Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Forgotten Midnight Rider

William Dawes
Paul Revere Statue, Boston
One of the many connections the Gibson family has to Boston history is its link to William Dawes (17451799), uncle to Catherine Hammond Gibson (18041888), builder of the Gibson house. William Dawes, the half-brother of Catherine’s mother, Sarah Dawes Hammond (17681859), was the Boston Patriot who rode alongside Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride of April 18, 1775. While Paul Revere has been commemorated in Longfellow's famous poem and by a bronze statue in front of Boston's Old North Church, William Dawes has not been so honored. In an attempt to remedy this, Helen F. Moore published a poem in 1896, one verse of which reads:
'T'is all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear —
My name was Dawes and his Revere.
Hancock-Clarke House, Lexington
As the British prepared a raid on Lexington and Concord, both William Dawes and Paul Revere set out on horseback from Boston to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock at Lexington's Hancock-Clarke House and rouse the Minutemen. They took separate routes, spreading the alarm along the way. Meeting up again in Lexington, they set out for Concord, but along the way were ambushed by British soldiers. Paul Revere was captured and William Dawes escaped. Although he never made it to Concord (a third rider who had joined them in Lexington, Dr. Samuel Prescott, did), William Dawes had bravely stood up for his cause.
A family story has it that William almost didn’t make his ride because of his younger sister, Sarah, Catherine Hammond Gibson’s mother. William had earlier aided Paul Revere by traveling in and out of  Boston, exchanging money for Revere’s copper, press, and tools. In order to sneak past the British as he served as a go-between for Revere and his business interests, William would often dress up as a farmer pretending to be selling produce, or he would feign drunkenness and subsequently follow the officers on guard to wherever they went in the city. One day he passed by his father’s house and was recognized by young Sarah, who cried out loudly, “Brother Billy! Brother Billy!” William managed to get away before Sarah inadvertently destroyed his cover.

By Emma Cunningham, museum intern

Photo credits:
Portrait of William Dawes by Daniel J. Strain from Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Mass.,; Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, Mass., Lexington Historical Society,

Paul Revere statue photo taken by the author. 

Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere and the World He Lived In. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942.

“History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts, Now Called, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts: 1637–1888, vol. 1.Holland, Henry Ware.

William Dawes and His Ride with Paul Revere. Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1878.PBS webpage: