Too Rich For Manchester, Part Two For The Lees, It’s All in The Family


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In April 1743, “Samuel Lee Esq. of Manchester,” a 49-year-old widower, purchased a house on Marblehead’s Training Field Hill.  

He turned over his Manchester houses to his older sons Samuel and John, and moved to Marblehead with his remaining children Mary, 25, Jeremiah, 21, David, 15, and Abigail, 10.

Jeremiah Lee became his father’s business partner, while young David was sent to Harvard. Justice Lee, who had made his first fortune as a builder, entered Marblehead’s foreign commerce with enthusiasm as a shipping merchant, importing valuable goods and exporting large quantities of fish.  Like Robert “King” Hooper, the richest man in town, he had a wharf and warehouses at Neck’s Cove and owned fishing vessels and vessels trading with ports in Europe and the Caribbean.  He joined the Second Church, Congregational.

Samuel Lee’s son Jeremiah cut quite a figure in his new town.  In June 1745, at 24, he married Martha (“Patty”) Swett, 19, the daughter of the recently deceased merchant Joseph Swett, partner and father-in-law of King Hooper, Jeremiah’s new brother-in-law, and a few months later Patty’s stepmother, Hannah, married Jeremiah’s father, Justice Salem Lee.  All in the family!

Jeremiah and Martha Lee had their first child in 1747, but baby Mary soon died.  A year later, they had a son whom they named Joseph.  They may well have thought of naming him David, after Jeremiah’s high-spirited brother, the Harvard student, who had recently died. It is notable that the Jeremiah Lees had only one of their nine children baptized.

In 1751, Jeremiah Lee, 30, received his royal commission as Colonel of the Marblehead regiment.  Over the next few years, he drilled the seven-company regiment, one of the largest in the province, into a model of military efficiency, “well clad and with alert countenances.”

Having accomplished his mission in Marblehead, Justice Samuel Lee died on the 6th of July 1753, in his 60th year.  Per his will, he was to be buried in a plain coffin, with no paid mourners.  He owned shares in the ship Stork, valued at 1330 li, of which he owned half; the boat Defiance, the schooners Boston, Elizabeth, Biddeford, Cattle, Lisbon, Comet, Prosperity; the brigantines Hannah and Susannah; and the sloop Lizard.

His son Col. Jeremiah Lee, renowned for his portliness, built the largest house in town in 1766, and soon became committed to the cause of rebellion.  He secretly imported large quantities of munitions from Spain; and by October 1774, he was one of the public faces of independence, chairing the meeting that produced the Essex Resolves, committing the county’s towns to fight against British rule.  Jeremiah Lee, who would have become famous as a leader of the Revolution, met an untimely death, from pneumonia, while in the service of the country that had not yet been formed, in May 1775.

Among Jeremiah’s survivors was his stepmother Hannah, after whose death in 1781 the Samuel Lee mansion was sold to Capt. Israel Foster, a Marblehead merchant who was a native of Manchester.

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