1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lexington (Massachusetts)

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LEXINGTON, a township of Middlesex county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., about 11 m. N.W. of Boston. Pop. (1900) 3831, (1910 U.S. census) 4918. It is traversed by the Boston & Maine railroad and by the Lowell & Boston electric railway. Its area is about 17 sq. m., and it contains three villages—Lexington, East Lexington and North Lexington. Agriculture is virtually the only industry. Owing to its historic interest the village of Lexington is visited by thousands of persons annually, for it was on the green or common of this village that the first armed conflict of the American War of Independence occurred. On the green stand a monument erected by the state in 1799 to the memory of the minute-men who fell in that engagement, a drinking fountain surmounted by a bronze statue (1900, by Henry Hudson Kitson) of Captain John Parker, who was in command of the minute-men, and a large boulder, which marks the position of the minute-men when they were fired upon by the British. Near the green, in the old burying-ground, are the graves of Captain Parker and other American patriots—the oldest gravestone is dated 1690. The Hancock-Clarke House (built in part in 1698) is now owned by the Lexington Historical Society and contains a museum of revolutionary and other relics, which were formerly exhibited in the Town Hall. The Buckman Tavern (built about 1690), the rendezvous of the minute-men, and the Munroe Tavern (1695), the headquarters of the British, are still standing, and two other houses, on the common, antedate the War of Independence. The Cary Library in this village, with 23,000 volumes (1908), was founded in 1868, and was housed in the Town Hall from 1871 until 1906, when it was removed to the Cary Memorial Library building. In the library are portraits of Paul Revere, William Dawes and Lord Percy. The Town Hall (1871) contains statues of John Hancock (by Thomas R. Gould) and Samuel Adams (by Martin Millmore), of the “Minute-Man of 1775” and the “Soldier of 1861,” and a painting by Henry Sandham, “The Battle of Lexington.”

Lexington was settled as a part of Cambridge as early as 1642. It was organized as a parish in 1691 and was made a township (probably named in honour of Lord Lexington) in 1713. In the evening of the 18th of April 1775 a British force of about 800 men under Lieut.-Colonel Francis Smith and Major John Pitcairn was sent by General Thomas Gage from Boston to destroy military stores collected by the colonists at Concord, and to seize John Hancock and Samuel Adams, then at Parson Clarke’s house (now known as the Hancock-Clarke House) in Lexington. Although the British had tried to keep this movement a secret, Dr Joseph Warren discovered their plans and sent out Paul Revere and William Dawes to give warning of their approach. The expedition had not proceeded far when Smith, discovering that the country was aroused, despatched an express to Boston for reinforcements and ordered Pitcairn to hasten forward with a detachment of light infantry. Early in the morning of the 19th Pitcairn arrived at the green in the village of Lexington, and there found between sixty and seventy minute-men under Captain John Parker drawn up in line of battle. Pitcairn ordered them to disperse, and on their refusal to do so his men fired a volley. Whether a stray shot preceded the first volley, and from which side it came, are questions which have never been determined. After a second volley from the British, Parker ordered his men to withdraw. The engagement lasted only a few minutes, but eight Americans were killed and nine were wounded; not more than two or three of the British were wounded. Hancock and Adams had escaped before the British troops reached Lexington. The British proceeded from Lexington to Concord (q.v.). On their return they were continually fired upon by Americans from behind trees, rocks, buildings and other defences, and were threatened with complete destruction until they were rescued at Lexington by a force of 1000 men under Lord Hugh Percy (later, 1786, duke of Northumberland). Percy received the fugitives within a hollow square, checked the onslaught for a time with two field-pieces, used the Munroe Tavern for a hospital, and later in the day carried his command with little further injury back to Boston. The British losses for the entire day were 73 killed, 174 wounded and 26 missing; the American losses were 49 killed, 39 wounded and 5 missing.

In 1839 a state normal school for women (the first in Massachusetts and the first public training school for teachers in the United States) was opened at Lexington; it was transferred to West Newton in 1844 and to Framingham in 1853.

See Charles Hudson, History of the Town of Lexington (Boston, 1868), and the publications of the Lexington Historical Society, (1890 seq.).