South Natick in the Revolution

 

South Natick had been on the map for 125 years at the time of the American Revolution. When the fighting began, the men and women of the thriving little farming village were in on the action even before the first shots were fired at Lexington on April 19, 1775.

The Minutemen and other patriot farmers from Natick didn’t make it to Concord and Lexington in time to take part in that legendary firefight, but two months later more than 40 Natick officers and soldiers fought with the 5th Middlesex County Regiment at Bunker Hill near Boston.

South Natick, since the earliest colonial times, had been a way station for travelers en route to Boston, Hartford, and New York. Inns and taverns were essential for travelers, and also important in the commercial and public life of the community. Peletiah Morse built his tavern at 33-35 Eliot Street in 1748, and it was one of the designated meeting places for the men who led Natick’s participation in the war. The tavern grounds often were used for soldiers’ drills, and recent research suggests that Paul Revere stayed at the tavern and participated in drills with his unit. The original Morse Tavern structure still stands on the Riverside Montessori School campus.

The Peletiah Morse Tavern (built 1748) on Eliot Street, where the South Natick militia gathered.

The Peletiah Morse Tavern (built 1748) on Eliot Street, where the South Natick militia gathered.

Col. Hezekiah Broad, whose 95 Eliot Street home was near the current Memorial Elementary School, was elected in October 1774 to be Natick’s representative to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. The Provincial Congress, like those in other colonies, was an illegal gathering that disputed the authority of the British colonial government. Peletiah Morse was a member of Natick’s Committee of Correspondence, a wartime assembly established to channel news and plans among Massachusetts townspeople as the prewar boycott of British goods got under way, and as preparations for resistance and revolution were carried out. Natick voted to pay its taxes directly to the Provincial Congress instead of the British governor, and named 18 men to be Minutemen ready to fight at a moment’s notice.

There is some evidence that, as 700 British redcoats were marching to Lexington, Natick’s first warning was received at the home of Oliver Bacon at 185 Eliot Street (near the site of today’s Natick Community Organic Farm). Paul Revere and William Dawes were the original messengers dispatched from Boston, but men and women from “every Middlesex village and farm” helped to spread the alarm to their neighboring communities after Revere and Dawes had passed through. Minuteman Capt. Thomas Sawin IV lived at 79 South Street, and his home was used for wartime meetings. His wife’s niece, Abigail Smith, rode out to shout the news—“The British are coming!”—on the fateful night of April 18.

Newly elected President George Washington passed through South Natick in 1789 and reportedly visited Col. Broad, who had served with him during the war. Historians have not mentioned whether Washington actually slept there.