A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From Eunice Paine
Paine, Eunice RTP
Taunton May 9th 1775 Dear brother,

I am very unexpectedly here at your house. The dreadfull scene which threw the towns near Boston into Confusion Drove Coll. Palmers family from their habitation. There was not any house to be got for 46their reception and they were obliged to turn in with Mr. Cranch who had not got the house he hire’d Empty’d of Tenants. They took me with them & thus in continuall Alarms we Endured a fortnight. Tommy Greenleaf with his sisters Nabby & Polly came to us the night before the Gates were Shut. Sister with the rest of her family prisoners. No Language can discribe the Anguish we all Suffer’d our sea shore continually threatned by the men of wars Boats so that the women & children sought safty up in the town a nights. I dont pretend to give you an account of the difficulties further than to Excuse my Coming here thus Abruptly. Every thing is so uncertain at present that Mrs. Palmer is waiting to know if She must wholly leave their Interest at Braintree & all care of it. Mean while I had no means to help myself to a home and tho’t it properest to apply to yours. Mr. Greenleaf Sister & Eunice have got here, Tommy & his Sisters came before & your Office is Converted into a loding room. Here the weary are at rest, tho’ the Sound of war is often in our Ears. A marching Company are now on the Green by their Capt. I intend to sent this to Coll. Palmer for safe Conveyance. I hope it will find you in health & safty. I suppose Mr. Greenleaf will write to you. The Doct. recd. a letter which he says informs him you were better than when you left home. Your family are well, here have been many Changes. Benja. Andrew’s Wife mother & children1 have Came up & Entered McKinstrys house in Exchange for theirs in town to which Mrs. McKinstry & children have remov’d,2 Doct. Churches Mother wife & children3 are at Mr. Crockers at present, Mr. Baker & Daughter Mr. Bass wife & children are looking a house. Doct. Blanchard has got his mother & some furniture. Capt. Smith has brot up his son. The Exchanging of Torrys release some but many are prisoners Yet and what will be their fate we cant Guess. We wait in Anxiety for our friends who are Exposed to the terrors of war. Excuse Every incorrectness & let me hear from you if but a line. I am so discomposd. I hardly know what I write but hope to be Encouraged by a line from you if you approve my retreat. This with compliments to Mr. Adams is all at present from your affectionate,

Eunice Paine

RC ; addressed: “For Robt. Treat Paine Esq In Philadelphia”; endorsed.


Among the refugees was the family of Benjamin Andrews (1741–1778), a Boston merchant. His wife was the former Hannah Gardner (d. 1817), who married secondly in 1780 the lawyer Benjamin Hichborn; the two Andrews sons, Benjamin and Joseph, aged nine and seven; and his mother, 47the former Hannah Holland, who had been widowed in 1773 (Thwing Index). Soon after this letter, on May 17, Andrews suffered heavy damages along with many others in a fire on the Town Dock ( Papers of John Adams , 3:353–354).


Priscilla (Leonard) McKinstry (1732–1786), a cousin of Sally Cobb Paine, was the wife of Dr. William McKinstry, a longtime friend of RTP. Mrs. McKinstry, “a finely educated and high spirited woman, of elegant manners, was compelled, by a large collection of females, to march around the liberty pole.” This incident perhaps precipitated the move into Boston, where the family remained until the evacuation of the town by the British in 1776. Although Dr. McKinstry died in Boston Harbor aboard one of the evacuation ships, Mrs. McKinstry and her children continued on to Halifax with the army. In 1778 she moved to British-occupied Newport, but when that town was evacuated went to live in Haverhill, Mass. ( NEHGR 12[1858]:325–326).


This is the family of Dr. Benjamin Church, whose treachery later in the year would shock the patriotic cause (see below, Elbridge Gerry to RTP, Oct. 1, 1775). His mother, Hannah (Dyer) Church (1683–1794), returned to Boston after the evacuation; but his wife, Sarah (Hill) Church (d. 1788), sailed to her native England with her four children.