The Boston Post Road

On January 22, 1673, the first postrider galloped off from New York on his way to Boston and established the first major overland route in the American colonies. His name is lost to us; however, the instructions issued to him by Francis Lovelace, governor of New York, remain

You are to comport yourself with all sobriety and civility to those that shall entrust you…You are principally to ally yourselfe to the Governors, especially Gov. Winthrop, from whom you shall receave the best direction to form ye best Post Roade…You shall do well to provide yourself to a Spare Horse, good Port Mantels soe neither letter nor Paquetts receave any damage under your hands…

The rider’s route from New York passed through New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, Brookfield, Worcester, Cambridge, and into Boston. The first trip lasted between two and three weeks and the courier traversed 250 miles, most of which led through wilderness. Soon two additional routes to the south of the original formed and followed their own paths to New Haven where the three strands merged back into a common path to New York. The first postrider’s route—the Upper Road—became the most active and important of the thoroughfares until the introduction of railroad in the 1830s. It is this route that to date has been traced for the concert series.

Soon after the Post Road’s establishment there was growing public interest in road improvement which, however, was slow in coming. In 1704 Sarah Kemble Knight made history by becoming the first woman to ride on horseback from Boston to New York. She recorded that they “ridd on very slowly…the Rode was very Stony and uneven…Incumbred by Rocks and mountainous passages…”

By 1772 conditions were suitably improved to make travel by stagecoach possible. Shrewsbury patriot and blacksmith Levi Pease began offering regular stagecoach trips between Boston and Hartford in collaboration with postrider Reuben Sykes in 1783. The venture was so prosperous that they were soon able to extend service to New York, earning Pease the title of “Stagecoach King.” His service departed from Washington Street (then Marlborough Street) in downtown Boston, not far from Faneuil Hall. The Josiah Smith Tavern in Weston became a popular first stopover for travelers leaving Boston.

The Old Post Road holds innumerable treasures for the curious traveler. George Washington is said to have slept in 100 taverns alongside of it. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetic inspirations at the Wayside Inn in South Sudbury have been shared by generations.

The timespan of Musicians of the Old Post Road’s repertory closely parallels the period that the Old Post Road flourished. Since 1989, the ensemble has enjoyed uniting the music, instruments, and performance styles of earlier centuries with the architecture, acoustics, and ambience of some of the Old Post Road’s architectural gems.