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Go and Learn

Most Americans know about Paul Revere’s midnight ride to warn residents that the British were coming, but few remember William Dawes. Both Revere and Dawes, members of the patriotic Sons of Liberty, were sent on horseback from Boston to Lexington and Concord on April 18, 1775. While visiting Boston recently, my college girlfriends and I heard the story three times. By a tour guide and a waiter. And after a man sitting close by in a restaurant talked about several Boston landmarks, he asked, “Do you know about William Dawes?” I smiled and nodded. “And you know Samuel Prescott, right?” I frowned. He wanted to set the story straight.

Revere and Dawes rode different directions from Boston and met at a house in Lexington where Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying. After telling Adams and Hancock to leave Lexington, Revere and Dawes rode on and hooked up with Dr. Samuel Prescott, who they recognized as a High Son of Liberty.

Just a few miles from Lexington, the three were stopped by British patrol. Dawes escaped quickly. The British herded Revere and Prescott into a meadow and Prescott also got away. Revere was held, questioned, and eventually released, but his horse was confiscated. So while Revere walked back to Lexington, Dawes continued the ride, but it was Prescott who first reached Concord to warn citizens of a British invasion.

Dawes was sent from Boston as a midnight rider, too. But they didn’t really leave at midnight and Prescott got to Concord first, I learned. And all these years, my knowledge of April 1775, was based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, written in 1860.

Bostonians are proud of their town, its history and are helpful to tourists. While visiting Boston, my friends and I were offered assistance three times during a short walk. After seeing us study a map, a woman walked a half a block to guide us to our destination. As we stood waiting to cross a street, I pointed toward a building. A man said, “Can I answer any questions for you?” I asked about the tall tower in the distance, and he briefly explained the history of old Custom House, Boston’s first skyscraper.

A bike rider stopped beside us at the next intersection and greeted us, “Welcome to Boston. Hope your day’s going well. Can I help with directions?” We said that we’d just arrived that day and he was the third person to offer help in ten minutes. Unlike other places we’ve visited.

“We’re proud of our town,” he said. “We aren’t like other big cities. There’s a lot of history here. I think of visitors as guests in our house and we want everyone to feel welcomed and comfortable. We want people to like Boston and learn what’s here. Hope you have a good week.”

We girlfriends had a great visit with each other and saw many Boston sights, but the strongest impression was the people. People eager to share to share their town, their home.

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