Elmwood, one of the seven Tory Row estates, was located furthest from Harvard Square. During pre-Revolutionary years, it was owned by Thomas Oliver who also served as the Lieutenant Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After the death of Andrew Oliver, an earlier Lieutenant Governor, Thomas Oliver had been appointed to the position by the English Crown because George III believed him to the be Andrew Olivers’ brother. Thomas Oliver would be the last Royal Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Coercive Acts of 1774 was a controversial series of parliamentary legislation that was intended to punish the rebellious Bostonians for the Boston Tea Party of 1773. It effectively closed the Port of Boston and dissolved colonial government, replacing it with a royally-appointed governing body named the Mandamus Council. Cambridge appointees included Oliver, along with Judges Samuel Danforth and Joseph Lee.

In September of that year, the Powder House Alarm brought a crowd of 4,000 colonists to Cambridge Common. Frustrated by Governor Gage’s expedition to legally remove the colonial gunpowder stores from the Charlestown Powderhouse (located in modern-day Somerville’s Powderhouse Square), and institute the Intolerable Acts, the mob marched down Brattle Street calling for the immediate resignation of the three Mandamus Council appointees.

Hearing news of a crowd surrounding General William Brattle’s mansion, Oliver traveled to Boston to speak with Governor Gage. He feared that Gage might dispatch troops to suppress the uprising and set off an open armed struggle. In due course, Oliver returned to Cambridge and was able to calm the crowds and returned to his house. However, later that day, a despised tax collector, Benjamin Hallowell, rode past the crowd in his private carriage. Within a few minutes 160 men on horseback were in full pursuit.

This excitement agitated the crowds and they soon marched down Brattle Street and surrounded Lt. Governor Oliver’s house, demanding his resignation. He stepped down, saying: “My house in Cambridge being surrounded by about four thousand people in compliance with their commands I sign my name.”

Like other Tory Row properties, Elmwood was seized by the patriots during the Revolution. It was converted into a hospital, which treated wounded and ill soldiers throughout the Siege of Boston. It was also the place where Benedict Arnold stayed when he visited Cambridge during the Siege.


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