People in History

Weymouth's Own

Abigail (Smith) Adams (1744-1818)

"[R]emember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could." Abigail Adams, 1776

Abigail Adams was born Abigail Smith on November 22, 1744, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. As the wife of Vice President and then President John Adams, Abigail Adams was the first woman to serve as Second Lady of United States and the second woman to serve as First Lady. She was also the mother of the sixth President, John Quincy Adams. 

A political influencer with a keen intellect, Abigail is remembered for the many letters of advice - pungent, witty, and vivid - that she exchanged with her husband during his time at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Abigail's letters are filled with erudite discussions of government and politics, and they tell the story of the woman who stayed at home to struggle with wartime shortages and inflation; run a successful farm with minimal help; and teach four children when formal education was interrupted.  

All her life, Abigail was an adamant advocate of equal education for women and the emancipation of African-American slaves. She is credited for “helping plant the seeds that would start women and men thinking about women’s rights and roles in a country that had been founded on the ideals of equality and independence.”  

The Abigail Adams Historical Society maintains the birthplace of Abigail in tribute to this most distinguished American woman. The homestead, located at 180 Norton Street in Weymouth, depicts early colonial life and is opened to the public for tours in the summer and fall.

Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885)

If this is the last bulwark of freedom, we may as well die here as anywhere.” Maria Weston Chapman, 1835

Maria Weston was born in 1806 in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the eldest of eight children, including five sisters, to Warren Weston and Anne Bates, descendants of the Pilgrims. Through the patronage of her uncle, Weston was well educated in England and lived there for a time. Her marriage in 1830 to Henry Grafton Chapman, a Boston merchant, brought her into abolitionist circles, and in 1832, with 12 other women, she founded the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.

Chapman became chief lieutenant to William Lloyd Garrison, helping him run the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and edit The Liberator, a widely-circulated abolitionist publication. She raised funds for the abolition movement by organizing antislavery fairs throughout New England. In 1839, she published Right and Wrong in Massachusetts, a pamphlet arguing that the deep divisions among abolitionists stemmed from their disagreements over women’s rights. From 1839 to 1842, she edited the Non-Resistant, the publication of Garrison’s New England Non-Resistance Society. 

Susan Torrey Merritt (1826-1879)

Susan Torrey Merritt, American, 1826-1879
Anti-Slavery Picnic at Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts, c. 1845
Watercolor, gouache, and collage on paper
660 x 914 mm
Gift of Elizabeth R. Vaughan, 1950.1846
Art Institute of Chicago, www.artic.edu

Susan Torrey Merritt was a local artist who achieved fame with her painting, Fourth of July Picnic at Weymouth Landing, judged to be one of the 16 best folk artworks in the United States. Completed in 1845, the painting depicts a busy social scene, spread out over a large outdoor space, with tables of food and dozens of guests in the forefront. The village center at Weymouth Landing can be seen in the background, portrayed as a collection of buildings and homes set against the waterfront. 

Merritt’s artwork is a paper collage: an assortment of separately painted figures glued to the surface of a watercolor landscape. Though painstaking, this technique enabled Merritt to arrange and rearrange her figures into various groupings and layouts. Only when the effect was pleasing did the details of the scene become permanent. The process was not unlike how quilt patches are arranged and rearranged before finally being sewn together.        

Once believed to be a simple picnic scene, Merritt’s artwork is now know by the more descriptive title: Anti-Slavery Picnic at Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts. Amidst the sea of people in the painting, Meritt depicts a number of African Americans engaged in conversation and other social interactions. Such diversity would have been extraordinary in 1845 expect in the case of an abolitionist meeting. Antislavery advocates in the North were known to organize fairs and similar events in order to raise money and spread the message of abolition. It is therefore likely that Merritt’s watercolor depicts a local antislavery gathering in Weymouth.

Jerry Quinn, Company "H" of 4th Mass. Cavalry

One of the really outstanding personal stories of Weymouth in the American Civil War is that of Jerry Quinn, Company “H” of the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry – the man who pulled down the Confederate flag and raised the United States flag over the capitol at Richmond, Virginia on April 3, 1865. Quinn had been taken prisoner by the Confederates on New Year’s Day, 1863. He spent imprisonment in the famed prisoner-of-war camps of Andersonville (Georgia) and Libby Prison in Virginia. When Richmond was taken by the Union in 1865, Quinn was the first soldier to enter the Confederate capitol and the first to raise the Union flag.   

No one captured the scene of Monday, April 3, 1865 more vividly than Bradford Hawes in the “Military History of Weymouth”:

The morning light found the Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry under Major Stevens, at the gates of the city and in Company “H” of that regiment were many Weymouth boys, and as soon as it was daylight three scouts were sent into the city, one of whom was Jerry Quinn of Lovell’s Corner. Two of the scouts were captured by the rebel soldiers, but Quinn entered the city and went as far as the Franklin Hotel, but feared to go farther. He returned and reported the way clear as far as the hotel, and two companies “E” and “H” rode into the fallen city. As they reached the capitol building the revel flag was flying above it, and Captain Ray of Company “H”, together with Tommy Myers the color sergeant, and Jerry Quinn started to pull it down. Myers took with him the regimental quidons, and just outside the capitol he slipped and fell onto the slimy pavements. Instantly Quinn seized the flag and rushing to the top of the building pulled down the Rebel flag and raised the United States flag over the Confederate capitol. Thus, the honor of being the first Union soldier in Richmond, as well as the credit of pulling down the rebel flag and raising the Union flag, belongs to a Weymouth soldier.

James L. Bates, Brigadier General of the 12th Mass. Infantry

James Lawrence Bates, born August 11, 1829, in Weymouth, Massachusetts, was a merchant in the leather industry before enlisting in the Union Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Bates helped muster the men that formed Company “H” of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry. He was commissioned captain and began service under the command of Colonel Fletcher Webster, eldest son of Senator Daniel Webster. 

In the first two years of the war, Bates rose quickly through the ranks and was made colonel by the time of Gettysburg. During the battle, Bates led a counter attack against advancing Confederate soldiers and succeeded in capturing a considerable number. He suffered two serious wounds during the fighting but refused to leave  until finally ordered to do so by his commanding officer. By 1864, Bates was leading his own brigade, earning him honoral mention in multiple battlefield reports by other regimental commanders, including Commanding General of the Union Army Ulysses S. Grant.       

Bates was mustered out of service on July 8, 1864. After the war, in 1868, Congress and President Grant awarded him the honorary grade of brevet brigadier general for "gallant and meritorious service."  

Thomas W. Hamilton, Quartermaster of U.S. Navy

Thomas W. Hamilton served as a Quartermaster in the U. S. Navy during the American Civil War. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1863. His citation reads as follows:

Serving as quartermaster on board the U.S.S. Cincinnati during the attack on the Vicksburg batteries and at the time of her sinking, 27 May 1863. Engaging the enemy in a fierce battle, the Cincinnati, amidst an incessant fire of shot and shell, continued to fire her guns to the last although so penetrated by enemy shell fire that her fate was sealed. Conspicuously gallant during this action, Hamilton, severely wounded at the wheel, returned to his post and had to be sent below, to hear the incessant roar of guns as the gallant ship went down, "her colors nailed to the mast."                                                                                                    

William Seach, Ordinary Seaman of U.S. Navy

William Seach served as an ordinary seaman in the U.S. Navy during the Boxer Rebellion in China. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1900. His citation reads as follows:

In action with the relief expedition of the Allied forces in China during the battles of 13, 20, 21 and 22 June 1900. June 13: Seach and 6 others were cited for their courage in repulsing an attack by 300 Chinese Imperialist soldiers and Boxer militants with a bayonet charge, thus thwarting a planned massive attack on the entire force. June 20: During a day-long battle, Seach ran across an open clearing, gained cover, and cleaned out nests of Chinese snipers. June 21: During a surprise sabre attack by Chinese cavalrymen, Seach was cited for defending gun emplacements. June 22: Seach and others breached the wall of a Chinese fort, fought their way to the enemy's guns, and turned the cannon upon the defenders of the fort. Throughout this period and in the presence of the enemy, Seach distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.

Ralph Talbot, 2nd Lieutenant of U.S. Marine Corps

Ralph Talbot served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War I. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1918. His citation reads as follows:

For exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism while attached to Squadron C, 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France. 2d Lt. Talbot participated in numerous air raids into enemy territory. On 8 October 1918, while on such a raid, he was attacked by 9 enemy scouts, and in the fight that followed shot down an enemy plane. Also, on 14 October 1918, while on a raid over Pittham, Belgium, 2d Lt. Talbot and another plane became detached from the formation on account of motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. During the severe fight that followed, his plane shot down 1 of the enemy scouts. His observer was shot through the elbow and his gun jammed. 2d Lt. Talbot maneuvered to gain time for his observer to clear the jam with one hand, and then returned to the fight. The observer fought until shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the hip and then collapsed, 2d Lt. Talbot attacked the nearest enemy scout with his front guns and shot him down. With his observer unconscious and his motor failing, he dived to escape the balance of the enemy and crossed the German trenches at an altitude of 50 feet, landing at the nearest hospital to leave his observer, and then returning to his aerodrome.

Elden H. Johnson, Private of U.S. Army

Elden H. Johnson served as a Private in the U.S. Army's 15th Infantry 3rd Division during World War II. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945. His citation reads as follows: 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Pvt. Johnson elected to sacrifice his life in order that his comrades might extricate themselves from an ambush. Braving the massed fire of about 60 riflemen, 3 machineguns, and 3 tanks from positions only 25 yards distant, he stood erect and signaled his patrol leader to withdraw. The whole area was brightly illuminated by enemy flares. Then, despite 20mm. machineguns, machine pistol, and rifle fire directed at him, Pvt. Johnson advanced beyond the enemy in a slow deliberate walk. Firing his automatic rifle from the hip, he succeeded in distracting the enemy and enabled his 12 comrades to escape. Advancing to within 5 yards of a machinegun, emptying his weapon, Pvt. Johnson killed its crew. Standing in full view of the enemy he reloaded and turned on the riflemen to the left, firing directly into their positions. He either killed or wounded 4 of them. A burst of machinegun fire tore into Pvt. Johnson and he dropped to his knees. Fighting to the very last, he steadied himself on his knees and sent a final burst of fire crashing into another German. With that he slumped forward dead. Pvt. Johnson had willingly given his life in order that his comrades might live. These acts on the part of Pvt. Johnson were an inspiration to the entire command and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.

Frederick C. Murphy, Private Special Class of U.S. Army

Frederick C. Murphy served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army's 259th Infantry 65th Division during World War II. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1946. His citation reads as follows: 
 
An aid man, he was wounded in the right shoulder soon after his comrades had jumped off in a dawn attack 18 March 1945, against the Siegfried Line at Saarlautern, Germany. He refused to withdraw for treatment and continued forward, administering first aid under heavy machinegun, mortar, and artillery fire. When the company ran into a thickly sown antipersonnel minefield and began to suffer more and more casualties, he continued to disregard his own wound and unhesitatingly braved the danger of exploding mines, moving about through heavy fire and helping the injured until he stepped on a mine which severed one of his feet. In spite of his grievous wounds, he struggled on with his work, refusing to be evacuated and crawling from man to man administering to them while in great pain and bleeding profusely. He was killed by the blast of another mine which he had dragged himself across in an effort to reach still another casualty. With indomitable courage, and unquenchable spirit of self-sacrifice and supreme devotion to duty which made it possible for him to continue performing his tasks while barely able to move, Pfc. Murphy saved many of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own life.

Thomas V. Nash, Jr., 2nd Lieutenant of U.S. Air Force

Thomas V. Nash, Jr. was born on December 11, 1915 in Weymouth. He attended and graduated from Weymouth Public Schools, where he had an impressive athletic career in football and wrestling. Nash earned a B.A. in English and Education at Brown University. He became the star athlete of his college football team and was named an All-New England choice at the end of both his junior and senior years. Nash entered the Army Air Corps and was accepted as an Aviation Cadet in December of 1941. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on January 3, 1943. Nash was a bombardier on a B-17 bomber engaged in massive air raids over Germany when his plane was lost in action on July 28, 1943. He received the Purple Heart.

 

Lawrence W. Pingree, 2nd Lieutenant of U.S. Marine Corps

Lawrence W. Pingree was born in Weymouth on February 1, 1923. He graduated from Weymouth High School in 1941 and the following year, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. His primary training was completed at the Naval Air Station Squantum. On August 3, 1943, Pingree earned his aviator wings and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 223rd Marine Fighting Squadron, Aircraft Group 14, First Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force. On the morning of June 16, 1944, Pingree was killed in action at Tabera Airfield in Rabaul, New Britain. He received the Purple Heart.