Mr. Ezekiel Cheever was born in Charleston, Massachusetts in 1720. He received his basic primary education in his hometown, and became a professional sugar baker. For three years in the 1750s, Mr. Cheever served his community as a town selectman. In the events leading up to the Revolutionary War, he was a member of the Sons of Liberty in Dorchester, Massachussetts, and played an active role in the public meetings opposing the landing of East India Company Tea in Boston.
He was appointed Captain of the Watch to observe and protect participants in the Boston Tea Party, who dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor in protest against the British Paliamentary Tea Act in December 1773. This action brought on passage of the series of so-called Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament, which led directly to the Revolution.
Mr. Cheever was named Commissary of Artillery Stores in August 1775, his title being changed to Commissary of Military Stores four months later. In that capacity, he was the senior American civilian responsible for Ordnance equipment for the next six years. He worked closely with COL (later Major General) Henry Knox, the Army's artillery chief and de facto Master General of Ordnance, in receiving, inventorying, issuing, and frequently moving Ordnance stores about for the Continental Army. His operations were placed at Springfield, Massachusetts during part of the war, and the facilities he helped set up and utilize on that site later became the forerunner of the national armory placed there in 1794. As effective head of the civil branch of the Ordnance Department (the term which was used by GEN Washington, MG Knox, and the Continental Congress in referring to our vital, but then unofficial, branch of the Army), Mr. Cheever cooperated with MG Knox and the Congressional Board of War during its several reorganizations until his retirement.
Mr. Cheever died in Boston in 1793 at the age of 73. His standing as an exemplar to the many Ordnance civilians who have followed him over 220 years was recognized several years ago with the creation of the Ezekiel Cheever Award for contributions to Army Ordnance.