William Babcock Weeden.

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by the still greater expense of a prison at home. At this
time there was paid:

Sergeant Westgate for keeping and carrying

one Corrill to Newport £10.13.

Laying two highways, one " from Town to Bay
Line," one from Pawtucket to Jeremiah
Browne's 4.

Repairing Weybosset Bridge, 1 year, £2.7.6.,

R. Curry, T. Sergeant, 1 year, £4 6. 7. 6.

For Poor, Mary Marsh, M. Owen, " Marjary

Indian," Mary Pettes child 14. 6. 4.



£35. 6.10.



Crime cost more than constabular service and roads,
while poverty cost more than either.

The burdensome care of the poor, as shown in the
expenses of the town from time to time, sufficiently ex-
plains their jealous watchfulness of citizenship and dread
of intrusion into their community.

In 1717 37 the Council was ordered to " vse all Lawfull
Means " to compel the town of East Greenwich to assume
the support of Mary Marsh. In 1721 the Council sum-
moned before it " several forriners Lately come into this

36 « Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XIII., pp. 14, 23.
3T « Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XIII., p. 10.



214 The Commercial Growth of Providence

Towne in a disorderly manner without Leave and Likely
to be chargeable if not Removed." In 1720 38 Black-
stone's wife not being well, Joseph Woodward's wife took
her home out of "Piety" (pity?). Captain Wilkinson told
Woodward, if he entertained Blackstone and his wife, he
ought to give bond for him ; which request was refused.
Individual charity could not be crushed out practically,
though Woodward was technically at fault, and munici-
pal organization had to bear the consequences.

Later, September 24, 1722, the Council recorded that
John Blackstone's child, born here, then in Attleboro, was
apprenticed there to R. Wickes " to be learned to Reade
and the art of husbandry." Judging from other con-
tracts binding infants, the town paid something to
Wickes for bringing up the child. The poor waif and
stray, once attached to the soil, had a better parent than
Nature gave, for it became a constituent part of the com-
munity. Some of the practical measures regulating citi-
zenship seem petty to us. But the general sense of
municipal responsibility was praiseworthy.

The system of apprenticing young persons was work-
ing constantly and apparently with the best social results.
It was education in the family, through the steady business
of life. In 1713-4 39 Susanna Warner (writing her
name) was bound for six years by her father, John War-
ner (also writing), to Thomas Olney (weaver), of Provi-
dence, to learn the " Trade and occupation of a Tailor."
She was not to frequent Ale Houses or Taverns except
about her Master's or Mistress's business, " ffornication
shee shall not Comitt, neither shall she Contract Matri-
mony with any Person." These obligations were gener-
ally laid on both sexes alike. The master was to endeavor

ss "Early Ree. Prov.," Vol. XII., pp. 20, 39.
so Ibid., Vol. IX., p. 5.



1715] Wardrobe of an Apprentice 215

to teach her to read, and finally to give her two suits of
apparel. This dress was known as " the freedom suit,"
and was often given any minor on coming of age. In
1715 40 Thomas Olney, " weavor," signed as a witness to
the contract binding Wm. Potter for five years, his father
having died. The master agreed to teach him to " Reade
English, and wright and Cypher so far as to keepe a
Booke." He was to be freed at twenty-one years, in the
" same apparill as he is now in." The list of original
clothing shows the habits and dress of laboring youths
at that time. " A Loose bodyed Coate, a streight bodyed
Coate and Jacket all Casy and faced with soloone; a
wosted Coate and two wosted jackets all lined the Coate
and one of the jackets lined with solloone a pair of druget
Briches lined ; a washed Paire of Leathor Bridies a Caster
hat, three shirts two homespun ones and one fine one,
three pair of stokins one pair wosted, three neck Clothes
two of them silk and a pair of washed Leathor Gloves :
next his wareing apparill now worn but whole: a hatt
Coate briches stokins and shoes. Memo that Clothing
which was Casy (kersey) was homespun." We remark
that homespun cotton or flax would do for common, and
that " fine " cloth must be had for a dress shirt. For a
youth of sixteen he was certainly well clothed, having
clothing not only for work-a-days, but for occasions and
social gatherings.

The grain crop must have failed in 1724, for the Gen-
eral Assembly forbade exportation of corn until the price
should be 5s. per bushel. It directed the General Treas-
urer to buy 2000 bushels and to sell it in small quanti-
ties.

The inventories show no great changes in a decade.
The farmers grow rather more tobacco than the previous
40 " Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. IX., p. 13.



216 The Commercial Growth of Providence

generation produced. Forks are increasing in domestic
use. In 1723, 41 two spinsters, Joanna and Tabitha In-
man, died within four days. One had £32.8.6., the other
£37.5.6. in wearing apparel; side saddle pillions, loom,
cards and combs, spinning wheels, etc. There was a
moderate amount of plate in most estates. An Indian
servant girl's time for two years and ten months was
valued at £5.10. Edward Manton, 42 whose personal
estate was £373.13.8., with a farmer's outfit on a small
scale, had 100 books at £17.15., with two maps of the
world at 10s. Cows were £4. each and two yokes of oxen
£22.

In 1723-4 John House 43 gives us £18.12. in dress, with
an interesting detail of prices. Coate 40s., 2 pair briches
28s., 2 pair leather do £1.10., Brown cloth coate, black
gloves and dark jacket £4.4. Druggett coate, yellow
trimming, 25s., yallowish jacket 10s. Loose coate 12s.,
two linen westcotts and two pair britches £1.10. Two
hats at 12s., hdkf gloves etc. with an extravagant pair
of garters at 17s., all amounted to £6. 9s. One gold ring
40 grains, another 25 grains, Were not valued. Silver
buckles and buttons 10s. 9d. A moderate amount of
silver plate and the usual pewter. The " wareing clothes
that ware his first wives and bonnet £3.11." Some " black
lat " and 5 chamber potts at 12s. Earthen punch bowl,
pitcher, 3 earthen cups, glass bottle 7s. Porcelain ware,
as shown in the chamberpots, was coming in gradually.
One barrel " peach juce " lis. Negro woman £22.
Sorrel horse £18. Bed pan 18s. High house, land, sta-
bles, 2 acres land on " Waybauset plaines " 5 /ig Right
Common East of 7-mile line was valued at £255., and the

4i " Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XVI., p. 236.

42 Ibid., p. 263.

43 Ibid., p. 306.



1724] The Dress of Innkeepers 217

total estate was £524.12.3. Being an innkeeper and a
considerable dandy, his way of living is interesting.

Copper pennies appear frequently, sometimes more
than 1000 at once.

Prices of realty are rare and should be noted. October
16, 1724, Thomas Williams' 44 homestead of 100 acres,
housing, barn and improvements stood at £445. Adjoin-
ing the homestead 44 acres at £88. Meadow on " Pachaset
River," 10 acres at £35. Land on Common west of 7 mile
line £70. One-third of 40 ft. lot in rear of house lots in
" 2d devision " £3. One-thirteenth part of Starve goat
Island 13s. Land sold and money received for second
40 acre " devision " and pine swamp £5.6.8. One hun-
dred acres formerly given son Joseph, except labor be-
stowed on it.

Razors are coming in ; and it is doubtful if any shaving
of beards prevailed in the seventeenth century. Breeches
were sometimes adorned with plate buttons. A set of
plate buttons and buckle was valued at 6s. In land 40
acres east of 7 mile line stood at £12. 45 " Amber beedes,"
Glass Bottle and Needles at 9s. 3d. Glass must have
been prized, as every bottle was carefully valued.

Signatures of women of good families with a + appear
on documents, and more rarely the men sign in that way.
November 6, 1724, 46 Jabez Browne's homestead, esti-
mated at 80 acres, was appraised at £350. Land n. w.
from homestead 78 acres at £110. Adjoining home-
stead 30 acres at £25. Some curious prices appear the
next year. Plowing and planting 10 acres Indian corn
£5.9. Sowing 8 acres with rye and the seed £2,15. One
acre with oats 6s. In an outfit of £15. for dress, a set of

44 « Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XVI., p. 330.

45 Ibid., p. 367.
46j6tU, p. 375.



218 The Commercial Growth of Providence

silver shirt buttons stood at 5s., a pair of silver shoe
buckles at 16s.

In 1725, 47 Arthur Fenner had a full outfit for spinning
and weaving, 4 spinning wheels and " Clock Reale " £1.8.
A pair of looms, and furniture £3. One looking glass and
2 pair " specticles " (first mentioned) 5s. 6d. The dames
were wearing better toilets, and Abigail Hopkins spent
£30. for dress in an estate of £98.5.8. Under beds are
mentioned for the first time. A pair of " sizers " and a
silver Chaine therewith £1. Butter was lOd. per lb.

In 1725-6 4S a watch (of silver probably) appears at
£4., but these did not displace sun-dials until about
1750. 49

Wm. Roberts' 50 homestead and house were appraised
at £420. and one share of " Meadow " £30.

Wm. Harris had a silver " Tancord," 2 silver cups, 10
spoons, all weighing 46^ oz., valued at £34.17.6. His
negro man stood at £70., the highest price attained, and
probably inflated somewhat by paper money.

Joseph Jenckes was elected from Providence to be Gov-
ernor of the Colony in 1727. Previous governors under
the charter had been taken from Newport. This election
indicates the rise of commercial Providence. Newport
still kept its supremacy as the capital, for the Assembly
granted Governor Jenckes £100. to make his residence
and remove his family there.

In 1727 the long boundary dispute with Connecticut,
which had threatened the very existence of our colony,
was brought to a close by a decree of the Privy Council.
This fixed the western boundary on the Pawcatuck River

47 « Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XVI., p. 384.

48 Ibid., p. 440.

49 Dorr, p. 170.

so "Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XVI., p. 456.



1721] British Ideas of Geography 219

and thence north to the Massachusetts line. 51 The Board
of Trade had previously shown its sapient management of
colonial affairs by recommending to the Council that
both Connecticut and Rhode Island be attached to New
Hampshire. The disjoined geography of the territories
apparently never entered into the Board's ideas of con-
venient government. Such wiping out of the two govern-
ments — which are now admitted to have added the most
practical national ideas to the United States — would have
created a suggestive historical speculation.

A King's census of the colony 52 was taken in 1730,
showing a population of 16,935 ; Whites 15,302, Negroes
1648, Indians 985. Providence had, Whites 3707, Ne-
groes 128, Indians 81 ; total 3916. Newport had, Whites
3843, Negroes 649, Indians 248; total 4640. The fig-
ures do not agree in themselves, but the main fact is that
Providence had nearly as large a white population as
Newport ; yet the latter was far better developed in pros-
perous industries.

A prison was built in 1733 on Jail Lane, now Meeting
Street. 53

The taverns continued to be places of great resort, espe-
cially before the building of the county courthouse in
1729. Those of Whipple and Epenetus Olney were
famous, and Wm. Turpin left his profession of school-
teaching to become a popular landlord and town officer.
Turpin's Inn on Town Street was the largest house in the
town until the State House was built and was a favorite
place of meeting for the Assembly and courts. Built
in 1695, it survived until 1812. A high roof had heavy
projecting eaves and dormer windows. A huge stone

si " R. I. C. R.," Vol. IV., p. 373, and Brigham, pp. 171-174.

52 Staples, p. 194.

53 Ibid., p. 180.



220 The Commercial Growth of Providence

chimney allied it to the dwellings around. On the green
in front was the unfailing elm. The " great room "
served either for a senate house or dancing hall. Such
centers of influence conferred social and political prestige
on the landlords, who were not slow to avail of it. As the
Assembly, Courts, Town and Council meetings always sat
in central taverns, the landlord often became the oracle
of his neighborhood. Sometimes chief of local militia
and representative in the Assembly, he " enjoyed promi-
nence which in Massachusetts belonged to the Puritan
minister." 54 Although this way of living could not and
did not suit the omniscient Cotton Mather, it had due
effect in developing citizens of the world who were willing
to accept a cheery existence here on earth. A curious
incident in 1713 5o reveals the jealousy of country pro-
prietors, toward these innkeepers and town agitators.
Major " thomas fFenner," Assistant, protested against
the election of Wm. Smith, Jas. Olney, Wm. Harris and
Silvanus Scott, to be members or Assistants in the Town
Council, because they kept Public houses of Entertainment
and retailed strong drink. They rejoined that Major
Fenner kept a public house and retailed strong drink for
several years. And insisted " wee are freemen of the
Towne and Collony and the Towne's owne Election, and
ought not to be debarred of our Privilidges." Appar-
ently the election did not fail.

In 1720 the licenses were £2. each. Thomas Angel,
John House, Josiah Westcot, James Olney, William Tur-
pin, William Edmunds, all prominent citizens, were
grantees.

In 1732 56 a change of habit and way of living is indi-

54 " Early Rec. Prov.," Vol. XI., p. 170.

55 Ibid., Vol. XII., p. 92.
so Ibid., p. 181.



1732] Change of Habits in Tippling 221

cated in a grant of licenses at a less rate, 10s., for a
limited privilege to merchants and shopkeepers, for one
year. They could retail, but not allow " any Drinking or
tipling in theire housen shopps or Kitchin. Nor Mix any
sort of Liquor." Captain Joseph Roades, Esq 1- ., Mr s .
Mary Burnoon, Mr. John Angel, Capt. James Brown
(first spelled without an e), "Co" " Joseph Whipple each
paid 10s. The scrupulous use of titles among these plain
people, with every possible variation and significance is
always suggestive.

The houses inhabited by the denizens of the new cen-
tury belong to the third period of architecture as inter-
preted by Isham and Brown. 57 They were often of two
full storeys and varied somewhat from those built in the
latter seventeenth century. Frequently built of brick or
partly so. In one direction after 1725 there was an
elaborate "mitre-like" chimney. After 1730 the pre-
revolutionary style called " colonial " was developed.

The chimney was brought nearly into the middle of the
house. And in large rooms like those of the Turpin Inn,
above noted, massive beams sustained the ceilings. The
rooms around the double chimney of this period varied
in size. The "great room" descended from the single room
of the first period as that came from the old English
"hall." This room in the Tillinghast house on Town
Street, built about 1730, has two windows. The stair-
case was still next the chimney. Soon the rooms on
either side of the chimney became equal. Next, there were
four rooms with four chimneys outside the house.

Distilling molasses and sugar into rum was perhaps the
most important of the New England industries in the sec-
ond quarter of the eighteenth century. It was not only the
main element in the slave trade, but was powerfully sup-
57 " Early Houses," pp. 15-18.



222 The Commercial Growth of Providence

ported by the local demand and by the consumption in
the Newfoundland fisheries. Distilling had become well
established in Providence, and still-houses were along the
Town Street ; Antram's as far north as Smith Street,
Abbott's was on the s. e. corner of Market Square; An-
gell's was near the present Thomas Street. Shipping
was built freely and the keels plowed the West Indian
seas in frequent voyages. The trade of Providence with
Guinea for slaves is obscurely recorded, but it had begun.
The larger merchants traded with Bordeaux. Smuggling
sugar from the islands was so common that it was hardly
noticed. In 1733, by the sugar or " Molasses " act, the
House of Commons laid a heavy duty on products im-
ported from foreign islands into the northern colonies.
This began the troubles ending in the American Revolu-
tion. Smuggling mitigated the evil consequences, until
George Grenville proved to be too good an administra-
tor.

Some ledger accounts, 1723-1738, and a priceless letter-
book, 1736-7, of James Brown, father of the " four
brothers " — preserved in the manuscripts of the R. I. His-
torical Society — give us interesting details of the com-
merce of this period. Nicholas Powers' accounts in 1723
became " Father Powers' " in 1731-2.

Distilling is an important function, and a curious joint
ownership is shown where the mason is credited 10s. for
" mending my firm's mouth under my Still." He offers
100 gallons good rum, " our own Stilling," for a horse.
The Dutch process for separating oil and spermaceti
was not yet introduced, and candles were still occasionally
made by hand. Brown credits in 1736, one lot of 494
lbs. at 4d., made by Hartshorne, the mason, and probably
in his kitchen.

Providence was becoming a great mart for molasses.



1737] , Slaves from Guinea 223

When accumulated here, it often went on to Nantucket
or Boston. One lot of 41 hhds. is mentioned in 1737 as
transhipped to Boston. It belonged jointly to James
Brown, Daniel Jenckes and Job Arnold. Coffee, as well as
salt, was constantly moving and sometimes consigned to
Boston. Large freights went by water, but small lots of
merchandise were sent by Rehoboth to Boston. Noah
Mason, living there, is asked in 1737 to carry " four tun
wate " to Boston.

As noted above, the reports of the importation of
negroes are generally obscure. May 26, 1737, 09 Mr.
Brown records, " My Gineman is arrived. You may have
A slave, if you cum or sand Befoar they air Gon." March
10, 1737. He had advised his Loveing Brother Obadiah
in the West Indies on the sloop Mary of Providence, " if
you cannot sell all your slaves to your mind, bring some
home. I believe they will sell well. Get molasses or
sugar. Make despatch for that is the life of trade."

Brown had much intercourse with Uxbridge and Worces-
ter, with Plainfield, Killingly and Pomfret. He is con-
stantly calling for " fatt " cattle, pork, beef or any prod-
uce. These transactions show that Providence must have
been for some time the mercantile port of the valleys of
the Blackstone and of eastern Connecticut.

Business was conducted with the Atlantic ports as far
away as Charleston, S. C, where the correspondent was
Mr. Verplanck. When commerce with the West Indies
was not available for the moment, vessels were occupied in
the local trade of Boston. July 2, 1737, after the sloop
Mary had disposed of her black freight, she was sent to
the Bay of Andros for a load of logs to be carried to Bos-
ton. Newport was a secondary market for almost every-
thing. Henry Collins, the distinguished merchant there,

69 R. I. H. S. bound MSS. State Reports, Vol. 8.



224 The Commercial Growth of Providence

had a rope walk. Brown asked him in 1736 how much
good rigging or cash he can have for 1000 lbs. hemp.

Politics were generally seething in our little colony.
The Hopkins-Ward controversy a generation later was to
engage the Brown family and keep them very busy. Now
February 1, 1736, the representative writes to Richard
Ward, the father of Samuel, in rather pungent style,
" Your Chief friend in Government affairs. I am affraid
he had rather be Governor himself. You may see by en-
closed, that he is able to Govern his purse (if not his
word)."

The evolution of the first caterer in Providence was a
way-mark in civilization ; and we must anticipate a few
years to explain the beginning in 1736. The negro al-
ways played a considerable part in the social life of
Rhode Island, after the colonists had means enough to
own him. A new kitchen was instituted by the skill of
the house mistress working with the negro's aptitude.
The freedmen of the period frequently left little estates. 60
Jack Howard in 1715 had £145. in colonial bills ; John
Read, " free nogro," had £100. in 1753. Emanuel
(" Manna ") Bernoon in 1769 had a house and lot, with
personal estate inventoried at £539. He was emancipated
by Gabriel Bernon in 1736 and then began his regular
business. The freedmen generally took the master's name
and Manna distinguished his with an additional vowel.
His wife, Mary, had been selling liquor without tippling
on the premises for four years, competing on a ten-shilling
license with Captains, Colonels and Esquires.

Manna now or soon established the first oyster house

on Town Street near the location of the subsequent custom

house. The rude English-descended efforts in cookery

were far surpassed by Huguenot skill and refinement.

go Dorr, p. 177.



1737] Jolly Negroes, Oysters, Privateers 225

Manna sought the heart of the softening town by way of
a gratified and contented stomach. His outfit included
23 drinking glasses, 4 " juggs," pewter plates, spoons
and cooking utensils in proportion. Best of all was his
jolly smile as he clinked these glasses in the midst of
descendants of Roger Williams and William Harris.

The English declaration of war against Spain in 1739
vitally affected our colony. In the next February the
General Assembly prepared against possible invasion.
Fort George was garrisoned and provision was made for
Block Island. In May 200 men were sent to join the
unfortunate attack on Carthagena. Privateers 61 swarmed
out from Newport and were very successful. Captain
Hull, of Newport, took one prize that afforded every man
of his crew 1000 pieces of eight. These adventurers in
privateering in some degree influenced the character of
the colony and certainly prepared the way for her naval
exploits in the Revolution. The sea-rover's life well fitted
the man brought up on the shores of the Bay and the
Great Salt River. It was not only the bold, dashing
career bringing out the Norse blood of the race ; it was
the desperate call for initiative at any moment. Outcast
on land, the Rhode Island man was the more at home on
the sea. In storm or calm, in shock of battle or the
exigency of flight, the man had to put forth the best in
him, and he became a hero.

One of the surveyors to define the eastern line of the
colony under the royal commission in 1741 took a more
cheery view of the outcast colony than Cotton Mather
set forth in the seventeenth century.

" Here's full supply (food and drink) to cheer our hun-
gry souls.
61 Weeden, " E. and S. N. E.," Vol. II., pp. 601, 602.



226 The Commercial Growth of Providence

Here men may soon any religion find,
Which quickly brought brave Holland to my mind,
For here, like there, one with the greatest ease,
May suit himself, or quit all if he please."

Better at triangles than at verse, the surveyor was
broad, if not graceful.

The public Lottery has been regarded as a source, as
well as a chance of either good or evil in early times. It
began for us in 1744 in the grant for a scheme of £15,000,
out of which was to come £3000 for the rebuilding of
Weybosset Bridge. That it was public business is fur-
ther demonstrated in the fact that the town subscribed
for 400 tickets to encourage the movement.

Communication eastward was enlarged by a public
ferry at India Point where Washington Bridge now stands.
There had long been ferriage at " narrow passage " or
Red Bridge and a bridge " was at Pawtucket." The new
ferry for the southeastward connection was regulated
by an act in 1746, having been established a few years
before.

The population of the colony in 1748 was 41,280. The
voters in Providence were 96, with 13 justices of the peace
and 4 companies of militia. In 1749 there were 31
licensed tavern keepers ; in 1750 there were 30. The
highest licenses were at £8. each. The colony tax in
1748 was £5000., of which Providence paid £550. and
Newport £825. Our town spent £1165.5.5. in 1748, and
ordered a tax for £1600. the next year. We must remem-
ber that paper money affected these figures.

February 19, 1748, 62 we have an account of the entry
of the privateer sloop Reprisal, Captain W. Dunbar, as
she brought in her prize, the French ship Industry. It
62 « Early Rec," Vol. IX., p. 97.



1748] Privateering and Prizes 227

interests, as showing how the parts were divided and how
many persons participated in these fascinating enter-
prises. According to Moses Brown at a later day, the
losers must be reckoned as well as the fortunate ones.



Online LibraryWilliam Babcock WeedenEarly Rhode Island; → online text (page 17 of 29)