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Captain John Linzee, March 25, 1743 - October 8, 1798

John William Linzee, Jr. September 9, 1867 - February 28, 1949



Autobiography of John William Linzee, Jr.
Written in 1917

It is with diffidence that I write a sketch of my life, but there is no one left to do me the service. The indolence of India, the land of my birth, is responsible for my chief trait, so that if I have accomplished anything , it is due to Boston and the education gained within her hallowed halls of learning that I am able to record a life not devoid of service to others indirectly.

My first school training began at Southampton, England, in 1877, and lasted until 1884, but it was lamentably interrupted, owing to the sad illness of my youngest sister, by constant trips of the family to France for the benefit of her health until her death at Cannes in 1881. In 1883, I succeeded in passing the local examinations of the University of Cambridge, and then in 1884 sailed for Boston, where the diploma from that English college admitted me to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology without any other requirement, and I have to thank Mr. Elliot Sturgis, of the class of 1884, for successfully gaining for me the privilege.

I graduated from MIT in May, 1889, in the Department of Civil Engineering with the degree of Bachelor of Science, my sheepskin being signed by the much-esteemed president, General Francis A. Walker. MIT’s gifts to her students are a power in usefulness; they should be considered a necessity by all educational standards, and not a luxury.

Wishing to acquire a little of Harvard’s spirit, I joined that University in the autumn of 1889, and graduated in June of 1890 with a degree of Bachelor of Arts, signed by Charles W. Eliot, president. The education at Harvard, however useful to the generality of students, was to me a pleasure and a luxury. I am a charter life member of the Harvard Engineering Society.

Before leaving the Institute, I assisted in the development of a public improvement, know as the Beacon Street extension, from Boston the Reservoir I beautiful Brookline, under Messrs. Aspinwall and Lincoln, civil engineers. After Graduation from Harvard, I spent the year 1890-91 with Mr. John R. Freeman in fire insurance, making plans and inspections of mill plants in our Atlantic States. I then studied law at Boston University, with the intention of becoming a lawyer with technical ability, but my eyesight began to fail, owing to improper glasses, and I was obliged to earn a living as best I could until 1896, when I tried bridge design on the Boston and Maine Railroad, under Mr. J.P. Snow, bridge engineer. Again my eyes would not stand the strain of close indoor employment, and after six months of trial, I resigned for an outdoor position as assistant engineer and inspector on the first Boston Tremont Street Subway, under Mr. Howard A. Carson, chief engineer, when the Park Street, Haymarket Square and Scollay Square stations enabled me to pass two years of my life. It was not until 1898, the trouble with my eyes was fully diagnosed by Dr. Walter B. Lancaster, but in the interval the focusing muscles had become strained. After 1900 all trouble passed away, for which I am extremely thankful.

In 1898, I laid out the general scheme of the Dudley Street and Sullivan Square terminals of the Boston Elevated Railway, under Mr. George A. Kimball, chief engineer, and then became chief draftsman and assistant engineer under Mr. John C. Ostrup, the designing engineer, for a period of four years, supervising the office plans in the department of steel design, and in charge of all details of structures and the shop drawings.

Among the other structures, I was engaged on, may be mentioned the Northampton street, Dover street, South and City Square stations, the Lincoln Warf and Charlestown power plants and considerable of the structure between stations. In 1902, I temporarily succeeded Mr. Ostrup as designing engineer, until construction ceased

After 1902, I made plans, which were later constructed, for an electric railway from Lowell to Ayer, Mass., and plans for water power development on the Androscoggin River in the state of Maine, for Messrs. Farnum and Murray, then of Boston.

In 1906, I resumed design work with the Boston Elevated under Mr. Robert B. Davis, and had the responsible charge of the difficult and extensive improvements at City Square, Dover street and Sullivan Square stations.

As a recreation, I am especially interested in historic-genealogic research, and have published a six hundred page volume, with many portraits, of old Boston families, in my History of Peter Parker and Sarah Ruggles of Roxbury, Mass., their Ancestors and Descendants, and this History of the Linzee Family. I have also nearly completed the history of Christopher Tilden and Sarah Parrott of Boston, Mass., Their Ancestors and Descendants, which is a twin book to my Parker-Ruggles History; the genealogy of my mother’s ancestors, the Mahe Family of France; The Descendants of William Speakman of Boston; and a Genealogy of the Tildens of America.

I am at present the treasurer and assistant secretary of the Lindsay Family Association of America, Incorporated.

(This ends the portion written by Mr. John William Linzee, Jr. himself; the remainder is respectfully provided by his eldest grandson and current President of the Linzee Family Assn. of America, Inc., John Linzee Whittaker).


By 1917, Mr. Linzee’s first marriage to Nannie Belle Dwelley of Carlisle, Illinois had ended in divorce; His only daughter from that union, Dorothy Evelyn (Linzee) Vanin-Custoza died without issue in New York in 1993.

In 1917, Mr. Linzee married Grace Hyacinth (Moore), retired from active employment, and devoted himself entirely to raising a new family while continuing his much loved genealogical research.

He completed the genealogies referred above, and while he did not live long enough to see them published, the manuscripts currently reside in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, for all to see.

Mr. Linzee had four children from his second marriage; the fourth or youngest, Robert, died in infancy, but the older three, Theodora Marylyn (Linzee) Whittaker, John William Linzee, III, and Thomas Edward Linzee all survived to adulthood and had issue. It is Mr. Linzee’s grand children who form the nucleus of the current membership of the Linzee Family Assn. of America, Inc.

After a short illness, John William Linzee, Jr. died suddenly of a heart attack at his home at 848 Beacon Street, Boston, on Feb. 28, 1949 and is buried in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was 82 years old.


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Biography of Captain John Linzee

Prepared in 2006 by the Linzee Family Association Historian


Captain John Linzee was born on March 25, 1743 at Kingston, Portsea, Hants, England.  He joined the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of captain at the age of 27.  In 1769, he sailed to America as part of the British effort to maintain order in the increasingly demonstrative town of Boston.  He became friends with a number of local Bostonians, including the merchant John Rowe, for whom Rowe’s Wharf is named. Captain Linzee dined often at Mr. Rowe’s home, and it was there he met Susannah Inman, daughter of Ralph and Susannah (Speakman) Inman (Mr. Inman was a loyalist whose home in Cambridge was seized by colonials in 1776 and used as the headquarters of General Israel Putnam). Captain Linzee and Susannah were married on September 1, 1772.


During his initial tour of duty in America, Captain Linzee was responsible for patrolling the waters off the New England coast to detect, and in certain cases punish, those colonists who attempted to evade the customs and tariff laws passed by Parliament. These “taxes” were passed in order to repay part of the cost for the recently ended French and Indian War.  The British felt justified in exacting some recompense for, in their view, protecting and defending the colonies against French and Indian attacks. The colonials, on the other hand, generally took the view that Britain cared little for the lives of Americans and had fought the last war only to defend her own territorial and economic interests.


In March, 1772, while commanding the British sloop of war Beaver, Linzee’s tender, the Gaspee, pursued an alleged “illicit trader.” During the chase, however, she became stuck on a sandbar seven miles south of Providence off Namquit Point, now called Gaspee Point in memoriam to the unfortunate ship.  That evening a number of Providence’s colonials sailed out to the Gaspee and attacked it, wounding a number of her crew and burning the schooner until it sank.  Captain Linzee managed to capture one of the culprits, who proceeded to “name names” of some of the other participants.  The local colonial authorities demanded possession of the captive to rehabilitate his confession.  When Captain Linzee refused their request, he was temporarily arrested by the civil authorities in Boston.  The “Gaspee Incident” took its place as one of the ever-increasing number of violent conflicts between colonialists and British forces in and around Boston that led to the inevitable boiling point at Lexington.


Several months after the Gaspee Incident, Captain Linzee returned to England where he and his wife remained until his return to Boston on April 16, 1775.  In his diary entry of April 16th, the merchant John Rowe records their arrival: “After dinner I went down to Clark’s Wharf to meet Captain Linzee and Sucky, who arrived from Spit Head and Falmouth in the Falcon sloop.  I brought them home and their little son Samuel Linzee.”


The very next entry in the diary is dated April 19th and records the first battle of the American Revolution: “Last night the Grenadiers and light companies belonging to the several regiments in this town were ferry’d over Charles River and landed on Phipps farm in Cambridge, from whence they proceeded on their way to Concord, but they arrived early this day.  On their march they had a skirmish with some country people at Lexington.  The First Brigade commanded by Lord Percy with two pieces of artillery, set off from this town this morning about 10 o’clock as a reinforcement, which with the Grenadiers and light infantry made about 1800 men.  The people in the country had notice of this movement early in the night.  Alarm guns were fired thro’ the country and expresses sent off to the different towns so that very early this morning large numbers from all parts of the country were assembled.  A general battle ensued, which from what I can learn, was supported with great spirit on both sides and continued until the King’s troops got back to Charles Town, which was near sunset.  Numbers are killed and wounded on both sides.  Captain Linzee and Captain Collins and two small armed vessels were ordered up Charles River to bring off the troops to Boston, but Lord Percy and General Smith thought proper to encamp on Bunker’s Hill this night. This unhappy affair is a shocking introduction to all the miseries of a civil war.” 


The very next night the diary records that Captain Linzee had his own armed engagement.  “This night some people, about 200, attacked Captain Linzee in the armed schooner a little below Cambridge Bridge.  He gave them a warm reception so that they thought proper to retreat with a loss of some men.  ‘Tis said many thousands of country people are at Roxbury and in the neighborhood.  The people in town are alarmed and the entrenchments on Boston Neck double guarded.  Mrs. Linzee dined at the Admiral’s.”


The Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill

With the beginning of hostilities, troop deployment became critical.  Dorchester Heights commanded a view of Boston on the south, and Bunker Hill in Charleston controlled Boston on the north with a clear view of Boston Harbor.  General Gage appeared determined to occupy both, and by mid June Generals Howe, Burgoyne and Clinton had already reached Boston with reinforcements.  As such, the colonialists held a “secret call to arms” meeting on Cambridge Common on June 16th, and the Committee of Safety decided to occupy Bunker Hill before General Gage.  Thus, during the late evening of June 16th and the early morning of the 17th, approximately 1500 men under the leadership of Colonel William Prescott began to construct the “redoubt.”  With the assistance of Samuel Gridley, an engineer, the fort was constructed on the smaller (and nearer to the British troops) Breed’s Hill so that it could not be used as a natural barrier to protect oncoming British infantry.  Five British ships stood guard in the harbor that night, one of which was the Falcon commanded by Captain John Linzee. The redoubt was relatively close to the water’s edge, and three times that night Colonel Prescott silently walked to that edge to hear the “all’s well” of the night watchman on the war ships in the harbor. 


Not until 4:00 a.m., with the first light of day, was the presence of the American force discovered by crewmen on the Falcon and another British sloop, the Lively.  They immediately fired, and the battle had begun.  It took the British three separate attacks by infantry before they overcame the much smaller American force and then only because the Americans had literally run out of ammunition (Prescott’s order not to shoot “until you see the whites of their eyes” was said in stark recognition of his limited supply). Just before the battle, Major General Joseph Warren had joined the American force as an example that colonial leaders were willing to share the dangers of battle.  Colonel Prescott offered his command, but General Warren refused.  At the end of the third and final British assault, and just before the Americans began their retreat, General Warren was killed.


As a result of the American stand at Breed’s Hill and the colonials’ ability to hold their own in a pitched battle against the world’s foremost fighting force, Benjamin Franklin could write to a friend of his in London, “Americans will fight; England has lost her colonies forever.”


General Gage required provisions for his troops. For the next few years Captain Linzee and the Falcon were assigned the duty of foraging and seizing food and materials from the locals along the New England coast from Maine to New York to help feed and supply the British troops.  After the French joined the war, Captain Linzee participated in a number of naval engagements against the French Admirals D’Estaing and DeGrasse.  During one such naval engagement on the Delaware River in 1777, his wife Susannah was on board during the action.


Captain Linzee returned to England in 1779 and continued his service in the Royal Navy as commander of the Pearl and then the Penelope.  On September 9, 1790, he sailed into Boston Harbor and fired, in all probability, the first salute to the flag of the United States of America by a British commander in New England waters.  When Susannah died in October of 1792 at age 38, he resigned from the British Navy and returned to America to settle permanently. 


Captain John Linzee died on October 8, 1798, at his home in Milton, Massachusetts, at age 56.  Per his request, he was buried with his wife in the old Trinity Church, Boston. 


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