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Rhode Island

Historical Society


Vol. XIV January, 1921 No. 1



Ninigret's Fort

By Leicester Bradner 1

The Ancestry of John Greene 5

Early Sessions of the General Assembly .... 7

The Inscribed Rocks of Narragansett Bay

By Edmund B, Delabarre 10

Muster Roll of Sloop Providence 22

Notes 24

List of Members of the Rhode Island Historical Society 27

William Coddington's Seals 32

$3.00 per year Issued Quarterly 75 cent&<per copy'^




Vol. XIV

January, 1921

No. 1.

Howard W. PRESTON,Presiden( EDWARD K. ALDRICH, Jr. ,Treaturer
George T. SPICER, Secretary HOWARD M. CHAPIN, Librarian

Please address communications to Howard M. Chapin, Librarian,
68 Waterman Street, Providence, R. I.

The Society assumes no responsibility for the statements or the
opinions of contributors.

Ninigret's Fort

A Refutatiofi of the Dutch Theory
By Leicester Bradner.

With the naive creduHty of old style historians, Mr. S. G.
Arnold, in a note to page 155 of his "History of the State of
Rhode Island," states that "the Dutch had two fortified trading
posts on the south shore of Narragansett, in what is now
Charlestown." No proof presented, no references given. So
far as I have been able to discover, this is the first occurrence
in print of the theory that the Dutch owned the fort popularly
known as Ninigret's. All later historians have trustingly fol-
lowed Arnold's lead in this particular and the comparative
insignificance of the subject has preserved it from the cold
eye of historical research. Where this theory originated, I
.have not been able to discover, unless it sprang full-fledged,
like Pallas Athene, from the head of Mr. Arnold. The dis-
covery of Dutch implements in the graves of the Niantic
sachems in 1863 gave plausible authority to it and it grew and
flourished mightily until, in 1902, it found its most vigorous
champion in the redoubtable Sidney S. Rider.


Mr. Rider bases his argument on the belief that the Indians
would not have built a fort on the lines of this one and on the
not sufficiently proved claim that the Indians never used it. He
heightens the effect of his thesis by passing over the reliable
history of Elisha R. Potter and pouring his satire on the sen-
timental and romantic inaccuracies of the Rev. Frederic
Denison. (Cf. Rider's "Lands," p. 295, where he accuses
Denison of being responsible for the Indian theory. Potter,
p. 23, evidently had no idea that the origin of the fort was
other than Indian.) Denison had no historical sense and, like
all local historians, was prone to embroider facts according to
his taste. Consequently, he left ample opportunity for the
sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued Rider. The latter pricks Deni-
son's toy balloon in several places and leaves it in a very
deflated condition. The real essence of the matter remained,
however, as I shall endeavor to show, unharmed by Rider's
caustic attacks.

The propounders of the Dutch theory have omitted one
very important aspect of the case. They make no reference
to the Dutch sources, published by the New York Historical
Society and the State of New York. It is from these sources
and not from guess-work or tradition that any reliable history
of the Dutch activities in Rhode Island must be formulated.
In 1614 Adrian Block sailed along the New England coast
and was the first Dutchman to explore Rhode Island. By 1622,
as we learn in DeLaet's "New World," the "Dutch shallops
trafficked with the Indians as far east as Narragansett and
Buzzard's Bay." This trade was already so considerable that
when the Plymouth colonists made a trip to Narragansett Bay
the next year they had no success in trading with the Indians
because the Dutch were already supplying them with more
desirable goods than they could offer. In 1636 the Dutch
obtained formal possession of Quotenis (Now Dutch Island)
and maintained a permanent trading post there (Doc. Col.
Hist. N. Y., I, p. 565). All this these historians are acquainted
with and use, but next they make a jump which I cannot fol-
low. Because the Dutch had a large trade in Rhode Island


and because two forts are found in Charlestown, they state
the conclusion that these forts were Dutch. Now, such a
conclusion would be quite justified in the case of anyone
but a historian. He, however, is supposed to back up his
statements with facts and not imagination. It so happens
that in all the available Dutch sources there is no mention
of any fort located on the south shore of Rhode Island.
In fact, the statement, made in 1652, that "the subsequent
circumstances of the country alone prevented the occu-
pation by forts of Pequatoos focket (Pawcatuck River) and
Marinkansick (Narragansett), otherwise called Sloops Bay"
(Doc. Col. Hist. N. Y., I, p. 565), makes it seem that even
Quotenis was unfortified, in spite of Rider's unproved state-
ment to the contrary. Furthermore, in 1649 the West India
Company, protesting to the States General in Holland that the
English were occupying Dutch territory, presented a list of
all "Forts and Hamlets" by which they laid claim to the pos-
session of the New England coast (Doc. Col. Hist. N. Y., I,
pp. 543, 544). In this list, which was undoubtedly the most
inclusive they could prepare, there is no mention of any place
within the present Rhode Island boundaries except Quotenis.
After 1649 the Dutch trade waned rapidly under the spread
of English colonization in New England and it is not likely
that any new forts were built after that date.

Besides omitting reference to Dutch records, it seems to me
that the followers of this theory have failed to note the signifi-
cance of certain passages in the English sources. Mason, in
the account of his campaign against the Pequots in 1637, tells
that in marching westward from Narragansett Bay he spent
the night "at a place called Nyantic, about eighteen or twenty
miles distant, where another of those Narragansett sachems
lived in a fort, it being a frontier to the Pequots." The loca-
tion of Nyantic is settled by a letter from Roger Williams to
Governor Winthrop, written in the preceding year, in which
he advises "that Niantick be thought on for the riding and
retiring to of vessels, which place is faithful to the Narra-
gansetts and at present enmity with the Pequods." This fort,


therefore, was at a point on the shore, where vessels could
ride, some twenty miles from Narragansett Bay. This leaves
no doubt that it was at the head of Charlestown inlet, where
the remains of "Ninigret's Fort" are now to be found. Neither
can anyone doubt that Mason's "sachem," whom Williams
declared "faithful to the Narragansetts," was either Ninigret
or his father, chief of the Niantics, a tribe subsidiary to
Canonicus. In 1637, then, we find an Indian sachem occupy-
ing his fort at the same place where the remains of a fort now
exist and no mention made of any Dutch fort there or else-
where on the southern coast. As for the fort on Chemunga-
nuck Hill, Rider says it was a Dutch outpost against the
Pequots. This is pure imagination, for the Dutch were never
at war with the Pequots and traded with them as well as with
the Niantics. The latter, on the other hand, were perenially
fighting with their neighbors to the west and had good use
for such an outpost. It is also to be noticed that there is no
mention of any Dutch fort, in the location under discussion,
in any English document or record. This, taken in connection
with the similar silence of the Dutch sources, should be con-
vincing proof of the nonentity of this imaginary station.

In denying that the Dutch owned or occupied these forts,
I have no intention of omitting the fact that the Dutch were
in close relations with the Niantics and carried on a busy trade
with them. The Charlestown inlet (with no name attached)
appears on two Dutch maps (DeLaet's and Fischer's), which
would indicate that Dutch traders stopped there often enough
to know its location but maintained no post. The quantity of
Dutch articles found in the Indian graves there shows that
the Niantics were well supplied by the Dutch. That Ninigret
himself was in close relations with the government of New
Netherlands is well known. These relations culminated in
his spending the winter of 1652-1653 in New Amsterdam (cf.
Potter, p. 50). Cromwell's war with Holland began in 1652
and Governor Stuyvesant received directions to make use of
the Indians against the English colonists if necessary (Doc.
Col. Hist. N. Y.). As a result, we learn that in the spring


Ninij:^ret returned with arms and ammunition in a Dutch sloop
(Potter, p. 50). It may be that on this visit Ninigret observed
Dutch fortifications and remodelled his fort with bastions,
although the Niantics may quite possibly have learned these
engineering improvements through earlier contact with Euro-
peans. Rider's objection to the Indians using "rifle pits" may
be met with Roger Williams' statement that the Indians were
"filled with artillery by the Dutch." In 1664 New Amsterdam
was captured and held by the English. The Dutch trade in
Rhode Island, however, must have ceased before this — the
greater part of it, at least — for the Indians re-sold Dutch
Island to Benedict Arnold and his partners in 1658.

The facts I have presented are conclusive and their impor-
tance can only be altered by the discovery of new sources. On
the present evidence, I consider it impossible that the Dutch
ever owned or occupied the forts in Charlestown.

Seal of John Greene, Jr.

The Ancestry of John Greene

George Sears Greene, in "The Greenes of Rhode Island,"
page 30, traces the ancestry of John Greene of Warwick back
to Richard Greene and his wife. Mary Hooker, daughter of
John Hooker alias Vowell, chamberlain of Exeter and uncle
of Richard Hooker, Prebendary of Salisbury.

In Westcote's Devonshire the ancestry of this chamberlain
John Hooker is given as follows, page 326 :


John Hooker, alias Vowel, chamberlain of Exeter, was son
of Robert Hooker and his wife Agnes, daughter of John Doble
of Woodbridge in Suffolk. This Robert Hooker was son of
John Vowel and his wife, Alice Drewel, daughter and heiress
of Richard Drewel of Exeter and his wife, Joan Kelly, daugh-
ter and heiress of John Kelly and his wife Julyan, daughter
and co-heiress of Robert Wilford of Oxton.

John Hooker had three wives, but his daughter Mary is
not mentioned. It would seem probable that she was his
daughter by his second wife, Anstice, daughter of Edmund
Bridgman of Exeter.

John Keble in his edition of the works of Richard Hooker,
volume I, appendix to preface I, folding plate opposite page
cvi, gives the pedigree of John Hooker as follows :

John Vowel alias Hooker was son of Robert Vowell alias
Hooker and his wife Agnes daughter of John Doble of Wood-
bridge in Suffolk. This Robert was son of John Voell alias
Hooker by Alice daughter and heir of Richard Druitt and his
wife Joan Kelly daughter and heir of John Kelly and his wife
JuHan daughter and co-heir of Robert Wilforde of Oxenham
in Devon.

John Voell alias Hooker was son of Robert Voell alias
Hooker of Hants gent and his wife Margery daughter and
heir of Roger Bolter of Bolterscombe, Devon.

Robert Voell alias Hooker was son of John Voell alias
Hooker who was son of Jago Voell and his wife Alice daugh-
ter and the heir of Richard Hooker, of Hurst Castle, Hants.

Jago Voell was son of Gevaph Voell of Pembroke in South
Wales. No mention is made of John Hooker's daughter Mary.

It will be noted that the two pedigrees differ only in the
spelling of names and such minor details. A slight amount of
research work in England would probably settle all of the
questions raised by the pedigrees and also disclose additional


Early Sessions of the General Assembly

The first meeting of the General Assembly of Providence
Plantations (Rhode Island), under the Charter of 1643 un-
doubtedly took place soon after the arrival of Roger Williams
with the Charter in September, 1644.

Inasmuch as both Richard Scott and Samuel Gorton record
that the Charter was received with jubilation, it would seem
probable that a meeting under it was soon held, and according
to Edward Winslow, John Brown was on November 8, 1644,
ordered to go to Rhode Island to prevent any meetings under
the Charter, and that when he got to Rhode Island, pre-
sumably in November, 1644, he found "a publique meeting
was appointed for your new Magistrates and people." It
would seem natural for them to choose Williams as chief
officer at this time, and in confirmation of this view, we find
that Williams was "Chief Officer" in August, 1645. Williams
was still Chief Officer in December, 1646, for at that time,
acting as Chief Officer, he issued a warrant. Henry Walton
was Secretary of the Colony in August, 1645, and Samuel
Gorton was a Magistrate, probably Assistant, previous to
going to England in 1645.

The most reasonable deduction from the fragmentary evi-
dence is that the first General Assembly was held on Rhode
Island (probably Portsmouth, for the second or third was held
at Newport in August, 1645) '■> ^^d that Roger Williams was
elected Chief Officer ; Gorton, Assistant ; and Walton, Sec-

It is possible that a second General Assembly was held in
May at which these officers were re-elected, or at which
Williams was re-elected and Gorton and Walton elected. The
only reasons for assuming that an Assembly was held in May
is the subsequent choice of May as the beginning of the
political year, and the reference under the date of May 14,
1645, in Winthrop's Journal to John Brown's visit to Aquid-
neck to oppose Williams' authority there. Brown may have


made two trips, one in November, 1644, and the other in May,
1645, or Winthrop's entry may be the delayed account of the
November, 1644, trip.

Another General Assembly (the second or third) was held
at Newport on August 9, 1645.

It would certainly seem probable that another annual Gen-
eral Assembly must have been held either in November, 1645,
or more probably in May, 1646 (the third or fourth). WiUiams
must have been re-elected, for he was still serving as chief
officer in December, 1646. Gorton, having gone to Europe,
was probably superseded by someone else.

In May, 1647, the so-called "First General Assembly" was
held, which must in reality have been the fourth or fifth assem-
bly. John Coggeshall was chosen President. The records of
this meeting have been printed by Bartlett in the Rhode Island
Colonial Records and in pamphlet form by Staples, and so are
easily accessible. The Providence Commissioners' names are
given in Providence Town Papers, 09.

The next General Assembly of which we have record was
held at Providence on May 16, 1648. John Coggeshall, the
President, had died since the last session. Nicholas Easton
was chosen Moderator and Coddington was elected President,
but failed to qualify. The records of the meeting are printed
by Bartlett.

The next meeting of the General Assembly (the sixth or
seventh) was a special session held at Portsmouth, March 10,
to 14th, 1648/9. John Warner acted as clerk of the Assembly,
charters were issued to Providence, Warwick, Portsmouth and
probably to Newport. The act was passed, by which the
colony seized a supposed gold mine, an act of oblivion was
passed, and Roger Williams was chosen Deputy Governor
(i. e., Acting Governor). The Warwick and Providence Char-
ters are extant, and have been reprinted in The Documentary
History of Rhode Island, vol. I, 252 & 269, the gold mine act
is printed in Providence Town Papers 012, and the oblivion
act in Providence Town Papers 010.

The annual General Assembly was held at Warwick, May


22, 1649. Roger Williams acted as IModerator and John Smith
was chosen President. The records are printed by Bartlett in
the Rhode Island Colonial Records.

A special session of the General Assembly was held at Ports-
mouth in October, 1649. No records of this meeting are
extant, but Williams wrote that it was held on account of the
riotous conduct of some Dutch sailors.

The 1650 General Assembly was held at Newport on May

23. Nicholas Easton was chosen Moderator. The records are
printed by Bartlett in The Rhode Island Colonial Records.
The names of the Commissioners are not given, but the Ports-
mouth Commissioners are named in the Portsmouth records
(p. 49).

A special session of the General Assembly (the tenth or
eleventh) was held October 26, 1650. The records are printed
by Bartlett in The Rhode Island Colonial Records, and the
Warwick commissioners are named in the Warwick records
(typewritten copy, p. 91).

The annual General Assembly was held in May, 1651. No
records of this meeting are extant. Nicholas Easton was
re-elected President. The Portsmouth and Warwick Commis-
sioners are named in the town records.

The next session of the General Assembly (the twelfth or
thirteenth) was a special session called on October 8, 1651, at
Providence (Warwick Records, typewritten copy, page 98).
No records of this meeting are extant. It may have been
postponed until November 4th. The records of the meeting
of November 4, 1651, are printed by Bartlett in The Rhode
Island Colonial Records.

Table of Early General Assemblies.

Date Place Records

Nov., 1644 Aquidneck No records

May, 1645 Aquidneck Inferred from

Aug., 1645 Newport Walton's letter

May, 1646 No records

May, 1647 Portsmouth Bartlett


Date Place Records

May, 1648 Providence Bartlett

Mar., 1648/9 Portsmouth Frag^ments

May, 1649 Warwick Bartlett

Oct., 1649 Portsmouth No records

May, 1650 Newport Bartlett

Oct., 1650 Bartlett

May, 165 1 No records

Oct., 1651 Providence No records

perhaps same as

Nov., 165 1 Providence Bartlett

The Inscribed Rocks of Narragansett Bay

III. The Arnold's Point Cup Stone and the
Fogland Ferry Rock in Portsmouth

By Edmund B. Delabarre.

Besides the rocks that were described in our last paper,
there is another stone in Portsmouth with curious and
puzzling artificial markings, and formerly at least there was
one in still a third locality in the same town. We know of
the latter only through notes by Dr. Stiles, no one else having
mentioned it. In the fourth volume of his manuscript
"Itineraries," on page 215, under date of September 15, 1788,
is written the following: "Mem''. Take off a new copy of
the characters on the Dighton Rock, & those at Fogland & on
Col'' Almys Farm." He shortly carried out this intention
with respect to all three localities. Concerning the second he
remarks, October 6, 1788, on page 255: "Visited & copied a
markt Rock about half a m. above Fogland Ferry on Rh. I.
on shore ag'. or just below M"^ M'^Corys Farm."

There can be little question as to the approximate position
of this marked rock. Fogland Ferry ran from Fogland Point
in Tiverton across to the island of Rhode Island. On the
Portsmouth side, its landing place was probably about half a
mile to the south of McCurry Point, shown on the upper chart


on our Plate XIV. This Point is part of an estate still known
as the McCorrie Farms. The diversity of spelling does not
obscure the fact that here was doubtless the "Mr. McCorys
Farm" referred to by Dr. Stiles ; and since the rock was
"against or just below" this farm, it was probably situated
just to the south of the first division line shown on the chart
south of McCurry Point, this being the southerly border of
the property.

On May 5, 1920, I made a careful search of the shore not
only at the place thus indicated but for half a mile both to the
south and to the north of McCurry Point, examining each
promising rock and boulder. In the vicinity of the probable
location of Stiles's "markt Rock," I saw a few small boulders
with shallow scratches, probably not artificial. On one of
them, the scratches were somewhat in the form of a letter Z ;
on another, roughly like an S. It is not very likely that either
of these was the one that drew Stiles's attention. Mr. George
Peirce, owner of the McCorrie Farms, writes me that he has
never heard of an inscribed rock in that vicinity. It is prob-
able, therefore, that this one, like those at Melville Station,
has disappeared. Since Stiles's drawing has not been pre-
served, we cannot know what its markings were like unless
some later search for it proves successful.

The other stone lies on the shore near one of the Ports-
mouth coal mines, a little to the south of Arnold's Point. Its
position can be found easily on the lower chart of our Plate
XIV, and its appearance is shown in the two photographs
of Plate XV. To reach it, follow the road that leads west-
ward near the lower centre of the chart, crossing the railroad
tracks to the Portsmouth railroad station ; thence walk along
a lane or path north of the "stack" indicated on the chart,
westerly to the dilapidated wharf shown just above the
figure 2. North of this, about opposite or a little south of
figure 3 on the chart, lies the rock. Its exact position is
indicated by a child sitting upon it in our upper photograph,
which was taken looking northward from the wharf. The


Other photog^raph shows its nearer appearance and that of the
markino^s upon it.

The rock is of sandstone, merging somewhat into con-
glomerate at the in-shore end. It is near the edge of the
beach at low tide, and is covered by high water. It measures
about 3 feet in width, 4^^ in length, and in thickness from
16 to 22 inches. It is nearly flat and smooth on top, with
rounded edges, and a slight lateral inclination shoreward. Its
long axis is directed about N. 50° E. Its artificial markings
are unique among the inscribed rocks of this region. They
consist of six relatively deep holes or cups, connected together
by shallow channels. The holes vary in depth from 2^ to
2J4 inches. Beginning in-shore and following the channels,
their distances apart from centre to centre are respectively
9>4, 8, 9, io>4 and g% inches; and of the second from the
sixth, 15 inches. They appear to have been drilled, and are
not circular, but more like triangles with rounded angles.
Their diameter at the top is i^ to i^ inches, narrowing
slightly below. The top edges are not smooth-cut, but broken
and roughly beveled. The channels are pecked in, and like
the crudely pecked lines of other rocks of this region, are
very irregular in width and depth. Their typical width is
9^ to ^ inch, narrowing rarely to 3^, and widening rarely to
}i or I inch. Their depth is usually 3/16 to ^ inch, with
extremes from ^ down to a mere trace.

In the more conglomerate portion of the surface, near the
first and second holes, the stone is roughly and irregularly
much pocked and scaled, and here it is doubtful whether or
not there was another shallow curved channel leading of?
from the one between these two holes to a seventh very
shallow depression, and whether or not there was a shallow
irregular half-ring about hole number 2. The marks so
described might be either natural or artificial, but are prob-
ably natural.

The history of this stone is unknown earlier than 1910,
when it was shown by a native of Portsmouth to Mr. David
Hutcheson of Washington, D. C. He writes me concerning


it: "At first sight I thought, from the arrangement of the
holes, that it was an attempt to represent The Dipper, but
the seventh star was missing. On a sheet of paper I drew a
rough outHne of the face of the stone showing the position
of the holes. I sent this to Mr. Babcock and he showed it to
some of the Washington anthropologists, and they thought it
was an Indian Cup Stone." In 19 13 it was mentioned by
William H. Babcock in his Early Norse Visits to America,
on page 44. We have quoted his belief that the inscription
near Mount Hope was "almost certainly Wampanoag work ;"
and he remarks that "the same may be said with less con-
fidence" of this Portsmouth stone.

Before considering the probable origin of these markings,
it will be profitable to discuss first the peculiar shape of the
drill-holes, and then the general nature of cup-stones. Since

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