I realized recently that I hadn’t really explored the journal of the Rhode Island Historical Society Rhode Island History (1942 – present). There is a good index at the RIHS website. I started with the index, but I also downloaded (from the screen just mentioned) and perused the complete pdf table of contents for the issues online (seems to include all issues minus most recent five years).
The full issues are available online. When an article of interest is found, the issue it’s contained in can be downloaded from the search results screen for free.
Step one – the Arnolds of Smithfield
As I perused Rhode Island History an article about the Arnolds of Smithfield (1) caught my eye. The article was interesting and informative, although it contained one or two errors that I know were corrected in the newer, standard work on the Arnolds of Smithfield by Richard H. Benton (2). As the article progressed it veered off from my line toward the better-known Eleazer Arnold line, and some of his descendants (the author was detailing his wife’s lineage). That’s not particularly helpful to me.
But I did what I always do – I examined the footnotes. Each person covered had a set following their entry. In the first three generations, I was familiar with all of the sources (many of them were covered in this post about early R.I. research) but one of them struck me as something I had not seen before: Annals of Centerdale by Frank C. Angell, 1909 (3).
Step two – The Angells of Centerdale, Rhode Island
It would never occur to me that Centerdale could hold any answers for me; I thought my Smithfield ancestors were farther from Providence than the tiny old mill hamlet of Centerdale, nestled in the urban clutter of North Providence, Rhode Island. But as the original Providence settlers spread west and north, could they have stopped for a generation or two in the area that became Centerdale?
I found the book remarkably interesting. As I read it, I realized that my entire Arnold line, which had originated in Providence among the Angells, Prays, Woodwards, Comstocks, and Browns, seemed to appear in this northwestern corner of early Providence. And SMITHS were intermingled with them on every page.
Step three – Some background on the Smith problem
My Arnold line from Smithfield begins with my 6th great grandmother, Lucy Arnold. Her mother is Rachel (possibly Smith). Her father is Thomas Arnold. A glance at this portion of my tree shows the well-researched Arnold branch, and the empty Smith branch:
I have no information about Rachel Smith at all, other than her first name, which appears on some of her husband’s deeds, and the oft-repeated rumor of her last name being Smith. So I was excited to find all these Smiths amongst the Arnolds.
Step four – Finding the Smiths on the map
Among those to thus push out into the common land and take up holdings therein were Thomas Angell, John Smith, Epenetus Olney, and Richard Pray, and these men appear to have been the pioneers in the settlement of that portion of the Woonasquatucket valley which afterward became known as Centerdale. (p. 6-7)
The original proprietors of the land on the east side of the river where the village of Centerdale is located were John Smith, Epenetus Olney, and Richard Pray. To establish the exact boundary of the several allotments would be impossible, but by patient research a map of the original farms has been prepared for this work; and reference thereto will serve to give a general idea of their location. (p. 11)
However, it is certain that John Smith (probably the miller) took up this land, and also that he had a son John Smith; and when John Smith, Senior, died, a portion of his estate lying upon the east side of the Woonasquatucket river was given to his son John Smith, Junior. This farm contained 160 acres, and was bounded as follows: Starting at a point on the Woonasquatucket river a few rods beyond the present junction of Waterman avenue and Smith street, and running in an easterly direction 320 rods, or nearly one mile; thence running in a southerly direction 80 rods, or one-quarter of a mile; thence running in a westerly direction 320 rods to the river; thence following the river in a northerly direction to the first-mentioned bound. (See map.) (p. 12)
The land adjoining the Smith claim on the north (see map) was taken up from the original rights by Richard Pray; but it is impossible to determine the exact date, as he was an extensive land owner and took up land from the commonings in different parts of the colony, the descriptions of which, as given in the deeds, are so confusing and indefinite that many of the claims are impossible to locate. (p. 14)
Meanwhile, I have some John Smiths to investigate.
- Pitman, H. Minot. “Some Arnold of Smithfield, R.I.” Rhode Island History 13-4 (October 1954): 111-123.
- Benson, Richard H. The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island. Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009.
- Angell, Frank C. Annals of Centerdale in the town of North Providence, Rhode Island. Central Falls, R.I.: Frank C. Angell, 1909.
- Genealogies of Rhode Island Families From Rhode Island Periodicals, vol. 2, Smith – Yates. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983. p. 1 – 150.
- Farnham, George William. “John Smith, the Miller, of Providence, Rhode Island, and some of his Descendants.” Rhode Island History 20-4 (October 1961): 109-118. [Continued in 15 more articles, every issue of 1962, 1963, 1964 and Jan-April-July 1965. All articles also appear in Genealogies of Rhode Island Families (see my note 4, above.) ]
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