MARBLEHEAD CHRONICLES: Dr. Elisha Story and the Boston Tea Party

The causes and the events leading to the American Revolution are complex, as they are for any war.

The growing wealth and success of the American colonies was both good and bad for England. Strapped for cash from their ongoing wars with France, the British sought to harvest their colonial properties. But success had given the colonists a sense of self-reliance and confidence. The lack of supervision from the English governmental constraint had created an attitude of independence in the American colonies.

This attitude caused colonists to react strongly against taxation and restrictions when the English crown began to crack down. They rebelled against taxation and restrictions on freedom that they felt to be unfair.

Perhaps if the Crown had been less greedy and more willing to extend self-governing rights to the colonies, an open break might not have occurred.

Colonists were frustrated and incensed at taxes in general, and taxation without representation in particular. The Boston Tea Party is considered the culmination of a resistance movement throughout the American colonies against the Tea Act of 1773.

The actual tea taxes were not really the issue; they became the catalyst for rebellion. Ships carrying British tea came into Boston harbor, and the governor refused to allow them to leave. The situation became tense, and finally a meeting was called by protestors from the Whig party, who called themselves the Sons of Liberty. Samuel Adams was one of their leaders.

When the tumultuous meeting disbanded, a group disguised as Mohawk Indians converged on the East India Company ships and dumped their entire cargo of 362 chests of tea into the Boston harbor.

Dr. Elisha Story was a member of the Sons of Liberty, and on Dec. 16, 1773, at 30 years old, he participated in the Boston Tea Party. He had become increasingly radicalized, frustrated with the lack of respect for the colonists’ ability to rule themselves.

He went on to serve in the Revolutionary War and was a surgeon present at the battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill.

The medicine chest of Dr. Elisha Story, which he is said to have used at the Battle of Bunker Hill. COURTESY PHOTO / COLLECTION OF THE MARBLEHEAD MUSEUM

Story and his wife lived in Marblehead and had eight children. After her death, Story married Mehitable (née Pedrick), with whom he had 12 children. He lived the remainder of his life in Marblehead.

Story served as one of the town’s representatives, was chairman of the Overseers of the Poor, and chairman of the School Committee. He was the fourth worshipful master of the Philanthropic Lodge of Masons in Marblehead. He died in 1805. Story’s house still stands on Washington Street, across from the Old Town House.

Dr. Elisha Story is also remembered as the father of Joseph Story, the youngest man ever appointed a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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