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3 1833 01796 8865
COLONY OF RHODE ISLAND.
ELISHA R. POTTER .
Author of the Early History of Narragransett
SIDNEY S. RIDER
SIDNEY S. RIDER.
Jtemams of Mabiiations ***
Of the numerous French settlements in America, those
in Canada, Maine, and some others, probably had their
origin in the love of enterprise and adventure. But the
motives which produced the settlements in Rhode Island,
Massachusetts, and the Southeastern States were, in a great
measure, religious. The reformation which took place in
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the sixteenth century was attended with almost unceasing
wars and civil convulsions. The principle of tolerating all
religious opinions to the utmost limit consistent with the
preservation of public morality and order, was then almost
unknown. Religion was regarded by all governments as a
part of the machinery of state, and to attack the established
church was of course rebellion against the powers that were.
The Lutheran reformation soon spread over Europe. In
France the protestants were generally known by the name
of Huguenots. The origin of this name is not certainly
In 1562 the dissensions between the two religious parties
in France had arisen to such a height that an open war broke
out between them. The Catholic party for the greater
part of the time from the beginning of the troubles until
the repeal of the Edict of Nantes and the expulsion of the
protestants from France, had the advantage of having all the
power of the civil government exerted in their favor. The
war continued with more or less violence until 15T2, when
the leaders of the protestant party having been invited to
Paris on pretense of bringing about a general reconciliation,
the ever memorable massacre of St. Bartholomew took place.
In this massacre seventy thousand protestants, including
almost all the leaders of the party, fell victims to the bloody
spirit of religious persecution.
6 HISTOEICAL TRACT.
The Catholics in France and at Rome celebrated this event
with thanksgivings and jubilees, and medals were struck to
commemorate their victory.
This massacre took place in the reign of Charles the
Ninth, and during the remainder of his reign the conscien-
tious protestants enjoyed no rest. Henry the Third, who
was supposed to favor protestantism, was assassinated in
15S9. Henry the Fourth succeeded, and quiet was restored
to the nation for a time.
Henry the Fourth, who before his coming to the throne of
France had been King of Navarre, had been educated a pro-
testant, and was naturally inclined to favor their cause. On
his accession, from motives of policy, the greater part of
his subjects being attached to the Church of Rome, he made
a public profession of the Catholic religion, but he was of
too enlarged a mind to lend himself to be the instrument of
oppression to any party and to endanger the peace of France
and the stability of the government, by a vain endeavor to
produce a uniformity of religious opinion.
In the year 1598 he published the celebrated Edict of
Nantes, so called from the city of Nantes where it was
signed. By this a free toleration was granted to the protes-
tants in matters of religious opinion ; the offices of the state
were made accessible to them; funds were allowed them for
the maintenance of their worship ; and for a further secur-
ity to them against the malice of their persecuting foes
and against any sudden change of policy in the govern-
ment, certain cities were assigned to them as places of
refuge and defence.
The giving to the protestants the control of certain por-
tions of the kingdom seems inconsistent with all modern
notions of religious freedom. It may have been justified by
the turbulent state of the times. But it laid the foundation
of much of the subsequent troubles.
FKENCH SETTLEMENTS IN RHODE ISLAND. 7
During the whole of this prince's reign the terms of the
Edict were faithfully adhered to. He perished by assassin-
ation in 1610, and with him the hopes of the protestants for
security in time to come.
During the succeeding reign of Louis the Thirteenth, the
Edict of Nantes was several times solemnl}' reaffirmed, and
the confirmation by Louis the Thirteenth, dated March 12,
1615, is especially remarkable for its expressions of liberal-
ity and toleration of religious differences.
Had the protestants been governed by wise and moderate
councils, their fate might have been different. But they
bitterly assailed Henry the Fourth, for his change of relig-
ion, and they suffered themselves to become the victims and
tools of ambitious nobles whose only motive was to obtain
power in the state for themselves. The ambition of the
nobles to control the government was, for several genera-
tions, the source of almost constant civil war, and although
religion was generally the pretext, yet it was sometimes
merely a pretence, and frequently not unmixed with politi-
cal motives. Louis the Thirteenth laid siege to Rochelle,
which had become practically almost independent*, and it
was compelled to surrender in 1629. But even then the
free exercise of their religion was guaranteed to them by
the Edict of Grace, signed by Cardinal Richelieu, f
But the strength of the Huguenots as a party was now
broken, and in 1685 Louis the Fourteenth, under the influ-
ence of the clergy, repealed the Edict of Nantes. The
open profession of the reformed religion was prohibited,
the ministers of the reformed faith compelled to leave the
kingdom, and a series of persecutions commenced which
drove away from their country a large proportion of the
reformed ; in effect, all those who preferred the enjoyment
*Weiss's History of tlie French Protestant Refugees, i,, 48.
tWeiss's " " " " " i., 48, 50.
8 HISTORICAL TRACTS.
of their own religious opinions to compliance with the re-
ligion of the state. This was a blow to the prosperity of
France from which it was long in recovering. The perse-
cuted fled to England, Holland, Geneva, Brandenburgh and
America. The number has been variously estimated ;
sometimes as high as a million. They were not of the
poorer or more ignorant classes of society. They com-
prised within their ranks a large portion of the wealth, in-
telligence, and enterprise of the country, and were gladly
welcomed by the nations to which they fled, as a valuable
acquisition not only to their numbers, but to their intellect-
ual resources and manufacturing industry.
Those who settled at New Rochelle in the State of New
York, in New York city, on the James River in Virginia,
on the Santee River and in Charleston, South Carolina, came
over during the troubles which preceded and followed the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and from the same mo-
tives which prompted the settlements made in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island, Among their descendants were many
who took an active part in our American Revolution, and
who were otherwise distinguished as statesmen or public
benefactors. It will sufiice to mention the names of Jay,
Laurens, Manigault, Marion, and Boudinot.
Within a few years after the repeal of the Edict, the set-
tlement in Massachusetts was made by about thirty French
families. They received a grant of ten or twelve thousand
acres of land in the township of Oxford, from the proprie-
tors of the township, and there they continued to live and
the settlement flourished until about 1696, when, harassed
by attacks from the Indians and the settlers, they were scat-
tered over the country. Most of them went to Boston.
As they had fled to this country for the sake of religious
opinion, it may naturally be supposed that after their arrival
here, they would maintain and respect the ordinances of re-
FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN RHODE ISLAND. 9
ligion. While at Oxford they maintained a minister of their
own sect, and when they had removed to Boston they built
and for a long time supported a church in which services
were performed in their vernacular tongue. Here, as else-
where, they and their descendants were of respectable con-
dition in society, and some have left behind them good and
great names which will long be remembered. For a more
particular account of this settlement reference may be made
to a very able and learned Essay on the History of the
French Protestants, by Rev. Abiel Holmes of Cambridge.*
♦Massachusetts Historical Collections, volume xxii.
tKmA/otst/iat Uiuii & the ^gat/tUun^tto (JtcwaxttoBosLun
THE FRENCHTOWN SETTLEMENT.
October 12, 1686, Richard Wharton, Elisha Hutchinson,
and John Saffin, a committee of the so-called Proprietors of
the Narragansett Country, made an agreement with Ezechiel
Carre, Peter Le Breton, and other French emigrants, for the
settlement of a plantation in the Narragansett Country, to be
called Newberry, but subsequently the location was changed
on account of its remoteness from the shore, and by another
agreement, dated November 4, 1686, the proprietors or
Bay Purchasers agreed to convey to the emigrants a tract in
the township of Rochester, * "above ye Long Meadow Kicka-
meeset about Capt. John fones his house wherein Each Fam-
ily yt desires it shall have one hundred acres of upland in
two Divisions viz A house lott Containing twenty Acres
being twenty Rods broad in ye front laid out in due ordi"
wth Street or high way of Six Rods broad to run between
ye sd lotts upon wch they shall front. Secondly yt ye
Second division to make S^ hundred acres of upland shall be
laid out on ye Western Side of ye Sd house lotts as near as
ye Land will bear yt all ye Sd Meadow wth yt wch lieth
Adjacent between ye Southern Purchase & a west line yt is
to run from John Androes Northern Corner above ye Path
shall be divided into one hundred parts each one to have his
proportion according to ye quantity of Land he shall take
up & Subscrib for yt there shall be laid out for ye Sd Mr.
Ezechiel Carre ye pr. sent Minister one hundred and fifty
acres of upland & meadow in ye same manner proportiona-
ble Gratis to him & his heires forevr & one hundred acres
of upland & meadow proportionable to an Orthodox Protes
tant Ministrey & fifty acres of like land towards the main-
*This was the new name given to Kingstown, in June, i686, by the
Government of Dudley, the predecessor of Andros. See Early History
of Narragansett, page io6.
tainanceof a Protestant School master for ye Town forevr "
The copy of the agreement is signed by Wharton, Hutch-
inson, and Saffin, and deeds were to be executed when the
terms were complied with. The names of the French set-
tlers who signed the counterpart were probably the same as
those which appear on the plat, viz. :
Bertin dit Laronde
Moize le Brun
Ezechiel Carre, Ministre
La Veue Galay
*In presenting these names, we have faithfully followed the manu-
script copy which has been furnished us from the British State Paper
Office, both as to the division of words or the use of capitals. Errors
may possibly have arisen in transcribing, but they must have oc-
curred before the document reached us.
FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN RHODE ISLAND. 13
It is impossible from the plat to locate the place of settle-
ment exactly, but the tradition in the Mawney family and in
the neighborhood points to the Mawney farm and the land
around and north of the Briggs corners, so called, as being
the site of it. On the northerly part of the Mawney farm in
the southeast corner of East Greenwich, is a place by a spring
which has always been known as the French orchard. Here
are the remains of foundations of cabins or huts, shell banks,
etc. , and in my youth there were the remains of trees said to
have been planted by the French. Whether this was so or
not, the place is well identified as having always gone by that
name, and the country around it has always been known as
Frenchtown. The land is now owned by Robert G. Mawney.
At a place south of the road leading east from the Briggs
corners after crossing the river, are also the apparent remains
of cellars, or foundations of small houses, where was proba-
bly another collection of dwellings, as they would naturally
at first build their temporary habitations near each other for
mutual assistance and protection.
The highways upon the French plat do not agree with any
highways upon the East Greenwich plat, which is the one by
which the present titles to land there are held.
Dr. Ayrault in his memorial, says that the English ran
two highways through his land, and that Thomas Matteson
fenced in a part of it, and Samuel Bennett and William
Weaver built upon it, and from the position of these names
upon the East Greenwich plat, the probability is that Dr.
Ayrault' s land was at the Johnson four corners, next north
of the Briggs corners.
Dr. Ayrault says that the settlement consisted of forty-
five families, and that they soon built twenty-five houses and
a church. They had laid out lots for a church and a school
and a lot for the minister, Ezechiel Carre. They began to
improve their land, then a wilderness of woods and rocks,
14 HISTORICAL TRACT.
and seem to have been suffered to remain there without any
serious difficulty for several years. When subsequently war
broke out between France and England, the French settlers
were, by resolution of the General Assembly, of March 3,
1689-90,* allowed to remain unmolested on their taking an
oath to comply with the conditions prescribed in the King's
Proclamation of War.
In the summer of 1687 the English settlers mowed the
grass on the bog meadows, and Governor Andros made an
order for the division of it, one-half to the English claimants
and the other half to ' ' the French families there, who being
strangers and lately settled, and wholly destitute and have
no other way to supply themselves. " f Dr. Ayrault does
not mention this in his memorial.
But about two years after this, more serious troubles be-
gan between them and the English inhabitants, which led to
the breaking up of the settlement and the removal of nearly
all. Dr. Ayrault states that two familes removed to Boston
and the rest to New York, but it is well known that the Le-
moines (Mawneys) and Targes (Tourgees) remained there,
and Dr. Ayrault himself remained in East Greenwich for
several years afterwards and finally removed to Newport,
and was one of the first promoters of the foundation of the
Episcopal Church there. ^
To a person unacquainted with Rhode Island history, it
may seem strange that any dissension should arise between
the English settlers, many of whom had been driven from
Massachusetts on account of their religion, and a number of
French settlers who had been obliged to leave their country
for the same cause. They were alike, protestants and all,
contending for the largest liberty of conscienee.
*R. I. Colonial Records, iii., 264.
tMassachusetts Historical Collections, third series, volume vii.,
182. Early History Narragansett, 220.
:J:See Arnold's Rhode Island, volume i.. Appendix G.
FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN RHODE ISLAND. 15
But there were land speculators and rings in those days
as well as now, and then as now some of the leaders stood
high in the church.
The charter of Rhode Island of 1663 had secured to Rhode
Island certain limits. But for all the outer borders of their
territory they had for many years to contend with Connec-
ticut and Massachusetts. It was not until 1746 that Rhode
Island gained possession of the eastern portion of their char-
ter grant ; the western portion, and especially the Narragan-
sett country, was the subject of continual conflict; Rhode
Island did not acquire peaceable possession of it until 1707;
the boundary was not actually settled until the decision of
the King in council in 1728.
This conflict of jurisdiction gave rise to great confusion in
claims to lands.
In June and July, 1659, Major Humphrey Atherton and
his associates, afterwards known, sometimes as the Atherton
company, and again as the Bay Purchasers, purchased from
the Indian sachems two large tracts of land, Quidneset and
Boston Neck. These were called the northern and southern
purchases. They included some of the most valuable lands
in the west part of the Colony, both from quality of soil and
from their advantageous situation, on Narragansett Bay.
This company consisted at first of Major Humphrey Ath-
erton, of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, Governor of Con-
necticut, Richard Smith, Sen., and R. Smith, Jr., of Wick-
ford, William Hudson and Amos Richardson, of Boston,
and John Tinker, of Nashaway."^ Major Atherton had
been employed by Massachusetts in negotiating with the In-
dians, and having been for several years superintendent of
the praying Indians, he had thus acquired an influence with
them. They made ofi'ers of land to Roger Williams to in-
* Potters Early History of Narragansett, 269, 58.
16 HISTORICAL TRACT.
duce him to become one of the company, but he refused
and informed them that their purchases were illegal.* It
will be seen that the company was so formed as to combine
different influences, and included besides persons from
Massachusetts and Connecticut, some from Rhode Island.
Subsequently Wharton, Saffin, Edward Hutchinson, and
others, became interested in the purchases, f
But the trouble about the Frenchtown lands grew out of
another transaction. The commissioners of the United
Colonies had undertaken to impose a fine upon the Indians
in the jurisdiction claimed by Rhode Island, and on non-
payment, had sent a military force and compelled the Narra-
gansett sachems to execute a mortgage, September 29, 1680,
of their whole country to them.:}; The Indians not paying
the fine, the Atherton company paid it for them, and the
sachems made a new mortgage of the whole country to the
company, conditioned to pay the money in six months. On
the expiration of that time two sachems, with some other
Indians, in September, 1662, delivered formal possession by
turf and twig, to the Atherton partners. How much the
Indians knew of the effect of these proceedings may be im-
agined. It was nothing but a mere farce.
The Rhode Island Legislature afterwards, in 1672, con-
firmed the Boston Neck and Quidneset purchases, § but they
never acknowledged the validity of this mortgage. If these
lands were within the limits of the Rhode Island charter, as
they were afterwards decided to be, then all these proceed-
ings were wholly void. The Atherton claim had been re-
jected by Governor Andros, and the Atherton company had
petitioned the English government for a grant of land to
* Roger Williams's Letter to Major Mason. See Early History of
Narragansett, page 162.
t Early History of Narragansett, 269, etc.
J Early History of Narragansett, 60, 234.
§ Early History of Narragansett, 214, 77.
FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN RHODE ISLAND. 17
include the land they had sold to the French. But it does
not appear that they ever obtained it. *
It was under their claim to hold the Narragansett country
by this mortgage, that the Atherton company had made the
grant to the French settlers in 1686.
Nine years before this time, in October, 1677, the Legis-
lature of Rhode Island had made a grant of this territory
and established a township, then and still known as East
Greenwich, f and it was platted out to the settlers. :|:
These facts are sufficient to enable us to account for the
On the 22d of April, 1700, we learn from the Colonial
Recordsg that a court of enquiry had been held in Kings-
town to enquire into ' a riot there, and that Dr. Ayrault's
son Daniel and several Englishmen were fined for participa-
tion in it. The General Assembly afterwards set aside a
part of the proceedings as illegal. But Dr. Ayrault was
tried before the General Court of Tryals at Newport, Sep-
tember 3, 1700, for nuisance and was ordered to open the
highways, meaning of course the highways as laid out by
the English settlers. Dr. Ayrault says, that they opened
the highways through his land in two directions. This fact
seems to aid us in identifying the Johnson four-corners, as
the location of the land he occupied.
* Arnold's Rhode Island, i. 505, 507.
t A resolution of the Rhode Island Legislature to establifh the
Greenwich settlement had been passed at an earlier date, but in Octo-
ber, 1677, a special grant of the township was made to certain persons
by name. Peleg Sanford and Benjamin Speere were appointed to sur-
vey it. John Smith, of Newport, was afterwards appointed in place
of Speere. In 1700, the original plat being lost, a copy was proved
and established by the General Assembly. The plat now in existence
bears date 1716, and was made by William Hall, surveyor. R. I. Col.
Rec- vol. ii., 574, and vol. iii., 7. 26, 51, 403.
t Potter's Early History of Narragansett, pp. no, in.
§R. I. Col. Rec, iii., 413. Potter's Early History of Narragansett,
18 HISTORICAL TRACT
In 1687, a French protestant visited New England, and
examined the country with a view to ascertain and report
upon its advantages for settlement. Some of his letters
were published for the first time in the Bulletin Historique
of the Societe de I'Historie du Protestantisme Francais, in
February, 1867. They were translated by E. T. Fisher,
and published in the Liberal Christian, a newspaper published
in New York, and since re-published in a quarto pamphlet,
at Brooklyn, New York, in 1868, under the title of "Report
of a French Protestant Refugee in Boston, 1687."
He made a visit to the French settlement in Rhode Island,
but unfortunately the letter written in December, 1687, in
which he gave an account of it, is lost. In another letter,
November, 1687, he briefly mentions it thus: "There are at
Narragansett about one hundred persons of the faith. M.
Carre* is their minister. ' '
This is all the information we can obtain in regard to the
settlement. Several families remained in Rhode Island
without being disturbed : two families at least in the very
neighborhood where the strife occurred : thus showing that
the trouble did not grow out of their nationality. In a sub-
sequent part of this memoir, we shall give an account of
several of the families of the Frenchtown settlement, and of
some other French settlers in Rhode Island.
It is with great difficulty that their descendants can now
be traced, so great have been the changes and corruptions
of the names. Two or three such have already been noted,
*A sermon by M. Carre was printed at Boston in 1689, under the fol-
lowing title, "The charitable Samaritan, a sermon on the tenth chap-
ter of Luke, verses 30-85. Pronounced in the French Church at Bos-
ton, by Ezechiel Carre, formerly Minister of Rochechalais, (sic) in
France, now Minister of the French Colony on Narrraganset, trans-
lated into English, by N. Walter." This title is taken from the Brinley
Catalogue. The little volume found its way from the Brinley sale to
the Library of Congress.
FRENCH SETTLEMENTS IN RHODE ISLAND. 19
for instance, Le Moine became Money and still later Mawney;
Ganeaux became Gano; Daille became Daily or Daly;
Targe became Tourgee. Many others might be shown, but
these suffice to explain the difficulty in following them.
Upon the breaking up of the Narragansett settlement, many
of the settlers went to the southern states. Among those
who probably thus again emigrated were Pierre Collin,
Daniel Jouet, Moyez Le Brun, Daniel Le Gendre, Louis de
St. Julien, and Lesfree.
RELATING TO THE
COLONY OF RHODE ISLAND,
BRITISH STATE PAPER OFFICE, LONDON.
THE CONTRACT WITH THE BAY PURCHASERS.
Whereas there was Articles of Agreement made & Con-
cluded Between Richd Wharton Esqr Elisha Hutchinson &