William Babcock Weeden.

Early Rhode Island; online

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tial character of this society, " an anomaly in the institu-
tional history of Rhode Island," as he terms it in another
connection. The same cause produced the aristocracy 39
of Narragansett, the ultra-democracy of early Providence,
and the modified representative government of Newport.
That great cause was freedom. The privilege granted by
Charles II. was developed by Roger Williams and John
Clarke into power to make a free man into a political being
— a citizen. A new political entity was born into the
world, as European scholars are coming to recognize. 40

For further elucidation, compare Doctor MacSparran's
view in the opposite direction in America Dissected. The
Doctor in the eighteenth century shows by his shadows 41
deep-drawn of the body politic, the features which have
become the high lights of history in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries. The ecclesiast, by his own showing,

the routine of their daily lives was entirely unlike that of the
Virginia planters. ... In fine they were large — large for the
place and epoch — stock farmers and dairymen. ... It has been
claimed that the progenitors of the Narragansett farmers were
superior in birth and breeding to the other New England colonists,
and that to this the aristocratic frame of Narragansett society is
due. I do not find this to have been the case. . . . This refine-
ment, however, belongs to the best period of Narragansett social
life. It was the result of a peculiar social development and not a
cause of that development." — Ibid., pp. 529-531.

39 Aristocracy and democracy, as usually held, are conventional ex-
pressions. I knew a sagacious old son of Rhode Island, a Jacksonian
and democratic follower of Dorr. Arguing with him on some
political matter, I used the first term when he answered emphatically,
" Aristocracy ! a woman who seeks work with her own wash-tub is
one thing, she who washes clothes in somebody else's wash-tub is
another thing — that is aristocracy ! " My friend personally was an
aristocrat, Doctor Eliot was a democrat.

40 Ante, pp. 6, 8.

4i Updike, Goodwin, Vol. II., p. 556.



160 King's County, the Patriarchal Condition

had neither lungs nor gills and could not breathe on
land or water that was free. He could not conceive of
religion without some sort of worship on Sunday. 42

The franklins and manorial gentry of Narragansett
were a picturesque feature in the more sober life of New
England. Rowland Robinson,* father of the " unfor-
tunate Hannah," in the middle eighteenth century, was a
type of these citizens. When in full dress he usually wore
a dark silk, velvet or brown broadcloth coat, light yellow
plush waistcoat, with deep pockets and wide flaps resting
partly on the hips, short violet colored breeches buckled
at the knee, nicely polished boots with white tops, or silver-
buckled shoes, a fine cambric shirt profusely ruffled
at the bosom and wrists, with silk neck-tie to match. On
his head was set a looped-up triangular hat, and in hand
he carried a stout gold-headed cane.

Dr. MacSparran visited England in 1754 with his wife,
where she died of small-pox. He was much affected by
the loss of this " most pious of all women, y e best wife in
y e world." He came back to his home in 1756, his health
broken and his constitution failing under his sorry be-
reavement. He performed his clerical duties as far as he
could. He died in December, 1757, and was buried under
the Communion Table of the church he had created.
" There was Rings mourning weeds & Gloves gave to y e
Paul Bearers." While rector he had baptized 538 per-

42 " Besides the members of our Church, who I may say are the
best of the People, being Converts not from Convenience or Civil en-
couragement, but Conscience and Conviction; there are Quakers,
Anabaptists of four sorts. Independents, with a still larger number
than all those of the Descendants of European parents, devoid of all
religion, and who attend no kind of Public Worship. In all the
other Colonies, the Law lays an Obligation to go to some sort of
Worship on Sundays; but here, Liberty of Conscience is carried to
an irreligious extreme." — Updike, Goodwin, Vol. III., p. 36.

* Thomas R. Hazard, " Reminiscences," p. 19.



1725] Typical Examples of Living 161

sons, besides receiving many from other churches. For
thirty-seven years he served the parish faithfully ; while he
led in spirit, he ministered in all ways of living to his trust-
ing followers. Southern Rhode Island will always hold
his memory dear.

Going back to the beginning of the second quarter of
this century, we find the comforts of living enlarging as
the county improved its agricultural condition. Samuel
Tifft, 43 in 1725, with a personal estate of £947. 12., is a
typical example. Wearing apparel at £27. 19., his gun,
sword and razor stood at £1. 11., his saddle, bridle and
male pillion at £1. 10. The household furnishing included
five feather beds and furniture at £58. 12., one old flock
bed and furniture £1. 2. and 13 chairs at £1. 14. Of the
desirable warming pans, he had two at £1. 10., in other
brass ware £1. 12., in pewter £7. 1. 8., in silver plate £5.
12. and bottles were frequently valued in the various es-
tates. In the humble tin ware there was Is. 2d. and the
early wooden trencher was still used to the number of two
dozen, valued with other pieces at 6s. Books were repre-
sented by two old bibles at 4s. and a moderate farming
outfit nourished the family. More or less butter and
cheese — the latter in larger quantities — was in the inven-
tories. He had cards, spinning wheels and worsted
combs ; and as an example of home industry 20f yards
" whome spun " broadcloth at £10.7., 29| yards cotton
cloth and linen cloth at £6. 10., 3 yards linen do at 9s.
and 20 yards " corse " cloth at £3. 15.

Stephen Hazard was slightly better off, as befitted an

owner of £2760. 15., in personal property. His best suit

was adorned with silver buttons and he wore a beaver hat

— all costing £19. 5., while his wear for every day stood

43 These inventories are from South Kingston MS. Frobate Rec-
ords, Vol. II., p. 34, et seq.



162 King's County, the Patriarchal Condition

at £10. 5. In a pair of silver shoe buckles and two but-
tons there was £1. 3. 6. and in a silver seal 5s. ; 4 silver
spoons were valued at £5. 8. 2. Mr. Hazard owned the
first silver tankard on record, costing £24. 18. 8. One
case bottles and metheglin was appraised at £1. 10.
There were 36 milch cows at £193., 4 working oxen at
£35., besides 22 fat Cattle on Great Island. He had 29
yearling neat cattle at £72. 10., 32 two and three years
old £144, turkeys and fowls at 6s., with 24 geese at £.8.
Geese were very common.

Caleb Hazard lived on 160 acres land, valued with his
dwelling at £1400. He had moderate stock and furnish-
ing out of doors and within. Two small tables and a
high candlestick were valued at £1.; a case of drawers
with the inevitable oval table £6. 15. ; one looking glass
£5. 10., another £4. 10. A linen wheel employed the femi-
nine spinners. For kitchen and table service there was
iron ware £3. 1. Tin do., £1. 4. A brass kettle, skillet
and pepper box £6. 2. 6., a slice, chafing dish, etc., £4. 12.
10., wooden ware and trenchers 6s., pewter platters and
other ware £6., 5 silver spoons £3. 16. He worked his
farm with one old negro at £20., a better one at £70., a
young negro girl at £35., two Indian boys at £20. and
£15. His wearing apparel cost £23. 11., and he was a
type of the smaller land holders to come in a generation
or two later.

Another class in society was represented by N. Osborn,
dressed in wearing apparel at £7. 1. 6., and with a per-
sonal estate of £64. 12. 6. This included one feather bed
(not the best of the time) at £17. 26. ; tin and brass ware
with pepper box at 2s. 6d. and a warming pan at 5s.,
one knife with fork and tobacco box at 2s. He was a
spinner and shoemaker.

Daniel Landon was a working carpenter, possessed of



1730] Habits of Working Men 163

£22. 14. in personal estate. His woollen clothing and
hat were worth only £1. 15., a very low outlay for any
man. A " whone, razor " and penknife were lis., wooden
ware 6s. 6d., pewter and earthen ware 14s., five old chairs
10s. No books and they were rare generally; in an-
other case the library was valued at 10s., in yet another
14s. There was often a family bible, but it was not as
general as in Providence. The old-fashioned joynt stool
was often used, and razors had become almost universal in
this century.

It was not often that feminine dress had developed to
its proper superiority over the male. In 1730 Josiah
Sherman, with a personal estate of £188.9., expended
£17. '3. on his clothes. His wife was allowed £26. 8., an
appropriate difference, further accentuated by a gold
ring and three ribbons, costing £1. 4.

Gold Rings were becoming common, as in 1732 Thomas
Raynolds had three at £3. He was a tailor probably,
having a goose and shears, a thimble and needles. Ex-
pended moderately in clothing £17. 11., including gloves
and garters and a " Rokelo." We should not neglect
one silver buckleband and a bottle at lis. or two links of
silver buttons at 6s.

Wm. Gardner was of another class, with £897. 4. in
personal property in 1732. He walked bravely, clad at
a cost of £33. 16., carrying a cane and a gold ring. His
riding horse, saddle and bridle, holsters, pistols and pow-
der flask were worth £40. Knives and forks at 15s., tin
ware at lis. 6d., silver plate £7.5. His farming outfit
was small, worked by a negro woman at £90, a boy at
£30. and two girls at £65. and £45. In books he had
£3. 5.

A still is mentioned valued at £11. Christopher Helme
Yeoman from a personal estate of £1274. 19. had ex-



164 King's County, the Patriarchal Condition

pended £37. 9. for his wearing apparel. His cattle and
swine were worth £497. 1., and his four negroes £195.
This title of yeoman was occasionally used ; if used at all,
why should it not have been used more frequently?

Wm. Gardner, of Boston Neck, had the large personal
estate of £4945. 17., as well as his valuable lands. Dr.
MacSparran married into this family. Mr. Gardner's
clothing was valued at £78. 10., and his " Rought plate "
£92. 8. Three beds and furniture at £40., one wanning
pan at £3. Pewter at £13. 7. There were spinning and
linen wheels — no loom — and a large number of cattle,
sheep and horses. The force of slaves was large, three
Indians at £175., six negroes at £470., three negro women
at £420.

Occasionally we get the details of a funeral. Caleb
Hazard's was in 1725-6, and the cost of the coffin was £1.,
with stones to mark the grave at £2. The expenditure for
rum at the ceremony was £1. 10. Has son died soon after
and the expenses were very closely scaled to mark two
ranks of men. For the young man's coffin they paid 17s.,
and for the gravestones £1. 5. For rum to ameliorate
the condition of the sympathizing neighbors, the family
allowed only 6s.

Silver plate was becoming diffused among people of
moderate means. The majority of inventories had a few
spoons. In 1733, Jeremiah Clark, in a personal estate
of £285. 10., had a small farming outfit, a loom and a
spinning wheel, £8. 10. was in pewter. In plate, there
were 10 silver spoons, a silver cup, one piece silver, two
pieces gold (possibly coin), all valued at £20. The
most expensive silver seal at a cost of £14. was worn by
George Belfore. He was a trader, having £1350. in shop
goods, in a personal estate of £4499. 9.

The widow Knowles, of moderate circumstances in 1734,



1734] A Widow's Outfit 165

allowed herself £25. 16. in linen and woollen clothing and
in three beds with furniture £48. 14. In table linen and
pewter ware there was £. 6. 6., in iron ware £5. She had
a large bible at £2. 19., and her personal property was
£167. 5. Bibles were becoming more frequent ; in an-
other case in 1734, there was £4. 5. in a bible and other
books. Probably Doctor MacSparran would have said
this improvement was due to the good influences of St.
Paul's Church.

It is interesting when we can get at the details of a
personal wardrobe. In 1735, George Webb 44 had a suit
of " full cloath " at £5. 10., a suit of Duroy £4. 10. and
other apparel costing £18. 10. In five pairs of shoes
and one pair old boots, there was a value of £2. 13. His
large bible was £3., but he was a citizen of the church
militant, having two old cutlasses, a pistol and two guns.
His personal estate was £253. 18.

Josiah Westcott, in a personal estate of £543. 16., had
carpenter's and glazier's tools. With moderate furnish-
ing in his house, he kept one cow and one mare without.
He expended £40. upon his wardrobe, and better £5. for
books.

Charles Higinbotham in 1736 varied somewhat from
the customary dress of the small proprietors. To his
apparel at £30. he added a hat and cane at £3., a pair of
spectacles " sliper " and boots at 15s. He possessed the
first recorded wig at £1. His riding horse, saddle and
bridle were appraised at £25. and there was added £1. for
portmanteau and bridle bitts. Knives and forks were 15s.
He had £36. in '36 ounces of silver plate and £8. 10. in
books, a respectable library for the time. Notwithstand-
ing a comparatively small personal estate of £446. 2. he
had in slaves a mulatto woman at £70., a " mustee " boy
"South Kingston MS. Rec, Vol. III., p. 2.



166 King's County, the Patriarchal Condition

at £30., a similar girl at £20. Robert Hannah sported
a watch at £10. He had silver plate, gold and silver
buttons and shoebuckles, with a snuff box. There were
four negroes at £225. in the personal property of £1207.
15.

John Smith, of the universal name, was evidently a
poor person, though he lived in comfort on personal prop-
erty of £55. 10. His apparel cost £2. 10., a small amount
even for a laborer, and he had £3. 3. in pewter. One cow,
four pigs and poultry afforded the basis of a good liv-
ing, while two spinning wheels gave employment.

Elizabeth Gardner in 1737, a modest widow with prop-
erty of £111. 17., expended on her wardrobe only £11.
In pewter she had £2. and in one bible £3. ; in an old settle
12s., in a spinning wheel £1. There were four cows and
one heifer at £44., and three mares, old and young, valued
at £5. Mary Bunday's was one of the smallest estates
recorded, with wearing apparel at £2. 16., buckles at 5s.
and a testament at 4s.

In 1738 we have John Jullien, with a personal estate of
£1605. 18. He had a watch and cane with hatter's
" utentials " at £16. 13.

Honorable George Hazard in 1738, with a personal
estate of £6288.16., brings us back to the semi-feudal pro-
prietors. His house, built about 1733, was at the " Fod-
dering Place " on the northeast shore of Point Judith
Pond. Existing until a generation ago, it was a type of
the good houses of that period. It was two stories high
on the front of fifty feet, slanting to one story at the
rear. Over the entrance was a fan light and above this
a large arched window, giving light to the hall. This
square hall had a handsome staircase of oak and a bal-
ustrade. At the south end was the parlor, a very large
room with the favorite Colonial buffet, where the silver



1738] Ways of Semi-Feudal Proprietors 167

plate was displayed. In the better houses these buffets
were ornamental as well as pretentious, scrolled at top and
back with quaint carvings. The house was given to his
son George, Mayor of Newport. 45 One suit of his clothes
cost £61. 5. and other apparel £71. 2., while a sword, cane
and horsewhip stood at £12. 10. Hazard was generally
the name best dressed. In silver plate he was well sup-
plied, including a tankard at £30., two porringers, salt
cellar and 11 spoons at £49. 10. Of pewter articles he
had the value of £8. 18., and in 11 silver buttons there
was £1. 16. The clock was valued at £35., thirteen chairs,
the first mentioned of leather, were £27., two oval tables
£5., the inevitable joynt stool £1., a high case of drawers
£9., a looking glass £6., and two more at £3. The general
housefurnishing was ample. The first specified " drink-
ing glasses " stood at 13s., with other glasses at the
same rate. " Pipes and glasses also were 3s. Five punch
bowls were £1. 15. Glasses again and stone ware were
£3. 9. Teacups and saucers 10s. Bohea tea 14s. The
honorable gentleman had books at £38. 6., as he should
have had. A sailing boat and canoe were appraised at
£41. There was a large supply of cattle, sheep and
swine. Eight acres in corn stood at £44., one acre in
wheat at £8., nine acres in oats at £27. In slaves there
were four negro men at £440., one girl at £90., the time of
a " mustee " boy at £25., do. of an Indian boy £28.

Betty Heeth, 1738-9, owned a pair of worsted combs
at £2. 5., without spinning wheels. Evidently she combed
and carded; if she spun also, she used her employer's
wheel. In another case a spinner and weaver with linen
wheel at £1. 10. and loom at same price, owned a " nat-
ural pacing" mare and colt at £26., a low price. Her
wearing apparel cost £15. 7. Silver shoe buckles and but-
45 Robinson, " Hazard Family," p. 24.



168 King's County, the Patriarchal Condition

tons, as well as the " wigg," were common, and punch
bowls went along with tea cups and saucers. Ichabod
Potter in 1739 had a fancy for " lingomvata," for a punch
bowl of this with a sugar box was only 5s., while the two
regular punch bowls were at £1. He had the favorite
mortar of the same hard wood costing 15s.

A large bible with " y e Hypocriphy," one colony laws
and other small books were worth £5.

Elizabeth Tefft, in 1740, with personal estate of £401.
12., was a typical woman in moderate circumstances.
Her wearing apparel with two beds and bedding at £30.
10., showed that she cared more for silver than for dress
and furniture. For in silver plate there was 7 oz. 3 pwt.
7 grains at £9. 17. 10., while in gold not specified there
were 52 grains at £1.6. In brass ware she had £6.3., in
iron £9. 11., in pewter £6. 11. Her stock comprised four
cows and a calf at £51., one mare and yearling colt at
£25., and three swine at £4. 5. She was a sensible and
economical manager.

In 1738, we noted the effects of Hon. George Hazard,
his elegant attire as he walked abroad ; his fine display
of punch bowls and drinking glasses at home ; with a
library suitable for a gentleman. Sarah his widow died
in 1740 and her equipment was worthy of her station
and her personal estate of £5324. 12. The comparative
wardrobe of this husband and wife, enjoying what they
wanted, shows clearly that the men dressed better than
the women. Mrs. Hazard's clothing at £59. 12. was less
than half the value of her husband's. In jewelry she
excelled, though the outlay was not excessive. Her gold
necklace and locket cost £10. These gold beads —
afterward so common in women's wear — were the first
recorded. A gold ring, jewels and snuff box stood at
£6. 10. Apparently gold rings were more often worn by



1740] How Wives of the Proprietors Lived 169

men than by women. The snuff box was a necessity ; for
nearly a century ago everybody, men and women together,
took snuff. The lady's riding horse, saddle and bridle
cost £70. 12.

At the same time Toby Champlin, " an Indian man,"
stood at the other end of the social scale with effects at
£'36. 13. It was the humblest sort of an outfit, including
scythes, tools, fishing gear, oyster tongs and an old horse
at 5s. Ann Kelly was not as provident as Elizabeth
Tefft, for in an estate of £16. 16. 6., she left £12. 7. 6. in
wearing apparel. In 1741 a negro girl about two years
old was valued at £40. In most cases the fair sex took
care of their persons, though they were relatively more
moderate than the wealthy men. In 1743, Mary Vileat, 46
single, invested £33. 16. in her wardrobe from an estate
of £113. 4. In one case we find 2160 lbs. of cheese at
£135. The proprietor had 12 negroes. A negro boy
nine years old was worth £70. Hour glasses appeared
occasionally. In 1744 a chamber pot was appraised with
a warming pan at £1. 7. It does not appear whether
the convenience had changed from pewter to white stone
ware, as was occurring elsewhere. A silver watch comes
in at £25., with a pocket compass at £1. In 1746, Simon
Ray was recorded " Gentleman " with one of the largest
collections of books worth £32. 18. Courtesy treated him
more kindly than circumstance, for his estate was only
£74. 9. A clock at £55., with a better looking glass at
£18., shows an advancing scale of housekeeping. Silver
buttons increase, and were needed to match the shoe
buckles. And wigs were well established. Silver plate
was the frequent luxury turning into comfort, just as pew-
ter was two generations previously.

In 1746-7 Jonathan Hazard Yeoman, with an estate
40 S. K. MSS. Rec, IV.



170 King's County, the Patriarchal Condition

of £7971. had £78. in wearing apparel, while " the
weoman's " was £22. 8. Only £2. for the bible and other
books. He had twelve negroes to do his work and stored
£100. worth of cheese in his " Great Chamber bedroom."
In another inventory we may note the first definitely indi-
cated white " stone chamber pot " at 5s., about one-
quarter or one-fifth the value of the article in pewter.
A small farmer wearing silver shoe buckles had £40. in
carpenter's tools. In 1748, Benjamin Perry, with estate
of £2935., gets a detailed record of his wardrobe, the
first whole suit standing at £39. 10., the second at £32. 10.,
the third at £20. 17., with a pair of boots at £2, His
walking stick was ornamented with an ivory head, and
cost him 5s. His riding mare, saddle and bridle were
£60., and his hunting saddle and bridle £5. There was a
set of glazier's tools and " a still which goes by the name
of Limbeck " at £10. Equipped with silver spoons, he
had the somewhat unusual earthen-porringer, three at 3s.,
and a wooden candlestick at 3s. His were the first noted
" beaker " glasses, two at 4s. Altogether, his life was
out of the common way of a Narragansett proprietor.

In another case, the estate was £9943., the wearing ap-
parel £142., with one looking glass at £20., another at
£15. There were earthen cups and saucers and other arti-
cles, including porringer, at 16s. Here was found the first
recorded " Chany " ware, four bowls, four saucers, seven
cups at £8. 10. Silver, as usual, with books at £3.
Earthen ware in some degree took the place of pewter;
very likely it served for the slaves, of whom there were
seven in this instance. Wm. Gardner Yeoman had an
estate of £1604. in 1749, while Ebenezer Nash Labourer
had £48. 9. Another laborer was well to do with
an estate of £310., of which £41. 8. was in his ward-
robe, £9. 11. in carpenter's tools, and £1. 10. in a linen



1750] A Mulatto and a Governor 171

wheel. John Taulbary, mulatto, left estate of £35. 17.
distributed in a significant manner. Against a gun at
£4. 10. may be set two wheels at £2. A bedstead and
bedding at £3., made him comfortable, as it was reinforced
in cold weather with a warming pan, which was valued
with " a how " at ££. 10. A fiddle at 10s., a teapot and
drinking glasses at £1. 10., provided for the aesthetic
sense of a lone darky, who was probably not lonesome.

After studying these varying grades of social develop-
ment we rise to Governor William Robinson. His life
was the culmination of the mid-century system of living
in this nook of Rhode Island. Quaker by connection,
born in 1693, dying in 1751, he inherited land and bought
largely, leaving some 1385 acres to be divided among his
sons. He had previously given them farms at their
majority. In public life for 24 years he held responsible
places ; being Speaker of the House for four years and
Deputy-Governor 1745-1748.

Hon. William Robinson 47 inventoried a personal estate
of £21,573. 5. to his widow and executrix Abigail. Here
were large affairs entrusted to a woman. He dressed well
for a Quaker from a wardrobe at £130., though not as
well as his neighbors, the Hazards, such as were not
Friends. His large house was on the site of the Welch
villa just east of Wakefield. On the first floor were the
great-room, great-room bedroom, coining-room, dining-
room bedroom, store bedroom, northeast bedroom, Kitchen,
closet, store-closet, cheese-room, milk-room, etc. There
were sleeping-rooms corresponding above, but from the



Online LibraryWilliam Babcock WeedenEarly Rhode Island; → online text (page 13 of 29)