By Christina Yin
Patriots Day, celebrated on April 19, is the Massachusetts state holiday commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord and their significance sparking the Revolutionary War. On April 18, 1775, Dr. Samuel Prescott of Concord, met up with Paul Revere and William Dawes, who were riding to Concord as their second stop of the night. Their first stop had been warning John Hancock and Samuel Adams in Lexington about their possible arrest. Next, Revere and Dawes needed to warn the Minutemen in Concord about the impending British strike on their military stores. If the riders failed this mission, the Patriots would be without weapons. Shortly after Prescott joined the two, they were stopped by British riders. Even though they all escaped or were let go, only Prescott was thoroughly familiar with Concord’s countryside and made it to Concord a little past midnight, where he successfully warned the Minutemen.
Thanks to Prescott — the Midnight Rider who joined the ride midway — the Patriots successfully hid the munitions that proved essential for the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Without Prescott’s warning, the start of the American Revolution might have turned out differently.
After delivering his warning in Concord, Prescott rode on to notify the town of Acton Minutemen so that they would arrive in time to lead the advance on the Old North Bridge in Concord. Since 1962, Prescott’s ride through Acton has been reenacted in the town’s Patriot’s Day celebrations. Other members of the Prescott family have also contributed to American history. It is said Prescotts have fought in every major U.S. battle. Colonel William Prescott led the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. His grandson — and Samuel Prescott’s second cousin — was William Hickling Prescott, a historian, scholar, and botanist who named the poinsettia plant. Today, the William Hickling Prescott House located at 55 Beacon St. is so named because it was his residence during 1845-1855. You may recognize it as it appeared in Greta Gerwigs’ “Little Women” (2019) as Meg March’s ballroom.
Overlooking the Boston Common, this federal style mansion is also the headquarters of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (NSCDA MA). NSCDA MA is a non-profit organization celebrating its 128th year of service. Its missions include historic preservation, patriotic services, sponsorship of veterans’ programs, as well as educational programs focused on early U.S. history.
For 77 years, NSCDA MA has operated and preserved the William Hickling Prescott House. The house museum is closed for the 2021 season due to COVID-19. However, please check their official website, nscdama.org, or the William Hickling Prescott House Facebook page for possible schedule modifications.