in boston the first inquiry that every stranger makes is for bunker hill; the next is to be directed to the old church where the lanterns were hung out on the night before the battles of lexington and concord. at nearly every hour of the day some one may be seen in the now unfrequented street looking up at the lofty spire with an expression of deep satisfaction, as if some long-cherished wish had at last been accomplished. (it's true!)
while he (in this case) is endeavoring to impress the appearance of the venerable structure upon his memory, the pilgrim to historic shrines sees that a tablet, with an inscription cut upon it, is imbedded in the old, but still solid masonry of the tower front. salem street is so narrow that he has no difficulty whatever in reading it from the curbstone across the way, which he does slowly and attentively. bostonians all know it by heart. thus it runs:
the signal lanterns of paul revere, displayed in the steeple of this church, april 18, 1775, warned the country of the march of the british troops to lexington and concord.
this inscription, then, has constituted christ church, in effect, a monument to paul revere and his famous exploit. the poet longfellow has given him another.
no stranger enters this neighborhood who does not get the impression that he has somewhere, unknown to himself, walked out of the nineteenth century into the eighteenth. (or out of the twenty-first, even)
the whole neighborhood is in a languishing state, though quite in keeping with the softened feeling that always comes over one in such retired corners. for here he has full liberty to lose himself, undisturbed either by noise or bustle, and he can quietly enjoy the seclusion needful for getting into a frame of mind proper to the associations of the spot. yet, strange as it now seems, this was once a fashionable quarter of the town, although that was long ago, and traces of the old-time gentility are still apparent here and there to the eye of the wanderer up and down the deserted thoroughfares. in point of fact, notwithstanding it is one of the oldest divisions of the old city, the whole north end has lagged full half a century behind the other sections, — so far, indeed, that it is doubtful whether it will ever overtake them. (ha!)
this old church, with its venerable chimes, the armorial tombstones on copp's hill above it, and sundry antiquated mansions in antiquated lanes, are the silent witnesses to the fact that the neighborhood has really seen better days.
we have devoted so much space to the locality because it was the birthplace and home of paul revere.
at the time of his memorable ride, paul revere was forty years old, and was living in the neighborhood where he was born. though he was brought up to the trade of a goldsmith, revere was one of those skilful mechanics who can turn their hands to many things, and having already learned to engrave on silver, he took up and soon began to be known as an engraver on copper-plate, in which art he acquired a rude proficiency.
revere, like most of his class, went heart and soul with the whigs when the troubles with the mother country drew men to one or the other side; and he very soon became one of the most active and daring spirits of a secret organization, composed of men like himself, who had sworn on the bible not to betray each other, and whose purpose was to spy out and defeat the measures of the british governor-general, cost what it might.
these men knew nothing and cared nothing about the tricks of diplomacy. they were simply anxious to decide all outstanding questions by blows, the sooner the better.
their meetings were held and their plans concerted at the green dragon tavern in union street. they were directed how to act for the interests of the common cause by adams, hancock, warren, and one or two others of the acknowledged leaders. between warren and revere there grew up a sympathy so especially close and intimate, that when adams and hancock left it, and warren alone remained to observe and direct events in the town, revere became his chosen lieutenant. this brings us to the event recorded in the inscription.
--samuel adams drake