Thursday, November 19, 2009

Site of Ebenezer Fiske Home, Lexington

One of the more dramatic events of the first day of battle - April 19, 1775 - happened at the home of Ebenezer Fiske in Lexington. The Fiskes were a prominent family in Lexington. One of the Fiskes was the the Lexington doctor; another was married to Jonathan Harrington and had a home by the Lexington Green.

There - James Hayward, a 26 year old school teacher and Acton minuteman, met his fate.

James Hayward was exempt from service in the Acton militia having been maimed in an accident. However Hayward not only served in the militia but he was also selected for the more elite service of minuteman. Hayward had been with the other minutemen at the North Bridge in Concord and seen his leader, Isaac Davis, fall. With the loss of their leader, Hayward became the acting captain of his Acton unit.

After the "first forcible resistance" at the Bridge, he continued his activity throughout the day. By mid-afternoon, he found himself in Lexington. Having walked from Acton to Concord and then to Lexington, he was undoubtedly thirsty. He had come to the home of his friend, Benjamin Fiske, and happened to spy the well behind a home.

By afternoon on the 19th, the area between Lexington and Concord was a war zone. Homeowners fled taking their families and valuables, leaving empty homes behind. But they were still being used - by minutemen for shelter for skirmishing. So as Hayward approached the well, a British soldier was finishing his scouting of the home. He emerged out the back door - and confronted Hayward.

Both combatants snapped into action. As he raised his musket to aim, the British soldier said, "You're a dead man." Hayward responded, "so are you" and aimed his weapon. Both fired. The British soldier fell dead. Shot through the cheek, Hayward crumpled to the ground, mortally wounded. He died late that night.

The Fiske home was built in 1674 but sadly is no longer standing. In a state of disrepair, it was torn down in 1954 - before the establishment of the Minuteman National Park in 1959.

I have found a site that sells old postcards. One of the postcards has a photo of the marker (seen above in present time) and a glimpse of the Fiske home.

This site can be seen at the intersection of the old Massachusetts Avenue and Wood Street. There is a very convenient, small parking lot across the street from the Fiske site.

James Hayward's powder horn, along with a lock of his hair, can be seen at the Acton Memorial Library in Acton center. And the well is still there at the Fiske site.

1 comment:

  1. Ebenezer is my 5th Great Grandfather and I have visited the site several times. While the post card looks idyllic, the area behind the house goes immediately uphill and the well is to the right of the house as you face it.
    When the family returned home after all the shooting, Ebenezer was 83 at the time, they found Mr. Hayward barely alive on the front step. There is a painting of this tragic event, showing Mr Hayward in the arms of Ebenezer's daughter-in-law, Rebeckah (Howe) Fiske. He later died from his wound.