Revolution of 1774 Re-enacted in Worcester

by Ann Marie Shea
A 21st century Bigelow woman shares tea with her 18th century “relatives.”
A 21st century Bigelow woman shares tea with her 18th century “relatives.”

A coalition of dedicated scholars, artists, and re-enactors commemorated a little known event in our nation’s history in a day-long celebration Sunday, September 7.

As related in Ray Raphael’s book, The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord, British rule in the colony of Massachusetts effectively ended on September 6, 1774 through the actions of nearly 5,000 militiamen from all over Central Massachusetts. More than half a year before the battles of Lexington and Concord, in the shire town of Worcester, British appointed judges were forced to renounce their duties to the crown. This action meant that British troops and authority could no longer operate outside the isolated town of Boston.

The ringleader of the movement was Timothy Bigelow, a Worcester blacksmith. James David Moran’s specially commissioned play, The Chains of Liberty, performed twice during the day at Worcester Area Ministries under the direction of J. T. Turner, linked Bigelow’s craft to the metaphor of the chains that continued, even into the re-public to enslave black people. The play stretches the bounds of creative license to create a strong character for Mary Stearns, hostess of a tavern where the patriots assembled. In fact, there is little documentation on the historical Mrs. Stearns, but as depicted in Moran’s play and performed by Marci Diamond, she is a feisty and crafty businesswoman. But even in this embellished fictional version, Mrs. Stearns appears apolitical, unlike Winslow Worcester, "manservant," (i.e., slave), to Tory Timothy Paine (played by Bill Mootos). Winslow, ably portrayed by Trinidad Ramkissoon, explicitly comments on the irony of white colonists proclaiming that all people are equal, while maintaining the legitimacy of the institution of slavery. But Mrs. Stearns, as depicted in the play, limits her concerns to running her business, never urging her customers to remember the ladies. Bigelow (James Turner), broke the "4th Wall" of the drama several times to re-quest reading of resolutions from the audience. In the spirit of the age, only male voices were heard.

It was a different story on the lawns of Salisbury Mansion, where visitors were invited to join Anna, wife of Timothy Bigelow and her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, for tea and conversation. Interpreters Liz Jones of Concord, NH, and Sharon Burnston of Epsom, NH, brought the historical figures to life. They were joined by a real-life Bigelow woman, Nancy Bigelow, a fourth generation grand-niece of the revolutionary blacksmith.

Congratulations to all the volunteers on the planning commit-tee for commemorating the Worcester Revolution of 1774.

Published Date: 
September 6, 2014