William Babcock Weeden.

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don's Tavern in Wickford was famous for good cheer,
and " Sheperd Tom " has an amusing tale of John Ran-
dolph of Roanoke, who was wofully disappointed, owing
to his ignorance of local dialect. He came with his cousin
Edmund, Secretary of State under Washington. In their
horseback tour from New York toward Newport " ham
and eggs " had been the universal fare. At Wickford
Congdon said he would give them clams for supper. The
eccentric John of Roanoke rubbed his hands in pleased
expectation. Then appeared the host again, saying the
tide was too high for clams, but they should have some
capital quahogs — the hard-shelled round clam. " Good
God ! more bacon ! " said Randolph. 39

With autumn came the corn-husking festivals. All pro-
prietors intimate in the family visiting were invited, and

Potter had a conference with the governor, and stated to him that
the other must give up politics, or the expense would ruin them both.
The negro abandoned politics.— Updike, Goodwin, Vol. I., pp. 213-
215.

Mr. Potter, born in 1764, was an old-fashioned Rhode Island poli-
tician, democrat-aristocrat. Blacksmith, soldier, lawyer, he knew
men and things; hardly any man in our State ever exercised more
personal influence. When not in Congress, he was in the General
Assembly, whatever party prevailed. Once he was beaten in a town
election. Coming down the steps of the old court house— mortified
and moody— an inquirer asked about some measure in prospect.
" I don't know," said the baffled leader, " I used to have influence
enough in South Kingstown to hang any two men in the town. Now
I can hardly keep from being hung myself."

as Ibid., Vol. III., p. 102.

39 Hazard, " Reminiscences," p. 65.



308 The South County

the guests brought their slaves to assist in serving. After
the husking dancing would occur, the music being fur-
nished by natural musicians among the slaves. Gentle-
men in garb already described in the case of Rowland
Robinson, would conduct ladies dressed in brocade, with
cushioned head-dresses and high-heeled shoes, through
the stately minuet in thirty-six positions and changes. 40
On one occasion it was said John Potter husked one thou-
sand bushels of corn in a day. After the Revolution large
proprietors continued these expensive festivals, on a dimin-
ishing scale, until about 1800.

Traveling was difficult, and carriages were little used.
The public roads were poor, and important districts like
the tracts of Point Judith and Boston Neck were pene-
trated by drift ways and obstructed by gates, until the
middle of the nineteenth century. On horseback, with a
darky following, this would do ; when every man became
his own servant it was not so agreeable.

While the servants amused themselves with the grotesque
proceedings above noted, which rather indicate a life too
much influenced by barbarism and over- frivolous, the mas-
ters practiced the sports recognized in Southern commu-
nities, especially in Virginia. Fox chasing with hounds
and horns, fishing and fowling, were recreations worthy
of the gentleman. Indoors, Christmas made a long holi-
day, when guests and servants gathered in every family
connection for twelve days or more. Wherever social life
prevails, the wedding is the central occasion and hospitable
gala of the time. Mr. Updike 41 comments on the last
one — peculiar and specially appropriate to the eighteenth
century — that occurred in 1790. Six hundred guests at-
tended, and the host, Nicholas Gardiner, a portly, courte-

40 Updike, Goodwin, Vol. I., p. 225.
« Ibid., p. 226.



1776] Weddings and Sports 309

ous gentleman, was dressed in the rich style, then passing
out. With his cocked hat, full-bottomed white wig, snuff-
colored coat and waistcoat deep in the pockets, cape low
so as not to disturb the wig, and to readily expose the
large silver stock -buckle so generally worn in the plaited
neck-cloth of white linen cambric, with small clothes and
white-topped boots finely polished, he was the effective
presentation of a life given to social enjoyment, the em-
bodiment of squirearchy.

The solid basis of this social structure in Narragansett
was guaranteed by the relative apportionment of the state
taxes in 1780. It seems strange that, after Providence
had developed so much commercial life and wealth ; slave-
holding South Kingstown should pay one-third more
than the proportion of Providence, of the heavy tax then
assessed. She paid double the share of Newport — then
impoverished by the war — and was by far the most wealthy
town in the State. 42 Relative property shows that the
squires with their foolish negroes were canny at home, as
well as sportive when abroad.

The whole social life was changed after the Revolution,
when slavery diminished and the West Indian exports
were less. Planting and slavery were replaced by small
farming and economy in living. 43 It is fair to estimate
that the moral aversion to slavery — much stimulated by
the Quakers — hastened its downfall. Certainly the strictly

« Arnold, Vol. II., p. 465.

43 The present writer's great-grandfather had a family of slaves
in the period of the Revolution, with several from Guinea. One
Guy brought from Africa the art of grinding tobacco into snuff.
His price was 4^d. or 6J cents for a portion in the palm of his
hand. When he milled a parcel and there seemed to be plenty,
he gave a full handful. As the quantity decreased, he skimped
the award in his palm. Price did not change, but the natural
law of supply and demand prevailed.



310 The South County

economic results in Narragansett were better than has
been supposed generally.

The mixture of blood in this peculiar population of
Narragansett was entangled, almost beyond comprehen-
sion. Marriages between negroes and Indians were com-
mon, and the illicit intercourse between white men and
colored women marked a numerous progeny. Now, we
may note a legitimate marriage of bewildering descent.
Thomas Walmsly was a Mustee or at least an octoroon.
His wife Elizabeth was an Indian woman. She was bap-
tized in company with her child Patience. 44

But there were regular marriages between white men
and Indian women in all parts of New England, which
have not been sufficiently considered in tracing our hered-
ity. March 17, 1727, " Deborah onion an Indianess wife
of John Onion an Englishman " was married and baptized
by MacSparran. 45 Five years later three children were
baptized.

From these waifs and casual representatives of varied
races, we gladly turn to another sort of people, whose
names will always maintain a halo around Pettaquamscutt.
April 11, 1756, being Palm Sunday, Dr. MacSparran
" read Prayers preached and baptized at St. Paul's Nar-
ragansett Gilbert Stewart Son of Gilbert Stewart y e Snuff
Grinder Sureties y e Dr. Mr. Benj' n Mumford & Mrs.
Hannah Mumford." 46

Whenever a title or mark of vocation could be attached
to a person, it was done in these painstaking times. The
church records literally gave everyone his due. In a
subscription list there appeared three Captains, one Doc-
tor, a dozen Misters and one Esquire. In other connec-

44 Updike, Goodwin, Vol. II., p. 530.
45/6iU, p. 492.
46 Jbid., p. 552,



1776] Common Use of Titles 311

tions we find clothier, taylor and Mr. Edwards, Perriwig
maker at Greenwich. A shopkeeper was mentioned and
it was a rare term. Merchant and shop were often used
in Providence, but not this form of title.

Perhaps no community more carefully and frequently
set forth its erratic fancy than our folk did in their bi-
nominal nomenclature. There were so many of one name
that the bearer must have a descriptive prefix, lest he be
lost in a concordant multitude. Mr. Updike cites thirty-
two " Tom Hazards " living at one time and thus illus-
trates a few, " College Tom, because he was a student in
college. Bedford Tom was his son, and lived at New
Bedford. Barley Tom because he boasted how much
barley he raised from an acre. Virginia Tom because he
married a wife there. Little-Neck Tom from the farm of
that name. Nailer Tom, the blacksmith. Fiddle-Head
Tom, an obvious resemblance. Pistol Tom, wounded by
an explosion of that arm. Young-Pistol Tom, his son.
Short Stephen's Tom, the father low against Long Ste-
phen's Tom, the father tall. Tailor Tom needs no ex-
planation." 47 The Georges were not so numerous, but
they were distinguished by Beach-Bird George, of little
legs ; Shoe String George, an opponent of Buckles ; Wig
George, Doctor George, Governor George. In 1771 Rob-
ert Hazard, " Practitioner of physick and surgery," was
inventoried for wearing apparel at £9.2. Apparently the
prices of this inventory were in lawful money, though it is
not definitely specified. He had a fair amount of plate,
41 oz., including a tankard and a silver watch and seal.
But his non-chirurgical fancy was most fully expressed
in buttons ; " mettle " at 18s., " frosted " 48 at 7s. 6d.,
brass sleeve at Is. 6d. and sundry sorts at Is. 6d. There

47 Updike, Goodwin, Vol. I., p. 282.

48 Sometimes they were " flowered."



312 The South County

was an apothecary's stock, as was the custom among
physicians. A loom, four woollen and four linen wheels
furnished an industrial outfit. He farmed moderately and
had four slaves; one woman at £30., another at £18.15.,
a girl with swelling on her neck £11., an " indented "
Indian servant about nine years old £8. These women
spun and wove, probably. The personal estate in these
comprehensible values amounted to £1959.

Elisha Clark, 49 Jun., was a shoemaker, with estate of
£108.10. in 1773. Though he dressed at the small out-
lay of £1.15., he was not without the conventional vanities
of the day; silver shoe and knee buckles £1.5.6., one pair
gold sleeve buttons 14s., one pair silver do. set in stone 6s. ;
one pair silver neck clasps 3s.

Shoe and knee buckles were virtually universal; a com-
fort in silver, a necessity in pewter or brass. Silver
watches — appraised at £8. in 1777 — and seals are becom-
ing common. The first Banister back chairs appear, six
at £3.12. Five negro boys and girls are valued at £117.
" An old negro wench which we esteem of no value " was
a typical record.

Wm. Gardner's inventory in 1781 was " taken in Real
money." One negro man at 60 dollars was equal to £18.
In the debris 717 Continental dollars and one Treasurer's
note upon Boston were valued at £17.6.

Rev. Samuel Fayerweather, according to official re-
port, 50 dwelt " in the midst of enemies, Quakers, Anabap-
tists, Antipaedobaptists, Presbyterians, Independents,
Dippers, Levellers, Sabbatarians, Muggeltonians and
Brownists," who united " in nothing but pulling down the
Church of England." His ministry was not as effective
practically as was that of Dr. MacSparran. " Parson "

49MSS. S. K. Probate Rec, Vol. VI., p. 16.
60 Updike, Goodwin, Vol. II., p. 238.



1776 Numerous Sects

Fayerweather, in the critical eye of Mr. Daniel Updike,
" though a man of great talents, attended but little to
the minutias of his duty." Probably the passing of soci-
ety from the life of planters to that of farmers and people
of less feudal influence took away many of the natural
supporters of the Anglican church. We may see how a
parson lived by consulting his inventory, September 27,
1781. His best suit of black Padusoy — coat, waistcoat
and breeches — cost £9. ; his other apparel £18.7. His
gold ring, girdle buckle and silver shoe buckles £6. He
had 80 oz. plate at £24., and a horse and sulky with whip
at £15. His books are not mentioned and the personal
estate was £241.7. Another clergyman, Rev. Joseph
Torrey, had two gold rings at 15s. It seems to have
been a well-established fashion. His estate was moderate,
£308.6., including one hog, one pig and a loom.

John Potter, dying in 1787, left a will, 51 but no re-
corded inventory. Very considerate provision was made
for the widow Elizabeth. He had several sons and a good
riding beast, saddle and bridle with one good milch cow,
was to be kept by either son, with whom she might choose
to live. Firewood to be cut to fit any fireplace she might
choose, and brought into the room. The chosen son was
to provide everything to make her " happy and comfort-
able." The slaves were technically emancipated, but the
" use and improvement " of the negro woman Rose and
the girl Pegg to be victualled by the son, were to be hers
during widowhood. If she should marry again, these
bequests were to be transferred to her daughters. Ac-
cording to Mrs. Robinson, the daughters received £800.
each, though £50. and a home in the mansion house was
considered proper. The theory of the time was that
the father provided for his sons and thus cared for other

si S. K. Probate Rec, Vol. VI., p. 197.



314 The South County

men's daughters, whom they might marry. His house
was at Matunuck, on Potter Pond, a division at the
western shore of the great Salt Pond. It was large and
stately, though it has been divided again and again until
little is left of the original. It was adorned with portraits
by Copley and other artists. Some of the rooms were
paneled in the wainscot from floor to ceiling. Mr. Pot-
ter's wealth came easily, for in a hidden and literally dark
closet where the chimney wound about, the implements of
coinage were kept and used. There was a tradition, 52
well authenticated, that the hospitable Potters were en-
tertaining a relative, Nicholas Hazard, of Newport. In
the company was a poor pensioner, her reason a little
clouded and her tongue loose in chartered freedom. She
asked the host again and again, " Who made money in
the Overing house?" He lost patience, exclaiming, "I
don't know unless it was the devil." Nothing daunted,
the old lady replied, " I always said it was the devil, but
my husband says it was Friend Potter."

Though the technical expression, " Real Money," was
not recorded until 1781, the detailed prices show the
change by 1771. Slaves and other property commercially
regulated, had to be reduced from the extravagant valu-
ations in Old Tenor.

Whatever the general social condition of woman may
have been, she affected quite an expansive change in her
wardrobe, as we enter the times of exciting agitation pre-
ceding the Revolution. In 1762 it was matter of remark
that Robert Brown's helpmate — in a wealthy estate —
exceeded her husband's outlay for dress by £5. In 1767
Susannah Hazard, well-to-do likewise, multiplied her hus-
band's apparel to six or seven times the cost before my

52 Robinson, " Hazard Family," p. 65.



1776] The Position of Woman 315

lady was satisfied. She simply adumbrated the coming
woman.

The old South County loses its characteristics and dis-
tinctive features as we leave slavery ; its farmers inclining
by necessity to ways of living according with the other
parts of the state. The colonial history and manifesta-
tion of this bit of territory and peculiar field of social
expression will always interest students of humanity.



CHAPTER X

REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD. 1763-1785

We left the town of Providence in 1762, developing a
vigorous commerce. Daniel Jenckes, Nathan Angell,
Nicholas Power and other merchants were engaged in the
trade to the West Indies, also exchanging across to Nan-
tucket, Boston, and down the Atlantic coast.* The lead-
ing merchants in control of capital and influence were
the four brothers Brown. Their uncle Obadiah died in
1762, but he had gradually withdrawn from active af-
fairs, leaving the business to the younger generation.
The nephew Moses having married his cousin, inherited
Obadiah's estate. In 1758, one-half the spermaceti can-
dle manufactory, 1 including lot, houses, fencing, etc.,
with one-half the sloop Charming Molly, had been con-
veyed to Nicholas and John Brown for £6782.8.10.
Old Tenor. Annexed to the business of Nicholas Brown
& Co. were the operations of Nicholas and John Brown.
John was by far the most enterprising and sagacious of
the family, and his bold spirit finally separated him from
Nicholas. An account of Nicholas and John's " Stock in
Trade " interests and shows the methods of the day.
Navigation at sea in -g, £ and f shares comprised £37579.
In addition § Sloop Charles or Molley was worth £5,657.
Rum in the works was £1,333. Spermaceti, oil and Nan-
tucket account was £21,500. Sundry items carried the

* East Greenwich ran the sloop Industry to Nantucket, and
the Betsey to James River, Norfolk, Richmond.

i This factory was built by Obadiah at India Point in 1753. He
worked 300 bbls. headmatter the first year.

316



1765] West Indian Commerce 317

total to £90,517. Very interesting is the conveyance to
Nicholas Brown & Co. of the Sloop Four Bros, charged
over in 1763, for this vessel had a long career. Her cost
in all items for building, including plank, spars, wages,
anchors, etc., was £3351.16. In 1765 Abraham Whipple,
afterward Commodore, and author of the famous apoth-
egm to Wallace, " Catch a rebel before you hang him," was
her Master, and his accounts with letters, were written
as well, as his speech was ready in revolutionary time.
He took the sloop to Barbados, receiving £35 per month
and a " privilege " of 8 hhds. of sugar or molasses. He
had 5% commission on sales of the outward cargo, 2^%
on the return, and an additional commission of 2^% on
the cargo of another vessel, the Brigg George.

Nov. 9, 1765, Nicholas Power was instructed to pro-
ceed to Surinam and receive the Four Bros, and go to
Barbados. If he should find Captain Esek Hopkins
there in " our Brigg Sally " he was to advise: " And if he
Sels his Slaves there, Loao} your sloop with some of the
effects." 2 Power was to follow Captain Hopkins to get
rum, sugar, etc. ?j

James Burrough Mr. sailed her to " Mounte Christo
in 1766, and the details of the Portage Bill are curious.
The Master had £35 per month, privilege of 6 hhds. 110
g. each, and his commission of 5%. The Mate had £55,
and 3 hhds. 300 g. each. The Cooper, an important per-
sonage, got £70, with one hhd. 110 g. Two « marriners "
received each £50, and privilege of 4 bbls. 31| g. Obvi-
ously, the solid privilege of freighting molasses was rela-
tively more valuable than Old Tenor bills of fluctuating

standards.

An example of secondary exchanges— as we may term
them— appears in the Four Bros.' voyage to St.

2 Nicholas Brown & Co., MS.



318 Revolutionary Period

John's, Newfoundland, in 1763. Here Nicholas Power
was her merchant or factor, having " privilege " of 28
" Kentles " fish with 5% commission on outward cargo
and &|% on returns. Prices for guidance in purchasing
returns were £17 or £18 per quintal for dry fish, £60 per
bbl. for Irish beef, 12s. for Irish butter, £3 for Geese
feathers and 50s. per lb. for waterfowl do. Bills of ex-
change at 31 for 1, and the Sloop might be sold for £420
sterling exchange. We would like to know how much
Irish butter was actually eaten in New England. Possi-
bly this was intended for reshipment to the West Indies.
In 1764-5 the tight little sloop, with the social name, made
a voyage to Boston and Marblehead. It will be observed
in the history of every vessel that strong efforts were
made, through " privilege " and commission, to interest
both officers and sailors in the profit of the smallest trans-
actions of the owners.

Esek Hopkins, noted above as cruising with slaves in the
West Indies, was to become the first admiral of the Ameri-
can navy, and was one of the most interesting characters
of the mid-century in our colony. Skillful in his profes-
sion and of great fighting power, he was not as fortunate
in concurrent circumstances as his brother Stephen.
True, he had not the genius and scientific knowledge of
Paul Jones, but he was a good officer. Mistakes were
inevitable in those crude beginnings, while sectional jeal-
ousies contributed to complicate the results of Hopkins'
action and to bring about only partial success.

An enterprising and successful privateer, we get an oc-
casional glimpse of this hardy navigator in peaceful com-
merce. In 1746, he sold f of the Charming Molly to
James Brown, " distiller," for £168.15. lawful money. In
1756, he sold Nicholas Brown, " distiller," a negro lad or
boy slave. Writing to Nicholas Brown & Co. from Suri-



1767] Hardy Esek Hopkins 319

nam, in 1767, the gallant tar gives a clear and candid
opinion of the ways of trade in the tropics, having been
delayed in dispatching a sloop by deceit of the mer-
chants. 3 " I bleve thair is more Honnor and Honesty in
so many Highway men in England than in the marchants
of this place." The times " Luckes Dull for me at pres-
ent."

Providence dealt somewhat in slaves, though it did not
equal Newport or even Bristol in the traffic. Governor
Hopkins stated officially that prior to 1764 Newport sent
to the West Coast of Africa annually 18 vessels carrying
1800 hhds. of rum. French brandies had been displaced
on the Coast by rum after 1723. Commerce in rum and
slaves afforded about £40,000 per an. to Newport for
remittance to London. 22 still-houses were located there,
consuming molasses costing generally 13d. to 14d. in the
West Indies.

The commerce with the West Indies took out the prod-
uce of Rhode Island and such surplus merchandise as the
exchanges with our own coast afforded. Candles and
rum were constant staples. The Islands made rum, but
the cheaper distillation of New England was wanted to
send to Africa. Captain Esek Hopkins in the Brig
Sally signed a Bill of Lading in 1766, which is an example
of an outward cargo ; consisting of hoops, staves, sperm
candles, beeswax, oil, beef and pork, ship bread, tar, tur-
pentine, flour, rice for the Windward Islands. Of the
hoops 1-25 belonged to Captain Hopkins, and 1-10 of
the oil. Jonathan Peck, of Bristol, bought for Nicholas
Brown & Co. six or seven Surinam horses ; that being a
customary shipment.

An interesting item shows methods of building vessels
in 1768 for this trade. Barnard Eddy contracts with

3 Nicholas Brown & Co. MS.



320 Revolutionary Period

John Brown to build a sloop of 84 tons at 8 dollars per
ton, one-quarter to be paid in molasses at Is. 6d. lawful
money on demand, one-quarter in molasses in one month,
one-quarter in goods on demand at common retail prices.
The remaining quarter in goods on delivery of the vessel.
Provisions mentioned were 6 cwt. pork at 3d. per lb., 1000
lbs. beef at 2d., 35 bu. corn at 3s. Brown was to furnish
spikes to launch, but " no Tallow nor RUM."

Sloop George made two voyages in 1763 to Surinam
and Mount Christo, which caused an outlay of £36,358.
One voyage was £12,581, comprising about £2000 in flour,
about £6100 in candles, and £250 in Nantucket beef,
with an assortment of small items. At Surinam, Jacob
Bogman gives a very curious picture of the wants of a
planter and the manner of supplying them from a more
temperate clime. He orders for his " Plantagion " ■§ bbl.
best country fed pork, 1 bbl. good mess beef, 1 do. good
flour, 1 bbl. mackerel, 1 " kentle Dom fish," 1 hhd. codfish,
1 do. tobacco, both for negroes, all sorts garden seeds
" Time and Sawori." In live stock, he calls for a large
bull, two cows and two two-year-old heifers, to be spotted
black and white, if possible. Six or more " wile Gees, two
peekoks, six tame gees, one dozen Duks."

Some reports of the hardy captains are not only inter-
esting, but pathetic in their revelation of toil and suffer-
ing. Captain John Peck, bound for St. Eustatia, under-
went a tremendous gale. An immense wave " sot us Rite
on end." The whole cargo moved forward about two feet.
The only way to save their lives was " to pump and Liten
the vessel." They threw overboard 40 boxes of can-
dles. " You may say why did you throw over so Sealable
an article. But Remember Skin for Skin and all that a
man hath will he give for his Life."

Among the marvels of domestic intercourse may be cited



1767] The Tobacco Trade 321

the situation July 16, 1770. John Watts of New York
had been taking West Indian goods from N. Brown & Co.
But he notified " our Treaty " must end, for molasses
could be bought cheaper in Quebec than it could be im-
ported.

Rhode Island now raised tobacco in large quantities,
and it was an important factor in the West Indian
trade. Sept. 30, 1766, there appeared to be an over sup-
ply. An agreement 4 was made that Nicholas Brown &
Co. might ship 75000 lbs., D. Jenckes & Son with E. Hop-
kins might ship 45,000 lbs., N. Angell and Job Smith 35,-



Online LibraryWilliam Babcock WeedenEarly Rhode Island; → online text (page 24 of 29)