When students return to class next week, the library will host a presentation for Grade 8 students in the Pegasus cluster on Leslie's Retreat. One of the local players in this early event in the American Revolution was Gideon Foster, whose birthday is today.
He was born February 24, 1749 in the house which formerly stood on the corner of Lowell and Foster streets. The house was moved to Washington Street and became the headquarters of the Peabody Historical Society. Today, there is a monument to Foster in the small public park that borders the square in the spot where his house once stood along the banks of Goldthwaite Brook.
His father, Gideon Foster, was a native of Boxford; his mother, Lydia Goldthwait, of this town. He had limited educational opportunities “but he diligently improved them,” the local press reported in his 1845 obituary.
“He wrote a handsome hand, was a correct draughtsman and an accurate and skillful surveyor. For several short periods he was employed in school keeping, but the more pressing necessities of those days, and the moderate means of the people afforded but little time for literary improvement; he however acquired a love for reading which accompanied him through life, and up to the time of his death, he kept himself well informed of all passing events of general interest. He was a man of more than common ingenuity as well as intelligence. As a mechanic, he had much skill; the machinery of his mills was of his own planning and construction, and many practical mechanics and manufacturers have derived important advantages from his suggestions.”
In the summer month, his mills ground bark, an item important to the tanning process. In winter, he ground chocolate and sold chocolate bars -- history of Gideon Foster Chocolatiers.
Throughout his long life (96 years), he was “a man of great energy, enterprise and industry. Two disastrous fires had robbed him of wealth, but on his little farm, with a Roman independence and more than Roman virtue, his own hands have to the last, ministered to his necessities. He mowed his own grass, and till the week before his death the implements of agriculture were his daily companions. He received for his services in the revolution a small pension, but in no degree adequate to his wants or proportioned to his merits.”
His military record included service as a Minuteman in 1775. He responded to the alarm and ran with other men from the town to meet the enemy in Concord and Lexington. He accompanied home the bodies of the seven dead soldiers in his command who died in the battle, most of whom are buried in the Old South Burial Ground on Main Street. He served at the Battle of Bunker Hill delivering gun powder in wagons to the battle front.
On the occasion of the planting of the town’s Lexington Monument in 1835, he was the town’s oldest surviving veteran of the Battle of Lexington.
Foster is buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery.