Archive for the ‘Rhode Island Stuff’ Category

Rhode Island researchers will look at the title of this story and say, that’s nice … wait … what?  Rhode Island really doesn’t have a State Library in quite the way that other states do.  If anything, the State Archives might come closer to what people expect from a state library.  But there is a state library located on the second floor of the Rhode Island State House, and I visited it yesterday.  This is the story (mostly in pictures) of my visit to the Rhode Island State House, Benefit Street, and the Licht Judicial Center where the Supreme Court is held.

The Rhode Island State House

Since the Rhode Island State Library is on the second floor of the State House, I traveled to Smith Street, found some metered parking well down the street, and entered the State House for the first time ever.  The State House, completed in 1902, is beautiful. I wandered around the first and second floors for quite a while.  Note for next time:  ABSOLUTELY do not miss the full length portrait of George Washington, painted by Rhode Island native Gilbert Stuart, in the Governor’s State Room.

What’s hard to portray here is the unique auditory experience of the State House.  There were school children visiting, but their voices and footsteps were heard only as a kind of whirring white noise.  It was a windy day, but still I’m not sure why I seemed to be hearing that inside, too.  At one point, a piano somewhere could be clearly heard; someone was playing well and loudly.  Somehow, the piano and the circulating noises seemed to add to the homey, unique experience of the State House – I couldn’t help but think, I doubt you would hear a piano wafting up the stairwells in the State House of a really large state.  But in Rhode Island, we are who we are.

The Independent Man stands atop the dome of the Rhode Island State House on Smith Street, Providence.

The Independent Man is barely visible atop the dome of the Rhode Island State House.  This is the back entrance, on Smith Street.  The formal entrance faces a large courtyard on the opposite side – I’m not sure whether that is in use.

Completed in 1902, the State House is filled with marble.

Completed in 1902, the interior is grand and spacious. There is marble everywhere.

The State House was filled with memorials to soldiers from many wars. This cannon was used at Gettysburg, with a ball still lodged in it that misfired during the battle.

The State House was filled with memorials to soldiers from many wars. This cannon was used at Gettysburg, with a ball still lodged in it that misfired during the battle.

Charter from King Charles II.  I had no idea it was so big.  What you see here is a temporary duplicate; the original is out being spruced up.

Rhode Island’s 1663 Charter from King Charles II. I had no idea it was so big. What you see here in the protective case is a temporary duplicate; the original is out being spruced up.

Then it was time to head upstairs.

Then it was time to head upstairs.

A beautiful state seal graced the landing.

A beautiful state seal graced the landing.

You can see how small the Senate Chamber is.   It's a small state.

You can see how small the Senate Chamber is. It’s a small state.

I love this statue of Rhode Island's Thomas Dorr.  He fought for an extension of voting rights in the early 1840's.

I love this statue of Rhode Island’s Thomas Dorr. He fought for an extension of voting rights in the early 1840’s.  I believe this statue is quite new.

I was fascinated by the hallways filled with portraits - mostly R.I. Governors.

I was fascinated by the hallways filled with portraits – mostly of R.I. Governors.

The Rhode Island State Library

The library itself is imposing and beautiful, with two balconies and a marvelous gilt and glass ceiling.   I looked over the local books and biographies.  This library serves lawmakers, primarily, although the public is welcome to visit.  If one were looking for specific records, or even  for older transactions of the General Assembly, the State Archives is a better place to visit.

The Library itself is rather amazing.  a tall room with two balconies.

The Library itself is rather amazing. a tall room with two balconies.

The library is a repository for some federal documents, as well as a large collection of Rhode Island law books and books pertaining to things people might make laws about - health, environment, economics, educations, etc.

The library is a repository for some federal documents, as well as a large collection of Rhode Island law books and books pertaining to things people might make laws about – health, environment, economics, education, military, social services, etc.

The biographies and local histories were quite interesting.

The biographies and local histories were quite interesting.

Benefit Street

The beautiful portraits at the State House got me very curious about finding portraits related to my family.  Since two uncles had served as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, I decided to head to the courthouse.  Knowing parking would be quite a problem, I drove down Benefit street until I found a spot, then had a pleasant walk over to the courthouse.

Benefit Street has cars and snow vying for curbside space.

Narrow, colonial Benefit Street has cars and snow vying for curbside space.

Historic Benefit Street boasts colonial charm and and some especially fabulous historic houses.

Benefit Street boasts colonial charm and some especially grand historic houses.

The Licht Judicial Complex

The Supreme Court is located in the Licht Judicial Complex, a landmark in Providence just to the east of downtown, completed in 1933 at significant expense.  The building is ornate and beautiful, with gilding everywhere.  A large law library is housed on the eighth floor, filled to the brim with law volumes.   There wasn’t a lot for me to do there, but the librarian suggested that any portraits of Supreme Court Justices should be in the seventh floor and I should talk to the guard there.

As it turned out, the guard was able to give me a complete guided tour of the whole Supreme Court area.  On this tour, I was able to take pictures in some areas (normally prohibited because the building is a working courthouse).  We talked a lot about Rhode Island’s unique place in history and about the portraits.  He had a lot of stories about the building and its history.  I did find the portrait of my grandfather’s uncle, William Douglas, and I found a copy of Peleg Arnold’s portrait (an uncle who was Chief Justice from 1795-1809 and 1810-1812) although the original is held at the John Hay Library at Brown University (their portrait collection is browsable online).

The Licht Judicial Complex, located between Benefit and South Main streets in Providence, houses the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the county Superior Court.

The Licht Judicial Complex, located between Benefit and South Main streets in Providence, houses the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the Providence County Superior Court.

One of the first portraits I found was my uncle's, Judge William Wilberforce Douglas.

One of the first portraits I came across was my gg-uncle’s, Judge William Wilberforce Douglas.  He served as Chief Justice from 1905-1908.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court – there are five seats. This beautiful room features carved Philippine mahogany.

Blind statue of Justice facing the judges in the courtroom.

Blind Statue of Justice facing the judges in the courtroom.

A judges waiting room adjacent to the courtroom.  I really got the good tour!

A judges’ waiting room adjacent to the courtroom. I really got the good tour!

I was very happy to spend my afternoon exploring these two historic sites.  The State House, in particular, is a fun place to walk through or to take a tour.  There is a welcome room on the first floor, or the website, where one can get more information.  Those who come to Providence for NERGC in April, 2015 will notice the State House nearby, in easy walking distance.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/03/13/rhode-island-state-library/

— Photos by Diane Boumenot. 


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Registration opened this week for the New England Regional Genealogical Conference which will take place in Providence, Rhode Island, April 15-18, 2015.  The conference is held in New England every two years and this time, the location will be at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence.  I am really looking forward to it.

Enjoy the conference

The conference program is now available to download as a pdf.  I am looking forward to keynote speakers Judy G. Russell and Lisa Louisa Cook, and I won’t miss an opportunity to hear Cherry Bamburg Fletcher speak about Rhode Island research.  Personally, I am planning to add Barbara MathewsDocument Analysis special workshop to my registration.  There are over a hundred other sessions to choose from, with excellent and knowledgeable presenters on a wide variety of topics.  Choosing will probably be the hard part.  There are also an Exhibit Hall, the popular 20-minute personal consultations at the Ancestors Road Show, Special Interest Group gatherings, Librarian and Teachers’ Day, and Tech Day.  Even those not attending can submit a “Genealogical Query” for $5.00 which will be visible to conference attendees; the deadline for that is January 15 (see page 3 in the downloadable brochure).

South Main Street historic area, Providence

South Main Street historic area, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.


This impressive conference is run by volunteers representing many local genealogical organizations.  The conference only exists because people step forward to volunteer.  If you attend, plan to spend a couple hours in a volunteer job.  This will NOT lower your cost of registration (as I said, it’s ALL volunteer efforts) but will make you feel like a good citizen, and you’ll meet more people doing that.  Last time, I helped out in the registration booth for a few hours, but there will be a wide variety of jobs to choose from, closer to the event.  And if you are a local genealogist who doesn’t plan to register and attend, but you can still give a little volunteer time, they would also welcome your help.

Be a tourist

NERGC has some good tips for seeing the sites during your stay. I like their suggestion of the self-guided “telephone tour” of downtown which allows you to follow the “Independence Trail” and phone in when you reach each designated stopping point, to hear recorded guidance about each historical spot.  It’s 2-1/2 miles of walking, but it’s free, and you could go at your own pace and stop along the way.  There is also a guided local Explore Providence Tour that includes transportation and sounds wonderful (see page 3 of the program for cost and reservations).  The Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau also has a thorough list of historical sites in the area.

East Greenwich Town Hall, one of my absolute favorite town halls.  The materials are well organized and available.  They even have a neat map of the original farms that they will sell you.

East Greenwich Town Hall, one of my absolute favorite town halls. The materials are well organized and available. They even have a neat map of the original farms that they will sell you.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Do some local genealogical research

Now we’re getting to the point of this post.  If you have Rhode Island roots, you may want to try to fit in some research, and it would be best to start thinking about that early, and prepare for a few local visits at repositories.  A great place to start would be the excellent guidance in Cherry Bamburg Fletcher’s newly revised Frequently Asked Questions About Rhode Island Genealogy on the Rhode Island Genealogical Society website.

While this list is by no means complete, these are some local repositories I’m familiar with:


  • The Rhode Island State Archives.  About a six block walk from the Convention Center.  This is a government department which primarily records state government activity.  It has a reading room with a wonderful index of R.I. vital records from about 1853 up to the legally allowed cutoffs – about 1915 or so (after using the index volumes, you can look at the state-compiled entries on microfilm), a fair collection of books and guides, a Revolutionary War index card file and other military resources, an index to Rhode Island General Assembly actions (most frequent appearance for my ancestors? “An Act for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors … “ ), the 1865 and 1875 Rhode Island state census records, and MANY special little index guides to state government activities.  See my posts here and here.
  • Providence City Archives.  About three blocks from the Convention Center, and next to the Biltmore Hotel.  If your ancestors lived in Providence at any time since 1636, you may want to do some research at the Providence City Archives up top of the picturesque 1878 Providence City Hall. On the fifth floor, the space is cramped and tiny, and the collection is not browsable, so it’s not a great place to just stroll around, but it is a valuable resource if you have real requests to make.  I mostly go to request Providence vital records and to view probate records (remember “probate” sometimes includes guardianships or adoptions).  See my post here.
  • The Providence Public Library.  About a five block walk from the door of the Convention Center, the library has some useful features.  I have never been in the special collections, and I’m not very familiar with them.  I mostly appreciate the extensive collection of Providence newspapers that they carry on microfilm, particularly since most of these are not online anywhere.  You can view microfilm and print, for a price per page.  They also have a large card index of Rhode Island events, well-known citizens, and news.  See my blog post here.
The State Archives reading room.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The State Archives reading room. Photo by Diane Boumenot.


  • The Library of the Rhode Island Historical Society.  Perhaps some may argue this is walkable from the Convention Center.  If you have good health, good shoes, good weather, an intrepid companion, and a little time, you might look into it.  On the map, it won’t appear THAT far away – maybe about a mile.  What the coy map won’t reveal to you is that it’s UP HILL. And I mean UP.  HILL.  You would be going through some lovely and historic parts of Providence, so you would, for sure, enjoy the scenery if, well, you could breathe and everything.  No matter how you get there, this is probably Rhode Island’s premier research destination.  Non-members pay a small fee and fill out paperwork for a day pass, and will not be allowed to photograph anything at all.  There are some local records from various towns available on microfilm as well as the state’s most thorough collection of old newspapers on microfilm – very few are online anywhere (however, there is very little in the way of indexing available).  There is a large collection of genealogy books and journals as well as local books.  There are manuscripts which may be requested.  They have valuable collections and the structure, rules and process of visiting there is fairly severe. Bring a smile and some well thought out questions.  Explore their holdings thoroughly beforehand here.
  • The Rhode Island Judicial Archives is in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, maybe 5 miles away.  I would encourage anyone interested in the archival record of any particular case to contact the archives in advance to see if the case is on file there.  Nothing is browsable or searchable in person, indeed, you will be lining up with the criminals and lawyers to request your case records.  Ask for the historical records, and that clerk will be summoned. Older divorce cases from Rhode Island will be on file here, as well as many other types of court cases. You would need to know some details of the case (a name and rough date, to start with) in order for the clerk to try to find it. Documents can be read and photographed there.  See my post here.
The Rhode Island Historic Cemetery marker.  This one is from Peck Cemetery, Cumberland.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

A Rhode Island Historic Cemetery marker. This one is from Peck Cemetery, Cumberland (“Cumberland 19″). Photo by Diane Boumenot.


Cemeteries.  The tradition in Rhode Island was to bury family right on the family farm, because early Rhode Islanders were very firmly against any centralized powers belonging to the churches.  In a growing city like Providence, many of these early plots were eventually relocated to the North Burial Ground, or they just disappeared.  In most other areas, tiny historical cemeteries remain in place.  You can research recorded graves at the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission website.

The city and town halls of Rhode Island are the place for vital records, deeds, probate, town council, and a random variety of other early records.  In Rhode Island, you won’t find materials at the county level except for some court records.

Keep in mind that town boundaries shifted over the years, meaning the records you seek may be in a different town than the one you associate your ancestors with (see this summary from the R.I. Genealogical Society to see if you need to explore this question).  Some of the local town libraries have local history rooms or special collections which can he useful.  My recommendation would be that if you are going to the town your ancestors lived in, go to the (correct) town hall but make sure you at least check out, from home, what the local library is offering as well. Less often, there is also a local historical society or historic building – those can have extremely limited hours.

Rhode Island has 39 cities and towns and each town hall has a completely different arrangement for access to records, seating areas, photocopying, picture-taking (usually allowed), access to books, ability to answer questions, and record sets available.  Going to each one is like arriving in a brand new country.

Town Hall, Westerly, Rhode Island.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Town Hall, Westerly, Rhode Island. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

My suggestions for town/city halls would be:

  • Never go into your genealogy story. Dress neatly, be polite, ask about the materials you need and possibly give the impression you are a historical researcher or lawyer.
  • If there is any archival staff, yay, but if you are dealing with the normal town clerk staff, they really have other jobs to do and can’t spend much time on non-town business; they don’t always know much about the “old stuff.”  At best, they expect to lead you to an area of old volumes and leave you there, at worst, they expect you to request one item at a time which they will reluctantly attempt to find for you.
  • There are usually (but NOT ALWAYS) tables and chairs, but if there are other researchers, don’t count on a lot of room.  A laptop may be too complicated for these settings. I would suggest a camera and a paper notebook.  I sometimes bring a tablet or just rely on my cell phone if I need to look something up.  I suspect there would be a LOT of problems using photocopiers in town halls; a camera is better.
  • Sometimes there is an official room where researchers go (particularly people doing title searches) but there may ALSO be an old archives collection hidden away in a basement or something.  Try to be sure you are seeing all that’s available.
  • If staff say you should have called, reserved, warned them, written them a letter, etc, agree with that, keep smiling, keep them talking, and usually when they see you haven’t left yet, they tend to help you anyway.
  • Genealogists are nice people. But town staff have to deal with some real, real cranks and crazy people (as I have witnessed in sitting around those offices over the years), so give them a few minutes to realize you’re not one of those.
  • Follow ALL usual archival rules, whether stated or not – no pens, no food or drink, no talking on the phone, be extremely careful of the books, try to remove and use only one at a time, always replace them in the exact spot, lay them flat on the table.
  • The index volumes may be in a completely different area of the room from the record volumes.  Give a good look around.
  • The only true problem you are likely to encounter is a flat denial of access to vital records because “it’s the law”, “because of privacy” or “the record is not about you” (like I’d be asking for my own death record).  If you need post-1914 records you may not be able to solve this one.  If you are asking for pre-1914 records, stand your ground and politely say that under Rhode Island law those records are public records and you have a right to see them, if they exist.  Keep smiling, and say that you’re probably going to need to talk to the Town Clerk. The Rhode Island law changed recently to include some new restrictions but none of that applies to pre-1914 records.
Early Smithfield records are stored at the Central Falls City Hall records room.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Early Smithfield records are stored at the Central Falls City Hall records room. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

My suggestions for local libraries or historical societies:

  • Definitely mention genealogy, this sometimes gets you ushered right away into the special “Genealogy Room”.
  • If possible, write a week or two in advance.  Sometimes the best person to help you is only available at certain times.
  • Make sure you are seeing an index or catalog to the special collections or manuscripts.  Sometimes old materials are cataloged separately.
  • Look for unique manuscript items like indices to local newspapers, obituary collections, index lists to local town records, inventories of historic houses, local newspapers, genealogy card files, local pictures, and manuscript genealogies.  These may not be available anywhere else.
  • If you gain admittance into any local historical society or small museum, either pay admission or buy something.  They need the money, and it will help them to see that you appreciate their work.

In closing

For a more detailed review of repositories, check out Michael Leclerc’s Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, 5th edition, (Boston, NEHGS, 2012) and Diane Rapaport’s New England Court Records (Burlington, Mass., Quill Pen Press, 2006), as well as the previously mentioned Cherry Bamburg Fletcher’s Frequently Asked Questions About Rhode Island Genealogy on the Rhode Island Genealogical Society website.

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The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/10/26/providence-for-nergc/

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This is the second in an occasional series of articles transcribed directly from The Narragansett Historical Register, a Rhode Island treasure now mostly forgotten.  Published by James Newell Arnold between 1882 and 1891, the magazine was devoted to Rhode Island history and genealogy.  No longer under copyright, the articles can continue to enlighten us.  If the article below makes you curious, check out the full issues and index pages here.

Narragansett Historical Register logo

Notes on Quidnessett

by “Quidnessett”

Doing this transcription brought an immediate benefit to me – the site of “John Andrew’s house” is mentioned.  My possible ancestor, John Andrews, was an early resident of the Quidnessett area (name in green, below).  While I’m still trying to determine if Jesse Andrews of Ashford, Connecticut, 1820, is the same Jesse Andrews that was John Andrews’ great-great grandson, this location is a fascinating detail that I could pinpoint using Beers maps from the 1880’s.  Two articles were published on Quidnessett and appear below.  Maybe you will find an ancestor here, or learn more about the early settlement of the area. The text is rather random and scattered, so I wonder if it was the reminiscences of an elderly person.  Note: except for the Quidnessett map, all illustrations are my addition, they were not present in the original articles. Footnotes have been recorded in place.

[Transcribed here from The Narragansett Historical Register, Volume 1, No. 4, April, 1883 (Published by the Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, Hamilton, R.I.), p. 305-311.]


THE old Quidnessett territory, situated in the northeastern part of North Kingstown, was for many years a prominent part of the town.

In early times it could boast of two saw mills, and one or two grist mills. The latter are still receiving the patronage of the region about them. Considerable trade was carried on from the Greene’s, George, and Allen’s Harbor with Newport, Providence, and Bristol.

The old sloop, called the “Two Brothers,” from the forge mill and anchor works, and Allen’s sloop, called the “Sea Flower,” carried on quite a trade at those towns. These two old craft were worn out in their service, and were supplanted by the “Emily Ann” and “Lucy Ann.” When the Greene’s retired from business, and John Allen died, the trade at those places nearly went down.

June 11th, 1659, the Indian Sachem Coquinoquant, of the Narragansett Country, whose love and friendship for the English was so great, made a deed of gift to Major Humphrey, Atherton & Company — consisting of John Winthrop, Governor of Connecticut; Richard Smith, Sen., and Richard Smith, Jun., of Cocumscussuc, traders ; Lieut. William Hudson, of Boston ; Amos Richardson, trader, and John Tinker, of Nashaway, trader. [*Potter’s Narragansett, p.58]

Afterwards a deed of confirmation was given signed by Quissucquansh, Scultop, and Quequaquomit.[*Colonial Records, Vol.1, p. 464]

It seems to have been variously called. The natives called it Aquitawaset ; the English, Quidnessett. In the deed of confirmation it was indifferently called Wyapumsett, Muscacouage, Cocumcossuck, and the like, if we modernize it.

Map of Pettaquamscutt Purchase from Thomas Hazard Son of Robt calld College Tom, 1893, frontis.

Map of Pettaquamscutt Purchase from Thomas Hazard Son of Robt calld College Tom, 1893, frontis.

It is bounded on the north by the Potowomut River. It assumes that name at the Hunts Bridge, and runs to Pojack Point, at the Narragansett Bay.

The lower part of it was at one time called ” Waud’s Cove,” at another time, ” Greene’s River.”

It is bounded on the west by the “Pequot Path,” or ” Post Road,” leading to Cocumsquissut Brook, just south of Smith’s house, or better known as the Updike house.  Then it is bounded southerly by the Cocumscussett, or Wickford Harbor, and easterly by the Narragansett Bay.

What was sold to Richard Smith and his son, in 1639, was not included in the transfer.

The Smiths were the first white people that settled in the Narragansett Country, and the block house they built was in the extreme southwest corner of the Quidnessett teritory, which is about six miles long and three broad, making about eighteen or twenty square miles. Roger Williams says in defense of Smith’s title : ” That he left fair possession in Glostershire and came to Taunton, in Plymouth Colony, and thence to Narragansett Country, where he settled and put up in the thickest of the barbarians ye first English house among them.” [*Potter’s Narragansett, p.166]

By the marriage of Smith’s daughter into the Updike family, this estate, by will, was given by her father, Richard Smith, Sen.; it took that name, and so continued till it went by purchase into the hands of Capt. Joseph Congdon, in 1813.

Seven and eight years after Richard Smith, Sen.’s, settlement in Quidnessett, Roger Williams, and one Wilcox, built trading houses about one mile north, and carried on business from 1646, or ‘47, til 1651, when Williams sold out to Smith his trading house, his two big guns, and a small island near Smith’s house, which had been lent him by Canonicus a little before his death. He sold out to raise funds to defray his expenses to England for the second charter.

Richard Smith Block-House at Cocumsmussuc, constructed by Richard Smith Junior about 1680 from the materials of the old garrison house.  From Providence in Colonial Times, 1912, p46.

Richard Smith Block-House at Cocumsmussuc, constructed by Richard Smith Junior about 1680 from the materials of the old garrison house. From Providence in Colonial Times, 1912, p46.

King Charles I was about to be dethroned and Cromwell installed as Protector. For three years was Roger Williams away from his family and home on this mission.

John Clarke, of Newport, was his colleague, and remained the whole time, till the charter was granted in 1663.

This trading house of William’s, tradition says, stood where Wm. G. Madison’s north barn now stands.

It was Judge Sherman’s opinion, and Judge Brayton coincided with him, that Canonicus and Miantonomy resided nearby, opposite on Fones’ purchase, within twenty or thirty rods of the “Devil’s foot-tracks,” in a northerly direction.

Here is where Roger Williams wrote the famous Cocumssquisset letters to Gov. Winthrop and Major Mason.

Near this place have been exhumed Indian skeletons and relics. On the Updike farm is a cemetery where are as many as seventy-five or eighty graves with headstones, called the “Indian burying ground.” On the opposite side of the road is another. It was not the custom of the Indians to designate the resting place of their dead by stones.

Richard Smith and the Updikes were interred not far from the first place mentioned. The next year after the deeds of Quidnessett were given, several of the citizens of Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, and Warwick, to get the lands of the Narragansett Country out of the hands of the Plymouth and Connecticut Colonies, came on and purchased farms on the bay and the Potowumut River, extending over half of the Quidnessett territory. They were some of the most prominent men of those towns.

Thomas, and John Gould, Henry Fowler, John Hulls, Robert Carr, Thomas Hart, Francis Brinley, Walter Couningreve, Thomas Nichols, and sons, Henry Tibbett’s, Samuel Waite, Nicholas Spink, Capt. John Cranston, Robert Wescott, John Sanford, Edward Thurston, John Greene, and son, Valentine Wightman ; these were the first settlers, and soon after a second class bought in the south part of the district : John Eldred, William Dyre, Arthur Aylesworth, John Allen, and Henry Reynolds. John Greene and son owned more acres than any others for several years. John Greene was the son of John Greene, the physician of Salesbury, England, who was one of Roger Williams friends of the second arrival. John the second was in office in the colony the most of his life ; was ten years Deputy Governor. John Cranston was Governor two years and died in office. Governor William Greene and Governor Waud owned said estate in Quidnessett.

First Meeting-House in Salem, where Roger Williams is said to have preached, from Our Country's Story by Eva March Tappan, p. 74

First Meeting-House in Salem, where Roger Williams is said to have preached, from Our Country’s Story by Eva March Tappan, p. 74

To strengthen her position, the Connecticut colony laid claim to Potowomut and Muscachuage, or Muskachuge, as far as Cowesett., afterwards embracing all of Greenwich, which was laid out and organized into a town in 1677. The small territory, Potowomut Neck, under the Sagamore Tucomanan, lies between Greenwich Harbor and this river. It is an integral part of Warwick, though detached from it. In the mortgage deed given to Major Atherton & Co., it was claimed to Cowesett, including Potowomut and Muscachuge. This latter place was between Cowesett and the upper part of Quidnessett.

During the strife between the Colonies (which Professor Greene says lasted twenty years), the Connecticut Colony did not only claim the Narragansett Country, but a part of Kent County. The Quidnessett people speaking for Narragansett, or the “Kings Province,” as it was styled, were very assiduous in their endeavors to inhabit every part of it.

Capt. John Tallcott, and John Banks were commissioned by the Connecticut Colony on the vacant lands in the Kings Province, reported that:

“We received a letter from Major Cranston, at Narragansett, that himself with six others of the assistants belonging to Rhode Island, as we were informed by his messengers, and that with them were come forty men to be settled in plantationwise at Elizabeth Springs, north of Mr. Gould’s, about three miles toward Boston, and answer was returned to the said letter.
Your humble servants.
“John Tallcott, “”John Banks.”
“June 10, 1677.” [*Colonial Records, Vol. II, p. 597]

The Elizabeth Springs referred to are at the head of Greenwich Cove. Previous to the above date it was called ” Muskachuage Cove.”

The first spring is opposite Capt. Spencer’s house, the second at the foot of the railroad bridge, the third a few rods west, and the fourth was under the post road, where the old Muskachuage bridge used to be. This road was called the ” Boston road.”

Warwick Neck, at the entrance to Cowesett Bay from Narragansett Bay, Its Historic and Romantic Associations, p34.

Warwick Neck, at the entrance to Cowesett Bay from Narragansett Bay, Its Historic and Romantic Associations, p34.

These springs were about three miles from the place where Mr. Thomas Gould then lived, on the Mount farm. They were called ” Elizabeth Springs ” in honor of Roger William’s wife. By what rule it is difficult to tell, as her name was Mary.

Tallcott and Banks must have been much discouraged when Major Cranston wrote them about what numbers had flocked to that locality to settle ” plantation wise.” Their report to Connecticut gave but little hope that the Narragansett Country will finally be a part of her coveted domain.

Muskachuge was as much a territory as Cowesett, or Apponaug, only not so extensive. It was bounded on the north by Cowesett, Division street in Greenwich, and the continuation west forms the dividing line between Greenwich and Warwick.

The north line of ” Fones’ Purchase” commenced at a rock on the River Passatuthonsu, the river above “Hunt’s Bridge,” on the ” Post Road,” running straight north to a river running into the Muskachuge Cove. Then the line follows the road easterly to the Potowomut River, as high as salt water. The ford where people crossed the river was at Greene’s forge mill, and was passable only at low water. Before the dam was built it flowed up as high as Thomas Hill’s house, a little west of it. From this point the line ran partly in a southwesterly direction straight to John Andrew’s house on the “Post Road,” thence to the Devil’s foot rocks.

Samuel Austin’s house is near the place where Andrew‘s house stood. Hon. George A. Brayton left among his papers the original map of the Potowomut District on which are dotted the houses of the first settlers who inhabited that fertile region. It extended as far west as Hunt’s Bridge.

Greene Memorial House, at Apponaug.  from Narragasett Bay, it's Historic and Romantic Associations, 1904, p. 43

Greene Memorial House, at Apponaug. There are a couple of early Greene families, so I’m not sure the Greenes referred to here are the ancestors of General Nathanael Greene. From Narragansett Bay, Its Historic and Romantic Associations, 1904, p. 43

In 1680, Warwick and Kings Towne both claimed it.

The first bridge over the Potowomut river at the ford was built from the duty on imported slaves brought into Newport and sold in 1715. The streets of that place were paved from the same source at the same time.

We well remember the old Anchor Forge of the memorable Greene family, the bellows and famous trip hammer made to strike the heated iron by a revolution of an immense wheel turned by water power, then five stalwart men who struck the battered iron till it was wrought into an anchor that would weigh when completed eighteen or twenty hundred pounds.

There was an old corn and wheat mill with wheels sixteen or eighteen feet in diameter running two sets of stones, and last not least, Christopher and Elisha Greene (brothers), one in charge of the mills, and the other of the anchor works. Though quite small in the last days of that ancient old mill, I can call to mind these venerable old men as though it was but yesterday I saw them. The old Narragansett pacer that carried me and my “grist” to that renowned place have often fed my mind with youthful visions of the romantic place. Often the bushel and a half of corn to be ground for “Johnny cake meal,” challenged all the strength Uncle Christopher and I had to get it from old Grimes’ back, and the hopper two flights of stairs above.

A Narragansett pacer, from American Horses and Horse Breeding, 1895

A Narragansett pacer, from American Horses and Horse Breeding, 1895

The old flat-bottomed sloop, “Two Brothers,” mastered by Wickes Hill, Daniel Mitchell, and Benj’n Gardiner, and the “Emily Ann,” built at the forge mill for Judge Greene, mastered by Benjamin Gardiner and Henry Reynolds.

early map of Quidnesset from Narragansett Historical Register, volume 5, p 62.

early map of Quidnesset from Narragansett Historical Register, volume 5, p 62.


[Transcribed here from The Narragansett Historical Register, Volume 5, No. 1, July, 1886 (Published by the Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, Hamilton, R.I.), p. 61-66.]

THE plat of the territory presented us by the editor of the Narragansett Historical Register, which we are permitted to exhibit to our readers, is a very exact picture of that part of North Kingstown commonly called ” Quidnessett Neck.”

There are but few portions of that ancient town that can boast of better farms, or more eligibly situated, than those on the Narragansett Bay and Potowomut River. The Gould’s Mt, farm, laying on the bay and Quidnessett harbor, (now known as Allen’s harbor) was undoubtedly the first piece of land bought of Maj. Atheton, &c, after the settlement of the Smith’s.

Thomas Gould made the first purchase in 1661, as can be shown by a plat now extant. It has been handed down through five generations. It was commenced by him at that date and ended by his grandnephew, Thomas Gould, in 1837 ; one hundred and seventy-six years to his death. From that purchase to 1666, as many as twenty persons bought on the Bay, Potowomut River, and the “Pequot Path,” or “Post Road,” as far south as the ” Devil’s foot.”

Thomas Gould became early in life a prominent man in the colony, and was repeatedly elected an assistant or deputy in the Colonial Assembly from Kingstown.

When the General Court met at his house, by adjournment from Pettaquamscut, May 18, 1671, he was elected Conservator of the Peace and sub-tenant. The court was held to engage the people in that locality to adhere to the Crown of England and the Rhode Island Colony. Some were disaffected and clung to Connecticut.

The Smith’s held sometimes to one, then the other, and the question who owns the Narragansett country? harassed the people from 1639 to 1703, when the matter was settled and the Rhode Island Colony was triumphant ; and the Narragansett Country comprised, as it does now, Washington county.

The Glebe - a parsonage, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 37.

The Glebe – a parsonage, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 37.

Thomas Gould, James Reynolds, George Tibbetts, and some others were arrested and taken to Hartford and confined in prison for adhering to Rhode Island.

They sent a petition to the Colonial Assembly at the May Session, 1677, for instruction, assistance and advice. The Assembly “having seriously considered the matter,” ” voted unanimously that they would vindicate their cause, and if they suffer in their persons, or estates, this Colony will stand by them, assist them and relieve, by all lawful ways and means.”—E. R. Potter, 197.

This occurred early in May when seed time was near at hand, and they could not afford to lose it, so they compromised the matter by a promise that they would adhere to Connecticut Colony, and on that ground they were released under an oath to return to their homes in Quidnessett, but that greedy little Colony forbade them yielding to any other power or State.

Thomas Gould was the second son of Jeremiah Gould who came from Dorchester, England, to Newport, R. 1., in 1637. He was born about 1623. He was married to a daughter of William Baulston, of Newport, in 1655. They had no children, and he gave his farm to Daniel, Jr., his brother’s son, who went to live with his uncle soon after he was married. Daniel married Mary, daughter of Walter and Hannah Clark. They had two sons, Jeremiah and Daniel; Jeremiah inherited the Quidnessett farms, by will. He was a distinguished man — was 24 years in the Colonial Assembly—three times elected speaker of the House—was a justice of the Interior Court of Common Pleas—was a very prominent member of the Society of Friends—eighteen years he was clerk of the monthly meeting. Owing to ill-health he was obliged to retire from office two or three years before his death.

Nearby birthplace of Gilbert Stewart, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 36.

Nearby birthplace of Gilbert Stewart, from Narragansett Pier, R.I., page 36.

For many years in his political life the Friends had full control of the Colonial Government of Rhode Island. He made his will and divided his effects among his numerous family, and departed this life July 7, 1740.

He married Elizabeth Ward, daughter of Thomas Ward, of Newport. They had seven daughters, and one son, Daniel, who married Mary Fry, daughter of Thomas Fry, of Frenchtown, East Greenwich.

Daniel was a very promising young man. He was elected to the lower house of the General Assembly in 1745, and died while in office. He left with his wife one daughter, Mary, who married John Allen, (afterwards Judge Allen), and one son, Thomas, who lived in celibacy, and died in 1836, aged 92 years.

The farm stood in the name of the Goulds 175—in the Goulds and Aliens 200 years.

Early it took the name of “Mount Farm ” from a large clump of rocks towering 40 or 50 feet above tide water, 5 or 6 rods from the shore, running N. E. and S. W. an eighth of a mile long, and nearly the same in width. Among the rocks grew large trees, walnuts, oaks, locust and cedar, barberries, buckthorn, amasadutrious vine, ivy, and clematis. It formed a lair for cattle to lodge in nights before barns were built.

It was a noted place for clam bakes long before the watering places were thought of in Rhode Island.

The view from the top of the mount upon the Narragansett Bay—its islands, villages and cities are delightful to those who are fond of gazing upon the sublime and the beautiful.

Thomas Gould, 1st, imported the first barberries in this country. He planted and cultivated a hedge about his house. In time the birds spread the seed till all Rhode Island was supplied, and Connecticut as far as the river. Soon after some man in Plymouth, Mass., imported them in the same way, and they have spread extensively in every direction in that State. Many years ago it was believed they were poisonous to rye, and a law was enacted requiring every farmer to destroy them, but in spite of the law they have lived near a hundred and seventy years on that farm ; except at the Mount they have nearly disappeared.

The hawthorn, the buckthorn, and the primbush were imported from England early in the settlement of the country. All of them were grown on the Mt. farm, but the woodman’s axe destroyed them long ago.

Thomas Gould built him a log house to begin with, and after a few years he built a frame house, one story high, and as the families increased in numbers, additions were put on one end till the house became one hundred feet long. It was found more convenient to build on the end than above stairs. Daniel Gould enlarged it when his family was increased, and Jeremiah enlarged it when his family was increased, but in 1766 it became untenantable and was abandoned. Soon it fell down.

The chimney stood till 1791 or 1792 when it was pulled down. The lime used in the mortar was made of shells from the shore nearby, and was very strong. The mortar is seen on the stones in a wall nearby to this day.

The Goulds carried on a lucrative trade with Newport from the earliest settlement of Quidnessett ; grain, mutton, beef, and poultry, and such other commodities as were demanded from time to time.

Cattle, sheep and horses were introduced as early and as fast as they could be had. Boats of large dimensions were built to accommodate trade between Newport and Quidnessett harbor early in Thomas Gould’s day, and he accommodated his neighbors as well as himself.

The north part of this territory was thickly settled by 1666, and in 1671 the Dyers, Eldreds, John, Viall, Lodowick, and Richard Updike made their appearance.

Viall was of Boston, and married Richard Smith’s daughter. He lived in Quidnessett but a short time.

“Seconiquonset Point,” a prominent place in the south-east part of Quidnessett, was changed to “Quonset ” by the English. The British ship, Armada, went ashore on the north side of that point in 1780, loaded with supplies for the British army and navy.

Indian Rock, Narragansett Pier from Picturesque Rhode Island, page 292.

Indian Rock, Narragansett Pier from Picturesque Rhode Island, page 292.

There don’t appear to have been any Indian name for the N. E. point of Quidnessett unless it was Potowomut, but some years later a name was accidentally made for it that is very quaint and answers every purpose quite as well. “Pojack,” or ” Poorjack,” had its origin with some clam diggers who resorted to that place to get clams, when one of them had an uneasy horse that got loose and set out to swim across the river to Marsh Point on the opposite side. His owner dropped his hoe and ran to catch him while he was floundering in the mud, repeatedly muttering, ” Whoa, Poor-Jack.” By dint of effort and the help at hand, the poor horse was turned about and got to the shore so badly frightened he never attempted it again.

The word poor was easily changed to Po, and prefixed to Jack, making ” Pojack.” This name was so called anterior to the Revolutionary war, as Capt. Josiah Gribbs was ordered to march his company around from Warwick Neck to “Pojack Point,” meaning Gould’s hill, just above the house. That occurred in 1779 when the British were in the Bay.

Spink’s rocks, just outside of Allen’s harbor, was a rocky place made notable by the capture of William Spencer and John Allen in 1779.

“Calf-pasture,” (” Lyon’s Tongue,”) was another place made famous by the British trading with the Tories and semi-tories of Quidnessett. Capt. Mat. Manchester was one of the latter class.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/09/07/notes-on-quidnesset

Samuel Gorton's leather breeches from Narragansett Bay, it Historic and Romastic Association, p37. Came across Warwick founder Samuel's Gorton's pants while researching this article.  I wonder where these are now.

Samuel Gorton’s leather breeches from Narragansett Bay, in Historic and Romantic Association, p37.  Came across Warwick founder Samuel’s Gorton’s pants while researching this article.  “Now in the possession of Mrs. Sam Clarke.” I wonder where these are now?

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Rhode Island Roots is the journal of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society.  It is published four times per year and in the last decade, an extra volume of record transcriptions has also been made available annually to RIGS members.  Edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, with Michael F. Dwyer currently serving as Assistant Editor, Linda Mathew editing the special records volumes, and Geri Clarke producing an annual index of names, Rhode Island Roots is a high quality journal that targets a compact location.  We who are researching are extremely lucky to have it.

I tried something recently that worked out quite well.  Knowing I would be on an airplane all day, I took with me, instead of my usual paperbacks, only several genealogy journals.  These included Rhode Island Roots and a few other journals.  With nothing else to do, I read every word, from cover to cover. I thought I had been reading them previously, but from editor’s introductions to lists, articles, footnotes and book reviews, it was Rhode Island Roots that surprised me the most.  I had been missing a lot.

Rhode Island Roots, March, 2014

Rhode Island Roots, March, 2014

Why I think Rhode Island Roots is important

In my opinion there are three reasons to carefully read each issue of Rhode Island Roots from cover to cover:

  • There may be some direct evidence related to your ancestors, for instance they could be mentioned by name in a transcribed list, as a relative of a family being studied, or involved in an event or story under discussion.  I think everyone understands this.  Rhode Island Roots provides an index at the end of each year.  I suspect this is the most common use of journals, and that’s unfortunate.
  • Reading well-edited genealogical journals is the best way to learn.  How did the researcher find evidence?  What were the sources?  How did the argument progress, and was it convincing?  Did the writer rely on vital records (hardly likely in early Rhode Island!) or did he or she assemble other direct and indirect evidence into a solid case? To what extent would you agree that a reasonably exhaustive search was done, and how was possible counter-evidence treated?  It would take me several readings of an article to really know any of these answers.  And then, I often find myself wondering how I could assemble clues to solve my own research problems.  What I am writing here is not new, it is standard advice that any aspiring genealogist will hear often.
  • Every step taken by the writer is a lesson in local research.  For Rhode Island Roots in particular, there is not an article or item that is worth skipping, because the state is too small for that.  Where did the writer turn for evidence?  What repositories?  What books, databases, records, manuscripts, and journals?  How did they seem to evaluate the content they were finding?  What migration patterns are seen?  What laws or local events impacted lives?  What evidence was found for various types of activities – seafaring, farming, trades, adoption, immigration, holidays, divorce, crime, education, burial?  What type of evidence was available for each town, and where was it found?

5 things I learned from reading Rhode Island Roots

  • East Greenwich soldier Phillip Andrew (potentially my 5th great-grandfather if I ever get this solved) appears in a list of French and Indian War soldiers at Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York, recorded in a journal by Beriah Hopkins in 1762.  Most likely, this manuscript was not available to Howard M. Chapin when he compiled Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars (1918; reprinted Clearfield, 2010), so it’s interesting to have another source of information about the local soldiers in Philip’s unit, and some of their experiences.    ( — Ensign Beriah Hopkins His Book by Rachel Peirce, Rhode Island Roots, 40:1, March, 2014, p. 24-35).
  • In a story about Warwick families, while examining footnotes, I learned that, in addition to the cemetery office records I’ve already used, one can find deeds for North Burial Ground plots recorded at the Providence City Archives.   ( — A Line of Descent from Ambrose Taylor, Chairmaker of Warwick, Rhode Island by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 40:1, September, 2013, p. 113-133.)
  • We always think of finding records and reports on our ancestors, but all of our hard work is for nothing if we don’t know how to analyze what we find. I wish every aspiring genealogist who has ever uncovered a compiled genealogy book or article mentioning their ancestor could read Notes on Thomas Ward of Newport by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG.  Put the webinars away for a bit and focus on this amazing analysis of research on the well-known Ward family of Newport by leading genealogists over the last 200 years. It is helping me be a more critical reader.  ( — Notes on Thomas Ward of Newport by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 38:3, September, 2012, p. 148-164.)
  • An excellent overview of all Warwick, Rhode Island records by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg is very useful.  She talks about the existence of various types of early records, what has been complied and published, and where they can be found.   ( — Warwick, Rhode Island Records in 1776 by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 39:4, December, 2013, p. 203-205).
  • If you haven’t read “Aunt Hat” and the Bigamy King by Rachel Peirce, run, don’t walk, to find it.  It’s a thoughtful retelling of a difficult story, and while I’m not sure most of us will find a story quite this sensational in our own families, every genealogist struggles with how to tell difficult truths.    ( — “Aunt Hat” and the Bigamy King by Rachel Peirce, Rhode Island Roots, 39:3, September, 2013, p. 135-150).

How to subscribe

Membership for the Rhode Island Genealogical Society runs on a calendar year system, January – December.

New Englnad Historic Genealogical Society library oin Boston.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

How to access older issues

Older issues of the journal are accessible from the New England Historic Genealogical Society website.  This page on the RIGS website leads to that.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/08/20/reading-rhode-island-roots/


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On a recent visit to the New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston I discovered a book of paintings of 1830’s Providence by Edward Lewis Peckham.  “A Painter of Old Providence” appeared in The Journal of American History, volume VI, No. IV, 1912, and included an article by Mr. Peckham’s nephew, Stephen Farnum Peckham.  This article (and additional material from two subsequent issues, volume VII, No. 1 & 2, 1913) were re-issued as a limited-printing booklet, and it is from that booklet that I photographed many of these paintings and drawings.  The remainder are clipped from the Internet Archives copies of the journals, linked above.

Clicking each image will show a larger version.

This beautiful view of Market Square was drawn in 1835, looking east.  In the foreground is the large bridge and one of the shops on it has a sign “Books.”  How I wish I could visit. You can see the First Baptist Church in America in the background.

Market Square

Market Square

View of Providence from the East Bank, 2 miles down the river around 1843.  On the right is Fox Point.

Providence from 2 miles down the bay

Providence from 2 miles down the bay

The Fox Point shore, 1832, a place famous for baptisms.  “On a calm Sabbath morning the gentlest splash of an oar could be heard; and at this distant day a favorite hymn of “Oh happy are they, who their Saviour obey,” sung as the newly-made converts walked slowly to the land, is still sounding in my ears.” — Edward Lewis Peckham

Fox Point shore

Fox Point shore

The Old Town House stood on the corner of College and Benefit Streets, and was torn down in 1860.  Built in 1723 as a place of worship for the Benevolent Congregational Society, who sold it to the city in 1795, the building saw many church services of all types, and civic activities from around the time of the American Revolution and Dorr’s Rebellion.  Later, it was used as a low-level court and police station.  Today the spot holds part of the sprawling Rhode Island state court house.

The Old Town House

The Old Town House

At one point, the long low building seen at India Point was used as a bowling alley.

India Point from Fort Hill

India Point from Fort Hill

The American House hotel, 77 North Main Street.

The American House, corner of North Main and Steeple Streets

The American House, corner of North Main and Steeple Streets

The view of the Cove is from 1846. On the right is Canal Street; Steeple Street enters it at the first brick building.  The cove, where the Woonasquetucket and Moshasuck Rivers converge on the harbor, and the tide flowed in and out, was a fixture of early Providence.  Today, the old Union Station buildings sit at the center of what, below, is water. Visible to the left is the outline of the old jail.

The Cove

The Cove

Red Bridge, looking east from below the bridge, 1832.

Red Bridge

Red Bridge

The south part of Benefit Street is the view from Thomas Peckham’s house, circa 1834, looking at the corner of Transit Street.

South Part of Benefit Street

South Part of Benefit Street

Heavy Snow, Dec. 27, 1838

Heavy Snow, Dec. 27, 1838

— Paintings and drawings by Edward Lewis Peckham

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/08/11/painter-providence/

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Old Smithfield records

As many Rhode Island researchers know, the records of old Smithfield, Rhode Island are located in the Central Falls City Hall. Smithfield was a very early settlement, but grew into many towns, and at some point the early records were placed for permanent storage in Central Falls, and each town has their own more recent records.

I visited there recently, at 580 Broad Street in the tiny city of Central Falls.  It was a typical (for Rhode Island) turn-of-the-last-century city hall, and in fact it is on the same street as the nearby Cumberland Town Hall.

Central Falls City Hall, seen from the side.

Central Falls City Hall, seen from the side.

Like many city halls, it has no real parking, and also is in a popular and crowded neighborhood – in this case, it is next to a busy small park.  I was puzzled about parking but finally realized there were one or two unoccupied spots next to the building, on the street (that would be across the side street from the Dunkin Donuts … you will know you’ve reached Rhode Island if there’s a coffee shop on every corner).

The city clerk’s office was easy to find on the first floor and I thought the staff person who helped me was among the most professional and knowledgeable I have encountered.  I was quickly led into a room filled with the old books and records, with a couple of tables and chairs.  During my stay I encountered a few other visitors, but as in most town halls, they seemed to be strictly doing title or other legal research as quickly as possible, and moving on.

The room with the old records.  To one side, there are some tables and chairs.

The room with the old records. To one side, there are some tables and chairs.

The room was neat and spacious and well organized. I had seen many records on microfilm during a trip to the Family History Library in 2013, so I was there to get a sense of what records were available, to evaluate the indexing, and to do some specific lookups.  Handwritten index pages can be hard to read, so I wanted to photograph some pages and return another time with a list of records I wanted to find.

Vital records

Vital records are just inside the door.  Seeing these in person finally helped me to realize that since they start in 1730, and the information I am seeking (a family for Rachel Arnold) would be be from the 1730’s or earlier, I should also be be looking at the prior repository.  I think that would be Providence City Archives.

Index volumes to the vital records

Early vital records

What surprised me about the vital records was that some early pages were damaged or worn at some point in their history.  They are carefully encased now for protection, but it’s obvious that at some point they incurred some damage.

Some early vital records pages were damaged or worn at some point in their history

Some early vital records pages were damaged or worn at some point in their history

Probate records

I was very interested in finding probate records.  I have never found any death or probate information for Thomas Arnold.    I found the Probate volumes and was told the index to each volume could be found at the front.  For the early volumes I was using, that was not true, but eventually I found index pages towards the back – so scanty and mixed in with the final volume pages that I had missed them at first. The pages are safely bound now to prevent further damage.

A probate index page

A probate index page

I photographed the index pages for study at home.  Given the state of the index, without a page-by-page perusal, it would be hard to be absolutely sure what was in the probate records.  The only place I know of with a more recently compiled index to Smithfield Wills is the Rhode Island Genealogical Register, volume 16.  That has not helped me.

I did find the will, administration papers and inventory of Thomas Arnold’s father, Thomas Arnold Esq (1705-1765) on page 481-498 of volume 2 (1749-1768).  I learned something about my family that I did not know before; there will be a future blog post about The Peleg Arnold Tavern.

Grantor and Grantee index volumes

Grantor and Grantee index volumes


There were index volumes for grantors and grantees.  I checked the index for the 1762 John & Mary Smith/Thomas Arnold Jr deed that I wanted to photograph.  I had to inquire where volume 6 of the Smithfield deeds were; turns out they were in the metal cupboard.

The metal cupboard.  Intriguing!

The metal cupboard. Intriguing!

I photographed the deed for careful study later.  I am hoping this John and Mary Smith could possibly be Rachel’s parents.  I had also photographed a probate record for the only possible John Smith I could find in the records.

Other records

I explored the cabinet a bit and found an old tax booklet (1803), and a neighborhood by neighborhood Surveyors List from 1814.

Tax booklet, 1803

Tax booklet, 1803

All in all, I enjoyed getting to know the old Smithfield records and I will be returning soon.  I haven’t yet looked at many town council records or recorded all the vital records I need.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/07/08/central-falls-city-hall/

This old postcard from 1906 makes it clear that City Hall was once a high school.

This old postcard from 1906 makes it clear that City Hall was once a high school.


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This is the first in an occasional series of articles transcribed directly from The Narragansett Historical Register, a Rhode Island treasure now mostly forgotten.  Published by James Newell Arnold between 1882 and 1891, the magazine was devoted to Rhode Island history and genealogy.  No longer under copyright, the articles can continue to enlighten us.  If the article below makes you curious, check out the full issues and index pages here.

Narragansett Historical Register logo

The Yellow Fever in Providence, 1800

by A.H.

[Transcribed here from The Narragansett Historical Register, Volume 3, No. 1, July, 1884 (Published by the Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, Hamilton, R.I.), p. 136-138.]

Dr. E. M. SNOW, in an elaborate article printed in the Providence Journal in June, 1857, and re-printed in the Journal of September 23d, 1878, after detailing incidents connected with the prevalence of the disease in 1779, at which time there were 36 deaths reported, most of which occurred at the south end of the town and all south of Williams street, goes on to say that ” in the summer of the year 1800 the yellow fever seemed to be confidently expected in Providence, and an order was issued by the Town Council respecting the removal of nuisances on the 12th of May. As early as the 22d of June a vessel arrived from Jamaica with cases of yellow fever on board, which were sent to the hospital. Other infected vessels arrived in June and July, but no case occurred among the inhabitants until the 15th of August. The first case was a Mrs. Taylor, who lived on the west side of Wickenden street, a little north of the present location of the Providence Tool Company. She died on the 20th of August.”

An old paper found among the effects of Joel Metcalf, Esq., who died November 26th, 1834, and who was a member of the Town Council in the year 1800, contains a list of the names of those who were attacked by the disease, noting the date of attack, date of removal to the hospital of those that were sent there, and date of the death of those who did not recover, which is here presented.     -A. H.

Names    /     Taken Sick    /   Removed to Hospital   /   Deaths and Recoveries

1 Mrs. Taylor                     August 15.            ………….             d. Aug. 21.

2 Elizabeth Whiting            ” 15                    .…………..            Rec.

3 Joseph Tillinghast, son of John    ” 16.      …………….         d. Aug.22.

4 Mrs, Luther                August 16.                 ……………         d. Aug 21

5 Joseph Cooke              ” 16.                      ……………..              Rec.

6 Mrs. Earle                       ” 17.                     ……………..             d. Aug 23

7 Sweet Luther                  ” 18.                  ……………..              Rec.

8 Miss Dunn, a child         ” 18.               ……………..              Rec.

9 Miss Warner                    “ 18.                ……………..               Rec.

10 Patrick Morriss             ” 18.                  ……………..            d. Aug 23

11 Jeremiah B. Howell        ” 19.              ……………..            Rec.

12 Rebekah Carr                  ” 19.                    ……………..            d. Aug 23

13 Jonathan Eddy               ” 19.                     ……………..           d. Aug 25

14 Jeremiah Whiting         ” 19.                   ……………..              Rec.

15 Mrs. Atkins                    ” 20.                   Aug 21                     Rec.

16 Charles Tillinghast            ” 21.                 ……………..          Rec.

17 Wife of Charles Tillinghast     ” 21.        …………….         d. Aug 26

18 Nancy Briggs                  ” 22.                       Aug. 22                   Rec.

19 Richard Hinman          ” 22.                          “ 23                     d. Aug 25

20 Lucretia Pearce             ” 22.                       “ 22                     d. “ 26

21 Mrs. Bogman                ” 26.                          “24                    d. Sept. 1

22 Mary Whiting                ” 26.                         “24                    Rec.

23 Patience Greatrix        ” 27.                       ” 28                     Rec.

24 Jos. Arnold                     ” 27.                        …………….       d. Aug. 31

25 Thos. Mitchell               ” 27.                          Aug. 29           Rec.

26 Mrs. Bird                        ” 27.                        ………………        Rec.

27 Amey Read                   ” 27.                          Aug. 23            d. Sept. 1

28 Lucy Libby                     ” 29.                          Sept. 3              Rec.

29 Hannah Fuller, wife of John    ” 29.          Sept. 3              Rec.

30 Mrs. Newell                   Sept. 1.                      ” 3                   Rec.

31 Mrs. Sheldon, wife of John    Aug. 31.      ……………..         d. Sept. 7

32 Betsey Stokes               Sept. 5.                     Sept. 7                 d. “ 11

33 Prince Burrill                      ” 5.                       Sept. 7                 d. “ 12

34 Wife of Prince Burrill         ” 5.                         Sept. 7               Rec.

35 Ruth Curtis                          “ 7.                           “ 8                 d. Sept. 11

36 Mrs. Warner, wife of John    ” 6.              …………….              d. “ 10

37 Stephen Ashton                 ” 6.                    …………….              d. “ 8

38 Amey Tillinghast               ” 4.                   …………….              Rec.

39 Mrs. Warner, wife of Samuel    ” 8.          Sept. 9                  d. Sept. 13

40 Nancy Blinn                    ” 4.                         …………….              Rec.

41 Edward Luther              …………..               …………….             d. Sept. 12

42 Edward Dickens               ” 8.                       Sept. 13                d. “ 15

43 Phebe Hull                        ” 8.                         …………….           d. “ 13

44 Mrs. Dickens                    ” 11.                       …………….            d. “ 16

45 William Olney, son of David   ” 11.          …………….            Rec.

46 Mrs. Pearce                     ” 13.                       …………….            d. Sept. 17

47 Mrs. Dickens, widow         ” 8.                   …………….            d. “ 14

48 Sally Hull                        ” 14.                      Sept. 14               d. “ 17

49 Polly Godfrey                 ” 12.                      …………….           d. “ 20

50 Eliza Dickens                  ” 15.                       Sept. 15               Rec.

51 Moses, negro                  ” 13.                      Sept. 13               Rec.

52 Mary Tillinghast             ” 13.                   …………….             d. Sept. 17

53 Sarah Gibbs, negro          ” 16.                   Sept. 16                Rec.

54 Mary Fields                     ” 17.                       Sept. 17               d. Sept. 20

55 Child of E. Congdon       ” 17.                   …………….             d. “ 21

56 Child ” ”                            ” 17.                       …………….             d. “ 23

57 Mrs. Brown, widow          ” 14.                   Sept. 18             d. “ 19

58 James Temple                    Sept 17         ……………..          d. Sept. 19

59 Daniel Bucklin                    ” 12                 ……………..           Rec.

60 Ephraim Congdon              ” 18              Sept 19                Rec.

61 Mrs. Mitchel                     ” 18                 Sept. 18              d. Sept. 20

62 Sally Howe                        ” 15                     “   17                Rec.

63 Jabez Bucklin                    ” 19                     “ 19                  d. Sept. 26

64 Provy Brown‘s wife          ” 16             ……………..          d. “ 19

65 Mrs. Davis, wife of John      ” 16         ……………..          d. “ 23

66 John Stokes                         ” 19              ……………..         d. “ 21

67 Lydia Eveleth                   ” 18                ……………..         d. “ 22

68 Betsey Huntington            ” 22              Sept. 22           Rec.

69 Rebecca Luther                ” 22                ……………..         d. Oct. 1

70 Amey Godfrey                  ” 22               ……………..     d. Sept. 27

71 John Warner                      ” 21              ……………..     d. “ 26

72 Mary Stokes                     ” 22                  Sept. 22           Rec.

73 Mrs. Tillinghast, wife of John     ” 22      ……………..     d. “ 26

74 Nancy Newfield                   ” 23                   Sept. 24         d. “ 27

75 Violet Cook                 ” 20                    ……………..     d. “ 28

76 John Sheldon                   ” 23                   Sept. 24         d. “ 27

77 Daniel Pearce                ” 24             ……………..     d. “ 25

78 Sally Waters                    ” 23                   Sept. 24         d. “ 28

79 Nancy Waters                  ” 23                 Sept. 24     Rec

80 Phoebe Sisco                    ”   25              Sept. 25       Rec.

81 Mrs. Congdon                   ”   26              Sept. 29       Rec.

82 Henry Faulknan                  Oct. 1         ……………..     Rec.

83 Joshua Harding                  ” 3.               ……………..     d. Oct.–

84 Piney                                 ” 7                        Oct. 8               Rec.

85 Thomas Savin                …………….         ……………..     d. Sept. 26

86 Joshua Penneman       …………….          ……………..     d. Oct. 20


Number of deaths …52         Recoveries…..34 – 36

Sick at hospital…….27       Out of do. …..49

Died at “ …………18         Out of do. ……34-52

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Recently, I realized that I have not been using the census taken in Rhode Island in 1782 very much.  While records from a few towns did not survive, lists for most towns survive as a manuscript in the Rhode Island Historical Society Library and, I believe, on microfilm there.  General categories for age, gender and race were included in the original records, and names for heads of households (only) were collected.

A transcription of the entries by Katharine U. Waterman appears in several volumes of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register from the 1970’s.  Mrs. Waterman’s work, published after her death, appears in eleven issues between 1973 and 1975.  The order of entries in each town follows the order of the original manuscripts – in some cases, alphabetical, in some cases, not alphabetical. Often, non-alphabetical census lists reflect neighborhoods and proximity in some way, but I have to admit these particular sets appear to be oddly jumbled, sometimes partly alphabetized, so you may see the people you are looking for in relation to their neighbors, but don’t count on that.

1753 map from Plan for the British Dominions of New England and North America by William Douglas MD.

1753 map of Rhode Island from a larger map, Plan for the British Dominions of New England and North America by William Douglas MD.

New England Historical and Genealogical Register

“The Rhode Island Census of 1782 transcribed by the late Katharine U. Waterman of North Scituate, Rhode Island”

– vol. 127, no. 1, January 1973:

  • Introduction explaining the call by the Continental Congress for the information to be collected by the states, the resolution passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly, and Mrs. Waterman’s arrangements and symbols – page 3 – 5.  The introduction explains that five of the lists are missing:  Barrington, Johnston, North Providence, Richmond and Smithfield.
  • Note especially the explanation of symbols on pages 4 – 5.  The members of each household are broken down in categories by gender, age and race.
  • Newport, page 5 – 17

– vol. 127, no. 2, April 1973:

  • Newport cont., page 138 – 142
  • Middletown, page 142 – 147
  • Tiverton, page 142 – 150

– vol. 127, no. 3, July 1973:

  • Tiverton cont., page 216 – 218
  • Little Compton, page 218 – 222
  • Providence, page 222 – 229

– vol. 127, no. 4, October 1973:

  • Providence cont., page 302 – 312

– vol. 128, no. 1, January 1974:

  • Providence cont., page 49 – 50
  • Cranston, page 50 – 55
  • Gloucester, page 55 – 63

– vol. 128, no. 2, April 1974:

  • South Kingston, page 124 – 130
  • North Kingstown, page 130 – 135

– vol. 128, no. 3, July 1974:

  • North Kingston cont., page 215
  • Charlestown, page 215 – 219
  • Westerly, page 219 – 224
  • Exeter, page 224

– vol. 128, no. 4, October 1974:

  • Exeter cont., page 293 – 303
  • East Greenwich, page 303 – 304

– vol. 129, no. 1, January 1975:

  • East Greenwich cont., page 53 – 57
  • West Greenwich, page 57 – 62
  • Coventry, page 62  – 67

– vol. 129, no. 3, July 1975:

  • Coventry cont., page 270
  • Warwick, page 270 – 277

– vol. 129, no. 4, October 1975:

  • Warwick cont., page 379 – 380
  • Bristol, page 380 – 383
  • Cumberland, page 383 – 387

How to see these articles

For New England Historic Genealogical Society members, each article can be viewed online at American Ancestors.org using the “Search” screen (selecting New England Historic and Genealogical Register from the “Database” field, and the Volume and Page).  This will lead you to search results that can be clicked through to browse the articles.  Of course, one could actually search for a name on that page, but beware not all names were recorded with the spelling we would expect today.

For others, the volumes should be found in genealogical libraries, or possibly through special arrangement with your local library.

The 1790 and 1800 census books, as well as the 1747 booklet and Bartlett's 1774 version of the census returns were purchased used.  The "Military Census of 1777" was a recent purchase from Genealogical.com.

Some compiled census books.  The 1790 and 1800 federal census books, as well as the 1747 booklet and Bartlett’s version of the 1774 census were purchased used. The “Military Census of 1777″ was a recent purchase from Genealogical.com.

More about Rhode Island census records

To learn more about early census records, a knowledgeable discussion of Rhode Island census records can be found in the article Early Rhode Island Censuses by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, which is located on the Rhode Island Genealogical Society website.

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