Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

Nathaniel Willis


Nathaniel Willis was one of the younger patriots who participated in the Boston Tea Party protest. He was only 18 years old when the protest was carried out. Willis was a publisher by profession and worked for Boston Independent Chronicle in the same printing office with Benjamin Franklin.

Born in 1755, Nathaniel was the son of Charles and Abigail Willis. Despite being the third child, he became the first literary person in his family. During the Revolution he published the Boston’s patriot newspaper called “Independent Chronicle”. Interestingly the paper was published from the same building in which Benjamin Franklin also worked as a printer.

Willis lived quite an active life. In addition to joining his compatriots in the Boston Tea Party he was a distinguished horseman and served in the military. As an adjutant of the Boston regiment he took part in an expedition to Rhode Island under General Sullivan.

After the Revolutionary war, in 1784 he sold his interest in the Independent Chronicle and became one of the pioneer journalists of the unsettled West.

He first moved to Winchester, Virginia, where he published a paper for a short time; then to Shepardstown, where also published a paper; and then to 1790 to Martinsburg, VA, where he founded the “Potomac Guardian”, the first newspaper in what was then known as the Northwest Territory.

He was printer to the government of the territory, and afterwards held an agency in the Post Office Department. He bought and cultivated a farm near Chillicothe, on which he ended his days April 1, 1831.

His wife was Lucy Douglas of New London, CT. He was the grandfather of N. P. Willis, an American author, poet and editor who worked with several notable American writers including Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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