Participants of the Boston Tea Party

Although considered heroic and brave by many, the names of participants in the Boston Tea Party remained a secret for years in order to protect them from persecution by the British government. Destroying the tea was an act of treason punishable by death. Some of the men were also from distinguished families who did not want to be associated with such illegal activity. Theses rebellious colonists were mostly members of the Sons of Liberty, but some were random citizens who had joined the group en route to the harbor. To protect their identities, tea party participants disguised themselves as Native Americans complete with ragged clothes, makeup and mohawks and refrained from acknowledging each other during the act.

Destruction of tea at Boston Harbor lithograph by N. Currier circa 1846

“Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor” lithograph by N. Currier circa 1846

Through oral tradition, old family stories and some documentation, an incomplete list of 175 names was pieced together and published in a book titled, Tea Leaves, by Francis Drake in 1884 as well as in the 1973 Boston Globe 200th Anniversary Boston Tea Party Special Section:

Nathaniel Barber / Francis Akeley (Eckley)
Samuel Barnard / Henry Bass
Joseph Bassett / Edward Bates
Adam Beals Jr. / Thomas Bolter
David Bradlee / Josiah Bradlee
Nathaniel Bradlee / Thomas Bradlee
James Brewer / John Brown
Seth Ingersoll Browne / Stephen Bruce
Benjamin Burton / Nicholas Campbell
George Carleton / Thomas Chase
Nathaniel Child / Benjamin Clark
Jonathan Clark / John Cochran
Gilbert Colesworthy / Gersham Collier
Adam Collson / James Foster Condy
Daniel Coolidge / Joseph Coolidge
Samuel Coolidge / Samuel Cooper
William Cox / Thomas Crafts
John Crane / Obadiah Curtis
Thomas Dana, Jr. / Amasa Davis
Robert Davis / John DeCarteret
David Decker / John Dickman
Edward Dolbeare / Samuel Dolbeare
John Dyar, Jr. / Joseph Eaton
Joseph Eayres / Francis Eckley (or Akeley)
Benjamin Edes / William Etheridge
Samuel Fenno / Samuel Foster
Thomas Fracker / Nathaniel Frothingham, Jr.
John Fulton / John Gammell
Eleazer Gay / Thomas Gerrish
Samuel Gore / Moses Grant
Nathaniel Greene / Timothy Guy
Samuel Hammond / Peter Harrington
William Haskins / William Hendley
George Robert Twelves Hewes / John Hicks
Samuel Hobbs / John Hooton
Elisha Horton / Elijah Houghton
Samuel Howard / Edward Compton Howe
Jonathan Hunnewell / Richard Hunnewell
Richard Hunnewell, Jr. / Thomas Hunstable
Abraham Hunt / Daniel Ingersoll
Daniel Ingoldson / Charles Jameson
Robert Jameson / Jared Joy
Robert Lash / Amariah Learned
Joseph Lee / Nathaniel Lee
Amos Lincoln / John Locke
Matthew Loring / Joseph Lovering
Joseph Ludden / David Lyon
Thomas Machin / Ebenezer MacIntosh
Peter McIntosh / Archibald MacNeil
John Marston / Martin, probably Wm.
Thompson Maxwell / John May
Mead, probably John / Henry Mellius
Thomas Melville / Aaron John Miller
James Mills / William Molineaux
Francis Moore / Thomas Moore
Anthony Morse / Joseph Mountfort
Eliphalet Newell / Joseph Nicholls
Samuel Nowell / Joseph Pearse Palmer
Jonathan Parker / Joseph Payson
Samuel Peck / John Peters
William Pierce / Isaac Pitman
Lendall Pitts / Samuel Pitts
Thomas Porter / Henry Prentiss
Nathaniel Prentiss / Rev. John Prince
Edward Procter / Henry Purkitt
Seth Putnam / John Randall
Joseph Reed / Paul Revere
Benjamin Rice / Jonathan Dorby Robins
Joseph Roby / John Russell
William Russell / John Sawtelle
George Sayward / Edmund Sears
Robert Sessions / Joseph Shed
Benjamin Simpson / Peter Slater, Jr.
Samuel Sloper / Ephriam Smith
Josiah Snelling / Thomas Spear
Samuel Sprague / John Spurr
James Starr / Phineas Stearns
Ebeneezer Stevens / James Stoddard
Elisha Story / James Swan
Abraham Tower / Bartholomew Trow
John Truman / Benjamin Tucker Jr.
Thomas Urann / James Watson
Henry Wells / Thomas Wells
Josiah Wheeler / John Whitehead
David Williams / Isaac Williams
Jeremiah Williams / Thomas Williams
Nathaniel Willis / Joshua Wyeth
Thomas Young

Other people have also been suspected of taking part in the Boston Tea Party but have never been officially listed, such as my ancestor Captain Edward Burbeck, brother of Henry Burbeck. Numerous documents list Burbeck as a possible participant of the event and suggest that he had to flee Boston to avoid persecution from the British government who had placed a price on his head. The author of the “History of Plymouth, New Hampshire” states:

“Edward Burbeck, son of Col. William and Abigail (Tuttle) Burbeck…He was a wood carver in Boston, a captain of artillery, 1775, and, by tradition, one of the ‘Boston Tea Party.”

Boston_Tea_Party_WD_Cooper_Engraving_1789

Boston Tea Party engraving by WD Cooper, circa 1789

A book written by the Sons of the American Revolution in 1896 also states Edward Burbeck was:

“suspected of being a member of the Boston tea party. When Boston was in the hands of the British, Edward managed to send his family from the city and then escaped himself, disguised as a fisherman. He was reunited to his family at Newburyport.”

Historians are not sure why the tea participants chose Native American disguises, especially considering they used different disguises on other occasions, such as during Burbeck’s escape from Boston, but they speculate that “playing Indian” has been a popular tradition in America for centuries.

Due to the secrecy, most of the tea party participants escaped punishment, except for Francis Akeley who was the only person imprisoned for his role in the tea party.

Sources:

“Year Book of the Wisconsin Society of the Sons of the American Revolution”; Sons of the American Revolution; Wisconsin Society; 1896

“History of Plymouth, New Hampshire: Vol. I. Narrative–Vol. II ”; Ezra Scollay Stearns; Moses Thurston Runnels, Plymouth (N.H.). Town History Committee; 1906

Old South Meetinghouse: FAQ About the Boston Tea Party: http://www.oldsouthmeetinghouse.org/osmh_123456789files/boston_tea_party_faq.aspx

Wells 1: Boston’s Copp’s Hill Burying Ground Guide: http://www.wells1.com/coppshill/tea_list.htm

The Boston Tea Party: Only One Man Was Imprisoned for Destruction of Tea: http://www.boston-tea-party.org/participants/participants2.html

The Boston Tea Party: The Complete List of Participants: http://www.boston-tea-party.org/participants/participants.html

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