Rhode Island Historical Society.

Rhode Island Historical Society collections (Volume 13) online

. (page 26 of 29)
Online LibraryRhode Island Historical SocietyRhode Island Historical Society collections (Volume 13) → online text (page 26 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

William K. Covell appeared in Old Time New England
for April 1935.

The Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design for
April 1 93 5 contains an illustrated article on Samuel Vernon,
Newport silversmith, by Dorothy N. Casey.

The Harris Smith Records, a series of almanacs annotated
with vital records, has recently been presented to the Society
by Albert B. Coulters. These records, largely relating
to Washington and Kent Counties, have been arranged
alphabetically and typewritten for the convenience of

The following persons have been elected to member-
ship in the Society:

Miss Susan S. Brayton Mr. Tracy W. McGregor


The Old Hoyle Tavern

By Horace G. Belcher

(Continued from April issue)

It was a gala day for the opening of the old tavern under
its new owner. William Greene of Warwick was then Gov-
ernor; Jabez Bowen of Providence was Lieutenant Gov-
ernor; Henry Ward of Newport, Secretary of State; Wil-
liam Channing of Newport, Attorney General; Joseph
Clarke of Newport was General Treasurer. The Census of
1782 had shown a population of 4,306 persons for Prov-
idence, including 1913 white males, 943 of them under the
age of 16; 2102 white females, 903 under 16 years; 6
Indians, 22 mulattoes, 252 blacks.

Col. Joseph Hoyle is described in the deed as "yoeman"
the common term for one not a man of property and con-
clusive proof that he was not then an innkeeper. He came
to the tavern with the tradition of two generations of inn-
keepers behind him — his grandfather, Dr. John Hoyle and
his father, James who in Dr. Hoyle's will had been di-
rected to "assist his mother in her business, her paying him
for it," after the death of Dr. Hoyle. He must have been
a man of unusual parts, to have left such an indelible im-
press of his personality and popularity on the tavern in the
13 years he remained its landlord, that succeeding land-
lords retained his name on its sign to the end, nearly a
century later. They might and many of them did, put
their own name on the sign, but always it was subordinated
to the old name, the Hoyle Tavern or later, the Hoyle

Col. Joseph Hoyle, son of James and grandson of John,
was born in Providence in 1741. He married Sarah Field
of Providence, October 26, 1774, the minister being Rev.
Joseph Snow of the Beneficent Congregational Church, the


old "Round Top." He had been landlord of the Hoyle
Tavern more than a year when on July 8, 1 784, he married
Patience Rogers, then the widow Manchester, the ceremony
being performed in North Providence by Hope Angell,
justice of the peace.

This marriage was recorded 1 5 years later in 1 799 after
Col. Hoyle had given up the tavern. The marriage record
as made by George Tillinghast, Town Clerk, included a
list of the children of that marriage, with dates of birth
of each one. The time and manner of the record makes it
appear a measure to establish legal rights of the wife and
children in his estate. Hoyle retired at 56 and was 59 when
he died.

Col. Hoyle made the Hoyle Tavern the leading one on
the west side of the town where taverns were numerous,
especially on the road which now is Westminster Street,
and one of the best known and most popular houses in the
colony. He retired in February, 1796, after 13 years as its
host, and was succeeded by Jeremiah Fenner.

Hoyle died insolvent, four years later, in 1800. His
widow sold her rights and dower in the property May 22,
1 80 1 , to Mary Arnold, daughter of Welcome Arnold, who
later married Tristam Burgess, a well known lawyer of
Providence and Representative in Congress from 1825 to
1835. The property remained in the Burgess family until
the Citizens Savings Bank bought it for $75,000, June 30,

Jeremiah Fenner rented the inn from Joseph Hoyle, in
February, 1796 and left in the latter part of 1797. There
is no record of any other innholder here for the next six
years until Col. Cyrus Spaulding took it over in April, 1 803
from the new owners. He had previously kept a tavern
at the head of Long Wharf, at the foot of the present
Dorrance Street.

Col. Spaulding stayed but a year at the Hoyle, removing
in 1804 to the house of Joseph Sabin at the sign of the


Golden Ball, two doors West of the Great Bridge. The
Golden Ball seems to have been a popular name for Prov-
idence taverns, for there have been three here, as well as
others just outside the town.

From 1 804- to 1807 the Hoyle was run by Joseph Angell.
He left in 1807 and the tavern was again advertised for
rent. It stood empty five years this time, for it was not
until 1812 during our second war with Great Britain, that
Joseph Witter became *its landlord. He stayed six years,
leaving in 1 8 1 8 to open a house over the corner of Wey-
bosset and High Streets.

The Hoyle Tavern was advertised a number of times
between 1816 and 1820, even during Witter 's tenancy,
until Caleb Allen became its landlord in 1 820. He stayed a
year and was followed in 1821 by Preston H. Hodges, a
well known innkeeper who kept it until 1827, when he left
to carry on the Franklin House on Market Square, 1827 to
1 832, with his son. Seth Baker succeeded him at the Hoyle
in 1828 and kept it for three years, removing April 15,
1 83 1, to a tavern on the opposite side of High Street.

After that, landlords changed often. John Burton kept
there from 1831 to 1834; William Capron 1834 and per-
haps 1835; Owen Burlingame, who came from Scituate,
1835 to 1837. Burlingame's license was dated April 6,

Somewhere about this time a third story was added to
the tavern, which originally was of two stories. Much later
in the century an ell was built on, with a barroom on the
lower floor. This addition, made about the Centennial year,
1876, increased its capacity to 45 rooms, 12 of them being
in the ell. This new ell was in odd contrast to the old house,
for the lines of the original structure were wavy and any-
thing but straight, while the newer part was angular and
square with modern windows and doors.

From the front the structure appeared but two stories
high to the casual glance, for a long porch with six white
pillars extended along the front of the second story,


reached from the open square in front by two broad nights
of steps at each end and in the centre. A short distance
in front of this was a long hitching rail for horses. In later
years a large horse watering trough was located in front.
A circular stone trough still stands there.

"The main stairway is quite as queer in its formation
as the building itself," says an old description of the Hoyle
as it was in 1888.*'' "The balustrade, or banisters as it was
then, is of the slight, ugly style, the stairs narrow and of
low tread and great care has to be exercised in going up
alone, for fear of hitting one's head on some of the sup-
posed artistic projections or ornaments.

"As one looked at it, the question naturally comes up as to
how many thousands have climbed those stairs, how many
joyous supper parties have passed up and down, how many
honest farmers have rested there after a day of busy barter
and trade in the city and how many who, in the barroom
below have drank not wisely but too well, have been aided
up the steep way by the attendants of the house.

"Looking from the front of the stairway toward the rear
of the building, the main hall or corridor is an odd-looking
passage with innumerable jogs and projections, each room
that opens on it having a corner sticking out, handy to fall
against in the night and equally hazardous for anyone to
pilot by in the daytime, unless in full control of his powers.

"Apparently this floor was not planned at all, but the
rooms were simply thrown at the building and stuck.

"Ascending the main stairway, a narrow corridor runs
back to the annex and looking down it, the utter impossi-
bility of taking a big trunk through it at once apparent,
while even a bridal couple, closely as they walk together,
would have to proceed in single hie.

"Leading from this to the floor above, is a curiously
built winding stairway that would make an excellent study
for an artist. It is even worse to climb than the lower stair-
way, being only half as wide and twice as steep.

20 Providence Sunday Journal, January 29, 1888.


"The windows in the room and halls are antique in the
extreme, the panes of glass being small and more or less
dirty, while they are set in heavy wood and look from the
outside almost like windows in a prison. Many of them are
the ones originally put in, but some are of modern size and
style and look much out of place among their ancient

The procession of innkeepers continued, with frequent
changes. The old tavern had much competition and its
days of long tenancy ended with the death of Martha
Brown, in 1778. John A. Foster took it over in 1838 and
left it three years later, in 1841, to open a grocery store.

About this time the old Hoyle began to be known as the
Hoyle Hotel instead of as the Hoyle Tavern. Christopher
Johnson, who had managed the Angell House, the Frank-
lin House and later the Washington Hotel, and perhaps
the old Baker Tavern on High Street, was its landlord
from 1841 to 1843.

It was on the last day of December, 1843, that Amasa
Sprague, of the great cotton manufacturing family whose
failure three decades later was a world event in that indus-
try, was murdered — a crime which brought about the abol-
ishment of capital punishment in Rhode Island.

"One of the legends of the Hoyle," says the old account
previously quoted, 30 "is that Nick Gordon, instigator of the
murder of Amasa Sprague the elder, came to the tavern on
the night of the murder and bought drinks for the crowd
several times, and kept talking about what time it was and
how long he had been there, thus laying a foundation for
an alibi in case he was suspected of the murder."

Charles Richards had the place from 1844 to 1847, fol-
lowed by Lynson Barney, 1847 to 1848. Barney came to
the Hoyle from the High Street Hotel, which he kept
from 1844 to 1846. Later he removed to Newport and
became proprietor of the United States Hotel. Samuel B.

30 Ibid.


Parker followed, 1848 to 1852; John Colwell, 1853 to
1 855 or '56; and then came Sidney S. Paul, one of the most
colorful personalities ever connected with a Rhode Island

Sidney Paul prided himself on good ale and always had
half a dozen barrels on tap at the Hoyle. He used to say
he could feed 100 persons, day or night, on good roast
beef and other things, and on occasion he maintained this
reputation. He also kept the Roger Williams Hotel, which
stood next to the Providence Washington building where
North Main Street runs into Market Square, and subse-
quently kept the Earle House at the corner of North Main
and Steeple Streets.

After leaving the Hoyle in 1 859, he opened a road house
on the Apponaug road just East of the present Warwick
Avenue in what now is Lakewood, which for many years
after he passed on, was still called the Sidney Paul place.

John Boyden, who bought him out at the Hoyle in 1 859,
later opened the first shore resort on the East side of the
Providence River, about where the Wilkesbarre coal pier
was later located. His name was given to Boyden Heights,
a well known clam dinner resort in East Providence near
Riverside. Boyden died in 1864 and his widow, Jane Boy-
den, carried on at the Hoyle until 1867 — the second woman
to take charge of the old hostelry.

The line of landlords continued with Jenckes Harris,
1868-1869; he was followed by Orren Harris (Agent),
1870. Harris was noted for his hot whiskey punches. Then
came Amos Wells, 1871 to 1874; Benjamin S. Wilbur,
1875-1876; Orrin Harris again, 1877-1878; Thomas
Ladd, 1879-1882; Thomas Hartshorn, 1883. The line
of landlords ended with William W. Cameron, 1884-1887.
Cameron, whose name is on the sign shown in the last
photograph of the tavern doing business, removed from
the city in 1887. The Providence Directory does not list
any proprietor after 1886, the year Providence celebrated
the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city.


The old house had 29 landlords between 1739-40 and
1886. Of these 29 innholders, two were women, their
tenancy being 1 1 1 years apart. One of these women, Martha
Brown, widow of the founder of the tavern, had the longest
tenancy of any — a full quarter-century.

The old house had successively been a stage coach and
farmer's inn; a popular house to which the young bloods
of the town resorted; a farmer's hotel ; and a neighborhood
barroom. Always it retained its popularity with horsemen
and back country farmers. It fell in repute in its later
days and it ended as a lodging house for families, with
rooms let to lodgers who took their meals elsewhere.

Some of the best known hotel keepers of the town and
city had it for longer or shorter periods, with varying for-
tunes. One of its proprietors hanged himself in the little
entry leading from his private sitting room to his bedroom.
Always it remained the Hoyle — a landmark, the best
known place on the East side of Providence.

For many years a pair of large scales stood in front of
the Hoyle, where hay and other bulky commodities were
weighed. These scales were provided with big weights
which Ben Olney, the noted weight master, threw around
as if they were specially made for him. He would announce
the weight with as much care as if weighing diamonds.

"But to see Ben in his glory, was to see him when a big
load of wood was to be measured," says an old account. 31
"Then, indeed, he owned the place. All measuring was
done with a yard stick and the care that Ben took with a
fraction of an inch, was a wonder to the small boys and a
delight to his friends.

"For many years the farmers used to tie up in front and
around the Hoyle and barter their produce for what they
needed and this made the junction a most lively place.
Inside the hotel, faro bank was often dealt and it was an
easy matter to start a poker game at any time.

"One da y a farmer drove up with a load of cherries and
31 Ibid.


left them guarded by a savage looking dog. Alf Barton,
one of the characters of old Christian Hill, was there
and remonstrated with the farmer for leaving them with
only the dog to guard them — but the farmer allowed the
dog was enough and said anyone who could drive him away
could have the cherries.

"That was enough for Alf and before the farmer had
gone any distance, by the aid of a squirt gun and some hot
water, he had routed the dog and divided the cherries
among those near by."

For many years a large tree stood on the High Street
side of the hotel. In this one of the proprietors built a
platform 20 feet above ground, railed off for security and
on the platform placed tables and chairs. In summer this
made a cool and airy place for service from the bar.

"From its start until within a few years, it was a hostelry,
open 24 hours daily. Now it is used as a lodging house for
families and rooms are let to boarders who take their meals
elsewhere," says an old newspaper description of the place
in its last days. 3 "

"The famous old kitchen is deserted and silent, no juicy
steaks are cooked there, no steaming coffee emerges from
its portals and the famous dishes of ham and eggs and won-
derful boiled dinners that used to be served there, are no
more known.

"With the increase of population and the growth of
building on the West Side, the functions ceased and grad-
ually but surely it settled into a relic of the past and 'The
Hoyle' sank to the level of an ordinary building, only
known by the fact that it stood at the junction of High
and Cranston Streets.

"Probably no tavern of olden times or hotel of later
years has so many stories connected with it. The Hoyle
was once the leading road house of the town. East Side
bloods used to drive out to it, for there were few buildings

32 Ibid.


Part of the tavern's stable can be seen at the left.
From fhotografh owned by Horace G. Belcher


on the hill and it was considered quite a distance from the
centre of the city. There was no bridge across the now
Providence River and to reach the Hoyle required quite
a drive out toward Pawtucket."

This newspaper account lists some of the proprietors of
the old Hoyle, including several whose names do not
appear in the list of annual license holders. Among them
was Walt Proctor, of whom the reporter said: "Walt Proc-
tor is best known to this generation, for he and his heirs
have owned it for 16 or 18 years and still hold it. His
noted motto of 'Live and Let Live' is known everywhere.
He died at the Hoyle."

There is no record of any license issued for the Hoyle
in the name of W 7 alter Russell Proctor, although he died
there September 29, 1 883, his home being then at 42 Wil-
low Street. He certainly had the leasehold of the place at
the time of his death, for an account in the Providence
Journal October 1, 1883 — a few days after his death — of a
row at the Hoyle, said the property was in control of Walter
Proctor. He probably held license through a dummy or his
bartender, as was often done where a license could not be
obtained direct.

The old tavern building, with its additions, its barn
and other buildings erected on the original land, stood
until 1 890 when it was sold at auction June 1 8. The Hoyle
Tavern itself brought $16, a condition of sale being its
removal within 30 days. The addition to the older struc-
ture sold for $98 and seven other buildings including
barns, on the property brought the total up to $1156.
The big stable was on the Cranston Street side, in the rear
of the main building, which faced the point of the junction.

The old tavern was replaced by a store and office build-
ing of two stories on the Westminster and Cranston Street
sides, with a front section facing the square, of three
stories. This structure was vacated March 1, 1920 fol-
lowing purchase of the property by the Citizens Savings
Bank and was removed to make way for the present home


of the bank, opened July 1, 1921, just six months more
than half a century after the bank was established as a
Christian Hill institution.

The estate had remained in possession of the Burgess
family and descendants from 1 801 until 1 893 when it was
conveyed to the Burges Land Company, Casimir DeR.
Moore, President ; Alfred H. Cumbers, Treasurer by Cas-
imir DeR. Moore and Harriet F. Moore, his wife, both
of New York City; Charles E. Souther and Mary Burges
Souther, his wife, both of Orange, New Jersey, the date
being February 18. It was described as numbers 5-43
Cranston and 878-900 Westminster Street.

The Citizens Savings Bank bought from the Burges
Land Company, June 30, 1919, paying $75,000 for the
property which when sold at auction June 5, 1889 by
George H. Burnham, Commissioner in the case of Casimir
DeR. Moore of New York vs. Andrew S. Thorp for parti-
tion of estate, had been passed for a bid of $41,100 for "all
that certain lot of land with the buildings thereon and
appurtenances thereto, situated at the junction of High
and Cranston Streets . . . known as the Hoyle Tavern
estate . . . about 28,137 square feet of land."


Joseph Hoyle was 33 when he married Sarah Field,
daughter of Joseph Field, October 26, 1 774, in Providence.
The marriage was performed by Rev. Joseph Snow, who
recorded it in the ledger account he kept of the many mar-
riages he performed as minister of the Beneficent Congre-
gational Church.

The record, as transcribed in Book 5, page 482, of the
Record of Marriage and Births, office of the City Registrar,
Providence, reads: "Joseph Hoyle of Providence, son of
James, Sarah Field of Providence, daughter of Joseph,
October 26, 1774."


There is no record of the death of Sarah Hoyle, but on
page 128, Book 2, of Record of Marriages and Births in
the City Registrar's office, Providence, is a photostatic
copy of the page in the original record hook, with the entry
of his second marriage.

The date was July 8, 1 784, but the record was not made
until March 30, 1 799, when it was entered with a list of the
children born to the couple from that marriage. The bride
was Patience Rogers, then the widow Manchester. The
record reads:

"I hereby certify that Mr. Joseph Hoyle, son of Mr.
James Hoyle, deceased, and Miss Patience Manchester,
widow of ( line drawn here in original record ) Man-
chester, deceased, were lawfully joined together in Mar-
riage in North Providence the eighth day of July, anno
Domine 1784. By me, the subscriber, Hope Angell, Justice
of Peace. Witness George Tillinghast, Town Clerk. March
30, 1799.

"Their children, born in Providence, are as follows, to

Elizabeth Stuart Hoyle, Born August 15,1785
Joseph Hoyle, Jr., Born December 7, 1 786
James Rogers Hoyle, Born February 27, 1788
Henry Ward Hoyle, Born February 5, 1790
Susannah Hoyle, Born November 20, 1791
John Singer Dexter Hoyle, Born April 3, 1798"
While the record of the marriage gives the name of the

bride as Patience Manchester, widow of Manchester,

deceased, the index to this volume in the same handwriting
as the entries in the volume, reads:

"Hoyle, Joseph and Patience Rogers, their Marriage
and children's Births 128."

Evidently the Town Clerk had known the bride before
her first marriage. Joseph Hoyle at the time of this mar-
riage was 43 years old. He was 58 when his last child was
born two years after he retired from the Hoyle Tavern
and two years before he died insolvent.



John Hoyle's death was recorded in the Register of
King's Church, now St. John's Church, North Main Street,
in Providence. The record, transcribed in Book 5, page 164
of the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages, City
Registrar's office, Providence, reads: "John Hoyle buried
February 11, 1766." *

In his will, "John Hoyle of Cranston in the County of
Providence" left all lands and buildings in Cranston to
his wife, Hannah.

His son, James Hoyle, father of Joseph, received all
lands in Cranston after decease of "his mother in law,
Hannah Hoyle, deceased." The will continues with the
injunction that James "is to assist his mother in her bus-
iness, her paying him for it."

The "toomb yard at the North corner of my land fenced
in with a prim hedge" is excepted, the document continuing
"and my will is that the aforesaid burying place shall be
keepst for a borying place for my three children namely,
John Hoyle, James Hoyle, Elisabeth Mounting formerly
Elisabeth Short all to have the privilege and liberty to
bury their dead if need require and my son Richard's chil-
dren the same privilege and so to their posterity hereafter."

He left 1 5 pounds to "the town of Cranston treasury"
to maintain the graveyard.

To his son John was left "the East end of my house in
Providence where he now lives, that is to say wright up
and down from the yard to the top of the chimne between
the two ends of said house and the land under the said
end of said house."

The West end of the house was left to his grandson
Richard Hoyle, with "1-2 the barn."

His silver mounted "sword and cain" was left to his son
James "and my string of gold beeds and locket to my


daughter Elisabeth and all my wearing apparel to be di-
vided between my two sons John and James Hoyle."

Following the disposal of his clothing came this clause:

"And further my will is that children should be loving
each other and to their mother and she the same to them and
I would pray that they would think that their poor Mother
and Father had no Body to give any thing to them and
that I have labored hard to get a few pence for them and
hope God will bless them with the same."

The inventory, showing 2887 pounds 10 shillings old
tenor, was made by Richard Waterman, Thomas Westcott,
Alexander Frazier.

In Book W-5, Page 41 1, Providence Probate Records.

The inscriptions on the Hoyle gravestones were printed
in The Rhode Island Historical Society Collections , vol.
XXV, p. 1 1 2 and an illustration of the coat of arms in vol.
XXI, p. 73.

Form ok Legacy

"/ give and bequeath to the Rhode Island

Historical Society the sum of

Online LibraryRhode Island Historical SocietyRhode Island Historical Society collections (Volume 13) → online text (page 26 of 29)