On Tuesday, January 29, local historian Robert Booth will speak on the career of Marblehead's own Jeremiah Lee. Col. Lee was one of the most successful and affluent men in America before the Revolution. A leading merchant in Marblehead, MA, he owned one of the largest fleets of vessels in Britain's North American colonies. A 1771 tax listing indicates that he was the wealthiest man in Massachusetts.
By 1765, Marblehead was the 10th largest town in the colonies. It had grown into a flourishing commercial center with a population of nearly 5,000. The economy of the town was based on the processing and sale of dried salt fish from the North Atlantic. Lee's prosperity mirrored that of the town's. The complex commercial enterprise Lee built and commanded is little-known but fascinating. It is a testament to early American commerce and business. Col. Lee was a prominent community leader, a respected town official, and served in the Provincial Congress.
As the American colonies moved toward revolution, Lee played a pivotal role. He utilized his trade connections to smuggle gunpowder, weapons, and supplies. His death at age 54 -- shortly after the conflict began -- was a direct result of his involvement in clandestine events in Lexington, in April, 1775