Gertrude Selwyn Kimball.

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ence on such problems as the following: "A Mer-
chant in Providence buys 48 Tun of Molasses at
Barbadoes for 672/. The freight from thence to
Providence Cost him 160/. for Loading and unload-
ing 72/. for Custom 12/. and Other Charges 7/. and
would Gain 250/. by the Bargain. What is the Price
of 16 Tun of Said Molasses."

John Brown and his school-fellows belonged to a
generation whose fathers earned a livelihood on the
sea and over the counter. Their demands for their
children's schooling were of a practical nature,
based on the needs of the coasting-trade and the
shop. John and his friends were taught accordingly.
They learned the "Rules inTrett and Tare &c. Tare
Is the weight of the Bagg Chest &c. Wherein the
Goods are Carried or put." " Trett Is an Allowance

Tr ogress 2 1 7

of 4 lb. in 104 lb. for Goods wherein is Loss as,
Treacle, Sugar, &c." They also learned the rules
for barter, by which, indeed, the greater part of the
town's business was conducted. They learned "Va-
riety," of which the following problem may serve
as an example: "ATobaconist would mix 20 lb.
of Tobaco at 9^. a lb. with 40 lb. at \^d. a lb. and
with 30 lb. at 18 Pence and with 12 lb. at 2 Shillings a
Pound, What will a Pound of this mixture be worth?"
The answer is," 2 i-. 2. 2 6-i7farth." There were sums
in square root, sums in finding a ship's latitude,
and finally, directions : " To measure a Ship, to find
her Tunnage" — "Rule first Say as i: Breadth::
Half the Breadth: a fourth Number, again as 94: the
fourth Number : : her length : Tunnage."

This record of eighteenth-century school-days
takes an added interest from the fact that the boy
who figured at latitude, ships' tonnage, and the pro-
fits of a West-Indian cargo was to fill the position of
the leading merchant of his native seaport, and to
become the pioneer in her East-India trade. John
Brown's instructor during those three eventful years
of ciphering is not known. In 1753, we find our old
friend, George Taylor, of King's Church Parish,
officiating as town schoolmaster, with the proviso
that he, "the s'd George doth . . . Oblige himself
to . . . teach one poor Child, such as the s'd Com-
mittee shall recommend, Gratis, or for nothing."

2 1 8 "Providence in Colonial Times

The inference is that instruction for the remaining
pupils was furnished on a different basis.

After the burning of the old Colony House, in
1758, and in response to an apparent and not alto-
gether surprising dissatisfaction with the environ-
ment provided by the town for the educational pur-
suits of its young people, it was decided to sell the
town schoolhouse and lot, and to use the money thus
obtained for the purchase of "a more Convenient
Lot, and Building a Publick School House . . . To
be keept up forever for the same publick Emolements
as the old . . . School was, or ought to have been."
The site of the old Colony House was selected and
approved. The plan attracted the attention of the
townspeople, the interest became general, and at
length public sentiment was sufficiently aroused to
undertake to "purchase or erect Three School
Houses for the Education of Small children and one
for the Education of Youth." But by the time that
the reports of the committees appointed to consider
sites, buildings, and regulations were brought in, the
wave of popular enthusiasm had subsided. The re-
ports were rejected, and only "the School House near
the Court House" finally appeared as the result of a
really enlightened scheme for public education.

The new schoolhouse is the brick two-storied
structure still standing on Meeting Street, and known
as the "Old Brick Schoolhouse." Among the provi-
sions for the education of youth embodied in the

Tr ogress 219

rejected report of the town's committee, we find the
following suggestions as to a desirable curriculum:
two hours in each day should be " taken up ... in
perfecting the scholars in reading and properly un-
derstanding the English tongue." The remaining
time at the disposal of the student might, it was
thought, be advantageously devoted to "writing,
arithmetic, the various branches of mathematics, and
the learned languages."

The Brick Schoolhouse was paid for in part by the
town, and in part by private subscription. The pro-
prietors owned the upper story of the building, and
the town the lower, and we are told that the town
appointed masters to keep school in their part of the
building, and that this arrangement was kept up
until 1785. Another schoolhouse was built, entirely
by private enterprise, in 1768. This was Whipple
Hall, at the North End of the town, so called in grate-
ful acknowledgment of the generosity of Captain
John Whipple, who donated the lot. This school-
house was one story in height, with a hipped roof
surmounted by a belfry. The subscribers — forty-
two in number — paid a tuition fee of four shillings
and sixpence. Outsiders were charged an additional
two shillings. Two schools were accommodated
within the walls of Whipple Hall, and of these the
upper grade was in charge of the estimable Geoge

On the West Side of the Great River a subscription

2 2 o "Providence in Colonial Times

for building a schoolhouse had been started in 1751,
when the town was petitioned for liberty to build "at
the sandy hill called Fowler's hill by Joseph Snow
Junrs dwelling house," and when it was ascertained
that there was "sufficient Roome and not damnific
the highway," the prayer of the petitioners was
readily granted. But alas! the cause of academic pro-
gress was doomed to disappointment. For the stated
width of the highway being fifty feet, there was left
at the disposal of the subscribers just sixteen feet for
the accommodation of the proposed schoolhouse.
The West-Siders wasted no more time haggling with
the town-meeting, but with characteristic energy and
dispatch bought a lot and built a schoolhouse at the
corner of Mathewson and Chapel Streets. The build-
ing was finished in 1754, in good time to serve as a
model for the East Side Whipple Hall.

One result of the destruction of the Old Colony
House was the conviction thus brought home to the
townspeople that they were without adequate pro-
tection against fire. In 1754 "the inhabitants of the
compact part of the town" had taken it on them-
selves to inform the Colonial Assembly that there
was "a great Necessity to have a Water-Engine of a
Large Size purchased, to extinguish Fires that may
casually break out in said Town ; and that the best
way to Obtain one will be by laying a Tax on the
Houses, Goods, & other things to be destroyed by



The Assembly readily accorded the petitioners
permission to tax themselves for the protection of
their own property and — strange to relate ! — a tax
was actually levied, and an engine procured from
London. It proved in some respects a disappoint-
ment to the purchasers, who found "the workman-
ship . . . not Agreeable to [the makers'] Discrip-
tion." At the normal rate of progress in undertakings
of a public nature this engine can hardly have been
delivered in Providence under two years, — that is
to say, in 1756. In 1758, the town was called on to
pay six pounds and ten shillings to one Mr. Amos
Atwell, "it being for mending the Engine," and no
doubt this amount seemed to the frugal-minded tax-
payer an excessive sum to be set down to "wear and

The loss of the Colony House in December, 1758,
emphasized afresh the shortcomings of the fire de-
partment, both in equipment and in organization.
Before a month had gone by, the rate for a new
engine was assessed. Two hundred and twenty-two
substantial townsmen contributed. The total amount
obtained was £2"]^)^^ in colonial currency. Elisha
Brown figures as the largest taxpayer. He paid £60.
The smallest assessment was £2. It was not, how-
ever, until a year later that matters were sufficiently
advanced to enable the committee in charge —
namely, Obadiah Brown and James Angell — to
send an order for the new engine to Joseph Sher-

2 2 2 'Providence in Colonial Times

wood, the colony's agent in London. A bill of ex-
change for eighty pounds sterling accompanied a
description of the engine desired. This was to be a
" Fifth Size Engine . . . made in the best manner,
Lin'd & Compleated for the Working of Salt Waters
as the Scituation of this town Requires." It was to
have "Three Length of Leathern pipe 40 feet each
with Brass Screws & One sucking pipe of Ten feet
Compleat." The agent was begged to take particular
care that all specifications were duly fulfilled, and the
matter was carefully explained to be " a Government
Concern," since the committee, although acting for
the town of Providence, were appointed by the Gen-
eral Assembly.

To this request Friend Joseph replied in due course
that the engine was purchased and would soon be
shipped, and expressed his great pleasure at " Every
Opportunity of Oblidging any part of the Colony or
any Particular Gentleman in it." This efi^usion was
penned in June, 1760, and in December the engine
was reported safe at Boston. A town-meeting was
promptly summoned for the purpose of raising
money to pay the freight from Boston to Providence,
and " to devise some proper place for Keeping of said
Engine wheen Come to hand." The first point at
issue was covered by the assessment of a "rate," and
shortly after, five boxes of "Spermacete Candles"
were despatched to Boston, "to replace the money
advanced for freight — with Interest." It was fur-

Tr ogress 223

ther resolved that "the Largest Engine" should be
kept at the "House at the Bridge opposit Judge
Jenckes," and "the other ... on the Gangway to
the South of the Baptis Meeting House," namely,
Smith Street.

The mechanism of this new importation is believed
to have been a combination of sea-pumps, attached
to a large tub-like tank, and worked by long arms, or
handles. The tank was filled by "good leathern
buckets," of which each housekeeper was required by
law to possess two. Men and boys formed lines from
the engine to the source of supply, and the brimming
buckets were passed up to the tank by one line, and
came back empty by the other. Good order and
systematic treatment of the case in hand were insured
by the presence of fire-wards or wardens, appointed
from different parts of the town, and each having "a
Proper Badge assigned him . . . to Wit, A Speaking
Trumpet coloured red." These officers were author-
ized by the Colonial Legislature "to require and
command Assistance for Suppressing and extin-
guishing the Fire." The same august authority re-
quired of each fire-warden that, "upon Notice of the
breaking forth of Fire," he should "take his Badge,
and repair immediately to the Place, and vigorously
exert his Authority."

The limits of " the compact part of the Town of
Providence," within which the above rules and regu-
lations applied, were duly set forth as follows: "The

2 24 Vrovidence in Colonial Times

House of Jabez Whipple, and that of Peter Randal,
standing opposite to it [these worthies lived just
south of the present North Burial Ground] and from
thence Southward, all the Buildings that are or shall
be erected, butting on or near adjacent to the Streets
both old and new [just at this time new streets were
being opened in several parts of the town], ... to-
gether with all the Mills and Houses in that part
of the Town which is called Charlestown [between
Smith and Orms Streets, and extending to the river]
as far Westward as the Town Pound [at the corner
of Smith and Charles Streets] ; and all such Part of the
said Town as is called the Point, as far Westward as
the Burying Ground." The " Point" was Weybosset
Point, and the drift of the town's population west-
ward within fifteen years had been such as to bring
the "compact part" thereof to the boundary of Doc-
tor John Hoyle's unfortunate purchase for the first
group of worshippers "in the Congregational or
Presbyterian way." It will, perhaps, be remembered
that, although the infant society refused to build their
meeting-house beyond the confines of civilization,
they took the land off Hoyle's hands. It was used as
a burial-ground until late in the eighteenth century.
Fifty-two of the contributors to the new fire-engine
in 1760 lived on the west side of Weybosset

Some ten years later, the Providence town-meeting
deemed it advisable to draw up certain supplement-

Tr ogress 225

ary "Rules and Regulations" for the proper proced-
ure in time of fire. These treated the matter in more
detail than those furnished by the Colonial Assem-
bly. The town fathers, in their published code, re-
quired "every Person to take Care ... to inform
where the Fire is," and at the same time warned
"every Person" that before running to the fire he
should "take Care to put on his Cloaths, and take his
Buckets in his Hand." Once arrived at the scene of
action, all were to be "as silent as possible, that they
may hear the Directions," and to obey the same
"without Noise or Contradiction." A timely caution
to those "who have the Right to command at Fires"
follows. They must "take great Care to appear calm
and firm on those Occasions, and give their . . .
Directions with distinct Clearness, and great Author-
ity"; and above all, "be very careful not to con-
tradict one another." To the turbulent democracy
at large there is addressed a tactful statement to
the effect that the authority thus exercised by the
fire-wardens is not given them "meerly that they
may command and domineer over their Neighbours
. . . but the absolute Necessity of the Case requires
it, and the Safety of the whole depends upon it,"

We feel, as we read, that the pioneer fire-brigades
of Providence strongly resembled that famous regi-
ment of Artemus Ward's, wherein all the privates
demanded to be brigadier-generals.

Chapter VII


THERE is another aspect of the town's
growth, and it is one of fundamental im-
portance. The influence of the fast-swelling
commerce of the port of Providence must have been
a considerable factor, not only in providing solid
profits wherewith to pay for court-house and school-
house, but still more in enlarging the mental, as well
as the nautical, horizon of her worthy traders. It
brought to the complacent stay-at-home people a
realizing sense of their own shortcomings as com-
pared with those of other communities.

As a matter of fact, the commerce of Rhode Island
antedates her existence as a colony. The wide-
awake Dutch colonists of the seventeenth century
had established their trading-posts in Narragansett
Bay before either Roger Williams or Anne Hutchin-
son took refuge on its quiet shores. Nor were the set-
tlers of Newport slow to enter into their heritage.
Their lands were scarcely surveyed before a sawmill
was set up and timber cut for the export trade. Ship-
yards were filling orders as early as 1646. The ship-
ping-trade of Newport grew with really wonderful
rapidity, and until well into the eighteenth century
she was the headquarters for by far the greater part

The Shipping Trade 227

of the trade of Providence, in manufactured articles
and dry goods.

We may be very sure that local imports in both
these lines of trade were but meagre during the
seventeenth century. The farmers of Providence
were far too poverty-stricken to indulge in much
besides the necessaries of existence. Such articles
as were brought into town from Newport or Reho-
both were paid for in tobacco, pease, and similar
farm produce. The annals of the Providence ship-
ping of the seventeenth century are quickly told.
The first evidence of an export trade appears in 1652,
when John Smith of Providence sent a consignment
of flour, tobacco, and pease to Newfoundland. By
the end of another ten years we find indications of
a more or less extensive trade between Providence
and Barbadoes. When William Field made his will,
in 1665, he included among the items of his property
"all that cargo that is now upon Sending to the
Barbados," and also "that which is asyett coming
to me from the Barbados, which is from thence
due to me."

As for imports, there are two recorded voyages
made by the sloop of Providence Williams (the oldest
son of Roger) . One was on that well-known occasion,
at the close of King Philip's War, when he removed
the Indian prisoners from Providence to the colony
gaol at Newport. The other took place three years
later, when Captain Arthur Fenner "shipped on

2 2 8 'Providence in Colonial Times

board of providence Williams his Sloope" three
barrels of rum, one hundredweight of sugar, one
panier, and "one Collor for a horse." Five years
after the shipment of this important consignment,
we find a Boston skipper bringing into Newport four
casks of rum and two barrels of molasses for " the
use and Account of John Whipple of the Towne of
Providence." ,

By this time (1684) warehouse lots along the
shore, <<with the privilege of a whorfe allso," had
been already granted to some dozen of the more
stirring spirits among the townspeople. In 17 12,
Nathaniel Brown of Kittle Point was given land on
Weybosset Neck for his shipyard. Although doubt
has been expressed as to the actual setting-up of the
shipyard at that point, — since five years later that
and other adjacent and unimproved lands were laid
out by the town as town-land, — there can be no
doubt that somewhere Nathaniel Brown built vessels
for Providence traders, and notably for the two
Crawfords, Major William and Captain John. Nor
was Nathaniel Brown the only shipwright available.
There are evidences of the existence of a shipyard at
the southern end of the Towne Street in these early
days of the eighteenth century; while before 1720,
John Barnes was filling orders at his shipyard north
of Weybosset Bridge, at the foot of the present
Waterman Street.

By 1720, the era of the sea-trade of Providence was

The Shipping Trade 229

fairly under way. The eight years intervening since
the town's grant to Nathaniel Brown had witnessed
the appearance in this particular field of action of the
men who became the merchant-adventurers of the
little seaport. Their pluck and perseverance laid the
foundations of firms whose reputation has become
international. The long lethargy of the Providence
husbandman was broken. He awoke to the fact that
swapping live stock and "parcels" of land need not
fill life's possibilities for himself and his sons. He
went down to the sea in ships; he came in contact
with men of other countries, nationalities, and cus-
toms ; and he gained thereby a self-reliance, a poise,
a capacity for dealing with men and with affairs,
which is attained in no school save that of experience.
The man who took a sloop of from twenty to sixty
tons burden from the Providence wharf on the
Towne Street to St. Eustatius, Martinique, or Suri-
nam, there to dispose of his cargo of horses, lumber,
candles, and cheese, and to purchase a cargo for the
return voyage, must needs have been a man of judg-
ment, of shrewd business ability, of resource, and of
an energy that frequently merged into audacity.

Foremost in the ranks of those who exchanged
the profession of farmer and land-trader for that of
sailor and ship-owner, we find representatives of the
Tillinghast, Power, and Brown families. Colonel
Nicholas Power was the third of that name. His
grandfather settled in Providence in 1642. His father

230 Vrovidence in Colonial Times

was killed in the Great Swamp Fight of King Philip's
War. It may be that as his infant son grew to man-
hood his imagination was stirred by tales of the large
plantations in Surinam, which were said to have been
his grandfather's. It is sad to have to allow that the
estates were purely mythical, but young Nicholas —
like many another lad — may have found in fancy a
stimulus to action far more potent than prosaic facts.
It is not improbable that Nicholas Power found op-
portunity to crystallize his dreams in the form of
shares in the vessels of his brother-in-law, Benjamin
Tillinghast, the son of our old acquaintance. Elder
Pardon Tillinghast. When Benjamin Tillinghast
died in 1726, he left to his heirs a "third part" of one
sloop, and "a quarter part" of another, while his
warehouses were replete with " coco, salt, sugar,
molasses Rum and other Spirits," and sundry ship
goods. Colonel Nicholas Power and his wife, Mercy
Tillinghast, were blessed with a family of five daugh-
ters and one son. The oldest daughter, Hope Power,
was wooed and won by a sailor lad, and on December
21, 1722, she bestowed her heart and hand on the
rising young captain and ship-owner, James Brown.
This James Brown was the great-grandson of Chad
Brown, "first-comer," and also first town-surveyor.
His father — likewise James — was a well-to-do
citizen and husbandman, and a steadfast upholder of
the Baptist doctrine according to the " six principles
in Hebrews 6. i. 2." There is still extant a letter of

The Shipping Trade 2 3 1

his, written to elucidate his views in the eyes of " a
meeting of the baptized congregation in providence,"
in which he makes use of the following quaint illus-
tration: "Whyaneyman Should pretend to leve out
aney one of those six principles sencit will but
Weaken the building — I propose that if aney man
should agree with a carpender to build him a house
and to finish it Workmanlike for such a Sum of
money, and the carpender should Leve out one of the
principle parts or foundation of the house, the man
would find fait and Workmen would condem the
carpender. Suppose the man should indent with the
carpender to make 6 windos in the ist room, but the
carpender being in a hurre makes but 5, the man
would be afended and the carpender condemed by
good workmen, but if this way of reasoning bee
Wright then to leve out areaone of the six princyples
of christs docterin is rong. but to keep them together
as in hebrews the 6th makes a rule of communian.'*
Elder James Brown stood by his creed with that
uncompromising "rigour" of which the worthy Mrs.
Battle was so earnest an advocate. He is on record as
one of those who agreed that " if any Brother or Sister
shall join in Prayer without the bounds of the Church
they are liable to be dealt with by the Church for
their offending their Brethren." James, Junior, also
signed this expression of unanimity of opinion, — if
not of good will. A few years later, however, a more
charitable point of view commended itself to him.

232 Trovidence in Colonial Times

and in a somewhat remarkable document, written in
May, 1738, about a year before his death, he ad-
dresses his neighbors as follows : " That if it be the
pleasure of the Heavens to take the Breath out of my
Mortal Body . . . I am Quite free and Willing that
My Body may be Opened, in Order that my fellow
Cretures and Neighbours may See Whether My
Grievance hath been nothing but the Spleen or not.
And one thing more I would leave with you (my
Neighbours) which is the Ignorance of all Ministers
who have disputes and debates Concerning the way
of their Sarving their God ; they do not consider that
it is Makeing him inferiour to themselves ; which Me-
thinks they would not do, if they could but see and
Consider that they themselves have an Equal Respect
to their Children, Servants, or Others of their fellow
Creatures when they Serve them Equally alike."

This, however, is anticipating the chronological
order of events. Almost two years before he became
the husband of Hope Power, James Brown, Junior,
— then a young man of twenty-three, — appears as
one of five partners, "all of Providence," who em-
ployed a certain "John Barns of Providence" to
build a sloop ; " said Sloope to be forty five foote by
the Keele ; seaventeene foot and halfe by the beame
and seavon foot and halfe in the Whole." She was
to be delivered "afloate on the north side of Way-
bausett Bridg," and to be paid for "after the Rate of
Two pounds & seaventeene shillings pr Tun." An-

The Shipping Trade 233

other digression from the path of chronological nar-
ration must be made at this point to enable us to cal-
culate the tonnage of the new sloop by means of
the rule neatly inscribed in "John Brown s Cipher
Book, some thirty years later. In this way we learn
that John Brown's father's sloop, built in 172 1, was a
vessel of about seventy-three tons. When the con-
tract was signed, James Brown owned a quarter in-
terest in the new boat. Before a year had passed he

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