History of Washington and Kent Counties,
Rhode Island

by J. R. Cole W.W.Preston & Co., New York, 1889


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF SOUTH KINGSTOWN.

page 519:

THE RODMAN FAMILY. -- The Rodmans were among the earliest settlers in Kingstown.  We find the birth of Doctor Thomas Rodman's first child recorded there in 1707.  He married in 1706 Katharine, daughter of Colonel Thomas Fry of Newport.  Doctor Thomas Rodman was the third in descent from John [520] Rodman of Barbadoes, the founder of the family in America, who was banished from his native land for stern adherence to his religious principles.  In "Rutty's History of the Quakers in Ireland," page 366, published in 1751, we find: "In the year 1655, for refusing to remove his hat in the assizes in New Ross (where he was summoned as a witness) was John Rodman committed to Gaol by Judge Louder, kept a prisoner for three months and then banished his country."  "It is probable that upon his banishment John Rodman went to Barbadoes.  His will was recorded in the secretary's office in Barbadoes, December 4th, 1686.  His oldest son, Doctor Thomas Rodman, came to Newport from Barbadoes in a yacht, of which John Bryer was master.  He was a prominent member of the Society of Friends, and clerk of the monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings of Rhode Island for thirty years.  He was also the first clerk of the New England meeting, which position he held until 1718.  He was an eminent physician and surgeon, chiefly celebrated as an obstetrician, and was sent for in difficult cases to go great distances. Doctor Thomas Rodman built a house at the corner of Thames and Ann (now Touro) streets, which was afterward removed to Bridge street.  This house was afterward the residence of Doctor Clarke Rodman, Doctor William Hunter, Doctor Isaac Senter, Doctor Benjamin Case, and other persons of distinction."

For his second wife Doctor Thomas Rodman married Patience, widow of Robert Malines, and daughter of Peter and Ann Easton.  From this marriage descend the South Kingstown branch of Rodmans.  His third wife was Hannah, daughter of Governor Walter Clarke.  The name Clarke as a given name has often been repeated in the South Kingstown families.  They do not have the Clarke blood.

Doctor Thomas Rodman, oldest son of Doctor Thomas Rodman of Newport, settled in South Kingstown, on a tract of land containing a thousand acres, "more or less," that was granted to his father in order to retain his services for the town of Newport.  This land was given to Doctor Thomas of South Kingstown by his father.  He added largely to the original inheritance by purchase, his son Samuel and grandson Daniel also increasing the estate until the family owned nearly all the land enclosed on the east by the Saugatucket river, north by the highway, west by highway, reaching in many places and extending over in some, the highway on the south.  The greater part of the Dockray estate, so called, was bought from Robert Rodman.

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Daniel Rodman, grandson of Doctor Thomas, also bought of George Hazard, in 1775, one hundred and seventy acres in Point Judith "known as Little Neck," "for five hundred and twenty-five good Spanish milled dollars." Rowland Robinson also sold to Daniel Rodman, in 1773, "a certain tract of land in Point Judith with dwelling house, stable and other houses thereon."

Daniel Rodman owned on Kingston, then called "Little Rest" hill, an estate given to him by his father, Samuel Rodman, which he sold in 1777 to Powel and James Helms "for seven hundred pounds, lawful money."  The large double house still standing (1888) is known as the Helms house.  Daniel Rodman was a merchant.  He held many important offices, not only in the town, but in the state.  At one time he was one of a committee appointed by the general assembly to draft a letter to General Washington.  He moved about 1777 to Connecticut, and from thence to New York.

Doctor Thomas Rodman was probably the first physician settled in South Kingstown.  It is also probable that he helped to build the first meeting house, for in 1748, we find that he gave to the Society of Friends and to their representatives, William Robinson, Samuel Rodman and others, "for the consideration of forty shillings a piece of land containing one acre more or less on which stands a certain meeting house, in which the people called Quakers meet adjoining to the souther end of the farm of Benjamin Hazard, son of George Hazard, deceased."  This land was bought in 1720 by Rowland Robinson, Thomas Rodman and others of Benedict Arnold.  The property was to be held by them, "their heirs and the heirs of them" for the use of the Friends as a place of worship forever.

On this land was the Quaker burying ground.  Rowland Robinson, the first of the name in Kingstown, and his wife were laid here side by side.  Many years afterward a descendant of Roland Robinson removed the mouldering bones of his ancestors to the cemetery in Wakefield.

Isaac Peace Rodman bought (about 1852) the Tower Hill farm, on a part of which now stand the Tower Hill House.  He also bought the old Quaker meeting house, and moving it across the road to his own land, converted it into a dwelling house which is still standing near the hotel.  He also soon after bought the old Episcopal church which stood on Tower Hill.  Of this he made a barn near the house.  It had been long unused as a place of worship.

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As each of the sons of Doctor Thomas Rodman arrived at the age when he was entitled to a vote, he was given by deed twenty-five acres of land "more or less," thus qualifying him to become a freeman or voter.  At his death his lands and houses were equally and justly divided amongst his sons; daughters in those days, it seems from the wills of the old landholders, were provided for by giving them fifty pounds and a husband.  To Samuel and William was given his homestead with several hundred acres of land.  This house now standing in the village of Rocky Brook, in which four generations of Rodmans were born, remained in the family until 1817, when it was sold by James and Clarke Rodman to Rowland Hazard.  In 1838 it was again in the possession of the Rodmans.  Samuel Rodman, seventh in descent from the first John Rodman, of Barbadoes, bought the Rocky Brook property of Thomas R. Hazard.  The house is now owned by descendants.  For nearly one hundred years the Rodmans bought land which, though often divided by will and deeds of gift, was never sold. Like Mr. Sprague, father of Ex-Governor William Sprague, when asked to seel land, they could have made the same answer: "We buy land; we do not sell."

In 1777 Daniel Rodman, grandson of Doctor Thomas Rodman, made the first sale, the next was by Benjamin, son of Doctor Thomas Rodman, in settling the estate of his brother Robert in 1783.  Robert was, as he writes himself in a transfer of property to his nephew William, a "gentleman," and died insolvent.

Benjamin Rodman, youngest son of Doctor Thomas Rodman, was born in 1726 and died in 1821, living to be nearly one hundred years of age.  He married Hannah, daughter of Nathaniel Niles, who built and occupied the house now standing near the village of Wakefield, named quite recently by Thomas R. Hazard "Dalecarlia."  At one time this house was occupied by Samuel Hazard, about whom Doctor William H. Hazard tells the story that Samuel had a beautiful daughter who sickened and died when sixteen years old.  Doctor Hazard meeting the old gentleman soon after, expressed his sympathy for him in the loss of his daughter.  Said Mr. Hazard, "Yes, doctor, I had rather have lost the best cow in my yard."  To Benjamin and Hannah were [523] born seven daughters, remarkable for their beauty and sweet voices.  One daughter, Deborah, married Joseph Congdon, who built on land previously sold to him by Deborah, in 1807, the house now standing in Peace Dale, owned by the Hazards, in which Rowland G. Hazard lived for many years.

Samuel Rodman, son of Doctor Thomas, was a prominent man in the business of the town.  He added much to his inheritance by purchase.  That he was honored and loved by his brethren seems to be shown by a pathetic clause in the will of his brother Thomas, which reads: "I wish to be buried in the yard of the Friends' Meeting House, as near as possible to be body of my brother Samuel."  He inherited his father's house, in the building of which was used good old English oak, brought from the mother country ready framed.  The late Honorable Samuel Rodman, in repairing the old house in 1846 for the use of his eldest son, Isaac Peace Rodman, had the old stone chimney removed; the shell cement used in building had become nearly as firm as the stones.  On a stone built in the chimney was the date 1742.  In this old house where so many Rodmans first saw the light were born four of General Isaac Peace Rodman's children.

In 1786 Robert and William Rodman, sons of Samuel and grandsons of Doctor Thomas, made a division of the property given to them conjointly by their father, Robert retaining the house, where were born to him fourteen children.  William built on his land, not far from the homestead, a large house now standing owned by Samuel Arnold Rodman, a descendant in the ninth generation of John Rodman of Barbadoes.  William was a bachelor.  Fond of good company and good cheer, he always had one or more friends among his gentlemen acquaintances ready to share his home and help to squander his goodly inheritance; consequently he is soon found selling his land, and finally renting a part of his house.  At one time Christopher Raymond Perry was his tenant, and here, in the great west chamber, his son Oliver Hazard Perry was born.

The old Rodmans were Quakers, peace-loving, law-abiding people, consequently the name is rarely found in state or colonial records; in connection with lawsuits or criminal cases never; rarely in the records of the war.  As the old ancestor gave up his native land for an adherence to his Quaker principles, so here his immediate descendants, though not royalists and [524] never treacherous to the interest of the colony, were ready to leave the new home and the fair estates they had builded [sic] up, rather than take part in shedding the blood of their fellow-man.  For this reason the name is rarely seen amongst the many who fought for and won our independence.  Neither is the name found amongst those who brought in large bills for shoeing a horse or nursing a sick soldier.  Such services, if rendered, were probably gratuitous.  This course would be in keeping with the large-hearted generosity that has always been a distinguishing characteristic of the family.  In the sixth generation of the Narragansett Rodmans, to the peace-loving was added ease-loving, and there remained for the seventh no broad acres to cultivate, but a work of labor and love, to restore some of the old glory to the ancient name.

Two sons of Clarke Rodman, Daniel and Robert, are known in the town, not only as men who have made large fortunes, but as men of sterling integrity of character.   Daniel owned the village of Mooresfield and the manufacturing property at Glenrock.  He left a fine fortune to his children.  His son, Daniel B. Rodman says of his father: "He owed his success in business to his industry, perseverance and economy, coupled with these two principles. 'What little you do, do well.  Be careful in making business engagements; be more careful in fulfilling them.'"

The line of Samuel Rodman's paternal ancestors is traceable for more than two hundred years.  The first progenitor of the family in America of whom we have record was John Rodman, of Christ Church parish, Barbadoes, a planter. He died in Barbadoes in 1686.  His elder son, Thomas, a physician, removed to Newport, R.I., and settled there, and from him the direct line of descent was through Thomas, Samuel, Robert and Robert, to Samuel, the seventh in the line from John Rodman of Barbadoes.

[524]
SAMUEL RODMAN, the son of Robert and of Elizabeth Hazard, daughter of Stephen Hazard of South Kingstown, was born in South Kingstown, R.I., May 3d, 1800.  Both in personal appearance and in character he was said to resemble his great-grandfather Samuel; while he inherited from his mother a strain of the Hazard blood, and with it the will and energy that are necessary to success.  He was born in the house that his great-uncle, William Rodman, had builded, [sic] and in the great west chamber that had been made historic as being also the birth-place of Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of Lake Erie.

[525]
When he was about fourteen years old, his ambition overleaping the narrow bounds of his village life, he left his father's house and went to the central part of the state of New York, then the distant West and the Mecca of ambitious youth.  The seven years that he spent there were passed in the family of his uncle Asa Carpenter, who had married his mother's sister, Sarah Hazard.  He returned to Rhode Island in 1821, and in the same year he made his first purchase of real estate, buying of Elisha Watson, for four hundred and ninety dollars, six acres of land with  a house thereon.  This land was once a part of the old Rodman estate, and in this house his eldest son, Isaac Peace Rodman was born, August 18th, 1822.  Year by year Samuel Rodman added to his property, gathering up acre after acre of the old paternal lands.

In 1832 he had charge of the Peace Dale mills. In 1835, in company with Attmore Robinson, he bought of John F. Bently, for five hundred dollars, the tract of land with the wharf at Narragansett Pier, since called the "Old Pier," where the famous breakwater, costing twenty-five thousand dollars, was afterward built.  Its architects, like those, as it is said, of the second Eddystone light-house, defied God Almighty to overthrow the work: but it was partly destroyed in the first great storm after its completion.  During the progress of the breakwater an accomplished French engineer, on examining it, said that it was building on a wrong principle, and that the dock sooner or later would fill with sand.  Time has proven the truth of this prediction, for children now plan on the beach where once was from fifteen to twenty feet of water.

In 1838 Samuel Rodman sold his rights to the pier property, and bought of Thomas R. Hazard for six thousand dollars, "one hundred and twenty-five or thirty" acres of land in the village of Rocky Brook; and in the same year he built the homestead where seven of his children were born.  There were on the property at the time fours small houses and a small wooden mill, containing one or two sets of machinery.  In this mill he began the manufacture of woolen goods that was destined to assume such large proportions.  During the following year (1839) he bought of John D. Austin, administrator on the estate of Mary R. Hazard, for three thousand seven hundred dollars, thirty acres of land, on a part of which stood the old Rodman [526] mansion house and a woolen mill.  In 1853 he bought of Jonathan Congdon, for nine thousand dollars, thirty acres of land, with several houses and a woolen mill, containing two sets of machinery; and at about the same time he added to his own farm the Freeman Watson farm adjoining it.  This farm once belonged to his great-uncle, William Rodman, who, in the last century had built the house now standing, already mentioned as the one in which Samuel Rodman was born. The small mills on the Rocky Brook estate Mr. Rodman soon replaced by substantial stone buildings, taking all of the stone that he used from his own meadows, which were well named "Rocky."  He built pretty cottages for his operatives, made roads, set out trees and beautified the place until it became, both in appearance and in reality one of the thriftiest as well as one of the most picturesque villages in New England.  His success as a manufacturer was long uninterrupted, and he became of the richest mill owners in the state, owning in addition to the Rocky Brook property, a mill in Wakefield, and a fine mill in Newport.

In politics Samuel Rodman was an old-time whig, and subsequently an anti-slavery whig.  He represented his town several times in the general assembly.  In 1853, when a nomination was equivalent to an election, he was nominated for lieutenant-governor, but for personal reasons he declined the nomination.  He was never but once defeated in any election for which he stood as candidate.  In 1873, receiving the nomination for congress in the minority party in the western district, he came unexpectedly near an election.  His almost uniform success was due in part of his natural energy of character, but still more directly to the estimation in which he was held by his fellow townsmen.  In 1841, in conjunction with A. C. Barstow and Edward Harris, he entered enthusiastically upon the total abstinence reform, and its measure of success in his own and in the neighboring villages was largely attributable to his zeal and activity.

For over forty years Samuel Rodman was a member of the Baptist church, and an honor to his communion.  But he was not in any narrow sense a sectarian; he was liberal in his religious views and tolerant toward all Christian denominations.  He contributed largely toward the building of the new Baptist house of worship in Wakefield in 1852, and was one of its chief benefactors. [527] During his days of prosperity he aided by liberal contributions in the building of no less than twenty-six other churches; nor did he confine his benevolence to his own denomination.  That a house was to be built for the worship of God was a sufficient appeal to his sympathy and help.  In the Sunday school of the church he was a devoted and helpful laborer, holding for many years the position of superintendent.

His character was one of great natural energy, yet there were no hard lines in it, and he had a certain gentleness of manner, combined with decision, which made him greatly beloved.  During his last illness his former employees came to his house and requested the privilege of sitting up to watch him.  "No strike was ever mediated in his mills."  Mr. John Eddy of Providence has outlined his character as follows: "A man of great physical strength and power of endurance, of energy and force of character, of mental and moral courage; but these were so united to an active benevolence to all, a generous and conscientious consideration for the rights of others, that his rounded and symmetric personality commanded the respect and love of all who knew him.  The relations between him and his employees were those of mutual confidence.  He perceived that the truest method of elevating the laborer was to make him independent, and to this end by the sale of lands to them at nominal prices he encouraged his laborers to become land owners."

His hospitality was proverbial.  Rarely were the guest chambers tenantless, or were there vacant seats at his hospitable board; while the distinguished guest received no more cordial welcome than the poor and needy friend or relative.  A friend, writing to his widow after his death, said: "Mr. Rodman was the most generous man I ever knew, and I have reason to know how generous.  He conferred a favor in such a way that the recipient might well question whether he had received or conferred the favor."

Samuel Rodman married Mary, daughter of Benjamin Taylor and Abigail (Oatley) Peckham.  She was the mother of all his children, a woman of remarkable strength of character and integrity, and a devoted Christian.  The influence of her character and teaching was seen with remarkable clearness in her eldest son, the late General Isaac Peace Rodman.  To her husband she was truly a helpmeet -- not only in forming the characters of the older children, who came especially under her influence, but as [528] a wise and faithful counselor in all his business relations.  He took no important step without her advice.  His second wife, whom he married in 1854, was Mary Anstis Updike, daughter of Hon. Wilkins Updike, of South Kingstown, and author of the "History of the Narragansett Church," "Memoirs of the Rhode Island Bar," and other works.

Mr. Rodman died May 9th, 1882, in South Kingstown, on the Rodman land where he was born, and was buried in the family burying ground.  Eight of his grandsons, obeying his request, were his pall-bearers.  They were Isaac P. Rodman, Thomas Rodman, Rowland Rodman, B.F. Robinson, Jr., Rodman Robinson, S.A. Rodman, Samuel Rodman Thompson and William H. Baldwin, Jr.

We may conclude by saying, in the words of one who knew him well: "A larger-hearted, more whole-souled man than Samuel Rodman, Rhode Island has never produced."

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ISAAC PEACE RODMAN was the eldest son of Samuel and Mary (Peckham) Rodman.  He was born in South Kingstown, R.I., August 18th, 1822.  He was educated in the public schools of his native town, but quite early in life left school, in order to enter in the manufacturing business with his father.  He had a passionate love for books and the knowledge that books give, combined with a remarkable memory; his leisure hours were for many years nearly all devoted to study, and thus he was enabled to take his place amongst men of a more liberal education on an equal footing.  "He was a man of exceedingly acute and elevated intelligence, reasoned with great sequence and logical force from cause to effect, a believer in the 'Gospel of expedience' in all the ordinary affairs of life."  His extensive reading and intimate acquaintance with the classics rendered him a literary critic of no mean order.

E.H. Hazard, in a biographical sketch, written for Bartlett's "Rhode Island Officers," said of General Rodman: "He was extremely modest and retiring in his nature.  There were no extravagancies in his life or conduct; his character as a whole was uniform in all its elements.

He was for many years an honored member of the Baptist church; at one time teacher of a Bible class composed of young men; at another, superintendent of the Sunday school.  He was liberal in his religious views to all denominations, intolerant only to superstition and narrow bigotry.

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After a few years of initiatory labor in his father's mills, more especially in office work, he, with his brother Rowland Gibson Rodman, entered into partnership with their father under the firm name of S. Rodman & Sons.

He was for many years president of the town council of South Kingstown, and was a representative for several terms in the assembly of Rhode Island, and also in the senate of that state; a director in the Wakefield Bank, also in the Institution for Savings.

When the president called for seventy-five thousand men at the commencement of the civil war, he was among the first to respond to the call of his country.  He raised a military company composed of his fellow townsmen for the Second Rhode Island regiment of Volunteers, and was chosen their captain for his gallant conduct at the battle of Bull Run; Governor Sprague, when the Fourth Rhode Island regiment was mustered into the service, appointed him its lieutenant-colonel and soon after colonel.

He distinguished himself by his gallant conduct in the battle of Roanoke February 8th, 1862, and at Newbern March 15th, 1862.  Abbott, in his "History of the Civil War," said in speaking of this battle: "The charge by Colonel Rodman, leading the Fourth Rhode Island regiment, was one of the most heroic deeds of the day."  This gallant charge won a brigadier-general's commission for Colonel Rodman.  Yet he always insisted that his regiment deserved more credit for their conduct at the battle of Roanoke Island in which they took a conspicuous part, than at the battle of Newbern.

After the capture of Fort Macon April 17th, 1862, General Rodman contracted typhoid fever and was obliged to return home, "broken in health, but crowned with the honors he had won."  On his arrival at the Kingston station he was met by a large delegation of his fellow citizens, with the militia companies and bands of music.  Overcome by this proof of the estimation in which he was held by his townspeople, and enfeebled by severe illness, he could say but a few words to them.  A few weeks later, when the same company again conducted to his home, instead of the triumphant strains of martial music, the tap of the muffled drum and funeral march alone was heard; no kind words greeted the old friends, for the voice was still forever.

He remained at home but a few weeks; before his furlough [530] was ended or his health re-established, General Burnside wrote to him that the army was on the eve of a great battle, urging him to return if possible, as there was urgent need for commanding officers; and against the remonstrance of his physician, he hastened back to the field of duty.

At the battle of Antietam, September 17th, 1862, he commanded the Third Division of the Ninth Army Corps, and fell mortally wounded while leading his division to the charge.  "Though feeble in health and exhausted from five days and nights of arduous service, he kept in the saddle from early dawn till sunset, when he fell, pierced with a minie ball through his left breast.  Surgical aid and efforts of friends were unavailing to save his life; his system was exhausted.  His patience in suffering was equal to his courage on the battle-field.  He died as he lived, a Christian soldier.  His physician, who had witnessed many death-bed scenes, said that for the calm, conscious, peaceful resignation, he never witnessed its equal.  From the time he left his home in the spring of 1861 to the hour of his fall, his Bible was his daily companion, and was daily ready by him.  It was found in his bosom, clotted with his blood."

Abbott, in closing a notice of General Rodman, says: "At South Mountain he escaped uninjured.  At Antietam, while at the head of his division, and performing the part of a Major-General, a bullet pierced his breast, and he was carried to a house in the rear.  There, after the lapse of thirteen days, he died.  His remains were buried at his native place, South Kingstown, with the highest honors.  He was mourned as a Christian warrior, and as one of the purest and best of men."

The state of Rhode Island brought back his remains amid universal demonstrations of mourning, and laid them in state in the hall of the house of representatives.  His obsequies, of a very imposing character, were conducted by the state, amid every demonstration of respect on the part of the citizens.  It has also placed his portrait in the Memorial Hall of Brown University at Providence, R.I.

Senator Anthony, in a funeral oration, said of him: "Here lies the true type of the patriot soldier.  Born and educated to peaceful pursuits, with no thirst for military distinction, with little taste or predilection for military life, he answered the earliest call of his country, and drew his sword in her defense.  Entering the service in a subordinate capacity, he rose by merit [531] alone to the high rank in which he fell; and when the fatal shot struck him, the captain of one year ago was in command of a division.  His rapid promotion was influenced by no solicitations of his own.  He never joined the crowd that throng the avenues of preferment.  Patient, laborious, courageous, wholly devoted to his duties, he filled each place so well that his advancement to the next was a matter of course, and the promotion which he did not seek sought him.

"He was one of the best type of the American citizen; of thorough business training, of high integrity, with an abiding sense of the justice due to all, and influenced by deep religious convictions.  In his native village he was by common consent the arbitrator of differences, the counselor and friend of all."

He was buried in the family burying-ground, at South Kingstown, on the 5th of October, 1862.

He married, June 17th, 1847, Sally Lyman Arnold, daughter of Governor Lemuel H. and Sally (Lyman) Arnold.  They had seven children, five of whom survive him.

[531]
THE WATSON FAMILY is also numerous in this town.  John Watson died about 1727.  His sons were Samuel, John, William, etc.  John had children: Hannah, Ann, John, born 1709; Jeffrey, born 1712; Elisha, born 1716; and Amy.  The children of Jeffrey were: Hannah, Jeffrey, Elisha, Marcy, Dorcas, Sarah, William and Bathsheba.  The children of John last named were: John, born 1737, father of Judge John; Hannah, Bridget, Job, Mary, Elisha, born 1748, father of Judge Elisha Watson, Esq.; Joseph William Freeman, Isabel and Walter, 1753.  The children of Job Watson were: Isabel, Job, 1767; Robert Hazard, 1769; Walter, 1770; Borden, 1772; and John Jay, 1774.

One branch of the family descended from Benjamin Watson, a respected citizen of that name who lived and died on McSparran hill.  His children were: Oliver, Samuel, Sylvester, Wescott and Jesse.  From these children descended a numerous progeny, many of whom are still residents of Washington county. Oliver Watson was the father of William Watson of Kingston Station. Oliver was born in 1760 and died in 1839.  His children were: Sarah, Ann P., Benjamin, Rachel, Mary R., John K., Oliver, William, Hannah, Isabel, Elizabeth, Samuel, Harriet and William.

William Watson built his house at Kingston Station in 1857.  He and his brother Oliver Watson have each been directors of the National Landholders' Bank for many years.

[532]
REVEREND ELISHA F. WATSON is a lineal descendant of John Watson, who at an early day settled on the Watson farm situated on Tower Hill in South Kingstown.  The latter was united in marriage to a Miss Gardner, a sister, as tradition relates of one of the original purchasers of the Pettaquamscutt tract, and died at an advanced age, about the year 1727.  The estate for five generations has remained in the family, and but recently passed into other hands.  This tendency to acquire and retain landed property has been a characteristic of the Watsons, and finds an exemplification in the subject of this biography, whose estate will, as a safe and sure heritage, be transmitted to his descendants.  Freeman P. Watson, the father of Elisha F., a lineal descendant of the late Judge Freeman Perry, married Phoebe, daughter of Job Watson, of Jamestown.  Their children were: Job W., Elisha F., Freeman P and a daughter Phoebe W., wife of Stephen H. Tefft.

Elisha F. was born on the 28th of March, 1814, at Boston Neck in South Kingstown, and pursued his early studies under William H. Gaynor, an instructor of repute in those days.  He prepared for college at Amherst, Mass., and Bristol, Penn., meanwhile devoting some months to teaching, as an aid toward defraying the expenses attending a college course.  In 1837 he entered Brown University, Providence, and was graduated from that institution in 1840.  He then began the study of theology at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, concluding the course under Reverend Doctor Francis Vinton of Newport.  He was ordained to the ministry in August, 1843, and for the succeeding three years was rector of St. Paul's church, Tower Hill, and St. Matthew's church, in Jamestown.  Mr. Watson was then called to Christ church at Lonsdale, in the same state, and for more than three years had charge of this parish.

In 1851 he returned to South Kingstown and located upon the farm inherited by his wife from her father.  In 1850 he filled a pulpit in western Massachusetts; and in 1861, on the outbreak of the late war, joined the Army of the Potomac, as chaplain of the Eleventh Massachusetts volunteers, serving in that capacity for more than three years, with an absence of but two weeks during the entire period.  He later acted as volunteer chaplain of the Seventh Rhode Island volunteers, returning to his home in the fall of 1864. Mr. Watson has an early whig, and later republican, [533] been much interested in the political questions of the day.  The reading of "Clarkson's Abolition of the British Slave Trade" strongly impressed upon his mind the evils of the slave system, and made him an abolitionist.  Hence his labors during the late war were not more directed to the preservation of the Union than the abolition of slavery.  In 1834 he became a member of the first temperance society organized in South Kingstown, and is both in theory and practice a strong advocate of temperance, having for his motto: "From the cradle to the coffin, in principle and practice a temperance man."  He fills the position of superintendent of schools for South Kingstown, but has sought no other office.

Mr. Watson was married June 6th, 1843, to Mary, daughter of the late John B. Dockray of Wakefield.  Their only child, a son Arthur H., is a resident of Providence.  Mr. Watson received the degree of A.M. from Brown University in 1843.

[533]
THE PERRY FAMILY, of South Kingstown,  are descendants of Edward Perry of Sandwich, Mass.  Edward Perry came from Devonshire, England.  He had two sons -- Samuel and Benjamin, who came to South Kingstown and settled at Perryville. From them sprang all the Perrys in Washington county.

In parental line the successors of Samuel Perry1 were: James2, James3, John4, John R.5, John G.6, who is the father of Doctor John E. Perry and Howard B. Perry (town clerk), both of Wakefield; Millard F. Perry, cashier of the Kingston Bank, and also of Mrs. Hattie E. Thomas of Wickford.

John G. Perry6, above named, is prominent in both county and state.  He was town clerk of South Kingstown for nineteen years, and state treasurer in 1887.

Benjamin Perry, together with his brother, Samuel, purchased a thousand acres or more of land covering the present site and vicinity of the village of Perryville.  Benjamin was the ancestor of the two commodores, Matthew C. and Oliver H. Perry.  Christopher Raymond Perry, the father of these two distinguished men, was a seafaring man.  He was united in marriage to Miss Alexander, and estimable lady.

Oliver H. Perry, whose brilliant achievement on Lake Erie has preserved his name imperishable, was born in South Kingstown, August 23d, 1785.  Young Oliver received a liberal education, and was an apt scholar.  He early imbibed a strong desire for the naval profession, and was admitted midshipman on board [534] of the "General Greene" in April, 1799, when but fourteen years of age, and set sail for the West Indies.  His most brilliant exploit was that of the naval combat and victory on Lake Erie.  He was attacked with yellow fever while on an expedition to South America, and died August 23d, 1819, in the thirty-fourth year of his age.

Commodore Matthew C. Perry, his brother, was born in Newport in 1794. His greatest exploit was the celebrated Japan expedition, which he commanded in 1852, in which he conquered a powerful empire.  He died in 1858.

[534]
THE BROWN FAMILY emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, and settled in South Kingstown.  Governor George Brown was a son of Robert and grandson of William Brown.  April 24th, 1768, he married Hannah, granddaughter of Governor William Robinson.  Mr. Brown occupied for many years the position of representative in the general assembly.  He was associate justice of the supreme court from May, 1796, to June, 1799.  In 1799 he succeeded Samuel J. Potter as lieutenant governor of the state, and held the position until 1800.  In 1800 Governor Potter was again elected.  Governor Brown was a courteous and amiable gentleman, a communicant of the Episcopal church, and sustained an irreproachable character through life.  He died January 20th, 1836, in the ninety-first year of his age, and was buried in the church yard at Tower Hill.

THE GARDNER FAMILY. -- William Gardner, of Boston Neck, died December 14th, 1732, in the sixty-first year of his age.  He was the eldest son of Benoni, and grandson of Joseph Gardner, an emigrant from England and one of the first settlers of Narragansett.  William Gardner's first wife was Abigail Remington.  They left seven children: John, William, Thomas, Sylvester, Abigail, Hannah and Lydia.  Sylvester Gardner, the fourth son of William, was born in South Kingstown, at the family mansion on the farm next south of the Ferry estate, in 1717.  Mr. Gardner, upon the advice of his son-in-law, Doctor McSparran, who married his daughter Abigail, decided to educate him for some professional pursuit, inasmuch as he was physically incapacitated for farm labor.  Doctor McSparran took charge of his education and placed him in Boston to complete his primary studies, and subquently [sic] directed his education to the study of medicine.  He was then sent to England and France, where he enjoyed the best advantages for eight years, and returned to Boston an accomplished [535] physician and surgeon, being among the most distinguished of his profession in the day in which he lived.

John Gardner, the son of William Garnder, was a resident of Boston Neck. He was married twice. His first wife was Mary Hill, and by her he had children: Anstis, the wife of Rowland Robinson and the mother of the unfortunate Hannah; Thomas and Amos.  His second wife was Mary Taylor, the niece of Hon. Francis Willet.  Their children were: John, who married Sarah Gardner; Benjamin, Abigail, who married Lodowick Updike; Mary and Sarah, both of whom died young; Lydia, who married Robert Champlin, brother of George and Christopher Champlin.

Mr. John Gardner died July 7th, 1770, on Saturday, and on Sunday was buried in the churchyard of St. Paul's.  Sarah Gardner, above mentioned, was the eldest daughter of Captain Samuel Gardner.

Colonel John Gardner was an accomplished gentleman of the old school, and of popular manners.  He rose into favor, and was a whig in the revolution. He was elected to the general assembly from South Kingstown for the years 1786-7 by the paper money party.  In 1788 and 1789 he was elected by the popular vote of the state a delegate to the confederated congress, but did not take his seat in that body.  Colonel Gardner inherited the patrimonial estate, the farm next south of the South Kingstown ferry, containing five hundred acres, reputed to be the most fertile tract in Narragansett.  He died in October, 1808, aged 61.  His son Robert was some years United States consul in Sweden.

[535]
JOHN CASE owned the Quaker Hill farm and wood lot in Narragansett, at Tower Hill.  He died July 29th, 1770, and give this farm, his homestead, to the use of his wife as long as she lived, and after her decease, in trust of the use of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the rents, issue and profits to be applied toward the support of an Episcopal bishop of the Church of England when it should please God to send one to preside over the Episcopal church of North America, whose diocese should comprehend the Narragansett district.  Prior to that time the profits of the farm should go toward supporting the poor belonging to the Church of England. He also bequeathed $500 for building a church on the lot given Doctor McSparran; $150 for a church in North Kingstown; $50 for a school [536] house on Tower Hill; and $350 in trust, the interest to be applied to educate poor children in the school house at Tower Hill.

CAPTAIN BENJAMIN R.C. WILSON, the king of whalemen and prince of the sea, was born in South Kingstown May 25th, 1805.  At the age of five years he was place at school, under the instruction of Robert F. Noyes, who was succeeded by William Nichols.  At the age of eighteen he sailed from New Bedford on a whaling voyage to the South Pacific ocean.  On this voyage he studied navigation and kept the ship's reckoning.  He performed his next voyage in the capacity of a boat steerer, and his third voyage as chief mate, and in that capacity he sailed around Cape Horn.  He next took charge of a ship and went upon the coast of Brazil, and in ten months and seven days returned with a full cargo.  His share amounted to eighteen hundred dollars.  He sailed the second time around Cape Horn, and afterward around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Indian ocean.  He afterward, in company with Ellet L. Perkins, run [sic] the Cory Hotel, in New Bedford.  His life was one of adventure, and it reads like romance.  He died August 22d, 1869, aged 64 years, and was buried in the Presbyterian grounds at Tower Hill.

THE SWEET FAMILY. -- The family of Sweets, bone-setters, have made quite a history in the south county, although they are not recognized by the regular profession in the same way Updike, Hazard and other writers have done.  These authors accord to this family the wonderful gift of being natural healers of human infirmities, and the cures they have performed, the dislocated joints and bones set to right, where physicians counseled amputation as the only remedy for saving life; and also the remarkable faculty possessed of compounding liniments and washes, and various concoctions made from the roots and barks of trees, etc., etc., and the different and marvelous cures cited in proof thereof, entitle them to professional respect.

Updike says, "that James Sweet, the father of Benoni, emigrated from Wales to this country and purchased an estate at the foot of Ridge Hill, so-called, in North Kingstown, the same in which the late William Congdon, Esquire, lived and died.  Benoni had been a captain in the British service, was well informed and of polished manners.  He was a natural bone-setter, and progenitor of the race in Rhode Island.  He was styled Doctor Sweet, but he practiced in restoring dislocations only.  He was a [537] regular communicant of the church and officiated as a vestryman until his death.  'July 19th, 1751,' says the record, 'died Captain Benoni Sweet, of North Kingstown in the ninetieth year of his age.'

"Job, one of the family, obtained an eminent and wide-spread reputation as a natural bone-setter.  During the revolution he was called to Newport to set the dislocated bones of some of the French officers, an operation which their army surgeons were unable to perform.  After the revolutionary war Colonel Burr, afterward vice-president of the United States, invited him to New York to restore the dislocated hip bone of his daughter Theodosia, afterward Mrs. Allston.  In this operation, which had previously baffled the skill of the city curgeons, Doctor Sweet was successful.  The fear of taking the small pox deterred him from accepting Colonel Burr's invitation when first applied to; but this difficulty having been obviated, he embarked in a Newport packet.  Doctor Sweet used to narrate the venture in this wise: 'That when he arrived Colonel Burr's coach was in waiting at the wharf for his reception.  Having never road in a coach he objected to being transported in a vehicle that was shut up.  He was fearful of some trick, and further he did not like to ride in a thing over which he had no control, but fearing the small pox, he was induced to enter it.  He said he was never whirled about so in his life; at last he was ushered into the most splendid mansion that he ever saw.  The girl was alarmed at his appearance when he was invited into her chamber.  The family surgeon was soon introduced, and he proposed that the operation should be performed the succeeding day, and ten o'clock was agreed to, when other surgeons would attend.  But the doctor meant to avoid their presence if he could; he did not fancy learned men.  In the evening he solicited an interview with his patient; talked with her familiarly, dissipated her fears, asked permission in the presence of her father just to let the old man put his hand upon her hip.  She consenting, he in a few minutes set the bone; he then said, now walk about the room, which to her own and her father's surprise, she was readily able to do.'"

Though totally unlearned in surgery, Doctor Job Sweet seldom if ever failed in his bone-setting operations.  Mr. Hazard, in his "Recollections of Olden Times," thus speaks of him: "Among many characteristic anecdotes of Job Sweet, it is told that a skeptical young sprig of science, falsely so-called, once sent for [538] the doctor to set his dislocated elbow.  The old man went and found his patient apparently in great pain, with his bandaged arm in a sling.  He scarely touched the limb before he discovered the trick and left. He was, however, overtaken on his way home by a messenger, who implored him to return and restore the young man's elbo, which had been really dislocated by the touch of the Doctor's hand as a punishment for deceit.

"On another occasion it is said he was shown through an anatomical hall in Boston by a city doctor.  In glancing at a human specimen as they passed along, the old man remarked that there was a little bone put in the wrong side up in the foot of the one before him.  This was for a time controverted by his learned friend, but he was eventually forced to admit the correctness of the natural bone-setter's assertion, after permitting him to change the position of the bone in question."

Benoni, son of Job, born in October, 1762, removed to Lebanon, Conn., where until his death, he was very celebrated as a natural bone-setter.

Doctor Job Sweet early in life moved to South Kingstown and settled near Sugar Loaf Hill, where his descendants have continued to practice since his time.

Jonathan, another son of Job, born September 6th, 1765, settled at Sugar Loaf Hill, near Wakefield, where he continued to reside until his death, about the year 1820.  Gideon, an elder brother, used occasionally to set bones when Jonathan was out of the way, but on no other occasions.

Job Sweet finally removed to Boston, and his brother William, born October 28th, 1802, of Sugar Loaf Hill, commenced bone-setting, but in accordance with the usages of the family, whereby only one of its members habitually practices in a neighborhood at the same time, he gave way to his brother John, son of Gideon, who had relinquished farming that he might devote his whole time to the business of bone-setting.  After a time John removed to New Bedford, and William resumed bone-setting in South Kingstown. Of his children Job, the eldest son, a skillful bone-setter, practiced in New Bedford, and George, the younger son, practices the profession in Wakefield. William N. Sweet, another son of William, lives with Job, but practices principally in Boston and elsewhere.  Jonathan, another son, lives in Providence.  Thomas, another son, practiced in Providence for ten years, until his death, in 1867.  Edward, youngest son of William, lives at the homestead.

[539]
Mr. Hazard, in his "Recollections of Olden Times," thus speaks of Jonathan Sweet: "I well knew the blacksmith Jonathan Sweet, of Sugar Loaf Hill, a son of Job, who seldom left home but on extraordinary occasions, and who, when patients were brought to him whose cases had perhaps in some instances baffled the skill of the most renowned doctors, was wont to ask the customer whose horse was left only partly shod, to excuse him a few minutes, whilst he put the stranger to rights.  Having done this, he would charge his patient a pistareen or quarter for the loss of time incurred by the interruption, and return to finish his more important job of shoeing the horse."

Many and miraculous almost have been the operations performed by the Sweets in their natural calling of bone-setting.  Doctor William Sweet probably attended thousands of cases, yet he never had a patient die on his hands.  It would be impossible to give in a short sketch like this anything of a detailed account of the most difficult ones.  A case in point will suffice for the many that might be told.  William Whitney went over a drum in Dutee Hall's mill in Exeter.  One arm was broken, both badly damaged, both thighs broken, and both legs below the knees broken short off.  "Two doctors got there before me, and had just finished sawing off one arm.  I fixed up what was left of him in about six hours, and could just as well have saved his arm."  This young man got well, but had to peddle for a living owing to the loss of his arm.  The Sweet family were indeed natural healers.

[542]
THE BROWN FAMILY. -- From J.A. Brown, West Kingston, we learn the following concerning the Brown family.  He says: "My father's great-grandfather, John Brown, died January 2d, 1764, aged 68 years.  He lived near the Great Swamp.  His son, Robert Brown, died August 2d, 1794, 60 years of age.  His widow, Elizabeth Cook Brown, died November 27th, 1815, 72 years old.  His son, my grandfather, John Brown, died at the age of 72 years, and my grandmother, Rebecca Clarke Brown, died April 5th, 1841, 74 years old.  Captain Silas Brown, for many years town clerk, was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Brown.  John Brown, son of John and Rebecca, died February 6th, 1880, in his 85th year, and his wife, Abby Adams Brown, died April 27th, 1877, in her 77th year.  They had six children: Elizabeth Cook, Albert, Edwin, Abby, John F. and Joseph A.  The children of Silas Brown and his wife, Frances Brown, were: Robert, Peleg, James, Henry and Elizabeth."

DEACON WILLIAM BROWNING was a settler of South Kingstown and lived near Burnside, owning the farm and hosue now occupied by George W. Browning, his grandson.  His house was frequently used for religious gatherings as meeting houses in those days were few in number.  This farm was deeded to him by his father and descended to his son George H. Browning, who was born on the place, lived there until eighty-two years of age, when he died in 1885.  The children of William Browning were: William T., whose daughter became the wife of William F. Segar; Stanton, who at one time operated a mill here: Abial Tripp and George H., who remainded on the homestead.  George H. Browning married Eliza W. Browning, his cousin, who was the daughter of Stephen Browning, who lived where Stephen W. Browning now lives.  George H. Browning was a farmer and was a deacon of the Baptist church for forty years.  His son, George W. Browning, [543] lives on the homestead.  He was a member of the town council 1870--71, 1881--82, 1884--87.  By his first wife, Elizabeth N. Crandall, he had two children: Mrs. Edwin S. Agard of Tolland, Conn., and Frederick D. Browning, a graduate of Columbia College.  He married for his second wife Miss Waity E. Tefft.

MISS ESTHER BERNON CARPENTER, of Wakefield, is a name now frequently mentioned by the people of South Kingstown and by the reading public generally.  She is the daughter of Reverend James H. and Mary Hazard Carpenter, and is known in literary circles by her frequent contributions to first-class magazines and other publications.  Her father at one time was rector of the Church of the Ascension, Wakefield, and her mother was the daughter of Doctor George Hazard, so well known to the people of Washington county, both of whom reflect credit upon the parental training of their daughter, now recognized as a skillful writer.  Miss Carpenter began writing prose and verse contributions for the Providence Journal in the year 1872, and still corresponds for the Sunday edition of that paper.  She also contributed some verses to Longfellow's Collection of Poems of Places, also to the Poets' Tribute to Garfield, published by Moses King, Cambridge, Mass. She assisted Doctor Greene in part on the History of East Greenwich, and in 1885 she read a paper before the Rhode Island Historical Society on the Huguenots and their Influence on Rhode Island, which paper has been published by the society.  Miss Carpenter is also the author of "South County Neighbors," published by Roberts & Brothers, Boston, 1887, a work which is having a good sale at the present time.

[543]
JEFFERY W. POTTER, the author and poet, and inventor, was born in Perryville, South Kingstown, R.I., August 12th, 1849, and was the eldest son of Rouse and Dorcas G. Potter.  His education was wholly obtained at the district school, and after more mature years he was employed as a farm hand until after the death of his parents, when he purchased their estate and has since lived there alone.  Mr. Potter read law in his youth, but his poetic talent was beginning to show more plainly upon the front.  Some of his larger works consisted of epic poems; first, a volume in manuscript on the "Discovery of America," "The American Revolution," and several volumes of smaller articles.  His attention is now engaged upon the battles of he great Rebellion,, which will consist of many volumes of poetry if completed.

The following short sketches are from the pen of Mr. Potter, and will be of interest to our readers:

[544]
"The Great Spring at Perryville and the Hannah Hazard Spring. -- The great spring at Perryville is without a doubt the grandest of all springs within the county of Washington and perhaps the state.  There never has been any local pride concerning this remarkable source of water more than that some women have acquired their scouring sand, when such was fashionable, from the brink of this spring, but to stand and look at its boiling and heavings is truly wonderful.  It is at times almost calm, and then an upheaving of white sand as large as a cart wheel, and the rolling forth [sic] of water as if something was struggling to raise up and then ‘twill cease from its spasm for a minute only to repeat.  A stream of some ten or twelve feet wide flows from it a few inches deep continually, but the leaves and brush fall into it as they died, which keeps part of its outward surface hidden.  There seems to be many little springs bubbling up around this great one, and we might term them a nest of springs.  An old Indian wigwam ruin stands near by upon the hill and the writer has christened it King Phillip's spring, for undoubtedly King Phillip, while journeying upon the Pequot Path, afterward the Queen's highway leading from Boston to New York (for it was established by Queen Anne in 1702), to visit members of the Narragansett tribe here, undoubtedly drank water from this spring.  It lies about one hundred rods south of this old famous route or Indian trail, now the post road leading from Westerly to Newport.

"Hannah's Spring, so called, lies about one hundred rods north of the old post road.  It came into existence through the effects of a dream by an old Negro lady.  She said she dreamed if she dug a few rods north or her house under a certain oak tree she would find water, and she rose the next morning and went with a hoe and dug, and water came forth which she called her 'clay hole'; but some of her family dug deeper afterward, and it dried away in the summer, and she said that other hands touched it which caused it to dry.  It was more remarkable for all the surroundings are very dry and sterile.

The Dead Man's Spring, some one hundred rods southeast of the old log tavern, has become choked up by leaves and brush, and but little water escapes from it.  The Congdon Mill Pond was raised which flows back upon it by times.  It became noted anciently by the finding of a dead man beside its brink, an unknown traveler upon this old ancient thoroughfare before spoken of.

[545]
"The Great Chimney House, anciently called, was the hosue that George Fox preached in about the years 1680--82.  It stands today in a good state of repair.  This house was of course among those that were first built in the Rhode Island colony, and was also built by one of the seven purchasers that settled the southwestern part of South Kingstown.  Traditional reminiscence states that it was built by the Hull purchaser, for it stand upon where the latter generations can remember of the Hull family living.  It stands across the road and south of the old Quaker meeting house at Perryville.

"The Log Tavern, that has long gone to decay, is two miles beyond and exactly half way between Westerly and the Narragansett Ferry.  It is supposed that Benjamin Franklin has lodged many times in this house on his journeys in earlier life.

"The Great Eclipse of June 16th, 1806. -- There, perhaps, can be no better evidence furnished of the great eclipse of June 16th, 1806, than from a witness who sat and saw the wonderful phenomenon of nature.  At that point literature was scares, and the farming and laboring classes were in fact ignorant of the eclipse that was to be visible.  But at ten o'clock, as the farmers were working in the field, the sun was becoming obscured and darkness was fast approaching; so much so that labor was abandoned, and the father of the author of this sketch sat upon a fence some two hours until it was light enough to resume labor.  He said that stars were almost as visible as a bright moon shiney [sic] night, and that the roosters crew at the advance of light.

"The old Quaker Meeting House at Perryville. -- In producing a sketch of this, one of the most ancient of meeting houses in America, we are led back in thought to a period almost a century before out national existence began. If we should speak of the events that have passed since the erection of this building we might quote all the principal head lights of science and of national importance that have transpired toward the wonderful advance of our present Christian civilization.  Its existence had its origin in those days when George Fox preache to the colonists, in about 1680, and soon after that his converts to that Christian faith erected this most endurable structure for a place to worship. It now stands a few rods north of the old post road, beyond the brow of a little hill overlooking the wilderness and the ocean below.  But this year of 1888 a committee of men purporting themselves to belong unto the Quaker fait, has ordered [546] it town down, evidently for the purpose to take the legacy left by the will of Amy Knowles, for more favored churches.  The timber and sills were comparatively in a good state of preservation.  James Perry, senior, was instrumental in its building, and also gave three acres of land for a free burial lot upon which this building stands.  He died about 1700.

"The Two Colored Giants, George Gamby and Sharper Booth. -- Giving the public a sketch of the lives of these two most powerful men will be something that no writer has yet ventured to do, with the exception of an allusion once made by the present writer upon the strength of the former giant.  It appears that George Gamby was the son of a thorough blooded African that always went by the name of 'Gamby,' and was famous for his great story telling of what wonderful things there were in Africa.  He also said that he was the son of a king.  He was short of stature, but strongly built.  He married a large woman, from whom George must have inherited his strength.  George was born one mile north of Perryville post office, and with his parents and brother Andrew, much smaller than he, was considered the property of Judge Samuel Perry, but soon, however, the Rhode Island slave system was abolished. George's wonderful strength was becoming evident, for he managed everything that he undertook, and wherever he went to work years afterward stories are told of his athletic exploits.  He would turn over, for the amusement of a crowd, a cart with nearly a cord of green wood, hold out large oxens' hind feet to be shod, throw anvils over his head and many other great feats of strength.  He went away in a vessel to the south, and was never heard of afterward.  He was of stature some over six feet, broad shoulders, and not given to corpulence, and never married.

"Sharper Booth purported himself from Newport, his youth devoted to the work of a coachman, but he became so strong and heavy that his labors in that direction were discontinued, and he drifted over to the Narragansett country, and finally he married and settled in the northern sections of Perryville. He was employed much by Judge Samuel Perry.   He was larger round than George Gamby, but not so tall.  It was said that he took a cannon from a boat somewhere that weighed 1900 pounds, and carried it over the bank.  His wife died, and I think that he died upon charity.

[547]
"The Dark Day of June 3d, 1769. -- This remarkable phenomenon that appeared in the closing days of our colonial history, gave birth to many vague and ominous ideas concerning its importance, and more especially the unlearnt, that it was something which astronomers could not account for. Such, however, was the testimony of those that I have had the privilege to converse with upon the subject many years ago.  Ruhamah Melborne, an Indian lady, out selling baskets, with her son, called at our house and told her name, and said that she was 105 years old, and that she could remember well the 'dark day,' and told much of its appearance, and that many of the colonists supposed that the end of all things was at hand.  Her child that was with her she said was the youngest living, being then over 80 years of age.  So little has been written concerning this day or that I have seen, it has in my belief rested as a phenomenon with many.  However, a search among a pack of very ancient almanacs that I possess has cleared up in my mind all the presages of evil that those olden people thought it predicted, for I find the following paragraph relating to this day:

"On the third day of June will happen a most rare phenomenon which it is probable not any now living will have another opportunity of beholding, for it will not happen again till the 8th of December, 1874; for an accurate observation of which most civilized nations have ordered their astronomers to prepare, at the expense of the public, some important principles in astronomy being thereby to be settled.

"The passage of Venus over the disk or face of the sun on the third day of June, 1769, is as follows: It began at 2 o'clock and was off at 8:30.  It is supposed of course that the record of foreign observations has secured this wonder in astronomy."


These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcribed by Tricia Autry, <PJAutry@aol.com>, 1999.


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