Thursday, September 29, 2016

City Square, Charlestown, Massachusetts - and so many ancestral connections!

City Square, Charlestown, Massachusetts *
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the Boston “Big Dig” Central Artery project moved all the roads to the tunnels and bridges under City Square in Charlestown.  An archeology project done on the site revealed the foundations of Gov. John Winthrop’s 1629 Great House and the Long family’s Three Cranes Tavern.  

Yours truly, standing in the Three Cranes Tavern footprint

As a Long descendant, I waited a long time to go see the newly developed park at City Square.   Restoration of this area into a park didn’t begin until the mid 1990s.

Then, just recently, Linda Hall Little, another genealogy blogger, sent me a photo of the weathervane atop the fountain at City Square Park.  She lives in Charlestown just a block away.  When I saw the weathervane (a crane of course!) I knew I had to feature it on “Weathervane Wednesday” (see yesterday's post) and I also knew I had to feature the park and the memorial to the Long family Three Crane’s Tavern. 

[Also, I descend from Governor John Winthrop's sister, Lucy Winthrop (1601 - 1669) who married Emanuel Downing.  So, Governor Winthrop, who lived in the Great House for three months, was my great uncle 10 generations removed]

Fountain at City Square
featuring a crane weathervane* 
The foundation stones of Three Crane tavern
An exhibit nearby shows the floorplan of the tavern and Great House,
and plots of land owned by members of the LONG family

Great House and Three Cranes Tavern
1629 - 1775
This reconstructed foundation outline represents the tavern
uncovered by archaeologists during the 1980s.  Postholes
from the Great House timbers were also found among the
stones.  Concrete bands have been added to complete the
outline of the two story tavern.  The building was burned
during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

When I told Linda that I knew the history of the weathervane because I was a Long descendant, she ran over to the park and took dozens of photos for me.  I’m using some of her photos here, and also some of my own photos.  My family was so excited when they saw Linda’s photos* – so we went to see it ourselves a few weeks later and took more photos!  Thanks, Linda! 


In 1630 the Winthrop fleet carried 700 Puritans on 11 ships to New England.  They settled in Charlestown and Governor Winthrop built his Great House.  When the colonists moved to Boston (due to poor water quality in Charlestown) the Great House became a meeting house, and then a tavern in 1635 run by Robert Long (my 9th great grandfather) and his family.   The tavern remained in the Long family for 140 years until it was burned to the ground during the Battle of Bunker Hill.  In fact, most of the neighborhood burned to the ground.  

Afterward, the area was cleared and became a market.  Market Square was named “City Square” in 1848 when the town of Charlestown became a city.
That is not the only family connection I have to this spot.  In 1650 the tavern was waterfront property.  Ships from England entered Boston Harbor and the entrance to the Charles River right in front of what is now City Square.  The ship John and Sara docked here on 11 November 1651 and the human cargo on board,  272 Scots Prisoners of War from the Battle of Worcester, were sold on the wharf to the highest bidders by Thomas Kemble.  Two of my ancestors, William Munroe (and his two brothers) and Alexander Thompson.  Several other ancestors, like Francis Wyman of Woburn, had several Scots prisoners of war as servants in his tannery.  I can imagine that drinks were sold swiftly at the tavern on the day those Scots were sold into servitude.

For the truly curious:

My blog post about the LONG family in Charlestown

“Secrets of the Three Cranes Tavern” by Amy Laskowski, for the Boston University website, posted November 9, 2014

Passenger list  (actually a “statement of goods” record) of the John and Sara prisoners of war, 1651

My blog post about William Munroe (about 1625 – 1718), SPOW,

My blog post about Alexander Thompson (about 1636 – about 1696), SPOW

Affectionately known as “SPOW” or Scots Prisoners of War, the online research community is administered by Teresa Hamilton Rust at these four separate websites:

Scottish Prisoners of War Facebook Community

Scottish Prisoners of War website by Teresa Rust

Scottish Prisoners of War DNA project:

Some books:

Emigrants in Chains, by Peter Wilson Coldham, 1992

Directory of Scots Banished to the American Plantations 1650 – 1775, by David Dobson, 2010

 Linda Hall Little's genealogy blog Passage to the Past   
All photos marked with * are from Linda, otherwise they were taken by Vincent Rojo


Published under a Creative Commons License

Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "City Square, Charlestown, Massachusetts - and so many ancestral connections!", Nufield Genealogy, posted September 29, 2016,  ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. Heather, this is another fascinating post. I know the feeling of standing where your ancestors have stood, and feeling connected to them.

    Great job!

  2. I think that you meant to say that Winthrop came over in 1630 not 1930.

    1. Oh, what a terrible typo! Thanks for alerting me. I've fixed it now.

  3. My husband is also a Monroe descendant. I will need to share this post with him!

  4. I'm a Munroe descendant. I am descended from William through Robert, who was killed on Lexington Green.

    1. There are several generations of Robert Munroe Wilkinsons in our family, in honor of your ancestor. We descend from his brother Andrew Munroe.