My Mother’s full name was May Robinson Harris Weston Thompson. Our ancestors on her side of the family first came to these shores in 1632, in the second John Winthrop flotilla, to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Not to be confused with the colony at Plymouth Rock, the Mass. Bay Colony was founded where Boston is today. 

By the time of the American Revolution some 140 plus years later our family had added many other kin. The Robinson branch of the family tree had at least two men who were influential and clearly were American Patriots. John Robinson, from Westford, was elected Lt. Colonel by his militia regiment from Northern Middlesex. His cousin, Lemuel Robinson, owned the Liberty Tree tavern in Dorchester and he, too, was elected Colonel of his militia for Dorchester. The Patriots known as the Sons of Liberty headed by Samuel Adams met at the Liberty Tree Tavern in the years leading up to the start of the American Revolution.

John Robinson was awakened in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775 by a rider informing him that the British were coming. John mounted his horse and headed off to Concord. He arrived there in time to find the Minutemen from Concord about to march on the North Bridge, where a company of British regulars had seized the crossing. Colonel Barrett was senior officer of the Concord Minutemen, and John Robinson requested permission to fall in with the column. Col. Barrett obliged his request and John Robinson took his place at the head of the column next to Col. Barrett.


In 1837 Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a poem, he called it Concord Hymn. In it was a stanza that ended with, “There the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world.” On the morning of April 19, 1775 some British soldier fired a shot aimed at the head of the column of Concord Minutemen. The ball passed under John Robinson’s arm, and badly wounded the man behind him in the column. As was the custom then, John Robinson had his sword raised and his arm was up, otherwise the shot would have hit him. It has been my historical license to suggest that the shot heard round the world was the one that started it all, taken at my ancestor, Lt. Col. John Robinson at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

John Robinson was such an ardent Patriot that he traveled into Boston a few months later and participated in a battle known as Bunker Hill. Most of the fighting actually took place on another nearby elevation called Breeds Hill. The Patriots inflicted heavy casualties on the British that day and would have caused even more damage had they not run out of gunpowder. John Robinson’s conduct at Breeds/Bunker Hill was noted by all, and was lauded in the after battle report by his commanding officer Col. Prescott.

When George Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the summer of 1775 he traveled to Boston from Philadelphia where the Continental Congress met. When he arrived there, Washington developed a plan to force the British out of the city. The linchpin of the plan was that some cannon would be located on Dorchester Heights, from which they could bombard the city if necessary. The Patriots had gotten cannon from Fort Ticonderoga over the winter, General Knox and the Green Mountain Boys had muscled the artillery hundreds of miles through forest in deep snows to get them to Boston. Washington put Col. Lemuel Robinson in charge of those cannons, a vital mission which showed how much confidence Washington had in the local tavern owner. Lemuel built redoubts for the cannon on Dorchester Heights, and so formidable was the position that as Washington had hoped, the British abandoned Boston. While the Patriots had fought at Lexington Green, Concord Bridge and inflicted heavy losses on the British at Breeds/Bunker Hill, the taking of Boston was considered the first major victory of the American Revolution.

Lemuel Robinson is buried in the same graveyard in downtown Boston as other Patriots he knew whose names are more familiar…Paul Revere and John Hancock for example. The Liberty Tree Tavern was torn down at some point, and no historical marker indicates the place where the Sons of Liberty talked of freedom, and their willingness to pledge their lives their fortunes and their sacred honor. Someday I will get to meet Lemuel and John Robinson, I look forward to the honor.

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