Archive for the ‘Ballou’ Category

Early Homes of the Ballous

An exhibit opened a few weeks ago at the Blackstone Valley Historical Society in Lincoln, Rhode Island, “An Elaborate History: The Cumberland Ballous.” Fortunately for those of us who may not make it to the exhibit, much of the content is now online at that link – just keep clicking “Begin” and “Next.”  The exhibit itself was really lovely and nicely displayed; I enjoyed my visit. The web version is well written and contains the story of the pictures and some fascinating details of the Ballous who lived in those houses.

The entrance to the North Gate Toll House, home of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society. The other side of the building is viewable from route 146. Photo by Diane Boumenot

The exhibit links some pictures taken around 1900 with map sites for those properties taken from mid-1800’s maps, mostly in Cumberland.  ALL the houses pictured and mapped were Ballou households, and the original pictures may have been created for a Ballou reunion or some other purpose; at any rate, the pictures, enhanced now with the map locations and some biographical details, present a detailed glimpse into the early Ballou neighborhoods and families.

One side of the exhibit room.

While originally investigating the pictures, which had been donated to the Blackstone Valley Historical Society, researcher Lori Melucci (Vice President of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society) came across a blog post of mine from a few years ago which contained a transcription of an early article from the Narragansett Historical Register, The Ballou Pioneer Settlers.” As she started recognizing a few buildings (house images in that post, that I had copied sort of randomly from Adin Ballou’s An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America (1888)), Lori began to realize that the collection of pictures were meant to document the remains of early Ballou households, in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

The exhibit extending around the room.

From there, Lori was on a mission to locate each and every home site.  She gathered the pictures, early and recent maps, local contacts, and a pristine 1888 copy of An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America that the historical society had acquired during a museum closing.  She spent many months pinpointing the location of each house and marking them on the old maps, working sometimes alone and sometimes with fellow BVHS members.  To do this she had to learn about rearranged roadways, former swamps, new developments and, of course, some burials here and there.  In the end, Lori is doubtful that any of the near-ruins from 1900 are standing today.

Lori Melucci, pictured on the grounds of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society

Visit the BVHS exhibit online and let her tell the story of these pictures and what she learned about the occupants.  I’m really hoping some direct descendants of these folks will find this.  MY Ballous were nearby but not really a part of this group, which are mostly descendants of James Ballou.

The post you are reading is located at: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2017/10/18/early-homes-of-the-ballous/

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I was in Marcy Ballou’s neighborhood on Wednesday.  I’ve been writing this post for weeks, avidly searching and analyzing what I have on her life, but walking in the cemetery behind her house, and seeing the two houses on the old farm built by her husband,  brought her to life in a way that census records never will.  She vacated the neighborhood in 1802, and I imagine her being picked up by her father in an old farm wagon, with her clothes, a few dishes and linens, and her baby.  I have always assumed she ended up with her parents a couple of miles down the road.  That is probably either true, or a close approximation.  But what happened after that?  I have no idea.

The problem

My ggggg-grandmother Marcy (or Mercy) Ballou divorced her husband, Nathan Aldrich, in 1803, when she was 25. The couple was from Cumberland, Rhode Island, and the divorce happened at the Rhode Island Supreme Court.  It’s not unusual to have a female relative whose life we know a part of, but not other parts.  The part I don’t know is what happened to her after the divorce.  I am related to Marcy in the following way:  my grandmother Edna May Darling (1905-1999), her father Russell E. Darling (1883-1959), then Addison Parmenter Darling (1856-1933), Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824-1883), Nancy Aldrich (1800-1879), Marcy Ballou (1778-?).

Years of pursuing likely sources of information like census records, newspapers, vital records, published genealogies, manuscripts, cemeteries and probate records have turned up no theories and few clues about Marcy’s later life.  There is every chance she married again. I have never found a record of her original marriage to Nathan Aldrich, so a second marriage could also be real, but not findable at this point.  If she did, I wouldn’t know her name, which is, I assume, most of the problem here.

The northeast corner of Cumberland, R.I. is still quite rural. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The northeast corner of Cumberland, R.I., where Marcy Ballou grew up, is still quite rural. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Marcy’s parents

I am quite certain of Marcy’s family, and it was one of my first real research success stories.  I have researched Marcy’s parents Richard and Lucy (Arnold) Ballou extensively – see Locating Richard Ballou and The Brick Wall Stories:  Lucy Arnold, Part 4.  In many ways, I know more about them than I do about Marcy.

The discovery started with finding Marcy in An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America by Adin Ballou (1888) – it is quite a reliable book; Ballou descendants are lucky to have it.  It discusses Marcy as follows:

[480.] Mercy Ballou(6), Richard(5), John(4), John(3), John(2), Maturin(1); b. in the northeasterly part of Cumberland, R. I., Apl. 11, 1778 ; m. Nathan Aldrich. We have made persistent efforts to trace the family record and descendants of Mercy Ballou. She is said to have had a dr. who m. Paul Darling, and a son William, who once lived in Milford, Mass. There is no reason to doubt these alleged facts. We suspect the whole family must be extinct. But persons, mge-dates, birth-dates and death-dates have eluded our research. Closed.  ( – p. 270)

Since the “daughter who married Paul Darling” was my gggg-grandmother Nancy Aldrich, I had some confidence in this rather vague summary of her life.  To prove that I had identified the right person, I was eventually – over a couple of years – able to put together three records:

Document 1 – Marcy’s birth record

On a visit to the Cumberland Town Hall Archives in 2013, I found the town record of births for Richard and Lucy Ballou’s children:

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 2, Cumberland Town Hall

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 2, page 87, Cumberland Town Hall

Document 2 – the Bible record

I knew from a transcript in the NEHG Register that Nathan Aldrich had entered his name, his children’s names, and his second wife’s name in his bible.  What I didn’t know until I traveled to Boston to see the manuscript was that the name of his first wife, Marcy, was also written there, and then crossed out.  Holding the plastic sleeve up to the light, the blacked out area read:

Marcy Aldrich Born

April the 19 1778


Nathan Aldrich's bible, found in the manuscripts at NEHGS. He lists his wife, but then obviously crosses her out. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Nathan Aldrich’s bible, found in the manuscripts at NEHGS. He lists his wife, but then obviously crosses her out. That was my first clue that they didn’t get along.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Richard and Lucy’s child was born April 19, 1778, so, matching that birth date against what was in the bible provides evidence that the Ballou book was right about Marcy’s marriage.

Document 3 – the divorce record

To find out what happened to Nathan and Marcy’s marriage, a trip to the Rhode Island Judicial Archives finally led me to the record book that recorded their divorce in 1803.  No accompanying papers have ever been found.

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, bottom of page 1

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, September Term, 1803, bottom of page 220.

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, top of page 2

Divorce of Nathan and Marcy Aldrich, top of page 221.

 [p. 220] “M. Aldrich”   Be it Remembered that at the present Term of this Court Marcy Aldrich wife of Nathan Aldrich of Cumberland in said County prefered her petition, praying for reasons therein stated, that a decree of divorce may be passed in her [p.221] favor dissolving the bond of matrimony now subsisting between her and her said husband and for alimony – after hearing the same. It is ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Court here, that the prayer thereof be granted.

What else is known

So my question is, what became of Marcy after the 1803 divorce.  Let’s review what I do know.

  • 1802 – she left her husband.  It’s unusual to have something written by the woman that’s been lost to me since 1803, but I do.  When Nathan placed a newspaper ad in the Providence Gazette in May, 1802 refusing to pay any debts of his absent wife, Marcy, Marcy hit back with her own ad (or, perhaps someone wrote it on her behalf):
This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.

Marcy’s ad.  May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.  Courtesy of Google News Archive.

My unworthy Husband NATHAN ALDRICH, having thought proper to stigmatize my Character in a public Paper, a brief Reply seems necessary.  I was reduced to the hard Necessity of making my Escape from the most brutal Treatment; he had threatened my Life, and actually kicked me, and bruised me with his fist.  Add to this, that he left my Bed one Year previous to my quitting his Cottage, and neglected to provide for me the common Necessities of Life.  MARCY BALLOU.  Cumberland, May 14, 1802.  (–Providence Gazette, May 15, 1802, p. 2., from Google News Archive).

This ad tells me that she had already returned to using her maiden name, even before the divorce, and that when she first left Nathan, she remained in Cumberland.  Apparently he left her bed one year prior to her departure from his house.

  • She had two children, possibly. Following up on the clues from the Ballou book:
    • “daughter who married Paul Darling” is my gggg-grandmother Nancy.  Nancy’s father, Nathan Aldrich, wrote another newspaper ad disowning Nancy in June, 1817, when Nancy was about 17 saying she “has behaved herself in an unbecoming manner.”  It would not be unusual for a husband in that era to have custody of his child, so perhaps she lived with him – meaning, perhaps Nancy was not a part of Marcy’s household for some period while she was growing up.  Does it necessarily mean that Marcy had died, remarried, become incompetent?  I don’t know what to make of this.
    • “a son William, who once lived in Milford, Mass.”   I am quite sure this is NOT Nathan’s child.  Nathan and his second wife Chloe had a son, William, born in 1815. The author, Adin Ballou, could be mixing those Williams up.  But it’s also possible that Marcy remarried and had a son after her divorce, or perhaps just had a son at some later point.  If the son’s name is William Ballou, I am not finding him in Milford.  I can’t make anything of this clue, except it seems to suggest a subsequent marriage.
  • These particular Ballou and Aldrich families, along with some of my Darling ancestors, and the families of Nathan Aldrich’s second and third wives (cousins to each other from the Grant and Crowninshield families) all lived in close proximity in northern Cumberland, R.I and western Wrentham, Mass.  How did this effect Marcy’s choices after the divorce?

Finding Marcy in 1810

I first tried the idea that Marcy might be with her parents in 1810.  As I reviewed the 1810 census record from Cumberland, Rhode Island, I realized that I have been accessing an inaccurate version of it for years. Ancestry.com has eight pages of the 1810 Cumberland census record.  Richard Ballou seems to appear on page 8, with his name and household details covered over with a piece of blackened tape.  As I searched for a different digital version of the file, I found something surprising.

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 8 of 8, from Ancestry.com

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 8 of 8, from Ancestry.com

By clicking on “Source” from the Ancestry.com image, I saw the following citation:

Year: 1810; Census Place: Cumberland, Providence, Rhode Island; Roll: 58; Page: 30; Image: 61; Family History Library Film: 0281232

Using that info, I searched on Internet Archive for “Providence Rhode Island census 1810” (meaning Providence County) and then Roll 58 came up in the results.  This is the Internet Archives version of the same page:

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 8 of 8, from Internet Archive

1810 Federal Census, Cumberland, Providence County, R.I., page 4 of 7, from Internet Archive

Note that most of the top of the page was missing on Ancestry.com.  I have to wonder, if I didn’t have the black tape problem, would I ever have realized that the top of the page was missing on Ancestry.com?  It’s important to me to find everyone in this neighborhood; I would have been missing many names.  As I reviewed the two versions for Cumberland page by page, I realized Ancestry had, as page 8, a partial duplicate of page 4. There were, in fact, only 7 pages. Odd.

In either case, the record is hard to read. Some repair tape seems to have completely discolored over the years.  Actually, the Ancestry copy shows more under the tape.  Here is what I think it says:

Richard Ballou:

  • Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1
  • Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1
  • Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1
  • Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1
  • Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1

Since Marcy was the oldest child, these could likely be some of the younger children of Richard and Lucy.  For sure, Marcy seems not to be there.

Next, I tried to see if Marcy was with a sibling.  I have done some research on each of the siblings over the years.  At this point I tried to pin down each of their households in the 1810 census.

These are Marcy’s siblings with birth years taken from the Cumberland record, above, and their status in 1810:

  • Arnold Ballou, b. 1780 — He married Abigail Trask in 1806. He was just below his father Richard in the 1810 census, and the black mark prevents viewing his household. He stayed in that area until his death, 5 June 1838. No children, according to Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript.
  • Lydia Ballou, b. 1782 — died 9 Nov 1789.
  • Augustus Ballou, b. 1784 — married Lucy Tower in 1814, who filed for divorce in 1820 (I am basing this on a newspaper ad directed at him, “whereabouts unknown”), and he married, second, Isabella Foster in 1825.  Miraculously, I DO know what Augustus was doing in 1810 – he had enrolled in the 4th U.S. Infantry on 1 Dec 1809.  He was paid for all five years of his enlistment, although he was wounded and disabled on 9 Aug 1812, at the Battle of Brownstown. A musket ball remained permanently lodged in his leg until his death in 1833.  He was also, at some point, a prisoner of war at Dartmoor in England.  Thanks to the War of 1812 pensions being online at Fold3, I found proof of his second marriage in Isabella’s Widow’s Pension application in 1870.
Augustus Ballou's marriage record, later recorded for an 1870 widow's pension application. I mentioned his father, Richard Ballou, of Cumberland.

Augustus Ballou’s marriage record, later recorded for an 1870 widow’s pension application and found in the War of 1812 pensions on Fold3. It mentioned his father, Richard Ballou, of Cumberland.

  • Thomas Ballou, b. 1786 — married Lydia Gould, year unknown, and I can’t find him in 1810 or 1820.
  • Richard Ballou, b. 1788 — apparently never married.  Location unknown in 1810.
  • Lucy Ballou, b. 1790 — married Orrin Aldrich Grant in 1814 and may have had several children.
  • Willard Ballou, b. 1795 — married Sally Clark in 1822, according to the Ballou book. There were several Willard Ballous around so he would need careful study.  In 1810, this Willard was one of the males in his father’s household.  Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript at the Rhode Island Historical Society states that he died at age 90 at the Cumberland Asylum.
  • Polly Arnold Ballou, b. 1799 — married Simon Whipple Sheldon by 1817.  Still a child in 1810.

This is a tough bunch to track down.  I’m not seeing a lot of children from this group of siblings, and many died young.  More research ideas would be needed to pin down this poorly-documented group more. My sources for the above information are the Ballou book and Mrs. Abigail Sprague’s unpublished notes about the history of Cumberland at the Rhode Island Historical Society (MSS 1023), as well as various census, military, and vital records.

My conclusions

  • The only two prospects I see for staying with family in 1810 would be her father (and she is not in his household), and her brother Arnold Ballou, who was at least married and seemed to have a household of his own, possibly on his father’s property.  Arnold’s 1810 census is unreadable.  Or, could Marcy have remarried and so been living elsewhere.  So few of the Ballou marriage records remain that I just can’t draw any conclusions from not finding a record of that.
  • Knowing that daughter Nancy went back to living with her father, Nathan Aldrich, by 1817 when he placed the ad disowning her (and possibly much earlier), I keep wondering if that was because Marcy’s life fell apart, Marcy was working, or Marcy died, or did he simply (especially after his marriage to Chloe before 1810, when Nathan and Chloe signed a deed in Cumberland) claim his right to have custody of his child.
  • Marcy had been given alimony in the 1803 divorce.  She could have had a home of her own, perhaps, and never returned to her family.
  • Since she is not in her father’s household, I think the most likely answer is that she remarried.
The Sheldonville Cemetery on Burnt Swamp Road, Wrentham, Mass. Marcy lived near there, but was not likely to be buried there. Her gravesite is unknown.

The Sheldonville Cemetery on Burnt Swamp Road, Wrentham, Mass. Marcy lived near there, but was not likely to be buried there. Her gravesite is unknown.

Next steps

  • I have made several efforts to use 1805-1870 death records for any “Marcy” in Providence County to see if the person could potentially be this Marcy.  I have researched some of these people.  No luck.  I need to figure out what to try next along these lines.
  • I wonder if NARA has a better copy of Arnold Ballou’s 1810 census entry on microfilm.  It’s on my list for a future visit.
  • Perhaps explore some Wrentham, Mass. records more thoroughly for Marcy.  I keep assuming she headed south in Cumberland, but she could have wandered north into Wrentham.
  • Her father’s will in 1824 could potentially have been very revealing, but it does not mention any heirs by name.  Am I missing some other document related to that?  Lucy had the use of a 60 acre property, which must have been disposed of after her death.  I have found no records for that, yet.
  • Did Marcy ever end up in the Poor records of Cumberland or any nearby town?
  • I have never found graves for Marcy’s parents, Richard and Lucy Ballou.  I suspect they may be in the slightly older cemetery in Wrentham.  I have some contacts among the graveyard hoppers there.  I should ask them.  There could possibly be a nearby grave for Marcy.
  • Look at the northwest corner of the 1838 Cumberland map (provided by John Tew, of Filiopietism Prism.  John is not blogging just at present, so if you want a pdf copy of this map, email me at the email address in the side column and I will email it to you).  Any of those names could potentially be Marcy’s second husband.  Might be worth some investigation.
  • Perhaps I need to know more about the Cumberland Asylum where Willard Ballou died.
  • Mrs. Sprague’s manuscript states that Richard and Lucy Ballou were members of the West Wrentham Baptist Church.  I know more about Rhode Island church records than I do Massachusetts. Perhaps I could find some information.  Also, I should explore records of the West Wrentham Cemetery.

In conclusion

This is a hard one but I may, someday, find something.

The post you are reading is located at:  https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/5/the-search-for-marcy-ballou/



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Recently I cam across an old booklet about the original Ballou settlers of northeastern Rhode Island, explaining the nature of their early homes and properties, with as much information about the location of each property as could be gleaned in 1914.  The booklet is:

The Ballou Pioneer Settlers of the Second Generation in the Louisquisset Country

and How They Lived

An Address delivered by

Col. Dal’l R Ballou

Before the Annual Meeting of the

Ballou Family Association of America

Held on September 5, 1914

Clearly, the author had relied a great deal on Adin Ballou’s An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America, published in 1888, for his genealogical information (he refers to it as the “Ballou Book”).  But for the house information, one can tell he visited each location (probably just prior to this publication, in 1914) and gives some updated information about how to find the properties.

For someone obsessed with the location of ancestral homes, like me, these clues will be worth exploring some day.  I am copying the text of pages 5 – 16 here, so please note I did not write this.  THESE FACTS AND LANDMARKS ARE FROM 1914, one hundred years ago.  In the hopes that they might help someone today, I am placing them here where they will be picked up in searches.

note: I have omitted, here, the beginning and ending of the essay.  At the beginning of the booklet some rather grand claims are offered about the characteristics of all Ballous throughout history.  Towards the end of the piece, the author waxes nostalgic about olden times, quilting bees, and (for two pages) contrasted the table manners of children of yore to the present-day children of his time.  So I have chosen to limit this version to pages 5 – 16 only. The author also mentions the ancestors of President James A. Garfield’s mother, who was a Ballou, and that remains in the text, below.  No doubt the Ballous were proud of that connection in 1914, and it’s still kind of cool today. All pictures are reproduced from Adin Ballou’s An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America, published in 1888, and placed rather randomly here.  The pictures are of more recent dwellings, not the pioneer dwellings. The full pamphlet can be found here.   

My relationship to the early Ballous is as follows – Maturin(1) – John(2) – John(3) – John(4) – Richard(5) – Mercy Ballou(6) – Nancy Ann Aldrich – Ellis Aldrich Darling – Addison Parmenter Darling – Russell Earl Darling – Edna May Darling (my grandmother).

The Ballou Pioneer Settlers, an Address by Col. Daniel R. Ballou, 1914

Mathurin Ballou1, the ancestor, died sometime between 1661 and 1663, leaving lands in what is now the town of Lincoln, then Providence, which were called the Out-lands, being grants made to the original grantees of lots in the town of Providence. When the surviving children John2, James2, Peter2 and Hannah2, came of age these lands, together with those inherited from their grandfather, Robert Pike, who had then deceased, were divided between them and their mother.  The three sons settled on their several portions about the year 1685. The evidences all point to the fact that James Ballou2 was the first of the three brothers to settle on the Louisquisset Outlands.  He was followed by Peter2, the youngest, and John2, the eldest Peter’s homestead was situated westerly from that of James2 and John’s2, southwesterly. Some portions of the Louisquisset country in which they settled were held in very high estimation by the Providence Proprietors and as early as 1658 a Committee was appointed to clear up some of its wild lands. There were some open meadows formed in many locations by beavers, which were capable, on being cleared, of producing very nutritious grasses for feeding cattle. The meadow south of the James Ballou2 domicile is one of those formed by beavers, which in earlier days was cleared and ditched by enterprising Ballou farmers, producing great crops of English hay.

John Ballou2 , born presumably about 1650, was the eldest son of Marturin, and lived a number of years previous to 1679 alternately in Providence and on the Island, either at Newport or Portsmouth. He married for his first wife, Hannah . . . . surname or parentage unascertained, neither is there any further information known concerning her save that John2 was divorced from her by decree of the General Assembly, which then exercised judicial powers, at Newport in 1676 on the ground of incompatibility of temper—now held to be an insufficient cause. It is interesting to note that in a family who were so conspicuously peaceful there was one military hero. John’ served in the Indian War and was wounded. The General Assembly, at its October Sessions in 1684, passed the following Resolution: John Ballou2 is allowed 3 pounds in or as money to be paid by the General Treasurer for his cure of his wound in the late Indian War.” He married a second wife, by name Hannah Garrett, or Jarrett, January 4, 1678-9. Six children were the issue of this marriage.

  • John3 born Aug. 26, 1683; married Naomi Inman Feb. 5. 1713-4.
  • Maturin3 born about 1685; married Sarah Arnold, 2nd Mary Cooper.
  • Peter3 born Aug. 1, 1689; married Rebecca Esten May 13, 1714.
  • Sarah’s3 birth date not found. No satisfactory information obtained concerning her.
  • Hannah3 …. no trace concerning her.
  • Abigail’s birth date not found; married John Albright June 7, 1713-

John2 died according to the best information obtainable in 1714, but no record of it has been disclosed. The place of his burial even is unknown. There is an ancient grave yard known as the Streeter burial ground in a lot east of the Streeter house on land which was a portion of the John Ballou3 farm. There are a number of graves in this ancient place of burial having rough head and foot stones as was the custom in early days. John2 may have been buried here but it is only conjecture.

John’s2 eldest son, John3, inherited the larger part of the paternal estate. The other two boys, Maturin’ and Peter’ having reached their majorities presumably soon, went out from the home roof to seek their fortunes and abiding places.

Peter3 settled on Observation Hill, now known as Stump Hill formerly in the town of Providence, later Smithfield, now Lincoln, a quarter of a mile south of Observation Brook, which formerly furnished power to Olney’s factory. The house of Peter3 is still standing, to which has been added another of brick, of more recent construction, known as the Israel Sayles house.

“The two separate houses of which it consists face south on the north-east spur of the hill above the present mill pond, formerly a meadow, on the Moshassuck River and commands a fine view up the valley to the north …  The brick house, while old, is not the first part of the structure in interest. That place is easily taken by the battered wooden affair which stands at the west of the group. This is unique, for it is a story-and-a-half house, two rooms wide, framed in the ancient manner : . . . The stone chimney of the house has long since gone. The hearth, or part of it, is still in place. The framing is good and still appears in the outer wall. The house was built, probably, by Peter Ballon3 (John2, Maturin1) in 1714, the year of his marriage to Rebecca Esten. With this date the house readily agrees. It could be older.”

The writer has quoted the above description which accords with his own personal inspection of the ancient house of Peter Ballou3 from The Genealogical Magazine published in September, 1905 by Eben Pitman, 26 Broad Street, Boston, Mass.

Peter3 may have cleared up his farm and built a log house previous to his marriage for his first dwelling, and the house now standing subsequently. At any rate the present house is the type of that period and is doubtless the oldest Ballou house extant in Rhode Island. Peter was the father of Elder Maturin Ballou, a devout Baptist preacher of early days, and from him has descended eleven Universalist ministers, among whom was the great Universalist preacher and divine, Hosea Ballou 1st, and Hosea Ballou 2nd, a distinguished Universalist minister, scholar and educator.

“These,” says Rev. Adin Ballou6 in the Ballou Book, “seem to be uncommonly rich findings for the Universalists to derive from one Calvinistic mine.”

Ballou Meeting House, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p79

Ballou Meeting House, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p79

The Peter Ballou3 house may be reached from Smithfield Avenue over the road leading to the left, just after entering the village of Saylesville coming from Providence, which skirts the westerly side of the mill pond; following this road to a point about a half mile distant the brick house that has been added to the ancient structure, which from this view point partially obscures the elder structure, is plainly visible on the heights to the left.

Maturin Ballou3, brother of Peter3, settled on the easterly slope of Observation Hill, now Stump Hill, in the partial wilderness, felled the trees and cleared up a farm which joined his brother Peter’s3 on the north. Maturin’s3 settlement was probably previous to Peter’s3, which was presumably during the year of his marriage in 1714. Maturin3 was about four years Peter’s3 senior, who was born in 1680, the record of which has been preserved, while no record of Maturin’s3 birth date, the date of his first marriage, nor that of the birth of their child have been found. There is a tradition among Maturin’s descendants that he first built a log-house for his dwelling and alongside of it a vegetable cellar, a quarter of a mile away from the site of the present house, on the easterly slope of a ravine extending in a south-easterly direction from a point a little easterly of the house, towards what is now known as Smithfield Avenue, leading from Providence to Saylesville. Two excavations, bearing the appearance of great age, are pointed out by members of the Ballou family, now in possession, on the easterly side of the ravine overlooking at its bottom a small brook and a fine spring of water. Later on a house of the type of Peter’s3 was built on the site of the present one, having a stone chimney and fire-place.

This ancient house was partially demolished, remodeled and enlarged late in the eighteenth century into the present ample mansion of the Colonial type in which the old part was reconstructed and retained in the new, in which can be seen its huge oaken beams.

The present house faces the south, occupying a commanding position on the easterly slope of the hill overlooking Saylesville and portions of Lonsdale, Valley Falls, Central Falls and Pawtucket. It is interesting to know that this ancient homestead now owned by Mr. Nelson Judson Ballou6, a great grandson of Maturin3, has remained in the uninterrupted possession of the Ballous, descendants of John Ballou2, for quite two hundred years or more.

Maturin Ballou House , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p63

Maturin Ballou House , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p63

The Maturin Ballou3 house about three-eighths of a mile away may be reached from the Smithfield Avenue, near Saylesville, over a road that skirts the easterly slope of the ravine above-mentioned, which road is but a short distance, going easterly, from the road leading from the Avenue to the Pawtucket Water Works on Stump Hill.

It is not quite clear where the dwelling of John Ballou3, brother of Maturin3 and Peter3, was located. According to the Ballou Book his dwelling was “near the homestead of his Uncle James2,” it being described as “closely adjacent to the Old Streeter Place.” If this is correct, it cannot be that he occupied the domicile of his father, John2, which was quite a mile away from his Uncle James’2 dwelling and about half a mile from the Streeter Place. The more rational presumption, no other site of his dwelling being known, is that he dwelt in the paternal domicile located on the westerly part of his farm, bordering on the highway leading from Albion to Georgiaville; the homestead of his grandfather, John2, and with which farm he endowed his son John4 on January 26, 1738-9. John3 made his will April 19, 1755, giving Peter4, his son, the remaining half of his homestead, known as the Streeter Place. He died December 7, 1765, aged 83 years. The Old Streeter House stood about fifty to seventy-five feet south of the present house, now owned by Herbert T. Blackinton and near a spring since walled up as a well. A new house was built in 1861, on the present site, and later remodeled by its present owner. Peter4 had a natural daughter Rhoda, upon whom he bestowed his name, devising to her under his will all his real estate and making her his residuary legatee and executrix.

Rhoda Ballou married George Streeter, since which time Peter’s4 domicile has been known as the “Streeter House.” The house is located on the left or westerly side of the Louisquisset Pike, so-called, about one mile north of Limerock, in the town of Lincoln.

John4 settled on the ancient John Ballou2 home farm of 100 acres given him by his father in 1738-9. The ancient house was situated easterly of the road leading from Albion to Georgiaville about three-eighths of a mile from the railroad crossing of the Providence and Woonsocket electric road in a southerly direction therefrom. John4 sold at various times before his death several portions of his inheritance, giving the remainder to his sons John5, Benjamin5 and Richard5. Richard5 deeded his part to Benjamin5 February 21, 1780 and settled in the northeast part of Cumberland. Benjamin5 and John5 long held theirs as tenants in common, but made partition of same in 1783. John5 subsequently sold his part of the inheritance from his father, which coming some time afterwards into the possession of Judge Thomas Mann, he demolished the ancient domicile said to have been that of John2. There is nothing left now to indicate that there was ever a home there save an old well in the lots, four or five hundred feet east from the highway, and two lone graves on a sharp rise of ground southerly from the old well, formerly marked by two red sandstone tombstones, the broken fragments of which are scattered over the disappearing mounds, serving as mutely pathetic witnesses of human neglect and the destroying hand of time. These stones were erected out of respect and reverence for the memory of John Ballou5 and his wife Sabella by Richard Olney, her natural son, who was always recognized and treated by John as his own son and whom he also made his heir. The stones bear the names respectively of John Ballou5, died February 18, 1806, and Sabella Ballou, died December 20, 1805. Richard became a merchant in Burrillville and later in Providence, where he gained a competency. John5 and his wife sojourned with him for some time in Providence during their declining years. Returning to Smithfield they spent their remaining years in the family of his brother Benjamin5. Richard, having retired from business, removed to Oxford, Mass., where he lived and died a respected and influential citizen. Benjamin Ballou5, brother of John5, built the house standing on the right-hand side of the highway a few rods westerly from the crossing of the Albion road by the Providence and Woonsocket electric road on land deeded to him by his father, John4, in 1770. Benjamin’s daughter Mercy having later married Eleazer Mowry, the domicile came to be known as the Eleazer Mowry House.

James Ballou2, the second son of Maturin1, was born supposedly in 1652. He married Susanna Whitman July 25, 1683. Issue seven children, namely:

  • James3, born Nov. 1 , 1684; married Catherine Arnold Jan. 25, 1714, great-grandfather of Elizabeth Garfield, mother of President James A. Garfield.
Eliza Ballou Garfield , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p431

Eliza Ballou Garfield , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p431

  • Nathaniel3, born April 9, 1687; married Mary Lovett Dec. 7, 1716.
  • Obadiah3, born Sept. 6, 1689; married Damaris Bartlett, 2nd . . . . Salisbury.
  • Samuel3, born Jan. 23, 1692; married Susannah Arnold; 2nd, Mary Smith.
  • Susanna3, born Jan. 3, 1695; married John Inman; 2nd, Richard Sayles.
  • Bathsheba3, born Feb. 15, 1698; married Daniel Arnold Oct 16, 1720.
  • Nehemiah3, born Jan. 20, 1702; married. 1st, Mary Hall; 2nd, Abigail Perry.

James2 became an extensive land owner. His holdings were estimated to have been a thousand acres. With the estate conveyed to him by his mother and sister and his inheritance from his father and grandfather he became possessed of several hundred acres. He purchased lands in then Wrentham and Dedham, Mass., now Cumberland, of William Avery in 1690 and of Nathaniel Ware in 1706. James2 undertook, at the request of his mother, in her old age and growing infirmities, the care and keep of hcr and his sister Hannah2 during their lives, and in consideration of his undertaking, under an agreement in writing, his mother and sister conveyed to him all their properties. This transaction was very strongly disapproved by the eldest son, John2, who instituted legal proceedings for its annulment, which legal entanglement was inherited upon John’s2 death by his eldest son John3. It was fought out to a finish, James2 becoming fully exonerated by a final verdict  in his favor. It would seem injudicious in view of the outcome of this unfortunate family dispute for the descendants to re-open the case and fight it over again. It could serve no good purpose and add nothing to the history of the Ballou family.

The present Ballou house, built in 1782 by Moses Ballou is about one-half mile from the Streeter House, on the left hand side of the highway beyond, leading northerly to the village of Albion.

Nathaniel Ballou House , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p85

Nathaniel Ballou House, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p85

Samuel3 bestowed by will upon his youngest sons Moses4 and Aaron4 the home farm. Moses4, in a division on April 6, 1777, took the homestead and Aaron took as his share the part to the north and east of the home farm. By agreement he shared with Moses4 for a few months after the division, the home house. Aaron, during the summer of 1777, built the house now standing on the left of the highway going east from the James Ballou2 house, in which he lived until 1794, when he sold his real estate to Rufus George and Samuel Hill, and for many years since known as the Job Mann place, into whose possession it subsequently came. The dwelling-house he built is now standing and owned and occupied by a Mr. Page, who has remodeled it. Subsequently, Aaron4 settled in Galway, Saratoga County, N. Y., where he died March 19, 1816. Moses4 and Aaron4 were twins and were said to so nearly resemble one another that it was difficult for persons outside the family to distinguish the one from the other. Tradition says that being very fond of each other they had their barns built sufficiently near together to enable them to converse from their doors. It is interesting to know that only about forty years ago there was no accepted town highway leading to the James Ballou2 home, only a private way in passing over which from the Streeter Place there were five gates to open and shut.

The James Ballou2 family burial ground is located on the low ground to right of the highway going northeasterly, leading to and but a short distance from the house. Here rest the mortal remains of James Ballou2, his son Samuel3 and grandson Moses4, together with their wives and children including also without doubt, those of Grandmother Hannah and her daughter Hannah2. The grandmother died the fore part of January, 1712, the daughter having died previously. That the grandmother was buried in the ancient grave-yard seems more than probable, by reason of the time of the year of her death, it being midwinter, together with the unsuitable character of transportation over the rough trails of that period.

James Ballou III House Cumberland , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p91

James Ballou III House Cumberland , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p91

The oak tree that stands on the edge of the ledge overlooking the grave-yard, whose gnarled branches are now decaying was, as Mrs. Abby Abercrombie5. granddaughter of Moses Ballou4 , says, a mature tree and in a flourishing condition in her childhood. It is altogether probable that this tree was standing there when James Ballou2, two centuries and a quarter ago, located his log-cabin home, the white oak being a tree that attains to a great age.

[… poem omitted here …]

Peter Ballou2 as already pointed out settled in Louisquisset about the year 1685 on his portion of the Outlands inherited from his father and grandfather Pike. His domicile, probably a log-cabin, was located on or near the site of the old Colonial house of the Mann family, and about one-half mile in a northwesterly direction from the Streeter place on the Louisquisset Pike, a few yards west from the highway. There is a tradition that a man who was a weaver lived there before Peter came, whose house was burned by the Indians during King Philip’s War. The spacious old Colonial house now occupying the premises was erected late in the eighteenth century, and was for many years during the staging era maintained as a hotel, in later years by Judge Thomas Mann, having been discontinued after the completion of the Providence and Worcester Railroad, in 1847. The place is now owned by William G. Rich, Esq. There is a cellar beneath one of the buttings in the rear of the house in which were formerly found numbers of Indian arrow-beads and other like relics, but here is no evidence that it was the site of Peter’s domicile although it may have been. Undoubtedly in the  immediate neighborhood of the present house, if not on its actual site, stood the house of Peter Ballou2.  Peter married Barbara … supposedly in 1695, her surname, parentage, birth date, together with marriage date, remaining unascertained. The marriage date of Peter2 is fixed by the death of Peter3, his eldest son, in 1717.  So far as known the issue of his marriage were seven children, namely:

  • Pter3 [sic], born probably in 1696 and drowned in Blackstone River in 1717. aged 21 years.
  • William3, birth date unknown, supposed to have died young.
  • Jeremiah3, birth date unknown; .named Isabella Ross.
  • Barbara3, birth date unknown; married Valentine Inman.
  • Phebe3, birth date unknown; married James King Dec. 10, 1719
  • Jemima3, birth date unknown; married David Sprague.
  • Martha3, birth date unknown; married John King.

The identity as well as record evidence of the family have been lost. Peter2 had a grandson by the name of Jeremiah4, a son of Jeremiah3. This grandson in some unaccountable way acquired the nickname of “Bumble Dorum”, by which name he was alone known, the meaning of which remains an unsolved mystery. This Bumble Dorum, who was a mechanic, went accompanied by his son Joseph R5. to Hartford (either in New York or Conn.) about 1823 for the purpose of either making or setting up some machinery, taking with them some baggage, among which was the fami y Bible containing important data, together with other book, and papers, which were lost, so that very little information concerning Peter’s2 family is available.

The story was told by Mr. Peck, a patron of the Ballou Book, by a Mr. Keach, husband of Bumble Dorum’s daughter, Betsy Ballou5, who lived in Lawrence, N. Y., that the former’s sons, Joseph R.5 and Jeremiah5, while in Lawrence making and putting up some spinning frames, suddenly and secretly left and were never heard from; although it was humored among relatives that Jeremiah5 was seen afterward in Buffalo. Statements of other relatives purport that they were murdered for their money.

The death of his son was a severe blow, as well as a bitter discouragement to Peter2, who had very much relied upon his assistance in making certain important improvements on his farm. He had projected extensive plans for reclaiming certain beaver meadows capable of producing nutritious grasses for his cattle, through which Crook Falls Brook runs, and which now serves as a conduit for the Woonsocket water supply. For that purpose he had partially built a dam, known to this day as “Peter’s Dam,” the ruins of which may be seen a short distance from the Louisquisset Pike going north from Peter’s homestead at the bridge on the road leading from the Pike to the Woonsocket Water Works Reservoir.  A short distance above the dam,  amid a tangle of bush and briers, may be seen the ruins of an ancient beaver dam.

So greatly disheartened was Peter and so grief-striken were both himself and his wife, that it was decided to sell the farm and seek another domicile. He found a purchaser in Daniel Mann on April 7, 1718, and on the next day a deed was executed by John Darlie conveying to him his homestead containing with its right of common, 60 acres situated in the town of Scituate. The exact site of Peter Ballou’s2 homestead in Scituate is somewhat obscure, its location here mainly derived from imperfect descriptions contained in the early land records of the town of Providence and Scituate. As nearly as can be determined from these scant records Peter’s2 farm was located about one mile and a quarter southerly from North Scituate, on the westerly side of Moswausicut River, in the neighborhood of what is now known as Parker’s Crossing, on the Providence and Danielson Railroad and is entirely west of the seven-mile line. It appears from the land records of the town of Providence that the proprietors laid out to Nathan, Joseph and Job Waterman, in 1724, 176 acres of land on both sides of Moswausicut River, and which is mentioned in later deeds as “a little east of Jeremiah Ballou3, in Scituate” – to whom Peter2, his father, devised by will all his real estate. Jeremiah 3 sold the homestead on February 26, 1746, subsequent to the death of his mother, to John Potter, of Scituate, describing it in part in the deed as bounded beginning, “on the easterly corner with a poplar tree marked, standing on the easterly side of the river and is also a corner of the Waterman land” … “Containing by estimation 127 acres in all, excepting two rods square of land which I reserve for a burying place where said burying place now is.” This reservation was evidently the burial ground of his father  and mother.

Daniel Mann, who purchased of Peter his Smithfield farm, exchanged it with his brother John, who became the owner.  John Mann, who came into possession of Peter’s farm, was the grandfather of Judge Thomas Mann, a man of considerable importance in the old town of Smithfield.  Here John Mann, his son and grandson, lived and died.  The farm subsequently descended to Stafford Mann, one of the Judge’s sons. The Mann family is entitled to the most appreciative acknowledgments from the Ballous for having always sacredly protected the grave of Peter Ballou’s2 son, they having built a substantial fence of stone posts and iron rods enclosing the square of land reserved by Peter2 for the resting place of his lamented son.

There is very little information at hand concerning members of Peter’s family except Jeremiah3, to whom Peter2 devised his real estate, and who married Isabelle Ross, of Gloucester.  Peter2 died September 1, 1731, aged about 77 years, leaving quite a large landed estate but only a modest personal property according to the inventory filed by his executor. Jeremiah3 dwelt on the homestead until the death of his mother, when he sold it to John Potter, on February 2b, 1746. Peter’s2 son Jeremiah3 was a land speculator, buying land and selling it in various localities.  He was not a successful trader, finally losing all his property and becoming broken down with the infirmities of old age.

Nathaniel Ballou House , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p85

Nathaniel Ballou House , from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous, p85

The author, Daniel Ross Ballou, was a Civil War veteran, prominent Providence attorney, and served as an officer of several Civil War commemorative organizations. His name is sometimes listed alongside my uncle, William Wilberforce Douglas, making me think they would have known each other both within the Civil War organizations, and in legal and political circles.

Col Dan'l Ross Ballou, author of the address reproduced in this post.  Portrait from  Proceedings of the Ballou Family Association of Amertca, First Meeting, 1908.

Col Dan’l Ross Ballou, 1837-1923, author of the address reproduced in this post. Portrait from Proceedings of the Ballou Family Association of America, First Meeting, 1908.

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Locating Richard Ballou

My recent interest in learning more about my 6x-great grandfather Richard Ballou began with the arrival, in my inbox, of an 1838 map of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  This was sent by genealogy blogger-buddy John Tew, of Filiopietism Prism.  Link here for instructions on how to get a free copy of that map, electronically, which John has kindly offered.  I highly recommend that to Cumberland researchers.

I knew quite a bit about Richard Ballou; his ancestry in the Ballou line is Richard5, John4, John3, John2, Maturin1.  I am descended from him in the following way:

  • Richard Ballou (1751 – 1824)
  • Marcy Ballou (1778 – )
  • Nancy Ann Aldrich (1800 – 1879)
  • Ellis Aldrich Darling (1824 – 1883)
  • Addison Parmenter Darling (1856 – 1933)
  • Russell Earl Darling (1883 – 1959)
  • Edna May Darling (1905 – 1999), my grandmother

But I knew very little about his life, and the map made me think I could at least find the spot where he lived.

Compiled sources – Ballou genealogy book

Richard Ballou was born around 1751 to John Ballou and Elizabeth Phillips in the Louisquisset section of Smithfield, Rhode Island.    Richard’s life is described on page 116 of the well-respected Adin Ballou book:

Richard Ballou was a sturdy, industrious, frugal farmer.  He sold out his inheritance in the old Smithfield, John Ballou homestead in 1777 to his bro. Benjamin, and settled in the extreme northeasterly section of Cumberland.  There he and his wife spent their cunnubial days.  Their home was near what was formerly known as Hathaway Mills.

He married Lucy Arnold of Smithfield.  Their children Marcy, Arnold, Lydia, Augustin, Thomas, Richard, Lucy, Willard and Polly were recorded at Cumberland.

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 1, Cumberland Town Hall

Page from Cumberland Births and Deaths, vol. 1, Cumberland Town Hall

I found further information in Abigail Sprague’s manuscript of Notes on a History of Cumberland, Rhode Island. A copy of this manuscript is available at the Rhode Island Historical Society.  You can see an extensive Finding Aid here.  This was the third time I’ve looked at some of the folders.  Now that I know more about the families involved I realize it is possible, sometimes, to tell where she is getting the information in her notes.  In the case of the Ballous, she is using the Adin Ballou book and Richardson’s History of Woonsocket.

I looked at her folder of notes on Hathaway Mills.  Mrs. Sprague had a letter in there explaining the location of the corn and saw mills.  At last, I realized the spot on the 1838 map marked “Corn & Saw” mills was the Hathaway Mills.

Church records

One part of this story that has always been confusing is that there is a rather distant branch of the Ballous that lived in northern Cumberland, too, descendents in the James4, James3, James2, Maturin1 line.  They lived in the “Elder Ballou Meeting House” area and were Six Principle Baptists.  I visited the cemetery there once; fascinating, possibly haunted, but does not contain my ancestors.  Richard Ballou’s branch had settled just north of Providence in Louisquisset, and he and his wife came up to northern Cumberland alone, without siblings.  So it’s common to find Ballous in northern Cumberland, but it would have been wrong to assume that Richard Ballou was closely related to that group, or to that church.  There is no evidence of that.
Elder Ballou Cemetery, Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Photo by Diane Boumenot, February, 2012

Elder Ballou Cemetery, Cumberland, Rhode Island. Photo by Diane Boumenot, February, 2012

Census records
Richard Ballou appears in several census records.  I found the federal census records on Ancestry.com.
  • 1777 Military Census (see Chamberlin, below), page 93.
  • 1790 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I. Richard appears on page 256 between John Darling, Job Whipple, Sylvanus Hathaway, Stacy Bosworth, and Nathaniel Gould, William Follett, Simon Bishop.  These were the same people he buys and sells land from.
  • 1800 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I.  Richard appears between Aaron Grant, Nathan Whipple, Asa Aldrich, and Gideon Ray, Job Hathaway.
  • 1810 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I.  Richard appears between Job Hathaway and Arnold Ballou, John Darling, Job Fuller.  This record is dark and not indexed properly, I went page by page.
  • 1820 Federal Census for Cumberland, R.I.   Entries are alphabetized so not useful for finding neighbors.  Not indexed properly; Ballou appears as “Ballon”.
Vital records
I have never found a hint of another Richard Ballou in the general area, except of course his son, born in 1788.  But I do approach any record with his name cautiously.
Richard has no death record that I have found, so all I had known about his death was the will abstract from volume 5 of the Rhode Island Genealogical Register.  To find out more, I went to the Cumberland Town Hall, where I found the page of entries (above) for the births of his children.  It seems strange that his probate was handled in Cumberland but they did not seem to record his death with the other vital records, but I guess that is the case.
Cumberland Town Hall, viewed from the side.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Cumberland Town Hall, viewed from the side. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The journal Rhode Island Roots of March, 1995 has a 1778 tax list for Smithfield, Rhode Island, where Richard was living (see Rhode Island Roots, “A list of the polls …” below).  That was the year that his first child, my 5x-great-grandmother Marcy Ballou was born.  The record shows the following taxable property:
Ballou, Richard 1 poll; house, 3 horned cattle, 5 sheep 1 goat, 2 swine, 6 acres pasture to keep 2 cows, 2 acres tillage, 30 bushels grain; 5 acres mowing; 3 tons English hay, 17 acres wood & waste land, total acres 30; 2 pounds debt; 14.10 pounds personal estate; 100 pounds real estate; rateable value 114.10 pounds.

I spent another afternoon recording his property records.  I found many more records than I really expected to, and I probably did not capture all deeds with Richard Ballou’s name on them. I realized for the first time how many of my ancestors also lived in northern Cumberland.   The trail of deeds for Richard Ballou seemed to end around 1810.

Richard Ballou Deeds, Cumberland, R.I. Purchases in green, sales in blue, my direct ancestors in red

Richard Ballou Deeds, Cumberland, R.I. Purchases in green, sales in blue, my direct ancestors in red.  Will expand if clicked.

What I learned from the deeds:  at some point Richard may have had a second small house.  I wonder if Marcy lived there after the divorce in 1803.  I learned names of neighbors, to check on the 1838 map, in case any of them remained.


When I was at the Allen County Public Library recently, I was able to peruse, in book form, supplements 1 & 2 of the Adin Ballou book.  I had previously viewed these online, but having the book in hand made me pay a little more attention to a claim Supplement 1 made about Richard Ballou, in the “Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War” section, p. 179.

Ballou, R.  (Barlow, Richard) On a pay abstract of Dan’l Mowry’s 4th Co. Col Peck’s reg’t., on the alarm July and August 1780; Joined July 29; days in service 11; days billeted 8; also on same list, same Co., July 1781, dismissed.  List not dated. (note: dismissed ye 31st July 1780).

Ballou, R.  Private, Capt. Mowry’s Co., Col. Pecks reg’t; Alarm of July and Aug. 1780.

Ballou, Richard.  Private – Smithfield to Cumberland Rangers May 1776.

I had seen this reference a while ago but didn’t know what to think of it.  Sources were claimed but not given. Further research turned up nothing.  I can find nothing about the Cumberland Rangers.

Rhode Island Historical Society Library, Hope Street, Providence.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Rhode Island Historical Society Library, Hope Street, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

So I went to the Rhode Island Historical Society and looked at the catalog of Rhode Island Revolutionary War Soldiers.  There was a card for Richard Ballou.  The librarian helped me understand what the card was saying:

2 records marked “MP” for “Military Papers.”  She looked that up in the Manuscript Finding Aid binders. I need Manuscript MSS 673  Subgroup 2.

  • Revolutionary War Papers Box 3 folder 88   List of Men, Aug 9, 1780, George Peck / Daniel Mowry
  • Revolutionary War Papers Box 3 folder 126   Company List, May, 1776, George Peck

It was too late in the day to submit a slip for the special collections retrieval and look at those two documents.  And I would like to purchase a camera pass on the day that I see them.  So I am feeling more confident about this possibility and can’t wait to see who else was serving with him.  After all of this research I have a familiarity with the entire community.

I knew the probate records in the Cumberland Town Hall would contain more information than the brief abstract I had seen, but I was surprised when they covered about 10 pages.  Here is what I learned from the probate:
  • I knew that Richard Ballou was subject to a guardianship in the last couple year of his life (“want of his discretion in the management of his estate is likely to bring himself and his family to want”). I had found that in newspaper advertisements. Columbia Tingley was the first guardian.  I never knew if the “David Aldrich” who was the second guardian was the brother of Richard’s ex son-in-law, Nathan Aldrich, or perhaps was someone else with the same name.  I now can see, from the 1838 map, where David Aldrich lived, and he was a close neighbor. And the probate records show his wife, Jemima, witnessing a signature. So it was that David.  It still surprises me.
  • At his death in 1824 Richard owned a farm “containing about 60 acres with the buildings thereon” one other small tract of land containing about 4 acres, total value of real estate $1540.  Total value $1652.
The house of a Ballou cousin, in Cumberland, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Famnily in America, 1888. p. 85.  I wonder if Richard and Lucy Ballou's house might have looked like this.

The house of a Ballou cousin, in Cumberland, from An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America, 1888. p. 85. I wonder if Richard and Lucy Ballou’s house might have looked like this.

  • Household property included:
    • Old case drawers, table, chairs, candle stand, milk pail, chest
    • Meat barrel, brass kettle, earthen milk pans
    • pewter basin, one gallon bottle, cider funnel
    • fat tub, churn, dry casks, earthen plates, 5 cider barrels, cheese tub, peck measure, tub, blanket
    • shovel and iron wedge, drawing knife, wash tub, old pails, trays, wooden bowls, pewter platter
    • pewter basin, lot of crockery, tin pans, tea pot, funnel, glass bottles, brass skimmer, tin skimmer
    • 6 spoons, large iron pot, spider, bake kettle, pan kettle,disk kettle, tea kettle, i pair And Irons
    • shovel and tongs, chopping knife, flat iron, tin lantern, earthen mug, large iron pot
    • large iron kettle, skillet, ax, looking glass, grindstone, crank, candle sticks, old knives and forks
    • Bed bedstead and cord, ditto, bedstead and cord
  • After his death, his personal property included:
    • Hat, “Fearnot”[?] Great Coat, old straight bodied coat, old waistcoat
    • pr satinnette pantaloons, pair velvet, old pair stockings, linen shirt, flannel shirt, pair shoes
    • Boots, three old tresses [?]
  • Equipment:
    • cow, hay
    • Ladder and hay poles, draft chain, grind stone frame and crank
    • wagon pins, narrow hoe, old sythe, lyme hogsheads, corn bucket
  • Financial:
    • note of hand against Willard Ballou; note against Samuel Aldrich
    • payout made to Thomas Barden as per note, $24.58
  • He left, in his will dated 1822, to “my well beloved wife Lucy Ballou the improvements, profits and income of all my land and buildings scituate and lying in Cumberland or elsewhere during her natural life”, also “all my moveable estate to be and remain for her use at her own disposal …”  “Item, I give and devise to my lawful heirs, after the decease of my said wife, all my lands and buildings… to be equally divided amongst them.”
  • The heirs are not listed.  I was looking for payments to be made, possibly to Marcy Ballou since I have no idea what happened to her after her divorce in 1803. Did not find that.
  • I am guessing that one or more of his nearby sons was doing most of the farm work on his property since his farm equipment seems to be very limited.
  • I can tell after further review that I only have part of the probate story; I need to know what happened to the land after wife Lucy’s death (date unknown).  I did look while there, but I need to look again.

Seeing the spot

Knowing all along that he lived in the northeastern corner of Cumberland, I studied Google maps carefully and compared that to the 1838 map.  I noticed, for the first time, that the Darling/Aldrich cemetery I have visited many times, on Burnt Swamp Road in Sheldonville, Wrentham, Massachusetts, was actually on the same road that ran through the area I was examining in Cumberland.  Burnt Swamp Road continued from the northeastern corner of Rhode Island into Sheldonville, Mass. and ended beside the house, with a plaque, built in 1839 by my ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich (first husband of Richard’s daughter Marcy Ballou).  IT WAS THE SAME STREET.

A farm sits at the corner of Burnt Swamp Road and Sumner Brown Road in Cumberland. Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

A farm sits at the corner of Burnt Swamp Road and Sumner Brown Road in Cumberland. Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

How I missed this, in years of thinking and looking around on this question, I have no idea.  I guess it’s easy, when crossing state lines, to imagine things are relatively far away and unconnected.  Hope I don’t make that mistake again. I’m from the smallest state in the union, and I should be used to crossing state lines every half hour.

Without really knowing the spot for Richard Ballou’s house, I drove up to look things over and get a picture in my mind.  I was surprised that Burnt Swamp Road is still remarkably rural, and there is a working farm at the corner with Sumner Brown Road.  I drove up from Cumberland to the cemetery in Sheldonville – it might have been a mile.

View of the Sheldonville Cemetery from the Road.  Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

View of the Sheldonville Cemetery from Burnt Swamp Road. Photo by Diane Boumenot, August, 2013.

Books about the area

While at the Allen County Public Library I studied the bibliography of the “Founders and Patriots” book cited below.  I saw a reference to a book called North Cumberland, A History.  I searched for that.  Turns out this helpful little book was at the Rhode Island Historical Society, but I never noticed it before.  Written in 1975, North Cumberland, A History attempts to detail the landscape of each neighborhood in northern Cumberland.  It doesn’t mention Richard Ballou, of course, but armed with the hints I now have, it provided some answers by explaining about the Hathaway mills in the “Tingley District” section, page 9.  I would advise anyone trying to pin down old Cumberland neighborhoods to consult this book.

In conclusion

To get back to the 1838 map, my question remained, where did Richard Ballou live?

Clues found thus far:

  • From the Ballou book, 1888, “extreme northeasterly section of Cumberland” and “near what was formerly known as Hathaway Mills.”  That Hathaway mills reference really sent me chasing an early cotton or woolen mill, many of which began popping up in Rhode Island as early as 1805.  Turns out it was a grist mill and sawmill.
  • The deeds tell me that a boundary of the land he sold to Job Fuller in 1795 ran over “Indian Meadow Brook“.  I wonder if this is the same as “Indian Brook” which is on the 1900 map in the North Cumberland book, and on google maps.  Given the history of Cumberland that I have studied now, I think that “Burnt Swamp”, “Indian Meadow” and “Indian Brook” are roughly referring to the same place, where a swamp inhabited by Native Americans shortly after King Phillip’s War in 1675 was burned during dry weather.
  • The deeds also point to the names of neighbors Scott, Howard, Clark, Hathaway and Follett.
  • Mrs. Spragues’ notes state that son Arnold Ballou married Abigail Trask and lived near his birthplace all his life.  His home, after his death, became known as the “Nabby Ballou” place.  There is a “Wd N. Ballou” house on the 1838 map.
  • The Cumberland record of the children’s births is solid evidence for his children’s names and helps me know that only his son Arnold (his widow, actually) appears nearby on the 1838 map.
  • The census of 1810 shows that neighbors are Job Hathaway, Arnold Ballou, John Darling, and Job Fuller.  Of those, the spots for Arnold Ballou’s widow and the Hathaway mills are evident on the 1838 map.
  • The probate records are clear on the fact that a 60 acre piece of property was left after Richard Ballou’s death – probably more prior to the sales to his son Arnold Ballou.
  • At one point he divided an “Indian Meadow” which he owned jointly with 2 others into 3 separate pieces.

I have arrived at a conclusion, and look forward to checking out the area and continuing to learn more about Richard Ballou’s life.

Given the Widow of Arnold Ballou's location, and the Hathaway Mills location, I assume Richard owned land within the circle, and his house must have been along one of the roads on either side.  This is the very northeastern corner of Rhode Island.

This is the northeastern corner of Rhode Island, bordered by Massachusetts on both sides. Burnt Swamp Road is at the corner running north/south.

Given the widow of Arnold Ballou’s location, and the Hathaway mills location (both marked with arrows), I assume Richard owned land within the blue circle, and his house must have been along one of the roads on either side.


Ballou, Adin.  An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America.  Providence, R.I.: Press of E.L. Freeman, 1888.

– [supp. 1] The Ballous in America, an Addendum, comp. and ed. by Historical Records Survey, Div. of Women’s and Professional Projects, WPA.  Boston: Ballou Family Association, 1937.

– [supp 2]  The Ballous in America, an Addendum, comp. and ed. by Myrtle M. Jillson.  Woonsocket, R.I.: The Ballou Family Association, 1942.

Cumberland Probate Records, Guardianship and Estate of Richard Ballou,  v. 13 (1821-1823) p. 305, 334-336, v. 14 (1823-1826) p. 19, 124-127, 135, 319, 337, v. 15 (1826-1829) p. 1, 13

Chamberlain, Mildred M. The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985.

Newell, Nelson. Map of the Town of Cumberland, R.I.  Boston: Published by Aaron White Jr, 1838.

Ray, Judith Jencks. Founders and Patriots of the Town of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1990.

Rhode Island Genealogical Register vol. 16 Index of Wills 1636-1850, Nellie M.C. Beman, editor.  East Princeton, Mass: R.I. Families Association, 1992.  Also. vol. 5, issue 1, Alden G. Beaman, ed., 1982.

Rhode Island Roots, journal of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society. “A List of the Polls and estates real and personal of the Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Town of Smithfield …” appeared serially in the following issues:  March 1995 p. 17, June 1995 p. 57, Sept 1995 p. 90, March 1996 p. 25, June 1996 p. 54, Dec 1996 p. 120, March 1997 p. 21.

Richardson, Erastus. History of Woonsocket.  Woonsocket:  S.S. Foss, 1876.

Simpson, Robert V.  North Cumberland, A History by Robert V. Simpson.  Privately printed, 1975.

Sprague, Mrs. Abigail.  Unpublished notes, History of Cumberland.  c 1890-1906.  Rhode Island Historical Society MSS 1023.    Box 1, folder 43: Hathaway Mills neighborhood.   Box 2, folder 32: Aldrich family.   Box 2, folder 40:  Ballou.

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I owe the idea for this post to the excellent genealogy speaker Thomas McEntee of High Definition Genealogy.  I heard Thomas speak through the live feed from the Southern California Genealogy Society‘s Jamboree this past weekend.  Thomas was addressing online privacy in his talk “Staying Safe Online.”  Interspersed with some  advice about online safety and privacy, he talked about our ancestors’ privacy in the U.S.  More privacy, or less?  One example he gave of a lack of privacy was the custom of printing warnings in the local paper, often from a husband, informing the town that he would no longer pay any debts of his spouse.  Thomas mentioned that sometimes, the spouse printed a response in an ad of her own, treating us to an early 19th century version of The Jerry Springer Show.

The 1802 version of the Jerry Springer Show

Yes, my ancestors participated in this highly un-private activity in 1802.  I found it in the same issue where I had found the husband’s ad a couple of years ago.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the Providence Gazette May 8, 1802 issue.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the Providence Gazette May 8, 1802 issue.

My ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich paid for the following ad in the Providence Gazette on May 8 and May 15, 1802 (1):

WHEREAS, Marcy, wife of me the subscriber, hath separated herself from me, and at sundry Times has unnecessarily run me into debt : These are therefore to forbid all Persons trusting her on my Account, as I am determined to pay no Debts of her contracting from the Date hereof.


Cumberland, May 5, 1802.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.

This snippet is taken from the Google News copy of the May 8, 1802 Providence Gazette, p. 4.

My ggggg-grandmother Marcy Aldrich placed an ad in the May 8 and May 15, 1802 issues of the Providence Gazette (2):

My unworthy Husband, NATHAN ALDRICH, having thought proper to stigmatize my Character in a public Paper, a brief Reply seems necessary.  I was reduced to the hard Necessity of making my Escape from the most brutal Treatment; he had threatened my Life, and actually kicked me, and bruised me with his Fist.  Add to this that he left my Bed one year previous to my quitting his Cottage, and neglected to provide for me the common Necessaries of Life.


Cumberland, May 14, 1802.

Since I have never found any trace of Marcy after her 1803 divorce, this was very interesting.  She was still in Cumberland after leaving him; she may have been at her father’s house.  And I notice that after the separation she seems to be calling herself by her maiden name, Ballou.  In fact, this is now the best source I have for her maiden name, the evidence for which I had painstakingly pieced together indirectly.

Prov Gazzette Masthead

Access Rhode Island newspapers

  • While spotty, there is a growing collection of Rhode Island newspapers online at the paid site, GenealogyBank.com.  You can link to the page of Rhode Island newspaper titles and years here.  Indexing is automated through OCR, which works if the type is clear and recognizable, and not well at all if the image is blurry, wrinkled, or faded.  I never have found Marcy’s note in any index; I only found it by going page by page.
  • If you are a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, you have access to two compilations of early newspapers, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers and Early American Newspapers, Series I 1690-1876These can be accessed from the “External Databases” page after logging in at the NEHGS website.
  • Rhode Island papers on the paid site NewspaperArchive are limited to Newport.  Likewise, Ancestry.com has very limited Rhode Island newspaper offerings.  Library of Congress’ free Chronicling America site has no digitized Rhode Island content, but does offer a list of 750 Rhode Island newspapers with some holdings information in their Directory of Newspapers (drill down to find libraries where the paper might be held).
  • If you are in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Historical Society has a thorough microfilm collection of surviving Rhode Island newspapers.  However, indexing is lacking, and the few indices I’ve found there tend to cover important persons and stories only.  I use the microfilm to look up specific dates only.
  • If you know the name of a newspaper you are interested in, you can check out the holdings of the free Google News Archives.  The site works adequately for paging through issues of papers but I haven’t had much luck with searching there.

One more newspaper article about Nathan Aldrich

One Massachusetts article from The Liberator (found on 19th Century U.S. Newspapers) redeems Nathan Aldrich a bit in my eyes (3).  The West Wrentham Anti-Slavery Society met right in Sheldonville, where he lived, and in September, 1839, some members attended a meeting of the county-wide society, the Norfolk County Anti-Slavery Society, which happened to be held in Wrentham.  There was a controversial and extremely close vote about the right of the female members to vote during the meeting.  The votes of each member present were recorded in the newspaper, which is why Nathan’s name was mentioned.  He voted against the right of the female members to vote at meetings.  I find no other Nathan Aldriches in the county during this period; I think it is him.  Of course, he loses points for voting against the rights of the women members.

Sheldonville, Massachusetts Post Office at a much later date

Sheldonville, Massachusetts Store and Post Office at a much later date

Nathan’s second wife Chloe died in middle age, a fact which is carefully recorded by Nathan in his family bible.  He then married a neighbor, Lois Grant, cousin of Chloe.  Nathan is buried at the Sheldonville Cemetery between Chloe and Lois.  I always assumed that wouldn’t have gone that way if he was quite the person described in the advertisement, above.  I would chalk it up more to he and Marcy not being suited to each other.  If I could ever learn more about Marcy, it might reveal more about the whole sad situation.

In conclusion

I wonder, based on my own research, if unhappy marriages leave more clues behind than happy marriages.  But for sure, newspapers can reveal snippets of the lives of our ancestors.  If you have advice about finding Rhode Island newspapers, please leave it in the comments.


  1. “Whereas, Marcy” (advertisment), Providence Gazette (Providence, RI), 08 May 1802, online archive at Genealogy Bank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 10 Apr 2011), page 4.
  2. “My unworthy Husband” (advertisment), Providence Gazette (Providence, RI), 15 May 1802, online archive at Genealogy Bank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 8 Jun 2013), page 3.
  3. “Norfolk County Anti-Slavery Society,” The Liberator, (Boston, MA) [Friday], [September 20, 1839]; online archive at 19th Century U.S. Newspapers (Article GT3005844982) (accessed through http://www.americanancestors.org/external-databases/ : accessed 9 Jun 2013), pg. 150; Issue 38; col B

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This was my first visit to the large Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, that contains microfilmed records from around the world as well as many genealogy books and other resources.

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City


I had prepared beforehand, in Evernote, a list of microfilms and books to explore. These were sortable by the “tags” which allowed me to choose records for one person or family at a time. I also added a tag “Important” in case I had to make choices.

I had three days in the library. I knew as the trip grew closer that I would concentrate on several real questions. I printed those notes and put them in a paper binder – sometimes it’s easier to rely on paper when you will need to walk around the library or be at a microfilm reader. I did access Evernote on my iphone but ended up NOT bringing the laptop to the library. Next time, everything needs to be on a clipboard or ipad, for portability. The library doesn’t want you leaving valuables around, which is understandable.

Research in the library

I like the kind of microfilm reader that lets you download each page to your own flash drive. At home, this can be enlarged and manipulated better than printed paper or photos. So I started at a regular reader, but planned to utilize the computer-reader whenever I found something. Because the library was unusually quiet during my stay, I managed to use the computer microfilm reader most of the time.


ScanPro 1000

These are the specific problems I decided to explore, and how it went.

Parents of Daniel Lamphere (died 1808), father of Russell
There are some obscure Lamphere records I haven’t seen before:
  • Lanphere/Lanphear family, ca. 1770-1920 Film 3005 Item 13
  • The Lanphere and related families genealogy by Edward Everett Lanphere, Book 929.273 L288L
  • The Bates family in America by Edward E. Lanphere Fiche 6046981
  • Record of the Lanphere family of Rhode Island, Manuscript (pedigree chart) Ped Chart no. 251
  • Probate records index, 1798-1990 [Westerly, Rhode Island] 16 mm film 1892412 & 3
  • Westerly Land Evidence records, 1661-1903
  • Bible records from Connecticut, index cards, He-Ly, film 2879

What I learned: I like to review lesser-known work on the Lampheres. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much work that would be helpful to me at all. One amusing moment was when I sought out the “Pedigree Chart” files, looking for chart number 251 on the Lampheres of Rhode Island.

Pedigree Charts

Pedigree Charts

While there were some intriguing charts in there, the Lamphere chart was, I quickly recognized, pages from Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.

Lanphere chart6

The Lamphere Chart

First cha-ching moment: The Westerly deeds were far more helpful. Prior to his death, Daniel Lamphere mortgaged his property to his son Russell, my gggg-granfather. Russell never lived on the property, but he was heavily involved in the subsequent dealings. It took the family about 10 legal transactions, over the next 10 years, to finally dispose of the property. Each transaction was more helpful than the last; listing all heirs by name, mentioning brothers, fathers, wives, widows, current locations, and neighbors. Tantalizingly, some of the neighbors were named “Tefft” which is the surname sometimes ascribed to Daniel’s wife Nancy. I even found names of some Lamphere connections that blog readers have mentioned to me. I’m getting back to them.

These 35 pages of Westerly Deeds will need some careful analysis to determine the facts, but I am hoping those facts will be very helpful. I should probably mention that I had travelled to Westerly Town Hall previously to look at these, but not all volumes were available that day. The nice thing about microfilm is that ALL volumes should have been microfilmed, and be available.

Darling/Aldrich property in Wrentham, Massachusetts

  • Norfolk County Probate films for guardianship and probate
  • Probate records, 1746-1916 [Cumberland, Rhode Island]

What I learned: I found the probate records for Asa Aldrich and I finally realized that his controversial will had produced legal records in TWO states, since Cumberland, Rhode Island and western Wrentham, Massachusetts are adjacent to each other and family members lived on each side of the border. So I saved all those records. I also found guardianship and probate records for Elias Darling, grandfather of Ellis Aldrich Darling, which answered some questions about his life.

The parents of Lucy Arnold

  • Smithfield, Rhode Island Deeds 1731-1874 Grantor index film 959536, Grantee index film 959543
  • Lincoln Probate records, 1733-1917 (Lincoln, Rhode Island) Thomas Arnold d. Aug, 1817 film 959529
  • Microfilm of records in James Arnold’s family notes – town notes collection at the Knight Memorial Library, Providence, Rhode Island film 1839290 Item 4

What I learned: I have a continuing question in my mind about why the famed Rhode Island genealogist, James Arnold, didn’t leave a volume behind about the Arnolds. I once saw an ad that claimed he was researching such a work. I knew some of his papers are housed in the archives at a local Providence library branch. I was happy with the chance to easily see some of them on microfilm, and they were interesting, but didn’t relate to the Arnolds. Oh well.

The Arnold book [Benson, Richard H. The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island. Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009] has helped me tentatively identify Lucy Arnold. I would like to learn as much as possible to help me confirm that. Unfortunately, I still have not found a probate record for her father. But in the many, many deeds I found for her father, there is a great deal of information, still to be completely analyzed.

Second cha-ching moment: One set of clues involves the identity of Lucy’s mother, who is possibly a Smith. I found several deeds relating to a certain Smith couple (a physician and his wife) and the last one, interestingly, says that the woman is now a widow, old and inform, and is transacting some kind of real estate deal with Thomas Arnold. I’m hoping that deed will help me find further clues that actually prove who Thomas’ wife, Rachel, is. It would be nice to prove something that wasn’t known in the NEHGS publication! I am also hoping that something about these deeds helps me determine my more immediate question about proving a link between Lucy and these parents that goes beyond name and town.

Thomas Arnold

Thomas Arnold

Marriage of Mercy Ballou/Nathan Aldrich and birth of her daughter Nancy Ann Aldrich

  • Vital records, 1734-1858 [Cumberland, Rhode Island] film 955486
  • Marriages, v. 1-3 (1746-1895) film 955487
  • his and her fathers’ property, Plan of the Town of Cumberland (Map) film 955497
  • Richard Ballou will, Cumberland Probate records, 1746-1916 Probate records Vol. 6-10 1784-1815 Film 955491

What I learned: The abstract of Richard Ballou’s will, that I’ve seen, was correct. He does not name his heirs by name, just groups them as “my heirs.” So that gave me no clues about the later life of my ggggg-grandmother Mercy Ballou. There was nothing in here that helped, and the map was badly photographed, so was no better than my own imperfect photos of an old Cumberland property map I made at the Rhode Island Historical Society.

My reaction overall

  • I should really be using these films more, through rental at my local Family History Center (now called FamilySearch Centers). I copied a number of index pages for my family names to help me order microfilm in the future, if needed.
  • They have a crazy amount of microfilm there.

    One of many many aisles of microfilm

    One of many many aisles of microfilm

  • I should keep more careful track of books and microfilms as they are released on the web at FamilySearch.org.
  • As I kept seeing so many people sitting for hours at the computers, I wondered at so many going to the trouble to visit just to use free access to various genealogy web sites. Then I tried, on a whim, looking for records of my gg-grandmother Catherine Young, born in Surrey, England. An 1841 British Census record came up, from a site I have never paid for, and then I really got it. It’s nice not having your search limited by subscriptions. No one wants to subscribe to everything.
  • All the records I found need to be carefully abstracted and analyzed. For instance, I need to eliminate deeds that refer to others with the same name.
  • Three days at the FHL is worth several months of what I’m doing at home. As more materials are moved to the web, that is bound to change.

Thanks to Randy Seaver for making me aware of the Family History At A Glance – Family History Library Research booklet, which was helpful. I would also suggest people refer to the FHL website to plan a visit.

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The question:  Can I find a divorce record for my ggggg-grandfather Nathan Aldrich and his first wife, Marcy Ballou, around 1805?

What I knew that led me to think they were married and divorced:

  • Nathan added Marcy to his family bible, which is located at the NEHGS, and later crossed her out.
  • They had one daughter that I know of, my gggg-grandmother Nancy Ann (Aldrich) Darling.  Late in life, Nathan Aldrich and his third wife, Lois, were living with Nancy’s son Ellis and his family.
  • In 1802, Nathan published an advertisement in the Providence Patriot disowning Marcy
  • By 1809, Nathan and his second wife, Chloe, sold a piece of property to Marcy’s father Richard Ballou in Cumberland, Rhode Island, and from then on, lived in Wrentham, Mass.

What I was NOT finding was any evidence of Marcy’s death. I wondered how that first marriage ended.

In Rhode Island at that time, divorces occurred in the Supreme Court.  Records for the Supreme Court are stored at the Rhode Island Judicial Archives.  I wrote to the Archives last fall requesting that the file be looked up.  The answer came back that it could not be found.

More recently I decided to go in person, not knowing how much searching, if any, I would be allowed to do.  The Judicial Archives are located at 5 Hill Street, Pawtucket, R.I.  There is free parking across the street.

You enter and go up to the second floor, where you sign in.

When I explained that I was looking for historical records, staff member Andrew Smith was called to assist me.

I thanked Andrew for trying to help me via email a while back, and said that I was here with the same question.  We talked about different forms of the names, and the time and place for the possible divorce.  He checked the index again, no luck.  He was willing to bring me the handwritten volumes summarizing  ALL Supreme Court cases, in chronological order, from the period we were talking about.

I sat in a research room containing an old conference table which had probably graced a courtroom 75 or 100 years ago. I settled in to go, page by page, through the two volumes he brought me, which ran from approximately 1802-1807.

A true Rhode Island story

The first thing I noticed, as I paged through, was the set of judges on the R.I. Supreme Court at that time, which was repeated at the beginning of each “session” entry.

Peleg Arnold, Chief Justice

This is why taking the time to page through, record by record, can be so valuable.  If my theory about Marcy Ballou’s mother, Lucy Arnold, is correct, then Marcy was actually the great-niece of Chief Justice Peleg Arnold.  This is getting to be SO Rhode Island.

Less than halfway through the first book, I got lucky.  I FOUND THE DIVORCE.  Here it is:

[p. 220] “M. Aldrich”   Be it Remembered that at the present Term of this Court Marcy Aldrich wife of Nathan Aldrich of Cumberland in said County prefered her petition, praying for reasons therein stated, that a decree of divorce may be passed in her [p.221] favor dissolving the bond of matrimony now subsisting between her and her said husband and for alimony – after hearing the same. It is ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Court here, that the prayer thereof be granted.

Of course I noticed the mention of a “petition” and “for reasons therein stated”.  What was in the book was just a summary.  The real divorce petition should have been stored separately.  Unfortunately, that couldn’t be found.  Andrew did find one for a “Mary Ballou” which he showed me, but it wasn’t my case.

another divorce petition

Inside that petition:

Inside the other petition

You can see that if the Marcy Ballou/Nathan Aldrich petition could be found, it would likely contain 6 or 7 sheets of information about the marriage.  Andrew promised to try again to find it, but that has not been successful.

I did notice in the summary record that she received alimony.  After his newspaper ad refusing to pay any further debts of hers, I can only smile and perhaps, in a very not-based-on-evidence kind of way, assume this is some further proof that Chief Justice Arnold was her uncle.  His name appeared on the session she was involved in, but whether he recused himself, I have no way of knowing right now.

However, I now know that they actually divorced in 1803.  Nathan and his second wife moved a bit farther up the road into Massachusetts and had several more children.  Marcy’s parents were in Cumberland, so I suspect she stayed there, however briefly.  Later, there is evidence that Nancy Ann lived with her father.  Did Marcy die?  Remarry and move away?  Become debilitated somehow?

The R.I. Judicial Archives

I mentioned to Andrew that I was going to write about my visit in my blog.  He said it was ok to mention him.  If any genealogists want to access historical records from the archives, they can contact him directly:

Andrew Smith, Judicial Records Center, absmith  at  courts  dot  ri  dot  gov.

The Judicial Records Center web site gives more information about record holdings and making requests, but Andrew suggests you email him directly to save some time.  I would suggest anyone traveling to the center might want to email in advance to check on availability of records, and open hours.

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Since post one and post two on Lucy Arnold, I have been unable to pursue most of the on-site research I need to do, but I have pursued some research on a number of collateral lines that I was able to do from home.

The problems:

Lucy Arnold married Richard5 (John4, John3, John 2, Maturin) Ballou in Smithfield, Rhode Island around 1777 and they became the parents of nine children, of which my ancestor, Mercy Ballou, is the oldest, born in 1778.  I am trying to determine:

  • whether Lucy Arnold is the daughter of Thomas5 (Thomas4, Richard3, Richard2, Thomas1) and Rachel.
  • the likely family of Thomas’ wife, Rachel (possibly Smith).
Here is what I learned:
  • According to Benson’s Arnold book (see below), a Greene manuscript (see below) is his source that Rachel was a Smith.  Another possible clue that I noticed is Benson’s reference on page 242 that

“Thomas [Arnold] purchased 4 acres of land from Thomas Smith on 20 June 1767” (p. 242).

  • Looking around, I find a Smithfield land owner named Thomas4 (Thomas3, Edward2, Christopher1) Smith, (1697-1777), who was the son of Thomas and Phebe (Arnold) Smith.  Thomas Smith would be Thomas Arnold’s second cousin once removed.  Thomas Smith was a Quaker who married twice and inherited Smithfield property from his father, and his birth in 1697 is noted in Benson’s Arnold book.  It’s doubtful he is Rachel’s father because I think this would have been caught by now, but it would be good to pin down exactly who the seller “Thomas Smith” was.
  • Like most early Rhode Island residents, the Arnolds were opposed to the various New England authoritarian churches.  Some of the Smithfield Arnolds were Quakers, and were instrumental in establishing a Meeting in Smithfield.
  • My branch of the Thomas Arnold family were driven out of Massachusetts after they became Baptists.  They settled in Providence and later Smithfield, Rhode Island.
  • The Ballous were active in the Six Principle Baptist Church in Cumberland.

    Elder Ballou Meeting House, Cumberland, R.I.

  • In line after line of the ancestors of these Ballou, Arnold, and Aldrich families, who all ended up in Smithfield/Cumberland/Wrentham, I notice that many branches came from nearby Mendon, Mass.  Other branches were among the original founders of Providence. In terms of narrowing down the Smiths, this means that Rachel Smith could possibly have been descended from a Mendon family of Smiths, as well as several early Providence Smith families. I suspect that if my current lead about the land transaction is a dead end, it may take me a long time to prove anything about her.
  • The Ballou book (see below) has become more and more valuable as I attempt to place these people in a historical context.  For the first time, I realized that the discrepancies I see about Cumberland, R.I. and Wrentham, Massachusetts are because it was the same place.  I knew that “Attleboro Gore” was a Massachusetts settlement that transferred to Cumberland, R.I. around 1745; what I didn’t realize was that the Cumberland section my ancestors lived in WAS Attleboro Gore.  This will help me to further investigate land records.
  • Comparing family connections among the Thomas Arnold (1733 – ) and Richard Ballou families has resulted in lots of distant connections, none of which seem significant.  I believe Richard Ballou acquired his property through his own family (NOT from his wife’s father), but I need to look at each of his deeds.

Next steps:

  • Find old maps of the households in Attleboro Gore/Cumberland.
  • Pursue Cumberland deeds and also Smithfield deeds (which may be in Central Falls) for Thomas Arnold and Richard Ballou’s activities (already have one for Richard Ballou)

and two steps from the last post that have had to wait:

  • Check out Union Village in person, and also Union Cemetery
  • Research John and Mary Smith


  • Austin, John Osborne.  The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island, with Additions and Corrections by John Osborne Austin, and Additions and Corrections by G. Andrews Moriarty.  Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969.
  • Ballou, Adin. An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America Providence: E.L. Freeman & Son, 1888.
  • Benson, Richard H.  The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island.  Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009.
  • Greene, Welcome Arnold. “Notes of Genealogy of the Arnold Family.”  Unpublished typescript based on a manuscript complied starting in the 1840’s. 1914. Knight Memorial Library, Providence. [photocopy accessed at the NEHGS Manuscript Collection].
  • Holman, Winifred Lovering. “Hope Allen and Granddaughter Deborah (Wager) Henchman.”  New England Historic Genealogical Register 102 (July 1948): 177-191 (for my Boyce/Allen/Clifford lines)
  • Snow, Nora Emma. The Snow-Estes Ancestry. 2 volumes.  Hillburn, N.Y., privately printed, 1939.[full text was accessed on Ancestry.com]
  • Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700.  3 volumes. Boston, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.

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