From MasonicGenealogy
Jump to: navigation, search



  • MM 1761, Lodge of St. Andrew
  • Grand Treasurer 1769-1770; Senior Grand Deacon 1779; Junior Grand Warden 1780 (Mass. Indep.)



From the web site of the Boston Tea Party Historical Society:

Thomas Crafts (1740-1799) was a painter tradesman who participated in the Boston Tea Party. During the Revolutionary War he rose to the Colonel rank and commanded the artillery unit where Paul Revere served. He is believed to have been on of the people who made the Mohawk disguise worn by other participants. He was also a vegetarian.

Thomas Crafts Jr. was born in Boston, MA and grew up in his family house on Back St. (now Salem St.) in North End, just a block away from Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church. He learned a trade of decorative painter (japanner). Not surprising that having grown up together with other famous patriots and sharing the same professional field he soon found himself in the midst of revolutionary protests, many of which later became known as the landmarks of American Revolution.

His first significant action was participation in the “Loyal Nine”, the group of patriots formed to protest the Stamp Act by driving out stamp distributors from the city. The Loyal Nine club was formed in August 1765 and in December it started callings itself the Sons of Liberty. Crafts was one of the patriots who in August 14, 1765 hanged the effigy of Andrew Oliver, distributor of stamps for Massachusetts from a giant elm tree at the crossing of Essex and Orange Streets in the city’s South End. The elm tree later became known as the "Liberty Tree". He also testified during the Boston Massacre trial.

Despite being one of the key figures in the Sons of Liberty Crafts was known as a moderate. In 1772 he was even accused of becoming a Tory, a British loyalist for his arguments against the most confrontational acts.

Like many other sons of liberty Col. Thomas Crafts also took an active interest in Masonic affairs. He became a member of St. Andrew's Lodge F. and A. M. in 1762, and afterwards became a member of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

On December 16, 1773 Thomas Crafts took part in the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor. His participation first came to light years later when Frederic W. Lincoln, Jr, the eighteenths mayor of Boston (1858–1866) spoke out about participation of his grandfather, Captain Amos Lincoln in this protest. According to his account, Amos Lincoln then a young man was the apprentice of Thomas Crafts and said that he obtained the Mohawk dress from Mr. Crafts who was in the Harbor with the other Sons of Liberty that night.

The military training of the former painter started when he joined the now famous artillery unit of the Boston’s militia that was commanded by Major Paddock and was naturally known as the Paddock’s Artillery Co. Among the militia men being part of this unit that consisted of skilled mechanics (craftsmen) was a great achievement. It was in the Paddock’s company where Crafts received his first officer rank of Lieutenant and became the third in command. The company had four small brass cannon and now two of them can be seen at the base of Bunker Hill Monument. They bear the names "Hancock" and "Adams."

To modern historians Mr. Crafts is most known for his participation in the Boston Tea Party, but his contemporaries were the most appreciative for his role as the commander of the Massachusetts militia artillery during the first years of the war. As the Colonel for the Massachusetts Regiment of Artillery, also known as “the Train” he greatly helped the cause of the Revolution by successfully defending the port of Boston from the British vessels. On 13th of June 1776 under the command of Gen. Benjamin Lincoln he drove the enemy’s ships out of Boston Harbor and lead to the capture of several ships and 700 British regulars.

In a letter written by Samuel Adams to his cousin, Col. Crafts family was mentioned as one of the former Sons of Liberty tradesmen families who rose in Boston’s society to become the new nobility. As such he was honored by being the first person to read the newly signed Declaration of Independence from the balcony of the Old State House in Boston in a 1776 ceremony.

After the Revolution Colonel Crafts continued serving people of Boston as selectman and Justice of the Peace and active Justice for many years after the war.

Thomas Crafts married in Boston 30 June, 1763, Frances Pickeny Gore, daughter of John and Frances (Pinkney) Gore of Boston, and sister of Governor Christopher Gore. She was born in Boston 3 Feb. 1744, and died there in 1788.


From the Proceedings of the Bostonian Society, Spring 2013:

From Painter to Patriot: Thomas Crafts, Jr., the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, and Massachusetts Freemasonry
By James W. Sugden, II, Publisher, Mosaic Art Publications

Everv Fourth of July for the last 25 years I have come m the Old State House to hear history re-enacted as the Declaration of Independence is read from the building's balcony.

From this spot on July 18, 1776, the Declaration was first read to the people of Boston. The job of reading official proclamations belonged to Sheriff William Greenleaf, whose voice was thin and hard to hear. Greenleaf turned for help to Col. Thomas Crafts, Jr., an artillery officer accustomed to making himself heard over the roar of cannons. The two men stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the front of the balcony and made history. "My father read a sentence," Greenleaf's son later remembered, "which was immediately repeated by Crafts" in a booming voice. They continued in this manner until they reached the end, "when was the huzza."

Today Crafts is mostly forgotten, but there is much more to his story than a commanding voice. An important member of the patriot cause, Crafts participated in many acts of protest before the war and later rose to the rank of colonel in the Massachusetts militia. For a brief time he commanded the state's artillery regiment, a unit affectionately known as "the Train." He was also deeply committed to two of Boston's most important fraternal associations.

Born in Boston in 1740, Thomas Crafts, Jr., was a "japanner" by trade - a decorative painter involved in the furniture trade. Crafts's brushwork was visible in the gilded letters painted over the doors of the Old State House and on the Massachusetts coat of arms that adorned its walls.

As he went about his work, perhaps Crafts could hear James Otis and Samuel Adams thundering against British policy from the Assembly room on the building's second floor. Clearly he took an active interest in the political debates of the day. In 1765 Crafts became a member of the Loyal Nine, a group formed to protest the Stamp Act by driving the stamp distributors from Boston. That August he was among a small party of radicals who hanged an effigy of the distributor of stamps for Massachusetts, Andrew Oliver, from a giant elm tree at the crossing of what is now Boylston and Washington Streets.

The elm became Boston's Liberty Tree, a focal point for popular protest during the decade before independence, and Crafts was soon well known to those who gathered beneath its boughs. As a member of the Sons of Liberty he took part in many of the acts of resistance staged on Boston's streets, including the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773.

Once the war began, Crafts received a commission to command the Massachusetts Train of Artillery. As the Colonel for this regiment, he was instrumental to the cause of the Revolution by successfully defending the port of Boston from British ships. On June 14, 1776, artillery under Crafts's command drove the Royal Navy from Boston Harbor and helped to capture several supply ships and 700 British regulars.

Crafts' wartime success surely had something to do with his long experience in the Military Company of Massachusetts (also called the Company, the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company, or the AHAC). The AHAC was created in 1638 to serve as a school of instruction and discipline for the respectable officers of the Massachusetts militia who chose to join it. Much attention was paid to the Company's manual of arms and training. The Company procured more efficient guns, instituted new and better rules and regulations, and in 1738 became the first uniformed military company in the British colonies (for many years it remained the only such company). The AHAC received as members a large number of officers in the Massachusetts militia.

Crafts joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1765. Perhaps he was swayed by the fact that the Company met for training at the Old State House, so familiar to Crafts from his work.

The AHAC was more than a military company, though. It was a voluntary association where tradesmen like Crafts could mix freely with well-heeled merchants and other men of standing in mid-century Massachusetts. And the bond that held these men together, it seems, was a shared zeal for improving the lot of their communities. According to Oliver Ayer Roberts, an early historian of the Company, its members "were the first in organizing churches and supporting them. They were also constant friends of the Public Schools." They were, he concluded, "public benefactors."

Importantly, Roberts linked this pattern of civic leadership to the role that members of the AHAC played during the American Revolution. "Nine tenths of the Company were loyal to the Colonies," he wrote. "They served on every battlefield from Bunker Hill and Bennington, through Valley Forge to Yorktown."

The same might be said of a second association to which Thomas Crafts belonged: the Freemasons. Masonry was well established in the American colonies by the time of the Revolutionary War, and the Boston lodges in particular prospered. By some estimates, members of the Masonic fraternity numbered more than 1,000 in Boston - a sizeable percentage of the adult male population when compared to the town's 1765 census, which counted 15,520 residents. Freemasons were found on both sides of Boston's Revolutionary struggle.

Members of St. Andrew's Grand Lodge (founded 1769) called themselves Ancients and were almost exclusively on the side of the Patriots. Those under the jurisdiction of Boston's other existing and older Grand Lodge, St. John's Provincial Grand Lodge (founded 1733), were called Moderns and, with some exceptions like James Otis, leaned toward support of the Crown.

In the proceedings of St. John's Grand Lodge, there is a gap of twelve years between January 1775 and February 1787. Some have inferred that Masonry was inactive during this period, but this assumption is unwarranted. Two sources - the diary of John Rowe and a list of events uncovered and compiled by {Past} Grand Master Melvin M. Johnson in 1931 - show many Grand Lodge events and individual lodge meetings from 1775 up through February 1787. Meetings after this time were infrequent until a decisive meeting was held at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern on March 5, 1792, during which Boston's two Grand Lodges were united as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

Like the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, Boston's Masonic lodges had close ties to the military. When the British army arrived in Boston in the fall of 1768, each regiment brought its own Masonic lodge. Similarly, American soldiers formed military lodges during the Revolutionary War and interest in the fraternity quickly spread through the Continental Army. The new army's officer corps forged its strong bonds in part through their common ties to Freemasonry. Although men like Nathaniel Greene, George Washington, the Marquis de LaFayette, and Baron von Steuben had little else in common, their shared commitment to Freemasonry helped to hold them close together.

Historian Steven Bullock has argued that Freemasonry shaped the American Revolution in ways that are too often overlooked, and after examining the life of Thomas Crafts, Jr., I'm inclined to agree. The Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company are two of our nation's oldest continuing historic institutions. They represent Freemasonry's beginning in America and America's first chartered military company. But their importance goes beyond these claims. Their role in shaping Boston's early society and their contributions in the cause of liberty cannot be overstated. Like Thomas Crafts, who belonged to both institutions, they rose to service in meeting the paramount challenge of their Revolutionary time.

Sources on the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and Boston Freemasonry include: Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730- 1840 (Chapel Hill, N. C, 1996); Zachariah G. Whitman, History of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, second ed. (Boston, 1842); Oliver Ayer Roberts, History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts, 4 vols. (Boston, 1891-1901); Thomas Sherrard Roy, Stalwart Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1733-1978, second ed. (Boston, 1980); James M. Crafts and William F. Crafts, The Crafts Family: A Genealogical and Biographical History (Boston, 1893); William H. Sumner, A History of East Boston (Boston, 1858). Additional materials can be found at the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts; and the Military Museum and Library, Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.

Distinguished Brothers