The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts

The roll of Members of the Military Company of Massachusetts now called "The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts" with a Rooster of the Commissioned officers and preachers: 1638-1894.


"The Military Company of the Massachusetts" received a charter signed by John Winthrop, then Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, March 13, 1638. Under that charter it still lives, now bearing the name of "The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts," and being the oldest military body and chartered organization on the American continent.

The petition for the charter, if not formally refused, remained in abeyance for some time, Gov. Winthrop giving as a reason for not granting it, that it might be dangerous "to erect a standing authority of military men who might easily, in time, overthrow the civil power." The surrounding circumstances make it probable that the religious question also entered into the matter, as many of the petitioners differed thereon from the authorities, by whom dissenters from the Puritan faith and customs were looked upon with but little favor. Though the petitioners must have associated themselves together for military purposes some time prior to the date of the charter, March 13, 1638, that day is held as the birthday of the Company.

Among its charter members its first Commander, Robert Keayne, stood foremost. He came to Boston from London, England, in 1635, where he had been a member of the Honourable Artillery Company. The train bands which had been organized in Boston and the surrounding towns, similiar to those of the mother country, needed some central power to increase their efficiency by insuring a general system of drill, to be a "school of soldiery" to which the officers of all these military bodies were to belong. As the Honourable Artillery Company had acted in that capacity in Old England, it served as a model upon which Keayne and his associates fashioned the new Company in their new home.

Upon the roll of its members are to be found the names of men who in their day and generation through the entire history of Massachusetts have been foremost in peace and in war, and have occupied the highest places in science, art and literature, in social, professional, political and military life. Their names only are given herein as the story of their lives is soon to appear in a history of the Company, which will show that they have during two hundred and fifty-seven years done well their part in building up the city of its birth, the Commonwealth and the nation, to all of which they have ever offered an unswerving loyalty.

Justly proud as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company is of its own record, it feels an added pride in its connection with the Honourable Artillery Company of London, England, which chartered in 1537 antedates all other military organizations, regular or volunteer, in its own land by more than a century. The record of that Company for more than three centuries and a half made illustrious by the deeds and words of royalty, nobility and commoner, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company claims as a part of its family history.

For many years the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company well filled the mission for which it was founded, and held its place at the head of the citizen soldiery of the Colony and of the State. The transformation of the Puritan and Pilgrim Colonies into a powerful and prosperous Commonwealth gradually changed the relations of the Company to the volunteer militia, but it still stands a military company, performing military duties, and having officers bearing military rank and titles who are each year commissioned as such by the Chief Magistrate of the State with great ceremony.

The Company has always kept in touch with the spirit of civil liberty and self-government which has ever characterized the community about it. The custom of electing all its officers annually by vote of all its members has never been departed from, and the custom, an equally significant one, of officers at the close of their term of service again taking their places in the ranks exists now. The habits of alternate obedience and command are still cherished.

Existing under a special charter the Company has occupied an exceptional position. It is not subject to the general laws of the State or nation relating to the militia or volunteer forces. Its charter and peculiar privileges have from time to time been recognized by the Statutes of Massachusetts, and in the Statute of 1792 of the National Congress relating to the militia the Company was exempted from its provisions.

Under its charter the Company was empowered to elect a Captain, a Lieutenant, and an Ensign, the Captain and Lieutenant to be such only as the court or council should allow, though no officers were to be put upon the members of the Company "but of their own choyce."

In 1821, a Second Lieutenant was chosen, and in 1823, under an amendment to the charter, an Adjutant was added to the list of commissioned officers, the office of Ensign being abolished at the same time. No further change in the organization of the Company has since been made. Sergeants varying in number from time to time have also been elected annually, who, although the organization of the Company is in some respects a regimental one, still, according to the old custom, command companies.

The roster of its commissioned officers is nearly complete for two hundred and fifty-six years. Thre is no record of the election of an Ensign in 1641, nor of a Lieutenant and Ensign in 1649. From 1687 to 1690, inclusive, no meetings of the Company are recorded. From 1775 to 1785 inclusive, owing to the unsettled condition of public affairs and the absence of many of the members in the Continental Army, no meetings of the Company were held, but in 1786, the pressure of war being no longer felt, it started into new life, its original charter having been in no way disturbed. The officers elected in 1775 acted as such until a new election was held in 1787. A full list of officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, as well as of the preachers, clerks, treasurers and others who have held official positions in the Company will appear in the forthcoming history.

According to ancient custom, on the first Monday in June of each year a sermon is preached before the Company, followed by a dinner, an election of officers for the year ensuing and the commissioning of the officers elected by the Governor of the State. Each Commander, a short time previous to the election, selects a preacher of the election sermon who holds over as Chaplain of the Company during the following year. Thus in the roster of the commissioned officers and preachers, the name of each preacher appears in the year succeeding that of the Commander by whom he was appointed.

For many years none but ministers of the Congregational faith were appointed preachers. In 1770, the custom was first broken into by the appointment of Samuel Stillman, a Baptist, and in 1791 Samuel Parker was the first Episcopalian clergyman to act as preacher.

The frontispiece of this volume is a fac-smile of the charter of the Company, photographed from the most ancient records of the General Court as found in the archives of the State of Massachusetts. As it would be very difficult for any person not fimiliar with ancient documents to read the charter as recorded, a copy of it in which the letters are changed to the forms now in use, while the original spelling of the words is retained, is printed on the page following the frontispiece. There are also two other illustrations, one of which represents Faneuil Hall, the present headquarters of the Company, as it now appears.

Robert Keayne, by his will, left three hundred pounds to be partly used for building a market house in which he desired one room to be set apart for the "Artillery." This was done, and the Company occupied the room until the building was burnt in 1711. In 1713 the erection of a new town house where the old State House now stands was begun. This was destoryed by fire some years later and the present structure took its place, in which the Company retained its headquarters until early in the present century when it moved to Faneuil Hall where it has since remained.

In 1740 Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant of Boston, offered to erect and present to the town a building on the condition that it should be used as a market house. At a town meeting, July 17, 1740, the offer was accepted by the small majority of seven out of seven hundred and twenty-seven votes, many voters being opposed to disturbing the good old ways of marketing.

The building was erected far exceeding in size the one originally planned, a large hall and several smaller rooms being added, and the keys were delivered to the selectmen, September 10, 1742. The name of the donor was given to it, which it still retains. For several years, the prejudice against it as a market house still existing, it was little used for that purpose, being, in modern parlance, boycotted. It was destroyed by fire January 13, 1761, immediately rebuilt, and in 1805 enlarged to its present size by doubling its width and adding a third story, now the Armory of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. The Company could not find a more appropriate home; Faneuil Hall could not find an occupant more worthy of its shelter.

There is also a representation of the gorget worn by the Commander, and of a halberd and esponton which were formerly carried by the commissioned and non-commissioned officers respectively. The gorget still remains the insignia of the office of Commander, by the halberd and esponton are as a rule only carried at the election and commissioning of the officers, being then given up by the retiring officer to the Governor of the State, who through the Adjutant-General, places them in the hands of the incoming officers.

The Roll has been prepared pursuant to a vote of the Company passed August 30, 1880, under which a committee with full power was appointed, composed of the following-named members of the organization: Henry Walker, Chairman, Albert A. Folsom, Thomas F. Temple, James P. Frost, and George H. Allen. This committee has remained unchanged excepting by the death of James P. Frost. Little was done upon the roll for several years, as a history of the Company which would naturally contain a list of its members had previously been authorized. It being found that the history would assume much larger proportions and require a much longer time for its completion than had been expected, it was finally decided best to issue the catalogue in a separate volume. The labor involved in searching the records of the Company, in consulting town and State records and family genealogies has been very great, and final accuracy has been preferred to hasty and careless completion.

The different methods of spelling the same family name rendered it difficult, in many cases, to make the several list of members found in the various records and histories of the Company correspond. The original spelling, with cross references in the index when necessary, has been retained as far as possible, no changes having been made except upon conclusive evidence of existing error.

Sometimes a name appears on the Roll of one year and not long after reappears on the Roll of a succeeding year. In most cases it evidently belongs to the same person who joined, dropped out of, and rejoined the Company.

In the index and on the Roll appears the name of John W. Whitman, the name under which he joined the Company. He afterwards changed it to George W. Whitman, and so signed himself during his many years of service as clerk of the Company.

It was formerly the custom to place on the Roll of honorary members the names of men noted in public life, or of those who by their long and useful services in behalf of the Company had merited the honor. For many years past few honorary members have been elected, the most distinguished of them being James Monroe and Chester A. Arthur, Presidents of the United States, H. R. H. Albert, Prince Consort, and H. R. H. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. On the Roll all are classed simply as members.

The original records of the Company prior to 1698 are not now to be found. Precisely when or how they disappeared cannot be known, though several transcripts of portions of them still exist. In 1838, under a vote of the Company, a transcript of the records of its doings, meagre in many cases, from 1698 to 1834 inclusive, as also a roll of its members, preachers and officers from 1638 to 1894, inclusive, was made by Zechariah G. Whitman. Since 1697, except for the interregnums above mentioned, the official records are continuous, full and in good order, and for many years past it has been the custom to print a volume annually containing a minute account of all elections, parades, and occasions of ceremony or of a social nature in which the Company has shared during the year. Much information, most useful in preparing this catalogue, was obtained from the two editions of the History of the Company published by Zechariah G. Whitman in 1820 and 1842 respectively, and to the patient research and the accurate historical knowledge of the historian of the Company, Oliver A. Roberts, freely given, great credit is due.

It is believed that but few errors will be found in this volume. It is very desirable that notice of such as may be discovered should be sent to the clerk of the Company, so as to insure their correction in succeeding editions.

The Company may well congratulate itself upon the completion of a work which illustrates not only its own long and splendid record, but must also prove a valuable contribution to New England History.

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