My Grandfather, the biggest Patriot…

…and by biggest, I mean large in size! My 7th great-grandfather, John Ruddock was a true Patriot. Apparently, not only was he largely important in the times leading up to the start of the American revolution, he was just as large in his physical size.

In a letter of John Andrews, Esq. printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society volume 8 page 322 – “ September 3rd. Yesterday died old Justice Ruddock, the most corpulent man among us, weighing, they say, between 5 and 600 weight.”

Along with a large physical appearance he is also reported to have had a very large ego as well:

“This Ruddock is as unique a character as of any his age- a finished example of self conceit, and vanity.” “The instances of this Mans Vanity are innumerable— his Soul is as much swollen as his carcass.” — John Adams

A quote taken from 1771.July.22d.Monday- The Adams Papers
MHS Collections online: The town of Boston In New England by Capt John Bonner, 1722. Aetatis Suae 60

John was born in Boston, MA on July 8th 1713.  At that time his parents Fortune and Abiel had a home on Lynn Street, which roughly is the area today known as Commercial Street.  There were three children born before John, but tragically they all never survived more than a year.  John was essentially an only child.

More tragedy struck when his father died sometime in early 1716.  At this time all he had was his mother and grandmother Grace (Healy) Ireland.  It is known that his grandmother Grace died in 1730.  Some have said that his mother Abiel died in 1716 but I have found no evidence of this or any evidence of her actual death as of yet.  This only leads me to wonder if John was orphaned at a very young age.  

Whatever John’s upbringing was, he seems to have beaten all the odds and became a man of wealth and importance by his own right, especially in the turbulent times in Boston during the early days leading to the Revolution.

He began by serving as constable.  By 1746 he was elected to be one of the Collectors of Taxes.  At times he was Overseer of the poor. He was Captain, then Major commanding the North Battery for 13 years. In 1763 he was elected one of Boston’s Selectman.  Working along side the likes of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams and others.

Letter from the Boston Selectmen regarding proposals for the non-importation agreement.
The Boston Public Library’s American Revolutionary War Manuscripts Collection

Autograph signatures of Joseph Jackson, Samuel Sewall, John Ruddock, John Hancock, William Philips, Tim Newell, and John Rowe

This next document is fascinating. John was a signer on this circular letter issued on September 14, 1768 calling for a meeting at Faneuil Hall on September 22nd.

September 14th, 1768 circular letter by Boston Selectmen Joseph Jackson, John Ruddock, John Hancock, John Rowe, and Samuel Pemberton

While this document does not use the well known phrase ‘No Taxation Without Representation’, it does state that the taxes are detrimental to the colonies and have been imposed on the people without consent. Almost immediately after the Meetings at Faneuil Hall, The British Troops appeared on Boston Harbor in an attempt to restore order.

John Ruddock was one of the Justice of the Peace that collected affidavits of some of the witnesses for the Boston Massacre.

You can read A Short Narrative of The Horrid Massacre in Boston here.

John Married Tabitha Drinker on January 5, 1737 by Addington Davenport of Kings Chapel in Boston.

Had he not died suddenly on September 2, 1772, I wonder, would the name John Ruddock be as prominent and celebrated as names like John Hancock, Samuel Adams and John Adams? Would he have been there to sign his name ‘bigger’ than John Hancock on The Declaration of Independence? The answer is probably Yes. I believe that he believed in the Patriot cause and stood proudly for the rights and liberties of the American colonists.

His obituary in The Boston-Gazette and Country Journal -7 September 1772 click here.

Lastly, John is buried in Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. I have not been there to see it, but I’ve heard that the words on his stone are no longer legible. Fortunately, the words have been preserved in Epitaths from Copp’s Hill Burial Ground, Boston by Thomas Bridgman:

HERE LIES BURIED THE BODY OF MAJOR JOHN RUDDOCK , ESQ., Deceased September 2 d , 1772, aged 59 years and 2 mo . He was in commission of the Peace and Justice of the Court and County of Suffolk 33 yrs ; He commanded his Majesty’s North Battery in Boston 13 yrs ; And was selectman for the same town 9 yrs. Could a heart that felt, and a hand that relieved, the miseries attendant upon humanity — Could the truest patriotism, equally superior to the frowns of power and the rage of party, which with invincible constancy asserted and defended universally (for he was a citizen of the world) the rights of mankind — Could, undeviating integrity in every office which he dignified by holding, joined to the most impartial dispensation of justice — In fine, Could extensive virtue -or distinguished worth rescue from the tomb,

Reader, thou hadst not been told Here lies Ruddock. Depart ! Imitate his virtues, and with him merit the eulogium of thy country.

Time may efface this monumental stone, But time nor malice can his worth dethrone For villains living oft may buy a name, But virtue only swells posthumous fame.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time…
Find me, remember me

2 thoughts on “My Grandfather, the biggest Patriot…

    1. Hello Mary! John Ruddock was a Boston Selectman for a number of years and played a big part in the years leading up to the Revolution. A fascinating character for sure!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s