I recently discovered that the Peleg Arnold Tavern in Union Village, Smithfield, Rhode Island, was inherited by Peleg Arnold from his father, my 8th great grandfather, Thomas Arnold.
The Will of Thomas Arnold, Sr of Smithfield
After my recent trip to Central Falls City Hall, I read the will, administration papers and inventory of Thomas Arnold’s father, Thomas Arnold Sr (1705-1765) on page 481-498 of volume 2 (1749-1768). Thomas Arnold Sr (sometimes called Thomas Arnold, Esq or Lieut. Thomas Arnold) was my 8th great grandfather.
I was really surprised by what I found in the will. Thomas Sr. had three sets of children -
- four with his first wife, Susannah Comstock (died 1736), of whom Thomas Jr. was the only boy
- two with second wife Mary Mann (died 1747), both boys (John, plus Asa who died very young)
- seven with third wife Patience Cook, of whom only one was a boy, Peleg.
The will was written in April, 1765, and Thomas Sr. died in December of 1765. The sons were mentioned in the will as follows:
- Thomas, Jr (age 32) a “piece of land called the Newfield in said Smithfield contains about 12 acres”. “All the rest and remainder of my land and real estate which I have not herein already disposed of.”
- John (age 24) “my dwelling house in Cumberland at Wansoket falls, all my part of the land on the south side of the Highway, and 3/8 of all my forge and land and cole houses.”
- Peleg (age 14) one half of his house and farm, the other half to his widow Patience, “as long as she remained a widow”, and after her death, to go to Peleg. Also 60 acres in “Wansoket Hole.” I wonder if what was really meant was “Wansoket Hill” since he further added “on the southeasterly end of Black Plain.”
Also 2 acres of cedar swamp in Smithfield to his grandson “Assa Arnold” second son of his son Thomas (I have to believe this is because he was the namesake of the son who died very young) and various legacies to the daughters. Also, to wife Patience, “the best feather bed and furniture and all the rest of my personal estate” not otherwise disposed of.
I can’t help but feel this plan favored the third family of children, and widow Patience, although it’s possible the two older sons had been given significant property earlier (although I don’t see that in deeds) or that the remainder was more than I think.
I do like, however, how this will gave far more independence to the widow Patience than what I have typically seen in my ancestors’ wills from this period. Thomas Arnold, Sr was leaving her with seven children under age 16. He must have admired and trusted her to leave her with so much autonomy, and I like that he was capable of that. Sometimes, widows were moved to one room in their own house, many possessions were auctioned off, a guardian was appointed for the children (I only see a provision here that a guardian be appointed if Patience died) and a son and his family took over the rest. Not so in this case.
The Peleg Arnold Tavern
Reading this will, I finally put together something I should have figured out long ago. I knew about the Peleg Arnold Tavern, where the third son Peleg maintained a headquarters for Revolutionary War activities, kept a tavern business and practised law. I know that Peleg eventually lived in a more elegant house nearby, served in the Continental Congress, founded a bank and an anti-slavery society, and was later Chief Justice of the R.I. Supreme Court. Given his many accomplishments, and being one of the younger children, it just didn’t occur to me that he had inherited the tavern from his father.
Now, looking it up, I see in The History of Woonsocket (E. Richardson, 1876) that Thomas Arnold Sr had a tavern license as early as 1739. He had inherited the house from his father, Richard Arnold. On page 42 Richardson mentions that the house was built by 1690, and passed from Richard to Thomas, Sr in 1731, comprising 60 acres. Thomas Sr had been the third of six sons, but he had inherited the family homestead, possibly because two of Richard Arnold’s sons had left their families by 1737.
This also helps me focus on the Union Village area (now part of North Smithfield) as the likely location of most of Thomas Arnold Jr’s real estate. And I also learned that Thomas Arnold Sr. had a wider range of costly belongings than I would have expected.
Our ties to the Peleg Arnold Tavern
Richard Arnold (1666-1745) (m. Mary Woodward) my 9x-great grandfather owned the land and had inherited it from his own father, Richard. According to Richardson, Woonsocket, p. 41, the land Richard inherited began “at the Union Village and extending westward.” Richard started some businesses and increased his holdings during his lifetime. Apparently around 1690 he built the house, a square, compact home; in his father’s will of 1710 he gained complete ownership of the property.
Thomas Arnold Sr (1705-1765) (m. 3times , see above) my 8x-great grandfather inherited the property from his father Richard. Thomas Arnold was a military leader, tavern keeper, and he practised law in some manner or other. In his Providence Gazette death notice he is called “Judge Thomas Arnold” (Arnold’s Vital Records, vol. 13, p. 133). He had a tavern license by 1739, however I am not certain the tavern business was in continuous operation after that. Thomas is buried in Union Cemetery, Smithfield, not too far from his home. I have written about his grave here. I am related to Thomas through his son, Thomas Arnold – Lucy (Arnold) Ballou – Marcy (Ballou) Aldrich – Nancy (Aldrich) Darling – Ellis Darling – Addison P. Darling – Russell Darling – my grandmother Edna Darling.
Peleg Arnold (1751-1820) (M. Alpha Arnold, no children) my 7th great grand uncle inherited the house, according to his father Thomas’ 1765 will, when he became 21, which would have been around 1772. He married Alpha Arnold in 1768. According to Richardson (Woonsocket, p. 71) Peleg enlarged the tavern around 1780 (“when it again became a tavern”). He studied law at Brown University, was active in military and government roles, and served in the Continental Congress during the time that Rhode Island was slow in ratifying the new U.S. Constitution. He was interested in educational, anti-slavery, and political matters and, according to some of the older books, was fond of rum.
When Peleg Arnold died childless, in 1820, I don’t yet know what became of the tavern, but apparently it stayed in the family and prospered. A National Register of Historic Places application form from the 1970’s by Walter Nebiker, R.I. Historic Preservation Commission, mentions the building as “the first one constructed in Union Village, and one of the earliest in the township of North Smithfield.” After being enlarged by Peleg Arnold, it served travelers “along the route from Providence to Worcester, Massachusetts, when the original rough trail was enlarged into a roadway and began to carry more traffic.” Mr Nebiker quotes a Woonsocket Call article of September 9, 1948 claiming that in the late nineteenth century, under James Arnold and his wife, “the establishment was transformed from an ordinary inn into one of the most luxurious taverns in New England. And so it served until the early 20th century.”
Today, it still exists in Union Village, near Great Road on Woonsocket Hill Road, and has been divided into apartments since the 1940’s.
A note from Peleg’s time in the Continental Congress, 1788
During his service in the Continental Congress, Peleg wrote back to his “father” Stephen Arnold (actually his father in law, Alpha’s father) about some home matters. The letter gives an indication that they were close and that he looked to Stephen to help his widowed mother with some decisions about the farm. I have to smile that he mentioned to his wife’s father that he expected a letter from her once a week during his absence. Perhaps she needed some reminding.
Peleg Arnold to Stephen Arnold
Honoured Sir, New York 25th May 1788.
I imbrace this oppertunity to acknowledge my Regard for your Self and Famaly. The many favors I have received from you Impresses my mind with a grateful Sense of acknowledgement.
I have no cause to doubt but your care will further Extend to my Famaly. I Desire you to assist them in my absence with your advice in Farming & Disposing of Such part of the Stock of Sheep & C—;—; as may be Necessary.
There is no matters of Importince here and whenever there is I Shall communicate them. This Letter will Remind you that I have not forgotten so Worthy a Friend; I wish you to take the troble to write if not emediately on the Recept of this in the cource of the Summer when you find it mo[s]t conveneint. I have wrote Several Letters to Mrs. Arnold and some to other persons, and wish to have regular answers from home once a week. I presume there will be but little business for coasting Vessels in the Summer and should that be the case, The most regular way of conveyance will be by the Post, The Letters may put into Mr. Carters Office in Providence, you may mention this to Mrs. Arnold and to all others that wish to write. If they are left there they Should have “Free” writen on them Directed “The Hon. Peleg Arnold Delegate in Congress, New-York.”
Present my Dutiful Respects to your good Lady, and Love to your Famaly, and be assur’d I am with perfect Esteem your Dutiful Son,
(Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 25 March 1, 1788-December 31, 1789 –Peleg Arnold to Stephen Arnold, on the website A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875).
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