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Massachusetts Militia Pay Petition Listing 27 Minutemen
Who Responded to the Lexington Alarm
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A scarce petition for pay listing 44 members of Captain Luke Drury’s Company, 27 of whom were Grafton, Massachusetts-area Minutemen who had marched 36 miles to respond to the Lexington-Concord Alarm on April 19-21, 1775. The list includes Fortune Burnee, a Minuteman of African American and Native American heritage, and his half-brother, Joseph Anthony, who enlisted on April 29th and died in service. Another of the Minutemen listed is the famous clockmaker Aaron Willard.

[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. Manuscript Document, Dorchester, Massachusetts, December 30th, 1775, addressed to Massachusetts Treasurer Henry Gardner. 1p. 8 x 13 in. Likely Drury’s retained copy from the time, with the signatures all in one hand, though some may be signed with marks & Jonathan Hemenway has signed himself.

Inventory #20781.03       Price: $8,500

Petition “to pay Capt Luke Drury the Whole of our Wages (as born on his Muster roll for our Services as Officers & Soldiers in his Company) from the time of our inlistment to the first Day of August for which this shall be your effectual voucher...”

Today, the terms minuteman and militiaman are often used interchangeably, but there was a distinction in the eighteenth century. Militia were men in arms formed to protect their towns from foreign invasion.  They could designate up to one quarter of their force as minutemen, a specially trained force required to be highly mobile and able to assemble instantly to a call to arms.  It is difficult to categorize specific men into either of the two groups based on the surviving historical record. We apply the term here to all of those militia who responded April 19-21, 1775, to the Lexington-Concord Alarm. 

The 27 soldiers and officers listed here who were part of Luke Drury’s Grafton, Aaron Kimball’s Grafton, & John Putnam’s Sutton April 19-21 Minutemen companies are: 1st Lt. Asaph Sherman, Sgt. Nathan Morse, Sgt. Shelomith Stow, Sgt. Ebenezer Phillips, Sgt. Jonah Goulding, Cpl. William Walker, Cpl. Joseph Leland, Drummer Elijah Rice, Fifer Zadock Putnam, Matthias Rice, Isaac Brigham, Eliphalet Smith, George Smith, Peter Butler, Thomas Pratt, William Evans, Elisha Aldrich, Aaron Willard, Eseck Dexter, Moses Sherman, Fortinatus (Fortune) Burnee (signed with mark), Edward Buttrick, Ebenezer Leland, Solomon Brooks, Ebenezer Melendy, Thomas Leland [Sr.], & Samuel Stearns.

Luke Drury (1734-1811) of Grafton, Massachusetts joined the militia in 1757 during the French and Indian Wars.  As captain of a company of Minutemen and Militamen, he responded to the Lexington Alarm, and later joined Colonel Jonathan Ward’s regiment to fight at Bunker Hill.  Drury and his men served in different areas during the war, from West Point to Grafton, where his company guarded military stores.  He also supported the Continentals financially, at one point giving £50 fifty pounds to enlist soldiers in Grafton.

In 1786-1787, Drury became deeply involved in Shays’ Rebellion, a tax revolt led by farmers in western Massachusetts. The uprising was quashed, and Drury imprisoned as “a person dangerous to the state.”  He was eventually released on good behavior.  Drury remained active in state and local politics, serving terms as constable, deputy sheriff, tax collector, assessor, selectman, and state legislator.


Usual folds, small loss at bottom left corner affecting some marginal ciphering, else fine condition.

Joseph Anthony and Fortune Burnee, Jr., half brothers, were both part African-American and Hassanamisco Nipmuc (Native American).  Compared to records of white New Englanders, we know relatively little about them, but even so, more information exists on these freedmen than is the norm.  Several of the Anthonys and Burnees were recorded in the Grafton vital, land, and probates records [the U.S. census neglected to record Native Americans from 1790-1890], and the Burnees have been discussed in recent historical and sociological literature: exploring the relationships both amongst marginalized peoples as well as with their white Yankee neighbors in eighteenth century New England; the definitions of race and identity; social mobility; Indian and black cultures; gender roles; Anglo-Nipmuc land dealings; and the remarkable preservation and history of an 190-acre tract of land in Grafton known as Hassanamesit Woods, which is the site of a seventeenth-century “praying Indian” village with Nipmuc habitations that clung on into the mid-nineteenth century.

Joseph Anthony was born in Grafton on December 24, 1753, son of Joseph/William Anthony, “Negro” and Abigail (Printer) Abraham, “Indian.” According to a Nipmuc leader and genealogist, Anthony’s ancestors include Hassanamisco Nipmuc Chief Anaweakin [second in command in King Philip’s War in 1675-6; along with Philip/Metacom, Anaweakin was killed, and his children sold into slavery]; his father, Noas, Sachem of Hassanamesit, forced into exile at the same time and died at Deer Island in Boston Harbor; and Nanapashemet, Great Sagamore of the Massachuset Federation who was killed in battle in 1619 at Rock Hill, Medford, the year before Massachusetts was colonized by the English.

In 1728, seven Indian “Planters” or householders and 33 English re-divided the land at Hassanamesit to incorporate the town of Grafton.  In 1739, Abigail Printer married Andrew Abraham, Jr., “Indian Planter.”  Based on Abigail Printer’s surname, and the very small population left at Hassanamesit in the 1700s, it is believed that she is a descendant of Rev. John Eliot’s notable contemporary James Printer, a Harvard student in 1645-46, who worked for Samuel Green, printing Eliot’s famous “Indian Bible” in 1663.  Abigail and Andrew had three sons, before he died in August 1746, after returning from service in the Port Royal Campaign.

Abigail married second, November 14, 1752, Joseph/William Anthony.  Little is known of him, other than his listing in town records as a “Negro.”  It appears he died circa 1756.  Their son, the signer of this document, Joseph Anthony, married Lydia Mercy (Johnson).  He enlisted in the army April 29, 1775, and was reported missing July 6, 1777 [probably at the Battle of Ticonderoga], and dead December 26, 1777 [possibly a prisoner of war on board an infamous New York City British prison ship].  At the time, he was a private in Capt. Blanchard’s Company of Col. James Wesson’s 9th Massachusetts Regiment.

Fortune Burnee, Jr.  [Grafton records spell his name a number of different ways.]  Dr. David R. Mandell believes there was one man of that name, but we find that Electa Kane Tritsch’s postulation that there was a father and a son of the same name makes more sense.  Abigail, again a widow, married a third time, January 27, 1757, to Fortune Burnee, [Sr.], described as “Negro,” a veteran of one or more expeditions to Canada during the French and Indian War and widower of another Hassanamisco, Sarah (Muckamaug) Whipple. [Mandell writes that Burnee had changed his first name from William to Fortune, based on his good luck, but does not cite the source or anecdote: Fortune seems more likely a given slave name.  He also claims that Burnee abandoned his first wife Sarah before her death, but Tritsch has found no evidence for this: that statement may have been compounded with Sarah’s first husband, Aaron Whipple, of Providence, Rhode Island].  It is thought that Burnee Sr. died about 1771.  If so, his son Fortune Burnee, Jr., is the man who served under Capt. Luke Drury.  It is as yet unknown if he is the son of Fortune Burnee, Sr.’s second wife Abigail (Printer) Abraham Anthony Burnee, who died in 1776, or his first wife, Sarah (Muckamaug) Whipple Burnee, who died in 1751 [thus, he is either Anthony’s younger half-brother, or older step-brother].  It is interesting to observe that Burnee signs another Drury document with a mark, while Anthony was capable of signing in full – whether that hints that Anthony was the younger brother, with less responsibilities on the homestead, and more opportunity for education, is mere speculation.  However, Tritsch (probably by process of elimination, finding that Fortune Burnee, Jr. does not appear in Sarah’s estate papers) assigns him as the younger, a son of Abigail, and half-brother of Joseph Anthony.  Fortune Burnee, Jr. marched on April 21, 1775 in response to the Lexington-Concord Alarm.  Marriage records then show that Fortune Burnee, [Jr.] married July 31, 1778, “Phylis…negro servant of Rev. Mr. Frost…of Mendon [both are listed as “Negroes”], and then November 8, 1781, Sarah Hector, of Sutton [again, both are listed as “Negroes”].  He died in 1795.

Without going into the complex history of Hassanamesit and the Hassanimisco praying Indians, Reverend Ezra Stiles’s 1761 impressions of the settlement are notable: “At Grafton…I saw the Burying place & Graves of 60 or more Indians.  Now not a Male Ind. in Town, & perh. 5 Squaws who marry Negroes.”  By 1770, the town selectmen reported “that there is but one male Indian left” – this man was in fact one of Sarah (Muckamaug) Whipple’s bi-racial children, Joseph Aaron.  87 years earlier, in 1674, Daniel Gookin, had noted that the Indian village had contained twelve families (perhaps sixty souls) – King Philip’s War of 1675-76 and its lingering years of conflict played a major part in this population displacement and decrease.

African Americans (& Native Americans) in the American Revolution

Of the estimated 100,000 men who served in the Continental Army, at least 5,000 were black.  Most black soldiers fought in integrated units, as in Massachusetts; some states, like Rhode Island had segregated regiments, while Connecticut seems to have had both segregated and integrated.  Both enslaved and free African-Americans served in the army as soldiers, laborers, and servants.  In some cases, slaves were offered freedom for their services as soldiers, though others remained enslaved, fighting in place of their masters.  Many states had been reluctant to arm the black population, but had no other countermove to the British Lord Dunmore’s offer of freedom to Southern black enlistees.  A significant number of colonial blacks at this time were also partly of Native American ancestry – to take once state, Massachusetts’s eighteenth-century Indian population had two females to one male, while the majority of the imported African slave laborers were male.  Those figures, coupled with their removal to neighboring outskirts of colonial society, as well as the enslavement of many Indians in New England after King Philip’s War, did much to comingle the two ethnic groups.


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