From mid-August to early October, 1774, huge crowds gathered in the “shiretowns” of every county in contiguous, mainland Massachusetts (except Suffolk, where Boston is located) to shut down the courts. These courts, which served executive as well as judicial functions, were the farthest outreach of Crown authority. People at the time offered estimates of the crowd numbers: 1,500 in Great Barrington (Berkshire County), 3,000 to 4,000 in Springfield (Hampshire County), 4,000 in Plymouth (Plymouth County), and so on.
In only one case do we have a more precise count. On September 6, in Worcester, a militiaman from Westborough, Breck Parkman, went through the ranks to gather numbers from each of the participating 37 militia companies. He showed these to his father, Ebenezer Parkman, who entered them into his diary, which is housed at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. From the note in the margin, we even learn the order in which these companies lined up on Main Street to witness the recantation of court officials. Although some of the numbers appear to be rounded off, this is by far the most accurate measure of the size of the crowds. The total is striking: approximately half the adult male population of this sprawling rural county showed up that day. (Note that Ebenezer’s addition is incorrect—the numbers Breck gave him total 4,622, not 4,722.)
Below is an image from Parkman’s diary with entries for September 5, 6 and 7. Click the image to enlarge.