| A descendant of the William Robinson who was one of the early owners of the Tileston Mill is a big part of the history of the Royall-Dolbeare House. Lemuel Robinson (1736-1776) was the son of a later William and Anne Robinson, and as the oldest son in his family received a double share of their estate. He was also the grandson of Thomas and Zebiah (Royall) Trott who lived on Washington Street in what was later known as the Royall-Dolbeare House. These grandparents, whose only son had died unmarried soon after graduating from Harvard College in 1730, treated Lemuel as their heir and left him their estate, which stretched all the way to modern-day Carruth Street.
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Lemuel and his wife Jerusha Minot had a daughter Zebiah Royall, named apparently for his grandmother, who married John Dolbear in 1787. Dolbeare, a Boston merchant, came to live at the house in Dorchester at his wife’s family home.
Lemuel Robinson owned the Liberty Tree Tavern, where the Sons of Liberty met in the summer of 1769. The Lemuel Robinson Tavern “stood on the east side of the upper road (Washington St.) near the present Fuller Street.” In the map Fuller is the east-west street just south of Bailey Street. [Although the implication is that there is the house and a separate tavern, it is just possible that the illustration of the tavern is supposed to be the Royall-Dolbeare House since the locations noted by different sources are so close to each other. On the other hand, it may be that Lemuel inherited the property nearer Fuller Street as part of his own parents’ estate.]
Early in 1774 a meeting was called of all the towns of Suffolk County, which then embraced all of Norfolk County, to consider active measures of resistance to the exactions of the Crown and to the infringements of the liberties of the colonies. The Convention appointed a committee that produced the Suffolk Resolves and named men of the various towns, including Captain Lemuel Robinson of Dorchester, to be a commitee to wait on his Excellency the governor, “to inform him that this county is alarmed at the fortifications making on Boston Neck, and to remonstrate against the same, and the repeated insults offered by the soldiery to persons passing and repassing into that town ...” In May of 1774, Capt. Lemuel Robinson was appointed to act as representative of Dorchester at the General Court to be held at Salem.
Colonel Robinson, commissioned at the outbreak of hostilities, at once took an active part in recruiting troops. A few days after the Battle of Lexington, fearing an invasion of Dorchester, Col. Robinson sent his family to Stoughton, where they took refuge with Samuel Tucker, whose wife was a cousin of Mrs. Robinson’s. Robinson’s own house became the recruiting station for the regiment, and the temporary residence of alarmed families from “the neck” who occupied it until the return of its owners later in the season.
One of his exploits was to take out of Boston two brass cannons under the very eyes of the British sentries. He donned a carter’s frock and drove into Boston with a large load of garden produce, and he drove out again with a huge load of manure covering the two cannons, which were soon stored in his barn, apparently using a back door. The British became suspicious when they found the cannons had disappeared, and they came out to Dorchester to search Robinson’s house. When they found only women and children in the house, they went to the barn. They opened the door and were confronted by such a mass of spider webs across the entrance, they just abandoned their search thinking that no one had used the barn in a very long time.
During the occupation of Boston, the land connection between Boston and Dorchester by the Neck was next to unguarded. “Not more than between six and seven hundred men, under Colonel Robinson of Dorchester, were engaged in defending so important a pass, for several days together. For nine days and nights the colonel never shifted his clothes, nor lay down to sleep; as he had the whole duty upon him, even down to the adjutant, and as there was no officer of the day to assist. The officers in general had left the camp in order to raise the wanted number of men. The Colonel was obliged therefore, for the time mentioned, to patrol the guards every night, which gave him a round of nine miles to traverse.” Lemuel’s constitution was overtaxed by the exertions of many months, and he died of smallpox in 1776. It is supposed that he contracted the disease on one of his forays into Boston.
Zebiah Royall Robinson married John Dolbear a merchant who liked to walk and who would walk every day to his Boston office. Orcutt relates the story of an occasion when found he had left a key at home. Dolbear is reported to have said “Never mind, I will just step over to Dorchester and get it.”
Earl, I thought you might be interested in the following quote from John Adams’ diary which appears in Huntoon’s History of Canton, Mass.
“Monday, Aug. 14, 1769. Dined with three hundred and fifty sons of Liberty at Robinson’s, the sign of Liberty Tree in Dorchester. There was a large collection of good company. To the honor of the company, I did not see one person intoxicated or near it.” “Between four and five o’clock the carriages were all got ready, and the company rode off in procession – Mr. Hancock first in his chariot, and another chariot bringing up the rear. I took leave of the gentlemen, and turned off for Taunton. Oated at Doty's, and arrived long after dark at Noice’s; there I put up.”
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Created: January 17, 2011 Modified: May 20, 2011