Israel Bissell

Israel Bissell (1752-1823) was born and raised in East Windsor and was a post rider in Massachusetts who alerted the American colonists of the British attack on April 19, 1775. He rode for four days and six hours covering the 345 miles from Watertown, Massachusetts to Philadelphia along the Old Post Road, shouting "To arms, to arms, the war has begun," and carrying a message from General Joseph Palmer which was copied at each of his stops and redistributed:

Wednesday morning near 10 of the clock - Watertown.

To all the friends of American liberty be it known that this morning before break of day, a brigade, consisting of about 1,000 to 1,200 men landed at Phip's Farm at Cambridge and marched to Lexington, where they found a company of our colony militia in arms, upon whom they fired without any provocation and killed six men and wounded four others. By an express from Boston, we find another brigade are now upon their march from Boston supposed to be about 1,000. The Bearer, Israel Bissell, is charged to alarm the country quite to Connecticut and all persons are desired to furnish him with fresh horses as they may be needed. I have spoken with several persons who have seen the dead and wounded. Pray let the delegates from this colony to Connecticut see this.
J. Palmer, one of the Committee of Safety.

At the end of Bissell's first leg, in Worcester, his first horse collapsed and died from having been driven so hard. At each town along the way, church bells were rung and muskets fired to spread the word; when he reached Philadelphia, the pealing of the Liberty Bell caused a crowd of 8,000 to assemble to hear the news. Bissell then returned to Connecticut, where he joined the army alongside his brother, Justis. After the war, he moved to Middlefield, Massachusetts. Bissell died in 1823 and was buried in the Maple Street Cemetery in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.

Although Paul Revere is better known due to the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bissell was the subject of the less well known "Ride, Israel, Ride," an epic poem by Marie Rockwood of Stockbridge. According to Syracuse University professor of television and popular culture, Robert Thompson, this is not representative of the relative importance or heroism of each feat; rather, "Paul Revere rhymes with a lot more than Israel Bissell". Bissell's place in history was even further smudged by several historical documents which refer to him as "Trail Bissel". Nevertheless, there were an unknown number of other riders whose names are now completely forgotten.

Bissell's exploits have been noted in magazines, newspaper accounts, and an anthology of Revolutionary era documents published during the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Bissell was first honored in the Berkshires by Hinsdale historian Marion Ransford, who drew upon historic documents in the archives of Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. At the behest of Mrs. Ransford, the Daughters of the American Revolution installed a special marker at Bissell's grave. Realtor Isadore Goodman donated the Bissell homestead site on Plunkett Lake Road to the town in 1972.