In the autumn of 1774, a year after the tea party in Boston, a British ship, the “Greyhound”, that was denied entry into Philadelphia, tried to sell its cargo in Greenwich, Cumberland Co., NJ. She was loaded with a cargo of tea sent out by the East India Tea Company, and was undoubtedly under the impression that the conservative feelings and principles of the people of New Jersey would induce them to submit quietly to a small tax.
Having found a Tory, or English sympathizer, one Daniel Bowen, the Greyhound’s crew secretly stored the cargo of tea in the cellar of his house. However, this unusual procedure was noted by the citizens.
News of the Boston Tea Party had already reached Greenwich and that defiant example was regarded by many of the local settlers as worthy of their own contempt for the British. Fate now presented them with a ready-made opportunity to duplicate the act.
On the evening of Thursday, December 22, 1774, a company of about forty young patriots, including Silas Newcomb and his son Ephraim, disguised as Indians, entered the cellar of Bowen’s house. The Newcombs are cousin ancestors of mine. They took all the cargo from the cellar into an adjoining field and set it on fire.
After the “Indians” had destroyed the tea, a county-wide committee met the next day. It piously resolved: “first that we entirely disapprove of the destroying of the tea, it being entirely contrary to our resolves; second, that we will not conceal nor protect from justice any of the perpetrators of the above act.”
Quite a few tongues must have been in quite a few cheeks when the vote was taken on that resolution. There on the committee sat at least two of the tea burners: Silas Newcomb and Joel Fiftian.
Two legal efforts were launched to punish the tea burners. Neither was successful.
Greenwich has been granted the distinction of being one of the five tea-party towns in America, the others being Charleston, Annapolis, Princeton, and Boston. It was the last tea party before war broke out. In 1908 the monument seen above was erected in the old market place on Ye Greate Street. It lists the names of the known participants. (This photo is used under the Creative Commons license and is attributed to Flickr member pwbaker.)
This bold act shocked the community and generated a controversy which led to the crystallization of sentiment between British and Colonial simpathizers. Many families took the cue and departed to Canada. Today, in Nova Scotia and other provinces are many descendants of Cumberland County families.
Silas Newcomb was born in Edgertown, Dukes Co., MA on April 23, 1723. He married Bathsheba Dayton in Fairfield, Cumberland Co. Together they had 5 children – Ephraim, Mary, Dayton, Silas and Webster. He joined the New Jersey Militia and later was colonel of the First New Jersey Regiment and brigadier general of the New Jersey Militia. He resigned in December 1777. Silas Newcomb died in 1779 in Fairfield.