Thomas Oliver (1734-1815)

Lt. Col. Thomas Oliver, Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts

Associated Houses



He was born at Dorchester, Massachusetts, and grew up between there and Antigua. After graduating from Harvard (1753), along with playing a role in the local militia, he was able to live comfortably off his family's fortune derived from the West Indian trade (slaves, sugar and molasses) which allowed him to be an amateur poet. He was, "a quiet, reserved man," also described as, "a dapper little man, pleasant of speech and courtly of manner". In 1774, he was appointed the last Royal Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts Bay though historians believe his name was confused with another Oliver that the Crown meant to appoint. Either way, six months later, an angry mob surrounded his house, Elmwood, and ignoring their political leaders forced him to resign - not knowing that just before he had expressly ordered the British Army not to open fire on them. He removed to Boston before leaving for England in 1776. His property was confiscated and he never returned to America, but nonetheless, the British government continued to recognize him as Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts and paid his salary up until his death in Bristol. In 1760, he married Elizabeth Vassall, brother of John who married Thomas' sister, Elizabeth. They had six daughters.


Contributed by Mark Meredith on 16/12/2020 and last updated on 16/08/2022.
Image Courtesy of the Frick Art Reference Library; Thomas Oliver, UCL's Legacies of British Slave-Ownership