Rhode Island Reading Room
These documents are made available free to the public by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project

This section contains articles of genealogical and historic interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers.
   Brief History of the American Brass Band and Orchestra

   The Spencer family in Rhode Island, comprising the progeny of John Spencer.

   Joshua Robert Magoon, husband of Mary Anna Spencer.

Archives  Most articles will be placed in the Rhode Island USGenWeb Archives

The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical, by the American Historical Society, Inc., 1920. For an unknown reason there are two copies of the book with the same title page, but with different contents.

Pages 179 - 180

Organized about 1837; Warren S. Fales secretary-director. The following is a list of the fourteen original members and the instruments played:

Henry E. Barney Bass Horn
Benjamin J. Bliven Tenor Trombone
David T. Capron 1st French Horn
Seth B. Cook, Jr E Trumpet
Henry S. Cartee B Post Horn
William G. Dickney Bass Drum
Moses C. Dunbar Bass Trombone
Joseph C. Greene E Bugle
Joshua Hathaway 2nd Wrench Horn
Simon Packard B Bugle Primo
Esbeck B. MacDonald  B Bugle Secondo
Alfred Potter Small Drum
Benjamin P. Robinson Fife and Cymbals
Benjamin G. West 1st B Bugle Principal
The band gave their first concert in 1838, directed by Joseph C. Greene, and in 1853, by special act of General Assembly, was incorporated. The following section 4 of the charter is notable by the fact that no other social organization of America was ever exempted from duties as per this enactment:

All members of said Band so long as they shall continue regularly enrolled shall be exempted from bearing arms or doing military duty in the several companies or training bands in whose districts they may severally belong, and shall likewise be exempted from jury duty. They shall be required to perform such military duty as is from time to time required by law of the chartered military companies or militia of this State, and shall receive such compensation from time to time allowed to the chartered military companies or military of this State, such compensation to be paid by the general treasurer in the same form and manner upon the return of the president of the band, as is or may be required by law upon the return of military of the State; provided, that whenever the Second Brigade shall be ordered to appear for inspection and review, not more than once a year, said Band shall be required to appear with said Brigade without receiving any additional compensation.

On April 15, 1861, it was voted that if the Band be called upon by the Governor to go to Washington with First Rhode Island Regiment, it would be their duty to go. J. C. Greene, Wm. E. Whiting and W. B. Kingsley were appointed as committee to make necessary arrangements, inquire as to duty, obligations, etc. Afterwards they were visited by the Governor and Adjutant General, the Governor making a speech and accepting their services and ordered to hold themselves in readiness. Each man gave his signature and voted to go irrespectful of compensation for their services.

On April 20, 1861, the Band left for Washington, an immense crowd witnessing their departure amid tremendous cheering. The following are the names of those who enlisted in the Government service for three months:

  • A. K. Dickerson
  • W. L. Dunbar
  • T. P. Fenner
  • Joseph C. Greene
  • J. C. Harrington
  • I. A. Heald
  • A. Heise
  • William W. Hull
  • W. B. Kingsley
  • Wm. R. Marshall
  • George E. Mason
  • A. E. Mowry
  • E. A. Paine
  • E. L. Potter
  • C. J. Pullen
  • B. G. Reynolds
  • W. L. Reynolds
  • S. J. Sweet
  • S. R. Sweet
  • S. D. Spink (served 3 months 17 days)
  • William E. Whiting
  • S. G. Whittemore
While in Washington, I. A. Heald was discharged, Willard Haskell carrying on and taking his place in the band. A few days after Henry Dana and Abijal M. Pond joined, making the number twenty-four pieces, All returned with their regiment, July 28, after participating in the Battle of Bull Run, July 21, none of them injured.

In November, 1861, J. C. Greene enlisted again with the Fourth Rhode Island Regiment of Volunteers. S. G. Whittemore, A. Heise in the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteers, T. P. Fenner and W. B. Kingsley enlisted in the Naval Academy Band at Newport.

On December 25, 1865, Joseph C. Greene, leader of the Band for twenty-eight years, sent in his resignation together with a beautifully composed letter full of regrets and sadness at the thoughts of leaving the organization with which he had so pleasantly been associated for so many years.

At a special meeting the Band accepted his resignation with deepest regrets. Several resolutions were passed, one in particular being worthy of preservation; "That as a token of our respect and high appreciation of his past service, we tender him our gratuitous aid for a benefit concert every year as long as the present members, can control the Band, said concerts to be given in Providence, Rhode Island."

The Band's next leader was D. W. Reeves, who became a member and leader, February 17, 1866. On November 7, 1887, the Band gave their fiftieth anniversary concert, directed by D. W. Reeves, the program a repetition of the first concert given in 1838. The then surviving members, all of whom took part, were: Joseph C. Greene, Benjamin G. West, Alfred Potter and Benjamin P, Robinson. The hall was filled to capacity and many congratulatory telegrams were received by Mr. Reeves.

April 19, 1865, the Band volunteered their services with the Second Brigade for the funeral services of their loved and honored president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

March 26, 1910, Benjamin P. Robinson, one of the charter members of the American Brass Band, died in his ninety-sixth year, the last of the charter members to pass to another world.

In March, 1900, D. W. Reeves, leader of the American Brass Band, passed away in Providence. At his funeral the church was filled to capacity and over two thousand people stood outside. A simple and impressive service of the Masonic order was read as the people passed out of the church. The floral tributes and remembrances were larger than at any previous funeral service in the city. The most noteworthy piece was that of the members of the American Brass Band, a conductor's music stand, four feet in height, on it a page of white with the clef and bars and three notes, at the bottom the word which marks the closing of the selection "Finis." John Philip Sousa sent a basket containing two hundred bridesmaid roses, besides seventy-five pieces and designs from his individual friends. Floral offerings were also sent by Corinthian Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Calvary and St. John Commanderies, Knights Templar; Orpheus Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Leader Maitland of the Rockland Band; American Band Veteran Association; the National Band; Musical Club; What Cheer Assembly of Good Fellows; Mann Eccles; The Union Club; American Watch Factory Band; Felix R. Wendelschaefer; Bohemian Quintet; and Providence Lodge, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

The present officers of the American Band are: Joseph LeMaire, president; Warren R. Fales, secretary and leader.

On January 15, 1918, the band voted to offer their services as an organization to the United States. A letter, viz., was sent to Governor R. L. Beekman and the adjutant-general of he United States:

I do not know what importance is attached to military bands in the war, but I assume that there is some military music required. Therefore, I take pleasure in saying to your Excellency that the "American Band" of this city, which volunteered and served in the War of the Rebellion, is now ready to volunteer its services to the United States under such regulations as have been established for like organizations that enter the Federal service.

In reply Adjutant-General Abbott said:

Mr. Warren R. Fales, Director American Band:

Dear Sir: -- His Excellency, the Governor, directs me to acknowledge with thanks your letter of the 15th instant, and to say that so far as volunteering for service to the United States is concerned he no longer has any authority in such matters, as the National Guard are all in Federal service.

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project.

The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical
pages 142 - 143 
Charles E. Spencer

The Spencer family in Rhode Island, comprising the progeny of John Spencer, and tracing a continuous history in this Colony and State for two and a half centuries, forms one of the foremost and most influential of the founder families of East Greenwich. The identity of the founder, John Spencer, has been more or less shrouded in mystery for generations. Genealogists of the family now incline to the theory that he was the nephew of Captain John Spencer, of Newbury, Mass., and identical with the John Spencer, who in 1637 inherited the estate of Captain Spencer, and in 1650 erected a stone house after the fashion of English country houses of the period in old Newbury. The consensus of opinion seems to be that while not of noble birth, John Spencer was an English gentleman of the upper middle class, well educated, and a representative of the finest type of English emigrant to America. His descendants have produced a superior stock, well fitted to take a leading part in the affairs of the communities in which it has settled.

(I) John Spencer, immigrant ancestor and founder, may have been a son of the Michael Spencer who was of Cambridge, in 1634, and later of Lynn, and may also have been identical with that John Spencer who was made the heir of his uncle, John Spencer, says John Osborne Austin. The earliest definite information of him dates to 1661, when he received lot 22 in a division of the Westerly lands. He did not become a settler there, but removed to Newport, where he was made a freeman in 1668. He was one of the forty-eight persons to whom in 1677 were granted five thousand acres of land to be called East Greenwich, where he settled and took a prominent part thenceforward until his death, in public affairs. From 1677 to 1683 he was town clerk, in 1678 conservator of the peace, and in 1680 was chosen to represent East Greenwich in the General Assembly. John Spencer married Susanna Griffn, and they were the parents of eight sons and one daughter, all of whom married and left a numerous progeny. Like their father, nearly all the sons had a taste for public life and served their town in some public capacity, all of the sons at one time or another representing East Greenwich in the General Assembly. John Spencer died August 30, 1684.

(II) John (2) Spencer, son of John (1) and Susanna (Griffin) Spencer, was born April 2o, 1666, and died in 1743. He was a cordwainer by trade. Removing to East Greenwich with his father in 1677, he spent the remainder of his life there, and was an influential figure in public affairs for many years. In 1699-1700-04-05-09-14-24-26-29 he represented the town in the General Assembly. In 1704 he was justice of the peace. In 1712-19 he was speaker of the House of Deputies. About 1692, John Spencer married Audrey Greene, who was born December 27, 1667, and died April 17, 1733, daughter of John and Ann (Almy) Greene, and granddaughter of Surgeon John Greene, of Warwick. John Greene, her father, was major of militia, and Deputy Governor of the Colony.

(III) William Spencer, son of John (2) and Audrey (Greene) Spencer, was born at East Greenwich, R. I., May 6, 1695, and was a prominent resident and large land owner there all his life. He married, May 10, 1716, Elizabeth Rice, daughter of John and Elnathan (Whipple) Rice, and died in 1776.

(IV) John (3) Spencer, son of William and Elizabeth (Rice) Spencer, was born January 25, 1717, in East Greenwich, and died there November 16, 1766. On December 27, 1737, he married (first) Mercy Coggeshall. He married (second) February 9, 1752, Mercy Slocum, daughter of Giles and Mary Slocum, who was born in 1727, and died February 2, 1809.

(V) Ebenezer Spencer, son of John (3) and Mercy (Slocum) Spencer, was born November 16, 1755, at East Greenwich, and died there in 1843. He married, in 1775, Lucy Hall, daughter of William and Penelope Hall, of Exeter.

(VI) Deacon Charles Spencer, son of Ebenezer and Lucy (Hall) Spencer, was born at East Greenwich, August 23, 1789. He married, June 21, 1811, Sarah Vaughn, daughter of David and Sybil (Card) Vaughn, born June 21, 1793. He was a prominent resident in East Greenwich all his life.

(VII) Charles Edwin Spencer, son of Deacon Charles and Sarah (Vaughn) Spencer, was born in East Greenwich. He married Hannah E. Mulliken, who was born in Newport, October 23, 1812, and died November 7, 1909, at Rocky Hill, R. I. Their children were: Cyrus Butler, Isaac Hall, Mary Anna, mentioned below.

(VIII) Mary Anna Spencer, daughter of Charles Edwin and Hannah E. (Mulliken) Spencer, was born at East Greenwich, R. I., June 8, 1845. She married, in 1861, Joshua Robert Magoon, mentioned below. 

JOSHUA ROBERT MAGOON, one of the best known farmers and dealers in horses and cattle in Warwick in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, was born in Danville, Vt., August 8, 1839, member of a family long established there. At the age of eighteen years he came to Rhode Island and settled at Rocky Hill, in Warwick, which was his home thenceforward until his death. For a period of about eight years after coming to this State, he conducted a very successful business in tinware, driving a wagon through the State. The Yankee peddler of tinware and notions was an institution of the period, to be found in all parts of the country. In this business, Mr. Magoon amassed sufficient capital to purchase a farm of twenty-eight acres at Rocky Hill, and to establish himself on a small scale as a horse and cattle dealer. Later he added an adjoining farm of twenty-five acres to his property, and gradually increased it until at his death his farm covered one hundred and twenty-seven acres. His trade in horses and cattle grew to large proportions, and in addition to selling, he also butchered animals and sold meat. Few men were better known in the country round about Rocky Hill

Joshua Robert Magoon married Mary Anna Spencer, daughter of Charles Edwin and Hannah Elizabeth (Mulliken) Spencer, of East Greenwich. They were parents of three children: 1. Charles Robert, of East Greenwich; married Carrie Greene, of Thompson, Conn. 2. Edwin I., died in 1893, aged twenty-seven years; married Annie L. Briggs, who bore him four children, namely; Joshua Foss, married Elsie W. Searle; Charles E., married Minnie E. Shepard, of Crompton, and died aged twenty-eight years; Nelson B., died aged twenty-two years; Harry E. Fred, died at Camp Upton, Long Island, in 1918, while in the service of the United States in the World War; married Minnie Searle, of Providence. Mr. Magoon was active in public affairs in Warwick for many years, although in no sense of the word an office seeker. He was a member of the School Committee for a long period. He was a member of the Baptist church and a regular attendant and generous donor to its charities. Joshua Robert Magoon died at his home at Rocky Hill, February 12, 1900.

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project.
Mail e-mail