|Detail from an October, 1775 map of Boston|
Local place names die hard. There are still a few long-time residents of Boston who will direct you to Scollay Square in the old West End that was obliterated by urban renewal in the 1960s and replaced by the modern brutalism of Government Center. It will take another generation before the Mystic Bridge is universally known in Boston as the Tobin Bridge, though it has carried that name since 1967. The same thing happened to the streets and lanes in Colonial Boston. It might have been shown on a 1769 map as Atkinson's Street or Leverett's Lane, but everyone in Boston knew these places as Green's Lane or Quaker-Lane (in the latter case because the Quaker Meeting House was located there).
|detail from A Plan of the Town of Boston in New-England|
Distinguishing that Part which was Burnt in 1760
During the rest of the decade, the burnt-over section of Boston experienced street reconfigurations as well as rebuilding. Some of the maps of the town printed in the late colonial era were based on earlier maps that had not been altered to reflect subsequent development to the extent that the printers may have claimed. William Price's wonderful publication - A new plan of ye great town of Boston in New England in America, with the many additionall buildings, & new streets, to the year 1769 - was in fact heavily derivative of Captain John Bonner's 1723 The town of Boston in New England map, also published by Price. Compare the details from each map, below, which focus on the areas where Samuel Gray was seen prior to his death on King-street during the Boston Massacre. Among other things, the 1769 map still shows the 1710 Quaker Meeting house that was lost in the 1760 fire.
|Detail from Bonner Map of Boston by William Price 1723|
|Detail from William Price Map of Boston 1769|
"On the 5th March I went to Quaker Lane, and met Samuel Gray. I said Where are you going – he said to the fire. I went into King-Street and saw nobody there, the sentry was walking as usual. We agreed to go home. I went towards home, and stopped at the bottom of Long-lane, and while I was there, I heard guns go off. I went to King-street and was told several were killed."
Quaker Lane is identified as Leverts L. on both of the Price maps above, running between King-Street and Milk St. and today part of modern Congress Street. There is an L shaped alley just West of Congress St. and south of State St. that is called Quaker Lane today. Ferriter and Gray would have walked North together to King St. where they parted, with Ferriter retracing his route and then continuing on Long Lane after he crossed Milk St. The bottom of Long Lane (now Federal St.) was at Cow Lane (now part of High St.), and when Ferriter heard the gunfire he went back once more in nearly a straight line from Long Lane to Quaker/Levert's Lane and the Massacre site at King-street.
Benjamin Davis, Jr., on the other hand, testified that he met Samuel Gray that same evening but farther from King Street than where Ferriter came upon him:
“I went home and staid at the gate in Green’s Lane some time. Samuel Gray (one of the persons killed that night in Kings-Street) came along, and asked where the fire was. I said there was no fire, it was the soldiers fighting. He said Damn it, I am glad of it, I will knock some of them on the head; he ran off, I said to him take heed you do not get killed in the affray yourself, he said do not you fear, damn their bloods.”
Green's Lane was a local name for what is shown on the maps as Atkinson's St. running close to Long Lane between Milk and Cow St. The rope walks were located on the East side of Green's/Atkinson's,where a section of Modern Congress street lies today.
Although Ferriter and Davis's statements seem to contradict each other, they both mention that Gray was out that night because he initially thought there was a fire. The cause was the untimely ringing of church bells, the universal fire alarm of the day. The bells started to ring that night before the confrontation on King-street had attracted more than a few youths who were taunting a solitary sentry, for another, seemingly more significant ruckus was underway in front of Murray's Sugar House on Brattle St. where some of the 29th had their barracks.
|Approximate routes of Nicholas Ferriter and Samuel Gray, based on Ferreter's |
and Benjamin Davis Jr.'s sworn statements(shown on a 1775 map of Boston)
Perhaps Gray became belligerent once he learned from Davis that the alarm was about "soldiers fighting", and ran back to King-Street where by now there was a greater crowd and Captain Preston and the Guard had since arrived to reinforce the beleaguered sentinel before the Custom-House. Perhaps young Davis was mistaken when he testified that Gray had a stick under his arm, or maybe Gray was by this time carrying a weapon. The one thing that seems likely based on both Ferriter and Davis's statements was that Gray approached King-Street from the South End of Town and his home as well as the rope-walks where he labored may well have been in that section of Boston.
Plotting Samuel Gray's path risks becoming something akin to a ricocheting bullet if one tries too hard to make such evidence conform to a definitive account. The same is true for conflicting accounts of his behavior once he arrived, without Ferriter this time, in the middle of King-Street where minutes later he would lose his life. We will discuss the evidence for what happened next, including suggestions about how he may have been dressed when he died, and the question once more of whether he was unarmed or carrying a stick, in the next post in this series.