wonder why she wanted to flee, since most of the fighting that occurred as the British retreated from Concord was at the other end of town along the Battle Road of 1775. Though the British returned to Boston the way they came, they could have chosen the route through South Lincoln along Sudbury Way and then east along South Great Road (Route 117) to Waltham, Watertown, and Brookline into Boston. Had they taken this route, the British would have marched close to the Farrar home.

The British had gone to Concord to destroy military stores kept there by the Colonials. In the early hours of April 19, 650 to 900 British troops led by Lt. Col. Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn left Boston, crossed the Charles River, and marched towards Concord, under orders from Thomas Gage, the British Military Governor of Massachusetts. Soon after the British left Boston, the entire countryside had been alerted to their presence. They reached Lexington around 4:30 AM and met and fired on a company of Lexington Minute Men, eight of whom were mortally wounded.

Minute Men from Lincoln and Concord, having heard about the fighting in Lexington, marched from Concord towards Lincoln until they sighted a large British force coming in the opposite direction. They turned about, marched back to Concord, and went on to the North Bridge. The British searched Concord for Colonial military supplies. Smoke from fires set by the British led the Colonials to believe Concord was being burned. At 9:30 AM they encountered the British at the North Bridge and, during the ensuing fight, fired “The Shot Heard Round the World”. News of the confrontation spread to other towns.

The British retreated to Concord Center where they regrouped, rested, and took care of their wounded. Later, when they finally started back to Boston, “the real battle began.” They were shot at from behind trees and walls and broke ranks in their retreat. Lincoln was the setting for much of the fighting.

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The British long march back to Boston from Concord   (click to enlarge)

(This map may be seen larger and in color at http://www.nps.gov/mima/index.htm; look to lower left for Park Tools→View Park Map.)

Back in Boston, six hours after the first troops had left for Concord, Gage sent out a relief column led by Lord Hugh Percy, who met up with Lt. Col. Smith’s demoralized men, collected them back into regiments, and led them back to Charlestown. Before reaching there, they fought with the Colonials in Arlington and Cambridge.

According to historian John C. MacLean, “Whatever they did, it was certain the British would march through Lincoln again. Lincoln’s traditions suggest that many families prepared by hiding valuables and some gathered together for safety.”

Mercy Farrar had additional reasons to fear for her family. Lt. Samuel Farrar, Jr. was a Minute Man and his father, Deacon Samuel Farrar, Sr., who also lived at the homestead, was a respected Colonial leader who had played a prominent role in events leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In 1773, he was Chairman of the first Committee of Correspondence. In 1774, the British Parliament outlawed the holding of town meetings without consent from the Governor.  After this and other “Intolerable Acts” passed by Parliament, the Colonials held County Conventions to deal with their concerns.  At the Middlesex Convention held in Concord that year and attended by Deacon Farrar, the following measure was endorsed:

…if, in support of our rights, we are called upon to encounter even death, we are yet undaunted, sensible that he can never die too soon, who lays down his life in support of the laws and liberties of his country. (MacLean, p. 244)

Deacon Farrar attended the first Provincial Congress that formed an opposition government after Gage discharged their elected representatives to the General Court. This government created a Commission of Safety to call out the militia. It also initiated Minute Men groups, amassed munitions, and formed a treasury.  At the Lincoln town meeting in January of 1775, the town endorsed the Provincial Congress and sent it representatives and funds. Deacon Farrar was elected to several positions of leadership and responsibility at this meeting.

The story of Mercy Farrar’s hiding out in Oakey Bottom was later told by one of the Farrar grandsons:

The Concord families living nearest to our home fled this way for safety, and with my grandmother and others of the family left this house, and took refuge in “Oaky Bottom,” a retired piece of forest land about one-half mile in the rear of the house [now part of the man-made Farrar Pond]. Grandmother in her haste had sufficient self-possession to think of the cattle tied in the barn. These she let loose, desiring to save them from the flames that she expected would be kindled by Gage’s army. She took her babe, Samuel (the third), in her arms, the large family Bible, a loaf of bread, and a looking-glass, with what little silver she had, and bade farewell to the old dwelling, never expecting to gather her family about her again beneath that ancestral roof. (MacLean, p. 276)

As it turned out, the Farrar home was never endangered. After April 19, Lt. Samuel Farrar, Jr. participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill and helped to fortify Dorchester Heights. He was soon promoted to Captain and led a company of Volunteers throughout the War. At Saratoga, he was present when Burgoyne surrendered. Deacon Farrar died in 1783, soon after the War ended. Samuel Farrar, Jr. became one of the first Selectmen to serve Lincoln after the War and became an important town leader.

The Farrar homestead, inhabited by generations of Farrars since the 17th century, stood until the early 1950s. The last owner, a Farrar relative, after deciding the house was beyond repair, removed items of value from it, and, with permission from the fire department, had the house torn down and burned. Artifacts from it are now on exhibit at the Smithsonian and Winterthur Museums.

Sources

  1. Glass, Kerry, and Little Elizabeth, Lincoln . . . Lincoln Historical Commission, 1975.
  2. Farrar, Edward R., Birthplace of the Farrar Family in America, Lincoln, Massachusetts.
  3. MacLean, John C., A Rich Harvest, Lincoln, MA, Lincoln Historical Society, 1987.
  4. Minute Man National Historical Park, Massachusetts, Minute Man, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
  5. Ragan, Ruth Molton, Voiceprints of Lincoln, Boston, Northeastern University Press, Lincoln Historical Society, 1991.

This article was written with assistance from the following Lincoln residents: Jeanne Cousins, Mary E. Peterson (a Farrar descendant), and Harold McAleer.  It was originally printed in the April 2000 issue of the Farrar Ponder, a publication of Farrar Pond Village, Lincoln, MA.

© Kathy Garner 2000