From Pirates to Patriots
The unique family history behind a private guided walking tour.
Ben Edwards’ Walking Boston private tour does not focus on his ancestors, but several of their stories are woven into his Boston history narrative. One is the tale of a Boston sea captain named Benjamin Edwards and his battle with pirate George Lowther in the Caribbean on January 10, 1722. It is told in detail in two books: A General History of Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson (1724) and The Pirates of the New England Coast 1630-1730 by George Francis Dow and John Henry Edmonds (1923). The event is depicted in the painting above. During the tour, Ben puts his own spin on this story that is something right out of a Disney movie.
Ben first learned about Captain Benjamin Edwards when, at the age of 2 1/2, he and his family traveled from Connecticut to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail. They stopped at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground to see the marker of a Captain Edwards, Ben’s first ancestor in America. Photos taken at Copp’s Hill that day appear below. At that time little was known about Captain Edwards. His marker was first located by a family member around 1925. During genealogical research on the Edwards family, that same relative also claimed to have discovered a connection to Paul Revere but when she died all of her written research was lost.
Jeannie began telling Ben stories she had heard from her grandfather of family members being involved in the Sons of Liberty. Research conducted later at the Massachusetts Historical Society confirmed that one of Captain Edwards’ sons, Alexander, was indeed a member. Alexander likely raised Benjamin, his sister Sally and their other siblings as their parents Dolling and Rebecca had both died by 1773. Genealogical clues tell us what Alexander meant to his nieces and nephews as they each named a son in his honor. Sally Edwards and Paul Revere Jr. had 12 children and their firstborn son was not named Paul Revere, but rather Alexander Edwards Revere. From Jeannie, Ben also learned that a painting of Captain Benjamin Edwards, Ben’s sixth great grandfather, existed. Not only was there a painting of him, but also a painting of his father and his father’s original desk that the family had brought to Boston from England in the early 1700s. All of these were located in a private home in Plymouth, Massachusetts and Ben had them photographed in 1994.
These finds inspired Ben to perform additional research which occurred on and off over a period of several years. Utilizing this research and all he had learned about the Boston his ancestors called home, Ben decided to write a children’s book that would tell their story. As he was working on that project, Ben was again drawn to that yellowed newspaper clipping he had first read as a child in the 1812 Edwards family Bible — the one with press coverage of the funeral of a World War I hero by the name of Philip Edwards. He wanted to include Phil in the story but first Ben needed to learn more about him. Extensive research into the life of Private Philip Edwards commenced. In 1997, Ben was able to find photos of Phil as a child and in 1999 he located a military historian in France named Gilles Lagin who could help find the exact areas where Philip Edwards had fought. (Ben ended up working with Gilles intermittently on subsequent research for over a decade.) Phil was a member of Boston’s 26th “Yankee” Division, formed in the summer of 1917 and comprised of National Guard units from the New England states.
In 2004, Ben started a private guided walking tour business called Walking Boston. He wanted to teach Boston history in a creative and engaging way through storytelling aided by primary sources. To support this objective, for more than a decade Ben has developed an extensive collection of rare documents and historic newspapers that he shares along the tour route. In 2015 the second edition of his children’s book One April in Boston: The Gift of the Spyglass was released as an eBook and audio book. The eBook contains additional illustrations and new content not found in the first edition. Tour participants receive both products. In 2017 the second edition of Ben’s book was released in print form. It features 48 original pen and ink illustrations created by Cortney Skinner. One April in Boston is available for purchase on this website, at the Paul Revere House Online Gift Shop, and at the Paul Revere House Gift Shop at the new Education and Visitor Center.
Today, you’ll find Ben along the Freedom Trail telling stories and sharing his knowledge of Boston history with students, families, and visitors from across the United States and around the globe. Ben begins his private guided walking tour on Boston Common, just yards away from where Boston’s 26th Division returned to a “Welcome Home” parade on April 25, 1919. Ben’s relative Private Philip Edwards, if only in spirit, was surely with them on that day. The video below called “Finding Philip Edwards in France” pays tribute to Phil and contains a photo from the parade. Ben ends his tour at the marker of Captain Benjamin Edwards at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground — the exact spot where he stood as a 2 1/2-year-old during his first visit to Boston. Each day Ben honors his ancestors by walking in their footsteps and conveying his passion for Boston history on a customized private guided walking tour unlike any other in Boston.