The Cemetery Shortcut

Cemetery Tree loPaul Revere ran right through here in the still of night—right by where I was sketching. It was a cemetery then, too. He was not on a horse and he was not alerting the locals that the British were coming. Later, the British would indeed come and leave eight colonists dead and ten wounded on the Lexington Green, just a stone’s throw away.

Revere was racing back to the Reverend Jonas Clark House, where he would help usher John Hancock and Samuel Adams out of town. It would be the second time he warned them of the oncoming British. The first time, hours before, was on his famous ride. That ride had ended abruptly with his later arrest in Lincoln, Massachusetts. (Revere had decided to race on to warn the town of Concord, too, of what trouble marched in their direction.) His British captors released him soon after when they realized they had bigger things to worry about—a gathering storm of revolt. Revere hustled back to Hancock and Adams, cutting through this cemetery, a perfect shortcut. They all escaped before the British finally arrived at dawn—just hours before the Battle of Lexington.

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On a beautiful summer afternoon, I sat in the Olde Cemetery Ground drawing peacefully among many of the victims and participants of that famous battle. Captain John Parker, the leader of the Patriot troops, is buried here. So is Reverend Jonas Clark, under a large table-like marker, which, it turns out, I had used as a table for drawing. Among the gravestones I sketched is that of Jonathan Harrington, who, after being shot, crawled the short distance to his home, only to die on his doorstep before his wife. She’s buried here too, along with their relatives, in graves embraced by the roots of the huge maple tree before me.

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As I drew, tour buses came and went down the road, just out of sight. I could hear the muffled voices of the visitors as they walked around the Lexington Common. But, behind the church, only I disturbed the patriots that afternoon.

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Noise in the Night

It was midnight when Paul Revere arrived at his actual destination on the night of his famous ride: the home of Lexington’s clergyman Jonas Clark. In the house, a short distance from the town’s Common, Colonial rabblerousers John Hancock and Samuel Adams were hiding out, and had been for over a week. Revere (and other riders) had been sent by Colonial leader Dr. Joseph Warren to warn them of oncoming British, and the likelihood of their arrest. Revere knew exactly where to go that night as he had run the route a week earlier.

John Hancock was related by marriage to Jonas Clark. This was originally his grandfather’s house, built in 1738, and he lived briefly in the house as a boy. On the night of April 18-19, 1775, it was a very full house. The Clarks had at least eight of their twelve children still living with them, and Hancock had brought his fiance as well as his aunt with him. With Samuel Adams, that made fourteen residents in all.

Arriving in haste from his hour-long ride, he came upon Sergeant William Munroe and about a dozen other Lexington militiamen, who were guarding the house. Munroe didn’t know Revere and when Revere called out, he was ordered to quiet down, because everyone in the house was trying to sleep!

“Noise!” Paul Revere exclaimed, “You’ll have noise enough before long. The Regulars [British] are coming out!”

Revere hustled by Munroe and pounded on the door, causing many windows to open and many heads to look down upon on him. One was Hancock, who recognized Revere and called, “Come in, Revere! We’re not afraid of you.”

Soon after William Dawes arrived, bringing the same news from a different direction. He, too, was sent by Dr. Warren by the land route through Boston, Roxbury, Brookline and Cambridge. Adams, Hancock, Clark, Dawes and Revere then walked down the street to Munroe Tavern, on the Common, to find “refreshment” for themselves and their horses. Some Lexington militia had been staying there for the night. In the tavern, the group considered the intentions of the British. With so many more soldiers marching than expected, perhaps they were marching not only to arrest Hancock and Adams. Maybe they were marching on to Concord to seize the large amount of weapons and ammunition the colonists had stored there! Knowing that Concord needed to be warned, Paul Revere and William Dawes then took on another mission and together rode off to Concord.

Samuel Adams and John Hancock escaped arrest and harm by hustling off to Woburn later that night following a second visit from Paul Revere after he escaped capture. (More about that later.)

In 1896, the Hancock Clark Parsonage itself escaped a dangerous fate: demolition. Instead, the house was bought by the Lexington Historical Commission and moved across the street. Later it was moved back to its original location.

From where I drew, directly across the street was another relocated house. This one, built in the mid 1800s, was recently renovated and was at some point moved from near the Battle Green. I sat by the “For Sale,” sign which reassured me that I had selected a million-dollar view. The asking price for the house: $1,150,000.