With Issue #14 now completed, I figured you all might be interested in knowing what happened to the Warrens after they left us here in the pages of The Dreamer. Today’s guest blog on the matter is graciously provided by Dr. Samuel Forman:
Lora asked me to contribute a guest blog entry about the fates of Joseph Warren’s children and of his brothers on the occasion of Dreamers bidding them all farewell. Readers are getting ready to follow Beatrice Whaley back to the 21st century.
I am the modern biographer of Joseph Warren, so these kinds of invitations come to me. I thought of politely declining. June is a busy month for enthusiasts of early Revolutionary Era events and personalities. In the course of a few weeks I note an observance of Joseph Warren’s 271st birthday at the Bunker Hill Monument; an encampment at the same place on June 16-17 of the Charlestown Militia in honor of the 237th anniversary of the battle and Joseph Warren’s untimely demise there; and a ceremony at Forest Hills Cemetery on June 23rd. Dreamers in the vicinity are always welcome at these events.
Despite these commitments, I thought better of begging off. Mrs. Innes wields powerful means of persuasion. In addition to exhibiting a razor sharp talent, she could threaten to draw me, as an honorary member of Knowlton’s volunteers, in a gruesome end at Bunker Hill alongside Joseph Warren. This would be The Dreamer equivalent of inserting pins into a voodoo doll made in my likeness. Consider me persuaded.
Elizabeth Hooton Warren (about 1748-May 23, 1773) was mother to Joseph Warren’s four children. Their eldest child, Elizabeth, was born in 1765, about a year after her parent’s marriage on September 6, 1764. Fictional Beatrice and Alan Warren take note: this Mrs. Warren was just 17 years old when she married.
There are almost as many Elizabeths associated with 18th century Warrens as there are Josephs. To avoid confusion, I hope Lora will insert a helpful Warren family tree here. The latter Elizabeth is the one pictured with her fictional cousin Alan in the adorable group hug. Young Elizabeth even speaks in The Dreamer about, “The latter.” She apparently is the only 10 year old in the entire 18th century to speak that way. This Elizabeth was notable to contemporaries in other ways.
Miss Mercy Scollay, widower Joseph Warren’s fiancée at the time of his demise, campaigned to raise Elizabeth and her three younger siblings – “Jose” (Joseph IV, born 1767), “Dickie” (Richard, b. 1769), and “Polly” (Mary, b. 1772). The children’s lots in life were rocky, particularly right after their father’s death at Bunker Hill. They were left orphans in the care of fiancée Mercy Scollay as refugees in Worcester (about 30 miles west of Boston). Their prior life with daddy among a busy medical practice in Boston was wrenchingly and irretrievably lost, what with Boston being occupied by hostile British during the Siege of Boston (April 20, 1775 to March 17, 1776) and father lying dead and hastily buried near British-occupied Bunker Hill.
Mercy Scollay captured those chaotic first days in a letter to John Hancock, then president of the Second Continental Congress. In it she captures her own anxieties and the beginning of the children being shuffled between her and Roxbury Warrens. Mercy writes of her initial interactions with Joseph’s brother Ebenezer. Warning: have two hankies handy.
“…the Doctor’s brother, who is the farmer came up [to Worcester by early July 1775 in the weeks following Dr. Joseph Warren’s death in battle] in order to take from me the two little boys [i.e. Jose and Dickie], I remonstrated against those proceedings, begged as they were so happily placed from danger in the asylum which their Papa had hope for their residence and under the care of those he confided in that they would permit them to remain with me at least `til there was more safety nearer Boston. I told him what you [John Hancock] had said respecting Josey and that I had wrote your aunt concerning Betsey and as I was ready to give them all the instruction their little minds was capable of receiving at present that it a pity they should be deprived of those advantages by a separation. He was very thankful to Mr. Hancock for his kindness but Mr. H[ancock] never said anything to them about the matter and [Ebenezer Warren] seemed to doubt my word as to your proposals. He said their grandmother [Mrs. Mary Stevens Warren] wanted to see them and that very hard they should be kept from her as it was impossible anybody could love them so well as blood relations. I found it was in vain to oppose their measures and with as cheerful an air as I could assume gave up my two little boys, thankful that they had left me the dear little girls [Betsey and Polly], and I hoped something would intervene that might countenance my detaining them as they claimed my fondest attention. For two months I was actuated by the most anxious hopes and distressing fears, I heard nothing from them all this time and was ignorant of their determination `til the uncle [Ebenezer] again made his appearance for the purpose of taking from me the other two. Oh! Mr. Hancock, my pen here refuses to paint the same and my eyes are surcharged with tears as resolution brings to view the dear little creatures clinging round my neck, and begging everybody not to let uncle Eben take them from Miss Mercy. I said everything I could – so did my friend Mrs. Dix [and] the Dr. [Dix] was [away] from home. I offered to take the youngest [Polly] immediately as my own and did not doubt but I should be assisted by my friend in my care and I would with pleasure maintain her and myself should it please Heaven! To deny me the sight of my parents. This offer was likewise rejected and he intimated in an ambiguous manner that my anxiety for the children might be owing to my not having a place for myself. You may judge what an affect such a hint had upon me. I resented it as I thought I ought to, and believe it helped to support me thro’ the parting since w’h beggars description. They were taken from me in October  and I did not see them until within this week [May 1776]. I made several attempts for that purpose but my friends dissuaded me from it. They said I had suffered enough and as I could not keep with `em, it would be a fresh opening an unhealed wound, since I’m to Town [i.e. back in Boston], I have been over to see them and find their tenderness for me unabated, Poor Betsey still cries to come and live with me, which my little favorite Polly joins her [plaintiff] voice to her sister’s and with a sensibility that would astonish you for one of her years discovers by her looks how rejoiced she would be at such a count.”
Poor kids! Poor Mercy! Eben comes off poorly here. But in his defense, what was the best thing to say and do in such an awful situation?
Mercy Scollay jousted with a Mrs. Elizabeth (Charles) Miller to host Elizabeth during the latter’s inoculation for smallpox following the British evacuation of Boston. Leading Patriot Samuel Adams supported Miss Scollay in her quest to look after Joseph’s children. Adams noted Elizabeth in 1777 as a promising young miss who was to be afforded the best education including reading, arithmetic, dancing and needlepoint. How could a young lady go wrong with that kind of education! At one point influential Daughter of Liberty, playwright, and poet Mercy Otis Warren offered to host and supervise the education of orphaned Elizabeth. William Eustis, former Spunker and medical apprentice of Joseph Warren’s, recalled Elizabeth fondly to his compatriot Dr. John Warren during their Continental military service. Perhaps Dr. Eustis had a crush on the tween.
Mercy Scollay’s campaign to adopt Warren’s orphaned children did not succeed, though…
Come back on Wednesday for Part 2 of this blog series to learn the young Warrens’ fates.