Capt. Joseph Reed (1716-1795) Westford’s Boston Tea Party participant, Fairview Cemetery

On Saturday October 15, 2022, at Fairview Cemetery, the Westford Historical Society and  the Westford Cemetery Commission in partnership with the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum recognized Capt. Read’s participation in the destruction of the tea, Boston Harbor, December 16, 1773. 

Westford, MA: Joseph Read 

Evan O’Brien, Creative Manager
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

It’s an honor to be here today with all of you in this beautiful cemetery to  commemorate Joseph Read’s involvement in the Boston Tea Party.

I’d like to thank the community of Westford, MA, Linda Greene and members  of the Westford Museum & Historical Society, members of the select board,  representatives from the Westford Cemetery Commission, the Westford  Girl Scouts, Elizabeth Silva and members of the DAR, Terry Stader, Jack  Manning and Andy Akers and members of the SAR, the Westford Colonial  Minutemen, Kristin Harris from the BTPSM, and Jonathan Lane from  Revolution 250 for making this event possible today.

We are working in partnership with Revolution 250 to commemorate the  250th anniversary of the BTP in 2023 with a year-long series of events,  commemorations, performances, exhibits, reenactments, and educational  initiatives. This commemorative year will culminate in the grand scale  reenactment of the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 2023. Of course,  ceremonies such as this one are part of these commemorative efforts– honoring those who risked everything to take part in an act of protest that  would ultimately define a nation.

The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773 and it is an event  that is remembered and reenacted not just here in New England, but  around the world. John Adams would call it the most magnificent  movement of all. Even Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson would call it  the boldest stroke yet struck in America.

Its principles and values speak through the generations and ideas of  protesting against injustice and tyranny, are things that we can understand  and relate to even 250 years later. 

The arrival of 3 ships carrying East India Company tea led to widespread  protests and non-importation efforts. Several town meetings took place at  Old South Meeting House, and Faneuil Hall, and ultimately 340 chests of  East India Company Tea ultimately met their end in the icy waters of  Boston Harbor.  

While no official count exists, it is believed that between 100-150 men were  involved in the destruction of the tea on December 16, 1773.

There has always been an air of mystery and secrecy surrounding who was  involved. After all, in the eyes of the British authority it was a treasonous  act. In the years afterwards, the event was not celebrated, certainly not in  the way we do today—in fact the term “Boston Tea Party” was not  published until 1826. Many of the participants swore an oath of secrecy to 

never reveal the names of those involved. While some held true to their  oaths, even until their death, some did not. I think the fact that we are all  here today is evidence enough of that!

Bio: Joseph Read b. 6/4/1716, d. 11/1/1795

Read would have been 57 years old on December 16, 1773. He was one of  only a handful of participants who were in the more advanced years of his  life as many of the participants were young adults and apprentices.

Read was born in June of 1716–son of Thomas Read and Sarah Fletcher  Read. 

In 1737 he married Ruth Underwood in Concord, MA. Together they had 8  children: Joshua, Ruth, Benjamin, Joseph, Leonard, Molly, Sampson, and  Molly. 

While we do not know his occupation, his family history suggests  involvement in the destruction of the tea and service during the  Revolutionary War. 

The revolutionary spirit of Joseph Read can be found throughout Westford  and in communities across Massachusetts as the actions of the tea party  participants reverberate as strongly today as they did in 1773. 

The majority of their names are hardly, if ever, mentioned with those we  routinely honor during times of historical commemoration. But, these men,  and others like them, are just as important to our region’s history as Paul  Revere, Samuel Adams, John Adams, and John Hancock. Many were  common tradesmen and a large portion of those were young adults and  apprentices. 

These ordinary citizens did extraordinary things and are worthy of  our recognition. 

It is our ultimate goal that a commemorative marker be placed at the grave  of every known Boston Tea Party participant by the 250th anniversary in  December of 2023. These participants are buried as far north as the  border of Maine and Canada, as far south as Alexandria, VA, and as far  west as Cincinnati, OH. Our hope is that these markers will encourage  visitors to remember and reflect upon the deeds of the common yet  critically important citizens that are responsible for the formative years of  our region and our nation. 


Susan Hosley O’Conlon. 6th great Granddaughter of Capt. Read, sent a lovely wreath of flowers for the dedication and this message “ He deserves to be remembered. Without him and his comrades, none of us would be free. Let us do all we can to ensure our republic stands!”

Virtually explore Fairview Cemetery and discover Capt. Read and our Westford Revolutionary War Patriot’s gravesite  here 




Capt. Read became a prominent man in Westford, MA which he represented for 20 years in the General Court. He took part in the famous Boston Tea Party, an act of protest regarded by many as the spark that ignited the American Revolution. Captain Joseph Read also served the town of Westford as delegate to go to the provincial Congress. He was a man of distinction and it is our honor to recognize his service.

The Boston Tea Party was a political protest by American colonists against Britain for imposing taxation without representation. The patriots dumped 342 chests of tea imported by the British East India Company into the harbor.

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is gearing up to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party on December 16th, 2023. In honor of this important anniversary, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and Revolution 250 are working together to commemorate the actions of the Boston Tea Party participants by placing commemorative markers at the graves of known Boston Tea Party participants throughout New England and the nation.

This project began in 2018 as the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum worked with the City of Boston and the Historic Burying Grounds Initiative to place these commemorative markers at the graves of Boston Tea Party participants in the burying grounds along Boston’s Freedom Trail. This project was very successful in Boston—with great feedback from visitors—and the media interest was substantial. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and garnered more than 200 million impressions across 173 worldwide media outlets!

Since the inception of this project, The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum has placed markers and held ceremonies in Cohasset, MA, Boston, MA, Lynn, MA, Gardner, MA, Sturbridge, MA, Harvard, MA, Medford, MA, Worcester, MA. and NOW Westford MA. We are in the process of working with many more municipalities to place the remaining markers across the Commonwealth in 2022.


“He [Joseph] took an active part in the interest of the Colonists against the English egression and was one of ‘The Boston Tea Party’ that helped empty a ship load of tea into Boston harbor as a resentment of the English tax they had put on it and undertaken to make the colonists pay. It appears from the record that he and his five sons served in the revolutionary war to gain our liberty of free government from the English self-imposed yoke.” –Axel H. Reed, p. 16

“[Joseph was] a man of distinction; was representative of the town of Westford, twenty years in succession, and was one of the Boston Tea-party, although then somewhat advanced in life.” –Jacob Whittemore Reed, p. 159, from Axel Reed Genealogy, p. 14.

“Joseph Read, town clerk in 1753.” –from p. 82, History of Westford, Mass., cited by Axel Read on p. 13 of his genealogy.

“Capt. Joseph Read, Sept. 8, 1774.” –from p. 82, History of Westford, Mass., cited by Axel Read on p. 13 of his genealogy.

“Jan 16, 1775, the town voted 20 pounds to purchase arms and appointed Joseph Read on inspection.” –from p. 103-110, History of Westford, Mass., cited by Axel Read on p. 13 of his genealogy.

“At a meeting chose Captain Joseph Read to serve the town as delegate to go to the provincial Congress for six months, and June 5, town voted ‘to pay Captain Joseph Read, 3 pounds and 15 shillings for 17 days’ services and expenses.’” At the battle as well as at the struggle at Concord Bridge, “The Battle of Bunker Hill, Col. Robertson participated.” –from p. 110, May 27, 1775, History of Wexford, Mass., cited by Axel Read on p. 13 of his genealogy.