Early Boston real estate deed for land in "Cornhill near the market,” signed by Paul Revere as witness
Manuscript DS, one page both sides, 7.75 x 12.75, June 17, 1799. A fine example of Revere’s signature, accomplished on the second page of a petition of Jonas Clarke Minot of Boston, the guardian of “Sarah Drowne of said Boston a Minor,” who is selling real estate in “Cornhill near the market” inherited by Drowne from her grandfather. Revere, who like her grandfather was a silversmith and coppersmith, signs the deed as a witness. The document, in part: “Jonas Clarke Minot of Boston in the County of Suffolk and State of Massachusetts Gentleman, as he is Guardian of Sarah Drowne of said Boston a Minor sends Greeting, Whereas the said Minot upon his petition in his said capacity of Guardian, obtained authority from the Supreme Judicial Court…to sell the real estate of the said Sarah Drowne consisting of one undivided fifth part of a certain Dwelling House and Land situated in Cornhill near the Market in said Boston…Whereas the said Minot in pursuance of the said authority, after posting notifications, taking the oath and giving bond as required by Law, did…set up for sale by public auction to the highest bidder, the said undivided fifth part of the Dwelling House and Land above described and Whereas Samuel Goff of said Boston Shopkeeper did then appear and bid the sum of one thousand three hundred and fifty Dollars for the same which was the highest sum that could be obtained therefor. Now Know Ye that I the said Jonas Clarke Minot for and in consideration of the said sum to me…do give, grant, bargain, sell, convey and confirm unto him the said Samuel Goff and to his heirs and assigns forever the said one undivided fifth part of the Dwelling House and Land aforedescribed & the privileges & appurtenances thereof, and all the right, title and interest of the said Sarah Drowne in & unto the same. To have and to hold the same unto him the said Samuel Goff and to his heirs and assigns and to his and their only use, benefit & behoof forever.” Signed at the conclusion by Jonah Clarke Minot, and countersigned by George R. Minot (twice) and Paul Revere as witnesses, with William Alline also signing below. The adjacent blank leaf bears an affixed ownership label belonging to the collection of Roy G. Fitzgerald. Housed in an attractive custom presentation case. In very good to fine condition, with scattered stains, and professional silking to the signed side of the document. Accompanied by a receipt from John Heise Autographs.
Following the war, Paul Revere returned to his silversmith trade and used the profits from his expanding business to finance his work in iron casting, bronze bell and cannon casting, and the forging of copper bolts and spikes. During this same period, Revere had invested heavily in the development of the first copper-rolling mill in America, located in Canton, Massachusetts. The operation supplied the material for the dome of the Massachusetts State House and for the roof of New York's city hall, for the re-coppering of the hull of the USS Constitution in 1803, and for the boilers in several of Robert Fulton's early steamboats.
On February 23, 1796, Jonas Clarke Minot became a guardian for Sarah Drowne, ‘above 14 years of Age, Daughter of Samuel Drown.’ Her father, who had been a minor witness in the trial of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre in 1770, died in November 1781 in France at the age of 31. Although her mother Elizabeth Lydia Davis Drowne (1757-1817) was still living, the court appointed a guardian to care for Sarah Drowne as a minor.
Sarah Drowne (b. 1779) was the granddaughter and heir of Thomas Drowne (1715-1795), a coppersmith and blacksmith, who was also sometimes listed as a silversmith. Thomas’s father Shem Drowne (1683-1774) was a famous colonial coppersmith and tinplate worker, and America’s first documented weathervane maker. Shem made the grasshopper weathervane atop Faneuil Hall, which has become a symbol of Boston. When the earthquake of 1755 shook the grasshopper weathervane off the building, Thomas helped his father repair and remount it. In 1768, the younger Drowne placed a humorous note labeled ‘food for the grasshopper’ in the belly of the weathervane.
Provenance: John Heise Autographs; Roy G. Fitzgerald, 1935; Profiles in History; Roger D. Judd, 1992; Christie’s, 2019.