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In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re celebrating some of our favorite couples in Old North Church’s history!

William Croswell and Amanda Tarbell

Let’s start with William and Amanda Croswell. From 1829 – 1840, William Croswell was the minister at Old North, and he lived in what is now the church’s archive room, just beneath the bell ringing chamber. In 1838, William composed a poem called “Valentine,” where he wonders if his heart (which he describes as “so like the season, cold”) could once again be reignited by love. We suspect that the inspiration for the poem was Amanda Tarbell, who joined Old North as the church organist the same year. In 1840, the two were married. Perhaps their mutual interest in music brought them together. Although, we’re sure it didn’t hurt that a door in Croswell’s quarters opened into the organ loft.

Alderman Crankey and Lydia Woodbey

Alderman and Lydia Crankey, two congregants at Old North, also had a beautiful love story. Alderman Crankey was a free Black man living in Boston in the 18th century and working as a mariner. Before leaving on a sea voyage in 1742, Alderman, recognizing that he had a dangerous job, wrote a will. In it, he leaves all his worldly possessions to a free Black woman, Lydia Woodbey, “for the love and good will I bear unto [her.]” Alderman Crankey did make it back from that voyage and two years later, he and Lydia Woodbey married at Old North. They went on to have a daughter named Mary who they baptized at Old North.

The Longfellows and Charles Sumner 

Our next couple was actually more of a “throuple!” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” met Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner at a dinner party in 1837, and they quickly became close friends. So close in fact, that when Longfellow decided to marry again in 1866 after 7 years of widowhood, Sumner became melancholic at the fear of losing his friend. It was Longfellow’s new wife, Fanny, who intervened. She invited Sumner to play a prominent role in their wedding and to accompany them on their honeymoon. Even after the honeymoon, they remained close, attending parties and events together, and Sumner spent every Sunday night at the couple’s house.

Robert Newman and Captain John Pulling, Jr. 

In Longfellow’s famous poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, he described one man climbing to the top of the steeple on the night of April 18, 1775, to display the signal lanterns. But in reality, there were two partners in crime, the church’s sexton Robert Newman and vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. Both men took great risks that night breaking curfew to essentially commit treason. So secretive and dangerous was their work that neither man ever spoke of the part they played that night. It was only after their deaths that their families revealed the role they had in Revere’s ride.

 Old North Church and the United Kingdom

While Old North played a pivotal role in the beginning of America’s war for independence from Great Britain, as a former Anglican Church, the congregation has retained close ties to the United Kingdom. Every Christmas and Easter, Old North still uses a special silver communion set given to the church by King George II. In 1976, Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, visited the church during their trip to the U.S. for the Bicentennial. And in September 2022, when Queen Elizabeth passed, Old North was the official site for her condolence book in Boston. Despite their acrimonious divorce in 1776, over the years, the two countries have rekindled an important and enduring friendship.

Happy Valentine’s Day!