Dec 17

Historian bags Boston Tea Party link

1774 letter discovered in Montgomery County refers to tax protest

By Paul Nelson Published Tuesday, December 15, 2015, Times Union

A 1774 letter from a file of Patriot leader Jelles Fonda’s personal writings discovered in the Montgomery County relates to the Boston Tea Party rebellion. The correlation was found by Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar. The missives, which had never been uncovered before, described the political rift that developed between he and Walter Butler and the heirs of Sir William Johnson, chronicles Johnson’s attempts to curtail free speech and the rebellion of citizens in Tryon County in August 1774. Additionally, Fonda mentions the allegations leveled at him and the repercussions Bostonians would feel for destroying the tea in the city. (Courtesy Montgomery County)

A 1774 letter from a file of Patriot leader Jelles Fonda’s personal writings discovered in the Montgomery County relates to the Boston Tea Party rebellion. The correlation was found by Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar. The missives, which had never been uncovered before, described the political rift that developed between he and Walter Butler and the heirs of Sir William Johnson, chronicles Johnson’s attempts to curtail free speech and the rebellion of citizens in Tryon County in August 1774. Additionally, Fonda mentions the allegations leveled at him and the repercussions Bostonians would feel for destroying the tea in the city. (Courtesy Montgomery County)

Fort Plain, NY – In the spring Montgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar went with her daughter on a class trip to Boston, where they visited the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

On Monday, Farquhar made history herself when she found personal writings about the subject while taking inventory of the archival collections of patriot leader Jelles Fonda.

On Tuesday, the historian recounted how the words ‘Boston’ and ‘tea’ on those documents caught her eye. They describe the political rift between Fonda and Walter Butler and the heirs of Sir William Johnson, and chronicles Johnson’s attempts to curtail free speech and the rebellion of residents in August 1774 in Tryon County, from which Montgomery and several other counties were later created.

Fonda also mentions allegations leveled at him and the repercussions Bostonians would feel for destroying the tea in the city.

“Everybody that I’ve shown it to is pretty certain it was written by Jelles Fonda,” said Farquhar, who has worked with the county department of history and archives for nearly two decades. She made the find while inventory in advance of making the historical papers digital.

The Boston Tea Party (initially referred to by John Adams as “the Destruction of the Tea in Boston”) was a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, on December 16, 1773. The demonstrators, some disguised as Native Americans, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution.

The discovery occurred days before Wednesday’s 242nd anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, when the city residents dressed as Native Americans dumped tea into the harbor to protest taxes. The Fondas were early settlers in the region, the county seat bears their name and their descendants including the Fonda acting family of Henry, Peter and Jane.

Fort Plain Museum researcher Norm Bollen transcribed the letter, and said in a statement that “reading and understanding 18th-century handwriting can be challenging.”

The letter will be featured as part of a new exhibit he and Farquhar are working on for the department that showcases the history of Tryon County at the beginning of the American Revolution. It is expected to debut sometime next summer.

Farquhar said Tuesday that she remains excited about the find.

“I’ve come across a lot of neat things but this is pretty close to the top of the list, if not the top because of the reference to national history,” she said.

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