To best understand Paul Revere’s character it will be useful to start with an insight of his family. Revere’s father, whose original name was Apollo Rivoire, was a French Huguenot. Huguenots were French Protestants whose religion was persecuted in predominantly Roman Catholic France. One of the most famous episodes in the history was the Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572 when thousands of Huguenots were slaughtered in Paris. This event started the centuries of Huguenot flight to protestant European countries, such as England and later to the American Colonies. During this time more than four hundred thousand of them left the country. Among those who left were Apollo Rivoire’s parents, Isaac and Serenne. Apollo himself was also born in France in 1702. He later moved to Guernsey, the immigrant port on the island in the English Channel to live with his uncle who later sponsored his trip to Boston in 1723 to earn goldsmith or perhaps silversmith trade. The uncle not only paid for the ticket but also the downpayment to the goldsmith master to take the boy as an apprentice.
The young Revere arrived to Boston and started his apprenticeship with one of approximately thirty goldsmith masters who worked in Boston at that time. In his book about Paul Revere, Esther Forbes pictures quite a stirring scene of the arrival. “The great transatlantic ship approached Long Wharf. It was an amazing piece of engineering. The largest vessels in the world could come up to it a low tide. On the north side of the wharf were warehouses, auction halls, shops and counting houses. There was the roar of the captain’s voice, the iron clang of the catch pin and the ship warps in. Porters in leather aprons, clerks with ledgers, come running. Fine, fat merchants in gold lace and great wigs, attended by black slaves, step out of their counting houses. The smell of bread-baking and of rum, fish drying, tar, sewage, unmistakable even in winter time, a smell of land, so sweet after a month and more at sea”.
Revere’s master was the craftsman named John Coney who was in his sixties at that time and was described as a silent man, religious and modest. The shop was located at what was called Dock Square at that time, now approximately the area of Faneuil Hall. The learning process generally took 7 to 10 years during which the student was provided with room and board, but of course the most valuable commodity was the secrets of the goldsmith’s trade. During this time the apprentice was pretty much a slave of the master, working extremely long hours. He could not even marry without the master’s permission. At the end of the apprenticeship the young craftsman also raked a sizeable debt to his master that he had to repay after starting his own business. But the big upside was that growing wealth in Boston created great demand for gold and silver objects. Other than being a symbol of status, silver goods were also a solid investment.
Good Mr. Coney died when Apollo still had three years left in his apprenticeship “slavery”. The law made him part of the estate and he could be sold to a new owner. But young Apollo Rivoire somehow managed to pay back the required forty pounds necessary for his release. An interesting fact was that it was custom for young apprentice boys to marry into their master’s family inheriting the business. Such was for example the path of Thomas Hancock the father of John Hancock who later built one of the greatest fortunes in American history. But young Apollo preferred to travel back to England instead to visit his uncle. Perhaps years in the American colony changed him so much that he could not longer fit into the old world and shortly thereafter he returned to Boston. Sometime after his return the Apollo Rivoire completely anglicized his name and became Paul Revere.
In 1730 Revere Sr. married Deborah Hitchbourn. The Hitchbourn family had been his neighbors since his stay at Mr. Cooney’s residence. They were well-established artisans and owned several properties in Boston including the Hitchbourn Wharf on Anne’s Street. They also owned a liquor license for one of the establishments, which in Puritan Boston was a big deal. One interesting detail about the family was that some if its members weren’t shy about bringing their point across and were even known for taking law into their own hands in situations like colleting debts for example. It is possible that through family stories these characters had some influence on forming the rebel in young Paul Revere.
Paul Revere Junior was most likely born in late December of 1734. Sometimes his birthday is mistakenly stated as January 1st 1735, which was actually the day when he was baptized. Paul became the second oldest of as many as 9 or even 12 children in his family. But since this information is based on accounts and not on records, the exact number is unknown.
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