Paul Revere, an American Huguenot

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The “eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five” is a date familiar to Americans thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s stirring poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” This vivid recounting of the courageous night ride that gave the alert that British Regulars were marching on Lexington and Concord has thrilled readers for generations. The ensuing skirmishes, which forced a retreat of the British, are considered the first battles of the American Revolution.

Who was this Boston silversmith, the American patriot with the French-sounding last name? Paul Revere was the son of Apollos Rivoire, who was born in 1702, in Riocaud, in the Gironde valley, near Bordeaux. The family was French Huguenot, and because of the persecutions following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), many thousands of Huguenots were forced to flee to Protestant tolerant countries. The child Apollos was first sent for safety to an uncle on the island of Guernsey, but then the uncle paid for his nephew’s sea passage to Boston in the New World. Puritan New England was a welcome destination for the Huguenots escaping persecution. In 1735 most of Boston’s 14 established churches were Calvinist; one was French Reformed. Apollos turned 13 on that sea voyage, and was apprenticed to a master goldsmith where he became a skilled artisan, skills and training he eventually passed on to his son.

Apollos changed his name to Paul Revere (easier for English colonists to pronounce), and married Deborah Hitchborn, a 4th generation descendant of English forebears who had come from Lincolnshire in what is called the Great Puritan Migration. Thus both sides of the famous Paul Revere’s family were deeply rooted in Calvinist, reformed, independent thinking. And, it was said that Paul, the American patriot, “attended church ‘as regularly as the Sabbath came’” (David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride).

Paul Revere’s service to his country did not end with that midnight ride. He was a leader of the famous Boston Tea Party, and worked for the cause of liberty as a bold and much respected member of his community. The faith and courage of Paul’s Huguenot father, who crossed the Atlantic as a boy to build a new life on a new continent, was manifest in the life of his son, the American patriot Paul Revere.

David Hackett Fischer’s excellent Paul Revere’s Ride, (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994) is the source of much of this information, and gives a careful, well researched account of the man and the beginnings of the American Revolution.

Linda Boice