Frank Capron Angell.

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In the town of

North Providence, Rhode Island
Its Past and Present

1636- 1909



f< He that wishes to be counted among the benefactors of posterity
must add by bis own to// to the acquisitions of his ancestors." — Rambler.

Copyright, 1909,
By Frank C. Angell.





ft A





Truth needs not many words, but a false tale a large preamble.

In presenting this volume to the public I do so with the
full appreciation that it will be, to a large extent, of local

In answer to the question why I undertook the task of
writing the history of the little New England village, I
would say that I was prompted to do so from a feeling of
regard and admiration for the old-time residents of the
village, when each and every one had the welfare of his
neighbor at heart — smiling upon his successes and sym-
pathizing with him in his adversities.

Again I would answer, that most people have within
their hearts an indescribable feeling of love or regard for
the place of their birth or the home of their adoption, — "be
it ever so humble, 1 ' — the place where they have beheld the
rising and the setting of the sun for more than half a
century, and have watched with pride the planting and
growth of the various industries and institutions around
their homes.

In undertaking the task I did so fully realizing that the
task of the historian is a difficult one, even when it is, as
in the present instance, the recording of events relatively
small and unimportant in themselves to the general
public, but interesting subjects of thought and conver-


sation to those who have known the village in late times,
and whose lives are or have been connected with the
history of Centerdale by birth or residence or by family
ties more or less distant.

I believe I am right when I say that I am not alone in
liking to hear the story of the first settlement and growth
of Centerdale, to know who were the first to make their
homes here, who built the first house, and, as time went
on, to know when and how came to be established the
first industry, the first schoolhouse, church, hotel, and
other public and private houses and buildings which go
to make up a typical New England village.

Neither is it too much to hope that those who come
after us may wish to glance back along the lines of the
early days of Centerdale, and learn something of its early

In my endeavor to carry out the plan of presenting as
faithful and true an account as possible, it has been neces-
sary to depend entirely upon original research. In doing
so I have made use of not only all the public and private
records, old deeds, diaries, and account books obtainable
by me, but also of family and village tradition in so far
as the latter might be made to square with indubitable
historical facts. And from these sources, with much
hard work of searching records and the even harder task
of unaccustomed authorship to contend with, I present
this volume to the public, asking indulgence for its
imperfections. F. c. A.


Chapter I.


Introduction J

Chapter II.
Original and Subsequent Land Owners 1636-iqoQ ... 4

Chapter III.
The Colonial Saw-Mill [Q

Chapter IY.
The First House — The Epenetus Olney Homestead ... 23

Chapter Y.
The Revolutionary Powder- Mill 3°

Chapter VI.

Highways (with map)— The Old Colonial Road— The Powder-
Mill Turnpike (now Smith Street) — The Farnum Turnpike
(now Waterman Avenue) — Mineral Spring Turnpike (now
Mineral Spring xAvenue)— The Woonasquatucket River
Road (now Woonasquatucket Avenue) 39

Chapter VII.

Transportation— Teaming with Horses and Oxen— Stage-
Coach Days— Steam Railroad — Electric Cars .... 40


Chapter VIII.
The Spinning Mill— The Cotton Mill— The Worsted Mill . 58

Chapter IX.
Schools 66

Chapter X.

Churches — The Baptist Meeting House — St. Alban's Church
(Episcopal) — The Centerdale Methodist Church — St.
Lawrence Church (Roman Catholic) 77

Chapter XL
The Village Tavern g*

Chapter XII.
The Country Cobbler — The Harness Maker 116

Chapter XIII.

The Village Blacksmith Shop— The Wheelwright Shop— The

First Livery Stable 121

Chapter XIV.
The Village Butcher 132

Chapter XV.
The First Store— The Post-Office 138

Chapter XVI.
The War Record 147


Chapter XVII.
Union Library 159

Chapter XVIII.

Fraternal Orders and Musical Organizations — The Roger
Williams Lodge, No. 32, A. F. & A. M. — Woonasquatucket
Lodge, No. 53, I. O. of G. T. — Enterprise Temple of
Honor, No. 26 — The Centerdale Cornet Band — The Young
American Fife and Drum Hand 169

Chapter XIX.

Various Industries — The Pharmacy — The Spectacle Maker —

The Plane Manufacturer — The Undertaker . . . . 177

Chapter XX.
The Town Hall, or the Seat of the Town Government . . . 183

Chapter XXI.
Biographical Sketches 187

Chapter XXII.
Lydia Wilcox 192


BEFORE we tell the early history of the village of
Centerdale, let us for a moment turn our thoughts
back to a time long before the country was known to the
white man; to a time when only the native Indian roamed
the primeval forests, whose solitude was broken only by
the rustling of the leaves of the forest trees, the howling
of the wild beasts, or the fierce war-cry of the red man.

Let us picture in our minds the country as formed and
fashioned by nature's hand; behold it, in all its picturesque
beauty, before the pioneer's axe had hewn the stately
trees that grew upon the hillside; see it before the plow-
share had torn from the fields their soft green mantle.

Let us in our reverie stand for a moment upon the moss-
covered banks of the beautiful Woonasquatucket, whose
waters flowed with peaceful current beside the hill and
through the vale, and trace its winding course along the
path nature seemed to have carved for it; around the foot
of the verdant hills, and down through the valley and the
green meadows.

Let us pause for a moment and listen to the rippling
of the little brooklets as they come prancing down the
hillside, looking, in the glow of the setting sun, like silver
ribbons dropped from the sky, hurrying along to join
their larger companion, who was silently moving on to
mingle with the headwaters of Xarragansett bay; while
here and there along the banks of the stream we see the


wigwam of the Indian, while not far away we discern the
dusky form of the red man, whose watchful eye and
attentive car arc ever alert to the dangers that constantly
beset his home, and unconscious of the fact that soon the
intruding pioneer will cause him to retire farther and
farther into the wilderness, and that their cherished hunt-
ing grounds ere long will be transformed into busy com-
munities; the intense silence which had reigned for cen-
turies will soon be broken by the clanking of the loom or
the rumble and roar of the swiftly moving train.

But how soon was this change to come about? As the
sturdy pioneers pushed their way back into the country,
the surrounding scene seemed to change like the shifting
scenes of a play-house.

The native Indian, unused to the white man's ways,
withdrew to more quiet sections of the country; the
beautiful Woonasquatucket, whose waters for centuries
had (lowed untrammeled to the sea, was soon curbed in
its course and made to lend its strength to turn the heavy
millstone, and to force the saw through the oaken log to
provide material for the settler's home.

The forests ere long were changed into fertile fields;
roads constructed where only the narrow Indian trails
were found; and the settler's cottage had taken the place
of the wigwam of the Indian.

But let us see if we can tell the interesting story of
who were the first settlers of this vicinity, whose axe
felled the first tree, whose plowshare turned the first sod,
who built the first house, whose hand first harnessed the
waters of the Woonasquatucket, who and when was
started the first business enterprise, who first labored in
Christ's vineyard, and caused to be erected the first


To be able to answer all or any of the questions would
be both pleasing and interesting.

But time in her rapid flight has drawn the curtain
behind several generations, and among those who have
passed away were many who helped to make the history
we are about to tell, leaving behind them bright illus-
trations of a Christian life, and examples of their energy,
thrift, and patriotism.

After the lapse of more than two hundred and sixty
years one is obliged to rely more or less upon tradition
and reminiscences for information pertaining to many
unrecorded events and personages of those early days;
but these should be accepted only when they are in
harmony with recorded facts.

Traditions and family legends are often, however, of
historical value; even though they may not be strictly
correct in all of their details, they furnish the key to
unlock the door to the information we are seeking, and
with their aid the old colonial records can be read with a
clearer understanding; for many of the records of the
early days of the colony are very obscure and indefinite,
though undoubtedly clearly understood at the time. Espe-
cially is this the case with the land transfers, and in such
cases family tradition and reminiscences lend valuable
help to a clear understanding of that which is obscure
in the colonial records.


The Original and Subsequent Land Owners of
Centerdale, 1636-1909.

AFTER Roger Williams and his little band of fol-
lowers, consisting of Thomas Angell, Joshua Verin,
John Smith (the miller), William Harris, and Francis
Wickes, had landed upon the shores of Providence Plan-
tations, they settled upon land previously secured, or
purchased, by Roger Williams, from the Indians.

In purchasing the land from the Indians, Roger Wil-
liams was only carrying out one of the principles he
always advocated while at Plymouth and Salem, as well
at the Providence Plantations: that the Indians were the
true and rightful owners of the land they occupied, and
were the only ones who could convey a title to them; that
the patent or grant from the king of England could
convey no title to them to any one, nor could any foreign
potentate lawfully give away their territory.

There does not appear to be any written document
conveying the land from the Indians to Roger Williams
until March 24th, 1638, when the following deed, or memo-
randum, as it was called, was given and signed by the
two great chieftains Canonicus and Miantonomo, chiefs
of the Xarragansett Indians:

"At Nanhiggansick the 24th of the first month com-
monly called March in the second year of our plantation
or planting at Mooshausick or Providence. Memo-
randum: that we Caunaunicus and Meauntunomi, the


two chief sachems of Nanhiggansick, having two years
since sold unto Roger Williams, the lands and meadows
upon the two fresh rivers called Mooshausick and Woon-
asquatucket, do now by these presents establish, and
confirm the bounds of those lands, from the river and
fields at Pawtucket, the great hill of Neotaconkonitt, on
the North-west, and the town of Mashapauge on the west.
As also in consideration of the many kindnesses and ser-
vices he hath continually done for us, both with our
friends of Massachusetts, as also at Quinickicutt and
Apaum or Plymouth, we do freely give unto him all that
land from those rivers reaching to Pawtuxet River, as
also the grass and meadows upon said Pawtuxet river,
"In Witness where of we have hereunto set our hands


"The mark of ^z^Lrrz^ Caunaunicus
"The mark of / Meauntonomi

"In the presence of

"The mark of X_ Seatash
"The mark of &. Assotemenit

" 1639 Memorandum 3 d mo 9 th day. This was all
again confirmed by Miantonomi, he acknowledged this
his act and hand up the streams of Pawtucket and Paw-
tuxet without limits, we might have for our use of cattle
"Witness hereof

"Roger Williams
"Benedict Arnold"

This deed, or memorandum, is the first or earliest land
conveyance found recorded in the early records of Provi-
dence, and without doubt the earlier sale spoken of in
this deed was a verbal agreement.


During the summer of the same year that Roger Wil-
liams arrived he was joined by six others, who arrived
in time to receive their allotment in the first division of

After the first division of land into home sites, and six-
acre lot of meadow land, the balance of the land lying
upon the Mooshausick and Woonasquatucket rivers to
the limit of the grant was called the common, and in-
cluded all land not sold or allotted to any of the settlers,
and extended north up the Woonasquatucket river seven
miles from Fox Point to a bound called the seven-mile
line, which is about where the Smithfield line is now

As the colony increased in number, and personal safety
became more secure, the pioneers naturally pushed their
way back into the country a few miles from the Providence
settlement, and took up land from the commons; and as
this practice grew, it became evident that a more business-
like method of conveying land titles must be had in order
that confusion might not result, and a committee was
appointed with full power to sign deeds of land in behalf
of the colony, this committee consisting, in 1669, of John
Throckmorton, Arthur Fenner, and Henry Brown. The
writer has in his possession one of the deeds executed by
this committee in 1669. The deed is written upon parch-
ment, and is yet in a fair state of preservation for a docu-
ment so old, but very few of these deeds being now in

Among those to thus push out into the common land
and take up holdings therein were Thomas Angell, John
Smith, Epenetus Olney, and Richard Pray, and these men
appear to have been the pioneers in the settlement of that


portion of the Woonasquatucket valley which afterward
became known as Centerdale.

Of these, Thomas Angel] came from England in 1631
when lie was a lad of some 12 or 13 years, and apparently
in charge of Roger Williams, whose protege he seems to
have been, not only accompanying the founder of Provi-
dence from England to Boston, but later making one of
the party of five who came with Roger Williams from the
Massachusetts colony in 1636.

When the first division of land was made among Provi-
dence settlers Thomas Angell received, in common with
the others, a six-acre lot of land, although he was clearly
too young to sign the civil agreement entered into by the
other members of the pact, but which he signed afterwards.
His lot, however, was number two on the division list,
and included the land on which the First Baptist Church
of Providence now stands, and a part of the section
traversed by Angell street.

Thomas Angell married and had two sons, John and
James; and five daughters, Amphillis, Mary, Deborah,
Alice, and Margaret. He died in 1695; but during his
life he had taken up several tracts of land, and one of these
claims he gave to his grandson, James Angell, son of
John Angell, who soon afterwards sold it to his brother,
John Angell, Junior. This farm was located on the west
side of the Woonasquatucket river, and included the land
near the present railroad crossing, at Centerdale, ex-
tending along the west side of the river nearly to the
Smithfield line as now laid out. This farm contained
about 200 acres, and covered the present site of the village
of Graniteville as well as a portion of Centerdale.

By deed dated July 26th, 1728, John Angell, Jr., con-


veyed a part of this farm to his son Stephen, who became,
by the death of his father in 1 744, the owner of the whole
farm, where he lived and raised a large family, nine boys
and two girls. One of these boys, John Angell, was
among the first to enlist in the Revolutionary War, having
promptly joined General Warren, at Bunker Hill, where
he assisted in throwing up the embankments at that place
and took part in the battle which followed. He served
in the Continental Army throughout the war, and received
the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Stephen Angell died in 1772 and willed the place to his
son William, who afterwards disposed of it to his brother
Daniel. After Daniel came into possession of the farm
he, in 1774, erected the house, now standing in Granite-
ville, and generally known to local people as the Olney
W. Angell place.

When Daniel Angell died, May 9th, 18 10, he gave the
farm to his son Olney; and upon the death of Olney
Angell, in 1856, he dying intestate, his son Olney W.
Angell purchased it; the farm, in the meantime, having
been divided into a number of small farms and home
sites, leaving less than one-half of the original farm to be
disposed of in this manner.

Upon the death of Olney W. Angell, February 5th,
1879, he, too, dying intestate, it passed to his children, who
still, 1909, hold it in common with each other. And thus
we have a complete line of ownership of a large tract, from
the original grant from the Indians to Roger Williams,
down to the present day.

One of the objects in tracing this tract of land, which
is largely in the village of Graniteville, is that the southerly
or lower end of the farm is a portion of the territory of




Centerdalc, and upon this part was erected the Colonial
Powder-Mill, an account of which will be given in another
chapter; and upon this farm was also erected the second
house built in the village of Centerdalc.

Idle original proprietors of the land on the east side of
the river where the village of Centerdalc is located were
John Smith, Epenetus Olney, and Richard Pray. To
establish the exact boundary of the several allotments
would be impossible, but by patient research a map of
the original farms has been prepared for this work;
and reference thereto will serve to give a general idea of
their location. Xo claim is made, for this map, of absolute
accuracy in regard to scale; but the street lines are correct,
and the boundary lines of the farm are as near correct
as they can be made, after the lapse of about 250 years,
with the very indefinite land records of the first 100 years
as a guide. And to one unacquainted with old land-
marks and local history, the reproduction of a map of
the claims of the original owners would be a difficult, if
not impossible, task.

In taking up a farm from the original rights, or the
commonings as they were called in the early days of the
colony, the idea is suggested that the settlers were familiar
with the old saying, "git a plenty while ye are gitting,"
for the farms in those days contained 100, 200, and some-
times 300, acres, and usually every man owned several
farms in different parts of the colony.

The land where the business center of the village of
Centerdalc is located was taken up from the commonings
by John Smith, about [680; but which of the many John
Smiths it was who secured this land is not easy to deter-
mine, because John was a favorite name with the Smith


family in those early days, as at the present time, the name
occurring so often that some designation, or title, was often
used to denote the John Smith referred to as John Smith,
Senior; John Smith, Junior; John Smith, "Mason;"
John Smith, "Miller;" John Smith, "Carpenter;" and,
sometimes, plain John Smith.

However, it is certain that John Smith (probably the
miller) took up this land, and also that he had a son John
Smith; and when John Smith, Senior, died, a portion of
his estate lying upon the east side of the Woonasquatucket
river was given to his son John Smith, Junior. This
farm contained 160 acres, and was bounded as follows:
Starting at a point on the Woonasquatucket river a few
rods beyond the present junction of Waterman avenue
and Smith street, and running in an easterly direction 320
rods, or nearly one mile; thence running in a southerly
direction 80 rods, or one-quarter of a mile; thence running
in a westerly direction 320 rods to the river; thence fol-
lowing the river in a northerly direction to the first-men-
tioned bound. (See map.)

John Smith, while he was still living, gave the farm to
two of his sons, Philip and William, who owned it jointly.

After the death of Philip, his wife, Sarah Smith, was
appointed administratrix upon his estate, and as Philip
Smith owed his father a considerable sum of money, she
turned over his half, or share, of the farm to his father to
secure him from loss of the money loaned. This share
was that part lying upon the Woonasquatucket river, and
is where the village of Centerdale is situated.

March 15, 1736, John Smith sold the farm to John
Whipple, who probably bought it on speculation, for he
soon afterwards, on January 6th, 1737, sold the same to


Nathaniel Day, who came from Attleboro, Massachusetts,
and who made it his homestead place until his death.
The house is still standing, and is a little distance north
of the line of Mineral Spring avenue, nearly opposite the
junction of Brown street, and is now the property of
Charles A. Brown.

James Angell, son of Stephen, who was great grandson
of the original Thomas Angell, mentioned in this chapter,
and brother of Col. John Angell of Revolutionary fame,
won the hand of Amey, daughter of Nathaniel Day, and
they were married February i , 1 760. The enterprising
and industrious habits of this young man so greatly
pleased his wife's parents that, in 1770, Nathaniel Day
deeded one-half of his farm to his son-in-law, and in 1772
he gave him the other half of the farm, together with
other lands, including one-eighth of the saw-mill property,
standing on Richard Coman's land, stating in the deed
of gift that he did so from the great love and confidence he
had in James Angell.

Upon the death of Nathaniel Day, James Angell and
bis wife continued to live upon the homestead, and there
eleven children were born to them; the two youngest,
James and Nathaniel, being, however, the only ones who
remained permanently in this locality and were directly and
prominently identified in the future progress of the village.

Upon the death of James Angell, Senior, he gave the
homestead farm to his youngest son, Nathaniel, who con-
tinued to live upon it until his death, August 14, 1872; or,
to be exact, upon such part of it as he had not disposed
of during his lifetime. After his death the remainder of
the farm was platted and sold for home sites; the plat
being known as the Nathaniel Angell plat.


Nathaniel's brother, James, not receiving any part of
his father's property, like many other enterprising young
men, started out to make his own fortune, and learned
the carpenter's trade, serving his apprenticeship with his
brother Emor, and was considered an expert carpenter.
In 1824 he purchased from his brother Nathaniel a por-
tion of the homestead place, this purchase being the part
which now constitutes the business portion of the village
of Centerdale. He continued to own and improve this
part of it until his death, in 1870, when he gave it to his
youngest son, James Halsey Angell; and at the latter's
death, in 1890, it passed to his two sons, George F. and
Frank C. Angell, the last-named having still in his pos-
session a large part of the estate. Thus we have a com-
plete line of ownership of the central part of the village,
from the Indians in 1636 to the present time (1909).

The land adjoining the Smith claim on the north (see
map) was taken up from the original rights by Richard
Pray; but it is impossible to determine the exact date, as
he was an extensive land owner and took up land from
the commonings in different parts of the colony, the de-
scriptions of which, as given in the deeds, are so confusing
and indefinite that many of the claims are impossible to

But it is certain that Richard Pray was in the colony
and bought land as early as 1652, and his name does not
appear upon the lecord as living in this section later than

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Online LibraryFrank Capron AngellAnnals of Centerdale in the town of North Providence, Rhode Island (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 12)