This section contains articles of genealogical and historic
interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers.
Favorable Site for Commerce. -- Early Commercial Importance. -- Growth and Decline of Foreign Commerce. -- Providence Commercial Houses. -- Statistics and Reminiscences. -- Foreign Voyages. -- Providence Business Establishments in 1814. -- Shipping Statistics after the War of 1812. -- Merchants of that Time. -- Shipbuilding. -- Early Bank Directors. -- Packet Lines. -- To Coastwise Cities. -- To Points on the Bay. -- Whale Fishing Enterprises. -- Fish Barges. -- Decline of the Shipping Interests. -- First Steps toward Railroad Building. -- Boston and Providence. -- New York, Providence and Boston. -- Providence and Worcester. -- Hartford, Providence and Fishkill. -- Providence and Bristol. -- Seekonk Branch. -- Providence and Springfield. -- Union Horse Railroad.
The physical features in the situation of Providence have played a most important part in making the city what it is. Founded in a locality where the waters of rivers mingle with those of the sea, its business interests have been shaped and guided in turn by each of them. When the bay ceased to be the principal source of prosperity to the city and state, the streams were utilized for industrial purposes, and Providence, though its foreign commerce declined, grew in importance as the center of thriving manufacturing industries. Those, therefore, who are disposed to look lightly upon this city as a commercial port should not overlook with what rapidity and wisdom its leading citizens retired from one sphere of subsistence to another. It was, in fact, the only thing left for the population of the state to do if it would keep in the march of business progress. Had it not done so, its fate would have been similar to that of many other seaport towns which have dwindled in population and importance. The commerce of Providence before the revolution, as compared with that of other cities, was large, and it was virtually a colony of sailors, seafaring men, shipbuilders and merchants. The revolutionary war, however, brought a serious check to the commercial prosperity of the state, but especially of Newport, the British blockade of the coast and the occupation of the bay by the English scattering the population and placing a check on commercial enterprise.
It is unfortunate that no official record of the early mercantile operations in Providence has been kept. A perfect record of arrivals at this port and departures therefrom, the amount of goods brought here and where they were obtained, as well as the destination of our products, the amount of trade carried on from year to year, a record of even of bank clearings, important changes in various lines of business and industries, all of this would be invaluable to the business man and all interested in the welfare of the community. In the absence of any such records, any history of the trade and commerce of Providence must necessarily be in some respects imperfect. Fortunately, however, there are those still living who have taken pains to preserve many facts of importance relating thereto, either gleaned from personal experience or obtained from those who have long since passed away. A business man's diary kept in a very intelligent manner at the time of the war of 1812 and shortly after, a few old newspaper articles written by men who have long since passed the age of three-score years, statistical articles, historical addresses, census reports and personal interviews with those whose memory is remarkably keen, and who have taken the pains to preserve many items of interest, are the sources from which the facts given in this article have been obtained.
Although the latter part of the eighteenth century saw the birth and early struggles of many manufactures, yet the greater part of the wealth of the state was invested in commerce. In 1790 the statement was made in the United States congress that there was a greater number of vessels belonging in Providence than in New York, and that it was a place of more navigation than any of its size in the Union. Trade was carried on with the East and West Indies, and with Europe and China. A Providence ship, the 'George Washington', owned by John Brown, was one of the earliest to bear the national flag of the new American Union to the ports of China, and the wharves at India point and South Water street for a long time were crowded with ships trading to European and West Indian ports. Their decline in numbers may be dated after the first decade of the present century. Not, however, until 1841 was the last arrival and last clearance of Indiamen at this port.
Among the early pioneers of Providence who were carrying on an active business in the early part of this century may be mentioned the houses of Brown & Ives, Samuel Butler & Sons, Edward Carrington and the Nightingales and Russells. The house of Brown & Ives, which made the nucleus of its wealth by the tea and silk trade with China, carried on trade with all parts of the world. Their ships entered every commercial port, they were well known for their business enterprise and integrity, and no house in the country possessed a better credit. They owned seven or eight vessels, and when Providence was a town of only eight or ten thousand inhabitants they had successfully established themselves as shipping merchants and were doing a very remunerative trade.
They built the 'Ann and Hope' in 1798, an account of whose fortunes and misfortunes would prove to be very interesting reading. She was named after Ann, the wife of Nicholas Brown, and Hope, the wife of Thomas P. Ives. The dimensions of the craft were as follows: Keel 98 feet in length; beam 32 feet 1 inch; hold 13 feet; between decks 6 feet 4 inches. She registered 550 tons. She was built altogether of white oak timber, cut in the winter of 1795, and thoroughly water-seasoned. All possible pains were taken in her construction to make her durable and perfect. The total cost of the ship was over $50,000. Her first voyage was to Canton, China. She took out hard dollars packed in five iron-bound kegs and 31 boxes. A return cargo was procured and she sailed direct for Providence in February, 1799, with 1,725 chests of Bohea tea and nearly 1,500 chests of various other teas and gun-powder; 130 boxes of china ware, dinner and tea sets; 500 bales of nankins, containing 50,000 pieces, eight boxes containing 392 pieces of assorted silks. She carried a crew of 56. In payment for the cargo, Mr. Samuel Snow, the supercargo, used the hard dollars and for the balance gave notes, in behalf of Brown & Ives, at 20 months, payable in Canton, to the security merchants, Consequa and others. The ship reached home June 15th, 1799.
In her following voyages, she took out pickled and dried fur skins and kegs of hard dollars; hogsheads of West India run, etc., tobacco, Havana sugars, barrels of flour, tons of logwood and fustic. At London she would take on board for Canton, broadcloths, long ells, Prussian blue, watches, glass ware, cutlery, porter, beer and ale. She would return with teas, sugar, cassia, silks, ribbons, fans, chinaware, mats, window blinds, umbrellas and sweetmeats. Her fourth and fifth voyages were from Providence to Batavia, Cowes, Amsterdam, St. Petersburg and home via New York. The ship sailed from Warwick Neck, May 20th, 1802, arrived at Batavia, August 22d, after a passage of 94 days. Included in the cargo were spermaceti candles, Russia ducks and sheetings, camblets and cloths and crown glass. Her return cargo consisted of sugars and coffee. She came home by way of Cowes, Isle of Wight, Amsterdam, Cronstadt and New York, stopping at these places to trade and change cargoes.
Her sixth and last voyage was from Providence to Batavia, via Lisbon and the Isle of France, and return via Cape of Good Hope and Cowes, for orders, or direct to Providence. She returned with coffee, sugar and pepper. She sprung a leak and put into the Isle of France for repairs, which cost about $20,000. Just off the island she was boarded by the English man-of-war, 'Tremendous', Commodore Osborn, and detained six hours while undergoing the strictest search. Finally the commodore refused the ship liberty to enter port, but subsequently, after close examination, revoked the order and allowed her to land. After leaving the Cape of Good Hope nothing of note occurred until January 10th, when the ship struck on Block Island. As soon as the island was sighted the ship's course was altered so as to pass it on the cut or south side. The captain, however, turned her course too quickly to pass around the island, and she ran aground. The ship beat on the rocks until she finally went ashore. The coffee bags were all broken and nearly all the coffee lost. The crew were saved except three, but the sugar was all melted and only about 60 bags of pepper were drifted on shore. Her entire cargo was worth about $300,000. The experience of this vessel is given somewhat in detail, for it shows the manner in which trade as carried on with foreign countries.
The Carringtons owned ships which sailed to all countries, and their credit was also first-class. The same, indeed, may be said of the others. Some of the old-time merchants were very hazardous. Samuel Butler, it appears, made a fortune in revolutionary times by sailing his own sloop from this port to Alexandria, Va. He was engaged in the flour trade. His earliest business, however, was that of shoemaking. At one time he converted all the wealth that he had into French bills of exchange and invested them in Parisian broadcloth at $4 per yard. An English fleet being all along the coast, it was a dangerous undertaking, but luckily his goods reached Boston, were carried overland to Providence, and sold for $12 a yard.
Of course the war of 1812 drove Rhode Island vessels from the sea, and placed quite a serious check upon commerce. It was the cause of great activity in the manufacturing industries, however. The opening up of the fertile lands of the West, the cotton, woolen and other manufacturing interests, absorbed a good deal of Rhode Island capital. As before stated, however, it was not until 1841 that the last arrival and clearance, even of Indiamen, at this port occurred; and in the period from about 1810 to 1850, Providence was prominent as a commercial port.
In 1814 Providence was a town of about 12,000 inhabitants, containing about 1,500 houses, of which 125 were brick and stone. The public builders were seven meeting houses, one market, one court house, one gaol, one poor house. There were 3 banks in town, 9 goldsmiths, 19 dry goods stores, 5 book stores, 6 taverns, 25 boarding houses, 20 cotton warehouses, 5 auction offices, 25 shoemakers' stores, 8 blacksmiths, 10 tailors' stores, 10 cook and oyster cellars, 100 grog shops, 12 druggists' and surgeons' offices, 10 hat stores, 20 lawyers' and constables' offices, 1 confectioner's store, 4 crockery and glass stores, 4 paint stores, 1 portrait painter, 4 printing offices, 10 milliners' stores, 4 insurance offices, 2 brokers' offices, 1 exchange office, 15 hairdressers, 5 hardware stores. The diary from which the foregoing information is obtained adds that 'many poore men and women get their living by selling round the streets, cakes, apples, nuts, beer, oranges, pyes, &c.' The importance of Providence as a commercial port may be seen from the fact that on March 4th, 1814, there were between 130 and 140 vessels in port. From the middle of February, 1815, when peace was declared between England and the United States, to March 3d, there were entered at the custom house 12 sloops, 2 schooners, 2 ships and 1 brig. On March 13th, there were cleared 4 ships, 1 brig, 2 schooners and 3 sloops; on March 16th, 5 ships, 1 schooner and 3 sloops.
Looking over a list of entries and clearances at this port it is seen that in 1815 there were vessels plying between here and Savannah, Wilmington, Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, the West Indies, Halifax, Canton, Matanzas, Amsterdam, New Orleans, Havana, Leghorn, Alexandria, Liverpool, Copenhagen, Africa, Turk's Island, Lisbon, Gaudaloupe, Gibralter, St. Petersburg, Martinique, Bordeaux, East Indies, Stockholm, and many others.
From the declaration of peace, in February, up to May 16th, 1815, there had entered this port 1 barque, 38 ships, 23 brigs, 18 schooners, and 111 sloops, or 191 vessels all told. The number of brick and stone buildings had then increased to 102; 67 being on the east side and 35 on the west. The increased building on the west side was then noted, and the handsomest thoroughfare was Westminster street. Two lines of wagons were then running from this port to Boston, one arriving on Tuesdays and the other on Fridays. There was a regular line of packets, twelve in number, plying between here and New York continuously; also regular lines from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Savannah, Nantucket and New Bedford.
The most enterprising merchants in Providence then were Brown & Ives, who owned numerous vessels, among which may be mentioned the old ship 'Ann and Hope', the ship 'Isis' (which in 1803 made a voyage around the globe), the ship 'Asia', the ship 'Charlotte', the ship 'John Jay', the 'Pilgrim', the 'Hector', the 'Patterson', the 'Hanover', the 'Hope', the 'Two Catharines', the brig 'Packet', the ship 'Washington' and others. Mr. Edward Carrington at this time owned the ship 'Nancy', the ship 'Trumbull', the brig 'Viper' and others. Sailing from this to foreign ports about that time may be mentioned the ship 'Mentor', the ship 'Arthur', the 'General Hamilton', the schooner 'Farmer's Delight', the ship 'Tyre', the brig 'Miles Standish', the brig 'Eagle', the sloop 'Rising Sun', the ship 'Aldebaran', the brig 'Brilliant', the 'Mary Ann', the ship 'George and William', the sloop 'Rolla', the brig 'Governor Hopkins', the ship 'Nancy', the brig 'Grand Turk', the ship 'Hanover', the ship 'Mercury', the brig 'Venus', the ship 'Hunter', the brig "Cyclops' (which was 'kettle-bottomed'), the brig 'Horizon', the ship 'John Brown', the ship 'Atlas', the brig 'Argus', the brig 'James', and others. Looking over the arrivals at this time we find these ships bringing silk, teas, etc., from China to Brown & Ives, molasses and sugar from the West Indies to William Richmond & Co., cotton from New Orleans to manufacturers, cargoes of hides from Buenos Ayres to Cyrus Butler & Co., bar iron and steel from Guttenberg to Brown & Ives.
Among the different kinds of business carried on and the names of old time business men, dating from about 1800 up to 1845 and 1850, may be mentioned the following in addition to those already given: General commission merchants -- Holder Burden & Co., John B. Chace, Carlyle & Manton, Thomas Sessions, Thomas L. Halsey, Samuel Nightingale & Co., Amasa Mason & Co., William Blodgett & Co., George S. Rathbone & Co., Martin Stoddard & Co. Several of these gentlemen did a large business as importers from foreign and domestic ports, dealing in all kinds of merchandise, such as flour, molasses, all kinds of grain and supplies, rum, gin, wines, cloths, etc. They were wealthy and responsible merchants of undoubted credit and business integrity. Among the early wholesale grocers may be named Seth Padelford & Co., Truesdale & Rhodes, Ebenezer Day & Sons, Randall H. Green & Co., Wheaton, Jackson & Anthony, Samuel and William Foster & Co.
Wholesale and retail merchants in drugs, medicines, china, dyewoods and supplies for manufacturing purposes were: John H. Mason & Son, Earle P. Mason & Co., Alexander F. Adie, Manton & Hallett, Dyers & Manton, Benjamin & Charles Dyer, John A. Wordsworth, George H. Hoppin, B. & T. C. Hoppin; all of whom had more or less to do with the commercial business of Providence as importers from foreign and domestic ports. Wholesale and retail dealers in flour and grain: Seth Adams, Daniel Arnold, David Barton, George S. Rathbone & Co. (afterward Rathbone & Gardiner), Williard Joslin, Israel H. Day & Co., Jesse B. Sweet, Spellman & Metcalf, Hazard, Cook & Knight, B. B. & R. Knight. Quite a number of business men were located on Christian hill, among whom may be mentioned Thomas Henry, I. G. Manchester & Co., Benjamin Whitman & Sons, Remington & Co. Some of these retailed grain, groceries and liquors. Wholesale and retail dealers in all kinds of lumber: Asa & Jonathan Pike, Austin Gurney & Co., John Oldfield & Co., Tyler & Ide, James Osborn. These last three firms had their lumber yards all located above Weybosset bridge, and their lumber was rafted up into the cove. The rest of these lumber dealers had their yards located at the south end, toward Fox Point, on the east side.
The dealers in hardware and iron were Jonathan Congdon & Sons (whose house is still in existence on Steeple street), Peter Grinnell & Sons, Olney Dyer & Co., Joseph Belcher & Co., Benjamin Allen, Aaron Man, Barker & Whitaker, Rufus Waterman & Co., Duty Evans & Co., Brown & Ives, Richmond Bullock, E. Carrington & Co. Among the cotton merchants may be named B. D. Weeden, Cook & Brown, Beckwith & Persons, Orray Taft & Co., Amos D. and James Y. Smith, Stafford & Lothrop, Hezekiah Anthony, William Viall, Daniel Howland and Thomas Adrich, Stephen Waterman, Truesdale & Rhodes, Shubael Hutchins & Co., William P. Robinson & Co., Burden & Bowen, Manton & Hallett, B. & T.C. Hoppin, Samuel Ames. Old salt merchants: Aborn & Jackson. Commission merchants in coffee, wines, Santa Cruz rum, teas, etc.: Greene & Carter.
The Carringtons owned the ships 'Lion', the 'Franklin', the 'Superior', the 'Panther', and the 'Providence'. All of these would go out in ballast, taking kegs of specie, there being no bills of exchange, would buy tea and return to Providence. The ships would measure from 300 to 500 tons. After the arrival of the tea smaller vessels, of about 200 tons burthen, would be loaded with it and sent to Europe and the Mediterranean sea, where it would be sold at an immense profit. Colonel John Andrews did a large business between here and the west coast of Africa. He owned the brig 'Romp' and 'Helen'. These would be loaded with hogsheads of new rum, tobacco, powder, beef, pork, flour, beans, rice, corn, meal, cases of muskets and other Yankee notions, and sent to the west coast of Africa. Among the cargo would be 150 to 200 five-gallon kegs painted in such a way as to attract the attention of the natives. These would be filled with rum from the puncheons on arriving there, and a brisk trade carried on with the natives for gold dust and ivory. There would also be brought back, besides the gold dust and ivory, palm oil, camwood, coffee, peanuts and other products of the coast. The round voyage would occupy from seven to nine months. These vessels would land their cargoes at the Long Wharf (now Custom House street), the dock being where Almy's and Daniels' buildings are now. Samuel Gladding & Co. were also engaged in the trade with the west coast of Africa. This firm owned the brigs 'Smithfield', 'Splendid' and 'Roderick Dhu'. They did a very large business in the same way. Cyrus Butler did an immense business in the Russian trade. He owned the famous bark 'George and William' and other vessels, which would go to South and load with cotton for Russia. They would bring back linen, saltpetre, iron, hemp and canvas duck.
Fifty years ago and earlier, many of the large vessels, ships and barks, owned in Providence, would go South and load with cotton for all ports in Europe, and would return with various kinds of produce, and occasionally, on their return, would stop at Pictou or Sidney, Nova Scotia, and bring coal to Providence, as coal was in good demand here at that time, not many of the soft coal mines in this country being then in operation. Brigs and large schooners would also go to southern ports and load with lumber, cotton, tar, pitch, turpentine, peanuts, rice and other southern products, and some corn at New Orleans, and bring them here. Those trading to the West Indies would bring molasses, coffee, oranges, logwood, pimento, lignumvitae, honey and other products of the islands. This trade was kept up until lines of steamers began to be built to run to New York, whence it could be brought here cheaper.
William Richmond & Co. did a large business in the West India trade. Their offices were located where the custom house now is. They owned eight or ten brigs, which sailed to Cuba, among which may be named the 'Fame', 'Sampson', "Busy', 'Tom Cringle', 'Sypax and Marcia', and others. They would send out onions raised in Bristol, potatoes, vegetables, beans, flour, corn-meal, hoop-poles, beef, pork, empty hogsheads and Yankee notions, and would return with molasses, coffee, sugar in boxes and oranges to make stowage. This molasses would often be converted into New England rum, as there were several distilleries here at that time. This would then be shipped to Africa and other places and exchanged for the products of the country. Several firms were extensively engaged in the West India trade, and among them may be named William Church & Co., Cady & Brown, Richmond Bullock, Pearce & Bullock, William Blodgett & Co., Wheaton, Jackson & Co., and Cady & Aldrich. The West India goods would be landed at the Long Wharf.
Among those engaged in the East African trade were Rufus Green, Benjamin R. Arnold and William S. Arnold. Their vessels were of about 300 tons capacity, and were all owned here except the 'Nathaniel Coggeshall'. Among the ships employed in this trade may be named the bark 'Maryland', Captain Jelly; the 'Sea Ranger', Captain Hall; the 'Parodi', Captain Jones, which was lost off Block Island; the 'Montgomery', Captain Hall; the 'Ariel', Captain Jelly; the brig 'Hollander', Captain Lovett; and the 'Nathaniel Coggeshall', Captain Hamlin. Their cargoes out would be domestic goods in bales, bread, beans, powder, muskets, beef, pork, flour and a general assortment of Yankee notions. The return cargo would comprise coffee, dates, palm oil in large quantities, ivory, pepper, spices, nutmegs, cloves, ginger, and the products of the country. After their arrival here they would be shipped to different ports, New York and Boston merchants being purchasers as well as others.
Before leaving this portion of the subject it may be well to state that after the destruction of the first 'Ann and Hope', owned by Brown & Ives, they built another ship, to which they gave the same name. She ran successfully between 1809 and 1835 in the East India and European trade.
A half century ago shipbuilding was carried on very extensively here. A fine ship called the 'American', of 600 tons, was built by Mr. Horsewell, on Peck's wharf, now called Hopkin's pier, for S. & A. B. Arnold. This ship was sailed by Captain John T. Childs, of Warren, R. I. The ship 'Eliza and Abbey', 200 tons, and the 'Rhode Island', 400 tons, were built on Eddy's point, near Point street, by Edward Barstow & Son. Captain Cyrus B. Manchester commanded both of these ships. A large number were built on India street also by Frank Allen, where White's coal yard now is. The 'Haidee', which was a fast sailer, was built there. She was commanded by Captain Tillinghast, who died in Canton, China, whence the ship was brought home by Captain Treadwell. Three schooners were built for the pine wood trade, also the 'A. H. Manchester', Captain J. R. Potter, the 'Wonder', Captain F. French, the 'D. W. Vaughn', Captain Edwards, and the 'T. J. Hill', Captain Thomas Rich. The ship yard was afterward carried on by Salisbury & McLeod. The latter built in 1850 the ship 'Island Queen', 400 tons, and the 'John Farnum', 200 tons, at the corner of Point and Eddy streets, the former being commanded by Captain Ruggles, and the latter by Captain Julius Baker. The steamboat 'John W. Richmond' was built at Eddy's point, by Colonel J. S. Eddy. She was 200 feet long, 24 feet beam and 12 feet deep. She ran from India point to New York, making the distance in from 10 to 12 hours. Colonel Eddy also built the steamer 'Kingston', which was sold to New York parties. He also built the brigs 'Smithfield' and 'Orray Taft' and the bark 'Roger Williams', at the foot of Elm street. Mr. Horsewell built the 'Republic', 900 tons, commanded by Captain Daniel Jackson. Isaac Ellis built the bark 'Isaac Ellis', 250 tons, the brig 'Lackawanna', 200 tons, and the brig 'Himalaya', 190 tons, on the Pawtucket river, where Smith's coal yard now is.
Of course the extensive commerce carried on at this port in the first part of the century and the varied enterprises in manufactures calls for the use of a great deal of capital. Banks were early instituted here, as has been noted before. Among the wealthiest bank directors were the following-named gentlemen: Nicholas Brown, Thomas P. Ives, Thomas L. Halsey, Benjamin Hoppin, Samuel G. Arnold, Benjamin Aborn, William Valentine, S. Nightingale, Daniel Arnold, Zachariah Allen, William Jenkins, Samuel Wetmore, Earl D. Pierce, Dexter Thurber, Nehemiah R. Knight, Seth Adams, Matthew Watson, Joseph Manton, Benjamin Clifford, Elisha Dyer, Amasa Mason, Alexander Jones, Charles Dyer, Stephen Waterman, Isaac Brown, Richmond Bullock, Hezekiah Anthony, Truman Beckwith, S. N. Richmond, Randolph Chandler, Carlos Mauran, George S. Rathbone, Josiah Chapin, Henry Soule, Seth Adams, Sr., Benjamin D. Weeden, Thomas Howard, Peter Grinnell, John Larcher, Joseph Howard, Benjamin C. Harris, Amasa Manton, William Blodgett.
As has been noted before, there was in the early part of this century a regular line of packets running between Providence and New York and other ports on the Atlantic coast. This coastwise trade, indeed, flourished for nearly the entire first half of this century. The regular line of vessels which plied between this port and New York were all sloops under 100 tons burthen, being of that size for the purpose of getting rid of the dockage and pilotage to New York which was charged for heavier vessels. In 1825 the following named vessels composed the line: The 'Ann Maria', Captain E. C. Gardner; the 'Empress', Captain Seth Thayer; the "Mary', Captain Gideon Hull; the 'New York', Captain Gardner Willard; the 'Venus', Captain J. Bliss; the 'Providence', Captain George L. Brown; the 'Amity', Captain Jeremiah Munroe; the 'Almada', Captain Thomas Hull; the 'James Lamphear', Captain John R. Kenney; the 'Fame', Captain Folger; the 'D. B. Jones', Captain West; the 'Herald', Captain Whipple Brown; the 'Superior', Captain S. H. Bennett; the 'Splendid', Captain John Williard; the 'Ann', Captain George Childs (who was lost in the Lextington); the 'Huntress', Captain Read, Jr.; the 'Gold, Captain Samuel Curry; the 'Alonzo', Captain Justin. The Providence agents were Talcott & Lyman. Afterward Mason & Bailey were the Providence agents, and more recently William H. Bowen. The captains owned portions of the sloops, and the rest belonged mostly to Providence merchants in small interests. These sloops loaded altogether with domestic goods and articles manufactured here, cotton goods and satinets, and Smithfield lime, which they took to New York. Sometimes a great deal of foreign importations, such as teas, etc., would be reshipped from here to New York for a market. All these captains were responsible men, and afterward were placed in charge of steamboats. The return cargoes would consist of flour, cotton, iron, chemicals for manufacturing purposes and a great deal of madder.
The regular line to Philadelphia consisted of small schooners of about the same size. This line comprised the 'Messenger', Captain Abner Hall; the 'Herald', Captain Edward Hall; the 'Domestic', Captain Eldridge; the 'James Barber', Captain Baxter; the 'Richard Rush', Captain Kelly; the 'Dove', Captain Ahirah Hall; and later the schooner 'Worcester', Captain E. H. Rhodes. Later the business increased so that larger vessels, of 115 to 120 tons burthen, were built, among which may be named the 'Abner Hall', Captain S. O. Nickerson; the 'Henry Clay', Captain Crowell. The 'Abner Hall' was lost at sea with all on board. Orray Taft & Co. were the agents; afterward Captain Abner Hall assumed the agency, and later Captain Ahirah Hall. The business continued to increase to such an extent that still later the large schooners 'George Fales', Captain Hardon Nickerson, and the 'James Martin', Captain Joshua Hardon, were built; and also the 'Harvey Payton', Captain Asa Nickerson; the 'Holder Burden', Captain C. C. Baker, and the 'Delaware', Captain Crowell. These vessels were owned by merchants here and their captains. They would take out full cargoes of domestic goods and return with starch, iron, flour, corn and general merchandise.
The Boston line comprised schooners of about 75 or 80 tons capacity. Among these are noticed the 'Sally Hope', Captain Small; the 'Darius', Captain Baker; the 'Lydia', Captain Nickerson; the 'Crown', Captain Lincoln Baker; the 'Maria', Captain Crowell. The agents were Manton & Hallett. These vessels would bring from Boston molasses, salt, iron and chemicals.
The Union Line to Baltimore was established soon after 1825. Peleg Rhodes & Sons were the agents, and afterward David Barton & Co. Among these vessels may be named the 'Ida', Captain Joseph Smith; the 'Union', Captain Bangs; the 'President', Captain Wood; the 'Queen', Captain Crowell; the brig 'Mt. Hope', Captain Ed. Sheldon; the 'Mary', Captain Joshua Howland. They carried out domestic goods and products, and returned mostly with corn and flour. These vessels were generally under 100 tons capacity. The 'Mary' was lost off Montauk point, but all the crew were saved except Captain Bangs, who did not happen to have on an oil suit. This line ran until Seth Adams and Israel H. Day formed another, which was called Adams' Line, between 1835 and 1840. This line consisted of larger schooners, of 180 or 200 tons burthen. They included the 'White Foam', Captain Arnold Milliken; the 'Israel H. Day', Captain Davis Chace, which was lost on Whale Rock with all its crew and every living thing on board except a dog, which swam ashore; the 'Sarah N. Sherman', Captain Samuel N. Sherman; the 'Wild Pigeon', Captain Martin Milliken; the 'Sea Gull', Captain Joshua Howland; the 'Joseph Turner', Captain Gardner C. Gibbs (who afterward built the schooner 'Ocean Bird'); the 'Anna Jenkins', Captain James R. Potter; the 'Eliza Gibbs', Captain Benjamin Gibbs. Israel H. Day took the agency of this line after Mr. Adams resigned it. These vessels ran until the railroads and steamboats took the most of their business away, between 1850 and 1860. They were then sold off. The 'Wild Pigeon' went to San Francisco.
There were also the Despatch Line of packets from here to Baltimore. This was started about 1830, and comprised vessels of less than 100 tons. There was considerable competition between these two lines. In the Despatch Line may be mentioned the schooner 'Savannah', Captain David Oliphant; the 'General Marion', Captain Leander S. Franklin' the brig 'Victory', Captain Israel L. Joslin; the schooner 'Eliza', Captain John Richmond; the schooner 'Clarissa', Captain Benjamin Hill. The agents were Willard Joslin and Jesse B. Sweet, whose office was at No. 9 West Water street (now Dyer street).
There was also a line started about 1825 between here and Albany. Israel H. Day and Spellman & Metcalf were the agents. The line was composed of sloops, among which was the 'Avon', Captain John Gibbs; the 'General Battey', Captain Gardner; the 'John', Captain E. S. Burrough; the 'Fly', Captain Spellman; the 'Hero', Captain E. S. Burrough; the 'Lafayette', Captain J. E. Spellman; the 'Oregon', Captain Samuel B. Joslin. These vessels carried out very little, but brought back rye, corn, barley, oats, flour, shorts, and in the fall of the year, apples. They were owned by the agents and the captains. These sloops, as well as a large number that belonged on the Connecticut river, would go to Albany, come here and lie at the Weybosset bridge, where they would peddle out their grain to any one who wanted to buy. It would be sold by the bushel on board the craft. This line ran until the railroad companies conveyed the grain here - about 40 years ago.
A line of sloops also ran in Hartford, of 50 to 75 tons capacity. In this line were the 'Commodore Perry', Captain Aborn; the 'Rising Sun', Captain Thomas Farmer; the schooner 'Two Brothers', Captain Henry Farmer; the 'William H. Bunn', Captain Arnold Irons; the 'Emily', Captain Alfred Smith; the 'Fair Haven', Captain Sidney Smith. These vessels would bring here hay and flagging stone.
In the bay there were also regular packets running to Bristol, Wickford and Newport. These were of about 30 tons capacity. The cargo from Bristol would comprise onions, which had then attained quite a reputation, potatoes, carrots, beets and all kinds of vegetables. The cargo to Bristol would be groceries, molasses, sugar, coffee, tea, etc. From Wickford the cargoes would consist of wood, eggs, farmers' produce, and the cargo from here, groceries and supplies. In the Bristol line may be named the 'Emeline', Captain William Miller; the schooner 'Chief', Captain Williston; the sloop 'William H. Allen', Captain Allen Usher. The onions from Bristol would be sent to the West Indies, where they would be sold at an immense profit. In the Wickford line were the 'John Curtain', Captain Gardner, the 'Resolution', Captain Holloway.
There was also the Fall River line, comprising sloops of 25 to 30 tons capacity, among which were the 'Minnie Chace', Captain C. Rickerson; the 'Argonaut', Captain Borden; the 'Caroline', Captain Dyer. The would take from here groceries and bring back nails, scrap iron, cotton waste, etc. One or two sloops also ran to East Greenwich, from which they would bring produce and take back groceries and supplies.
All of the wharves for the vessels before mentioned were above Adams' elevator, on both sides of the river, and the docks then presented busy scenes, as the sloops, schooners and ships from near and far brought in their valuable cargoes. The lumber, as before stated, would be rafted up into the Cove to the yards bordering on that sheet of water, which was then clear and pure. The unloading of goods brought from abroad, and the loading of large ships which were to convey domestic products to every clime, gave employment to a large number of men and boys, while citizens of every class crowded to the docks and remarked on the value of this or that commodity, and when goods were sold off the ship, as they frequently were, were not slow to see a good bargain and made the most of it.
Forty or forty-five years ago quite a whaling business was carried on here, the ships engaged therein being of 400 to 600 tons capacity. Among the whaling agents were Amos Everett, who had the ship 'Envoy', Captain Clark; Pierce & Bullock, who were agents for the ship 'Ocean', Captain Swift, the 'Richmond', and the 'Hope'. Thomas and William Fletcher, agents for the 'Bowditch', Captain Sowle, and the 'South America', Captain Sowle; N. F. Potter, agent for the 'Cassandra', Captain Nichols; William Earle and Lloyd Bower, agents for the ship 'Lion', Captain Howland; Israel L. Joslin, agent for the bark 'Lexington', Captain Jayne; Walker Humphrey, agent for the 'Brunswick' and the 'Balance'. Nearly a half million dollars was invested in these ships and the traffic was for a long time a remunerative one. A voyage would consume from two to four years.
The fish trade, which is now almost wholly carried on in stores, was formerly conducted in an altogether different manner. The schooner 'Caroline', which was built in 1832, was made into a barge in 1840, for the sale of all kinds of fish, having been bought by Captain John P. Merriam and located on the west side, at the first wharf below the Weybosset bridge, called Carpenter's wharf. Fish would arrive in vessels from Boston, Cape Cod, Block Island and other fishing ports, and be unloaded into this barge which remained there until it became rotten and worm eaten, and was then taken away and broken up. After the 'Caroline' was removed, a large schooner of 180 tons, called the brig 'Confidence', purchased in Newport by Captain Samuel Bailey, was devoted to the fish trade. She was 100 feet long, and had to be sawed in two so as to be accommodated to the length of the wharf, which was 80 feet. This craft remained there until the comparatively recent improvements were made at the Crawford street bridge, when she was removed below the Point street bridge. She is now utilized as an oyster receiver at Bullock's point. On the east side of the first wharf below the bridge was located the old brig 'New England', which had made nearly 60 voyages from the isle of Cuba to Providence, bringing over 20,000 hogsheads of molasses, honey and sugar. She was occupied by John S. Parkhurst as a wholesale and retail market for beef, pork and all kinds of meat and vegetables. She remained there as long as she could float and was then replaced by another dismantled schooner, the 'Aliza A. Endicott', occupied by E. A. Andrews, dealer in produce of all kinds. A large and prosperous business was done in all of these vessels.
From 1849 to 1851, when the California gold fever broke out, commerce decreased rapidly. Some of our largest and best ships, barks and brigs were fitted out for San Francisco and never returned; and when the Southern troubles came on, our ships were captured, burnt or sunk, and many sold to British account to prevent seizure; and by this time all of our commercial capital had been transferred to manufactures. Other causes that have operated in the decline of our commerce have been the introduction of railroads, the sending of the products of the West to the seaboard, especially to New York and Boston, where rail connection with the rapidly developing territory of this country has been more direct and speedy. As those cities increased, the foreign commerce of intervening and neighboring ports necessarily decreased. The foreign commerce of the country has necessarily become concentrated at a few great ports and its early New England centers have been wholly abandoned. To-day there is not one ship that is wholly owned in Providence. Many of her captains, however, did noble service elsewhere, and a number of Providence vessels for a long time took part in the commerce of New York. Among these may be named the clipper ship 'Comet', Captain E. C. Gardner; the 'Valparaiso', Captain Benoni Lockwood; the 'Candace', Captain Nathaniel Abbott; the ship 'Haidee', Captain Joseph Tillinghast.
In May, 1828, the 'Board of Directors of Internal Improvements' of the commonwealth of Massachusetts applied to the general assembly of Rhode Island for leave to make surveys in this state for the purpose of constructing a railroad between Boston and Providence, and for authority to construct such a railroad. Permission to make the surveys was given, and the following month the general assembly passed an act authorizing the commonwealth of Massachusetts, or any corporation in that state, to lay out and construct a railroad from Boston to Providence. The following year this board made a report to the general court of Massachusetts describing the surveys made and the plan of the railroad. This was to consist of two continuous rails of granite, surmounted by straps of iron their whole length, over which cars were to be drawn by horses. The steepest declivities were to be surmounted by inclined planes and stationary power. The commission add that on the railroads recently built and then building in England and France, 'it is proposed to make use almost exclusively of locomotive engines or carriages moved by steam placed within them.' This was the year that Stephenson's 'Rocket' was built in England, and made its appearance on the Liverpool & Manchester railway, and was just before the first locomotive was put into use in this country. Nothing ever came directly of this survey, and the authority given by the Rhode Island legislature was soon after repealed.
In 1831 the Boston & Providence Railroad Corporation was incorporated by the general court of Massachusetts to construct a line of railroad beginning at or near the city of Boston to the state line in Pawtucket or Seekonk. Surveys were made by Captain William Gibbs McNeill, assisted by General William Raymond Lee, and the work was begun under this authority in Massachusetts. It was not until 1834 that the general assembly of Rhode Island passed the act to authorize the entrance of the road into this state. The corporation was here entitled the 'Boston & Providence Railroad and Transportation Company', to build a railroad to intersect at the state line with the road of the Boston & Providence Railroad Corporation, and extend to tide-water in the city of Providence. In the meantime the franchise of the Massachusetts corporation had been sold out at auction, in 1832, the assessments levied upon the original subscribers to furnish the money for the building of the road not being paid. The parties upon whom the task of completing the road then devolved pushed forward the work. The line entered this state by the drawbridge at India Point, the town of East Providence, then Seekonk, being at that time in the state of Massachusetts, and the terminus of the road was at India Point. In June, 1835, the line was completed, with the exception of the Canton viaduct, and the first train passed over it from Providence to Boston on the 2d of that month, being drawn as far as the viaduct by horses, on account of the non-arrival of one of the locomotives, built in Philadelphia.
On the 11th of June the road was opened for traffic; it was the second of the New England roads completed, the Boston & Lowell being the first by about one month. Mr. T. B. Wales, of Boston, was the first president of the Boston & Providence, General William Raymond Lee its first superintendent. In accordance with the requirements of the Rhode Island charter, a ferryboat was established in 1838 between the India Point station and the terminus of the New York, Providence & Boston railroad, at Hill's wharf, on the other side of the harbor; this was maintained until the removal of the roads to the Union depot. A line of steamboats was also provided to run in connection with the Boston & Providence to New York, of which the ill-fated 'Lexington' was the first. In 1848 the 'branch route', entering Providence by the way of Pawtucket and over the track of the Providence & Worcester railroad, was constructed and opened for travel May 1st. The obvious advantage of this 'branch' in providing for an uninterrupted connection with New York, and avoiding the inconvenient ferry at India point, was immediately recognized, and all trains were run to the new passenger station, which was completed during the summer of 1848. In June, 1853, the clumsy and inconvenient organization of the company as two separate concerns was done away with by an act of the Rhode Island legislature, providing that the Providence & Boston Railroad Transportation Company should be named the Boston & Providence Railroad Corporation, and that it should unite with the Massachusetts corporation, the stockholders in one becoming stockholders in the other. In 1872 the controlling interest in the Providence, Warren & Bristol railroad was purchased, and the following year in the Fall River, Warren & Providence railroad. This latter was subsequently transferred to the Old Colony railroad.
The history of the Boston & Providence railroad is a record of almost unvarying prosperity. The road was first built in a very thorough manner -- the last of the original iron rails, made after the design of General Lee, were not taken up till 1860 -- and this excellence has always been kept up. Financially its record has been the purest and soundest. Its capital has been increased under authority of the two legislatures from one million dollars to four millions.
An act of the general assembly of Rhode Island passed at the June session, 1832, incorporated the New York, Providence & Boston Railroad Company, with power to construct a road form the city of Providence to the Connecticut line at Westerly. The capital stock in this original act was fixed at $1,200,000 and the control of the road vested in nine directors. Messrs. Charles Dyer, Daniel Jackson, John S. Crary, Frederic A. Norton, Courtlandt Palmer, Samuel F. Denison, Charles H. Phelps, Gurdon Trumbull, and Robert N. Foster were named in the charter to occupy this position for the first year. Their first meeting was held in New York in January, 1833, and books were ordered to be opened on March 4th, in Providence, for subscription to stock. John S. Crary was chosen as the first president. By an act of the Connecticut legislature in May, 1832, the New York & Stonington Railroad Company had been incorporated to run from Stonington to the Rhode Island line. By the union of these two, as provided by both legislatures, the New York, Providence & Boston railroad was thus formed to run from Providence to Stonington. This provision was accepted at a meeting of the stockholders held in Providence, September 24th, 1833. The road was opened for travel November 10th, 1837, A. S. Matthews being the first superintendent. Its Providence terminus was situated at Hill's wharf, on the west side of the harbor, and the roadbed extended up the shore from where the company's coal wharf is now situated, near Sassafras point.
Previous to the commencement of traffic, arrangements had been made with the Boston & New York Transportation Company for a line of boats to ply between Stonington and New York, thus affording continuous connection between Providence and the latter city. The charter of the Boston & Providence Railroad Company also required that regular communication should be kept up between their depot, then at India point, and that of the New York, Providence & Boston railroad; and a steam ferry boat was run to furnish this connection. The business of the road began favorably, though the company labored under more or less financial difficulty from the outset. In March, 1839, the trustees, under the second and third mortgages, took possession of the road in consequence of the failure to pay principal or interest on large amounts of its bonds which had fallen due. It remained in their hands for nearly five years, during which time the embarrassments of the company continued, and the interest on the bonds could not be paid. Suits were brought and judgments obtained in the Connecticut courts, and at one time there was danger that the operations of the railroad might be suspended altogether. In 1843 an arrangement was made whereby new bonds were issued to the holders of the defaulted bonds and the debt reduced to one-half. The directors in the same year took possession again of the road and property of the company.
A few years later the question of joining with the Boston & Providence and the then unfinished Providence & Worcester roads in a union passenger station was proposed. The necessary extension of the New York, Providence & Boston from Hill's wharf was completed in May, 1848, and regular trains passed over it on the first of that month, forming an uninterrupted connection with the Boston & Providence road, avoiding the transfer by ferry across the harbor. The union passenger station was not occupied till later. In January, 1858, the connections of the road were further increased by the completion of the New London & Stonington railroad, and by the extension of its own tracks to Groton. Thus, by means of the ferry at this point, the all-rail connection to New York was formed over the 'Shore Line'. In 1860 the steamboat terminus of the road was likewise removed from Stonington to New London. In this and the following year two of the sound steamboats which had been run by the Merchants' Navigation and Transportation Company, forming the Stonington line to New York, were lost. This practically resulted in the failure of that company and the suspension of the boat line for over a year. In January, 1868, the new boats of the Stonington Steamboat Company began their trips. Of this company the New York, Providence & Boston Railroad Company owned more than a five-sixths interest, and thus a constant connection with the railroad was insured.
Ever since the compromise was made in 1843 the financial condition of the railroad has been good, and its operation uninterrupted. Its important connections have been of great service in furthering the trade and prosperity of Providence. Its capital has been increased by legislative authority from $1,200,000 to $3,000,000.
The Providence & Worcester Railroad Company was incorporated by the general assembly of Rhode Island at its May session, 1844, with a capital of $1,000,000. The two preceding railroads had been several years completed and in successful operation, and their value thoroughly tried. The stock of the proposed road was soon taken and organization effected, Mr. Alexander Duncan being chosen first president. The first meeting of the directors was held in Providence, May 20th, 1844. By 1847 the road was far advanced toward completion, and on September 27th of that year it was opened for travel as far as Millville, a distance of 20 miles. October 23d the entire line was opened. The occasion was celebrated by an excursion of the stockholders over the road on a special train and by the ringing of bells and firing of cannon all along the route. Trains were there after run 'with great regularity', according to the directors' reports.
The Worcester road was the first one to run to the center of the city at Market square, and through their initiative the Union passenger station was built and the other roads brought to the same point. This involved questions of filling in the Cove, enclosing it with a wall, etc., conditions which were imposed by the city council and which soon became somewhat complicated, and in regard to which there was considerable dispute. It was not till 1850 that a final agreement with the railroad company was arrived at and the question finally settled. In 1856, the city council authorized the Worcester road to extend its tracks down South Water street to the Boston & Providence road at India point, and an arrangement made with the Providence, Warren & Bristol for the use of its tracks. The later history of this railroad has been an uneventful record of prosperity; it has always kept a high financial standing, and has developed a large volume of local traffic. Its capital stock has been increased from $1,000,000 to $2,500,000.
No other railroads centering in Providence have experienced such vicissitudes and undergone so many transformations as has the Providence, Hartford & Fishkill road. Its charter was originally granted by the Rhode Island legislature under the name of the Providence & Plainfield railroad, in June, 1846, with a capital of $1,000,000. The initiative in this step was taken by several prominent manufacturers of Providence, to afford communication with the large manufacturing interests scattered through the western portion of this state and eastern Connecticut; and likewise with a view to a junction with a road to be constructed in the latter state. Steps were taken in the Connecticut legislature looking to this end by the revival in 1847, by the legislature, of the old charter of the Manchester railroad, granted in 1833, authorizing the construction of a railroad to the town of Willimantic, to be called the Hartford & Providence railroad, to unite with other railroad companies, if so desired; with special preference to a junction at Plainfield with the Providence & Plainfield road. In 1849 the Hartford & Providence road was united with the New York & Hartford railroad, with authority to construct a road to the state line, the destined terminus being Fishkill, N. Y., on the Hudson river. At this time the name was changed to that of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill, and the capital fixed at $3,000,000.
In 1851 the union of this road with the Rhode Island portion of the line was effected, and the same name retained. William Sprague was first president and S. Asburner first superintendent. The raising of funds to carry on the work was found rather more difficult in the case of this railroad than of any other of those connected with Providence; and in 1850 and 1851 the cities of Hartford and Providence were authorized by the legislatures of Connecticut and Rhode Island to exchange their bonds for those of the railroad to the amount of $500,000 each. These were secured, the Providence loan by the first mortgage on the portion of the line in Rhode Island and a second mortgage on the portion in Connecticut, and the Hartford loan by the reverse. The construction of the line proceeded, and in October, 1854, the first passenger trains were run between Providence and Hartford, and between Hartford and Waterbury in January, 1855.
During the panic which swept over the country in 1857 this interest, among others, was unable to meet its indebtedness, and the trustees under the two mortgages took possession of the property, the trustees under the Rhode Island mortgage granting their control to the Connecticut trustees to operate the road. It was conducted in this way until 1878.
In August, 1862, the stockholders of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill railroad had leased it for 99 years to the Boston, Hartford & Erie railroad. This latter company mortgaged their entire property for $20,000,000, which mortgage provided that any default in payment of principal or interest, the bondholders should foreclose and form a new corporation. This foreclosure was made in 1873, and the holders of the Boston, Hartford & Erie mortgage bonds were organized as the New York & New England Railroad Company, and in 1878, took possession of the old Hartford, Providence & Fishkill road, which, up to the time, had been operated by the trustees of its own mortgages. In 1881 the New York and New England finally carried out the idea of the original incorporators of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill by completing the line to Fishkill on the Hudson river, and establishing a connection by ferry with the Erie railway, opening a through line to the West.
In January, 1884, the property was placed in the hands of a receiver by order of Judge Shipman, of the U. S. circuit court of Connecticut. Under successful management the finances of the road were put in such shape that it was restored to the stockholders in January, 1886.
The Providence & Bristol Railroad Company was incorporated by the general assembly of Rhode Island at the October session, 1850, with a capital of $300,000, and in Massachusetts in 1851, with a capital of $2,500,000, which two years later was reduced to $750,000. A committee of citizens of Providence, Warren and Bristol was organized in 1852, and were active in causing surveys and estimates for the proposed railroad to be made by George S. Greene, engineer. The estimate was favorably received, and, with the understanding that connecting roads would be built from Warren to Fall River and from Bristol to Newport, the Providence & Bristol railroad was begun the same year, by legislative enactment, its name was changed to 'Providence, Warren & Bristol'. It was opened for travel in July, 1855, the first president being Thomas F. Burgess, and the first superintendent, George S. Greene. The new road at first owned no rolling stock, but hired its equipments of the Boston & Providence railroad. Its trains were run to East Providence, and from there were hauled by horses up South Main and South Water streets to the Providence & Worcester depot. The company opened the present depot of their own at India point in 1857. The opportunities of the road were further increased in 1860, when the Fall River, Warren & Providence road was opened, giving a connection with Fall River and Newport.
In 1872 the controlling interest in the Providence, Warren & Bristol railroad was purchased by the Boston & Providence, and ever since it has been under their management, though the separate organization of the road has been maintained. In 1873 the Boston & Providence road also bought the Fall River, Warren & Providence road, but sold it the following year to the Old Colony railroad.
A few hundred feet of the present roadbed of the Providence, Warren & Bristol railroad formerly constituted the Seekonk Branch railroad, which at the time of its erection aroused a great excitement among the railroad interests of this city. The man at the head of this enterprise was Tristam Burges. He obtained a charter in 1836 from the Massachusetts legislature -- the east side of the Seekonk river being then in Massachusetts -- and constructed a railroad from 'Old Wharf Point', about where the Marine railroad now stands, to 'some convenient point on the Boston & Providence railroad', which then ran to India point through the town of Seekonk. The intention was to establish a line of steamers to New York, with connection to Boston over the Boston & Providence road, by forcing the latter company under the law as it then existed to give the trains of the Seekonk branch road the right of way over their track. In the charter it was provided that no stockholder in the Boston & Providence road should ever own stock in the Seekonk branch. Completed after great opposition, the enterprise proved a failure, and in 1839 the road was sold to the Boston & Providence and was used as a siding.
The general assembly passed an act at its January session, 1857, for the incorporation of the Woonasquatucket Railroad Company to join the track of the Stonington, or Hartford road, near Olneyville, and then to run up the valley of the Woonasquatucket river to the state line. The capital authorized was $1,000,000. The commercial crisis of that year and the years of war following practically put an end to the enterprise for the time being. The charter continued by successive applications to the general assembly, until in 1871, an organization was finally effected and the building of the road begun. At the January session, 1872, the general assembly changed the name to the Providence & Springfield railroad, extended the limit of time granted for locating and constructing the road, and authorized the town of Burrillville to subscribe for $50,000 of the company's stock, and the city of Providence to exchange its bonds for those of the railroad company, to the amount of $500,000, to be secured by a mortgage on the road. Both of these propositions were accepted. The construction of the railroad was pushed forward rapidly, and it was completed as far as Pascoag, its present terminus, a distance of nearly 23 miles. It was opened for traffic August 11th, 1873. In 1881, as a part of a scheme to increase the connections of the Providence & Springfield railroad and thereby enlarge its possibilities, an extension was planned from Pascoag, to the town of Webster. An act was passed by the general assembly in May, 1881, providing for such extension as far as the boundary line of either Connecticut of Massachusetts, and incorporating it under the name of the Providence, Webster & Springfield Railroad Company. The limit of time for the location of the road and subscription to the stock was set at May 1st, 1886. Here the enterprise rests, awaiting further action to carry it to the point aimed at by its original projectors, that of forming a through connection with the West from Providence. The president and general manager of the company is William Tinkham.
The Union railroad, which performs such efficient and widely extended service in the local passenger traffic of Providence, was, as its name implies, formed by the union of several earlier companies, which were originally quite independent concerns. The first of these was the Providence, Pawtucket & Central Falls Railroad Company, incorporated at the January session of the general assembly, 1861. It provided for a railway to be operated by horse power and with passenger cars only, from some points in Smithfield and North Providence to some convenient terminus in Providence. The charter was accepted at a meeting of the corporation in May, 1863, at which H. H. Thomas was elected president; and in September of the same year the city council of Providence granted the requisite permission for the laying of tracks in the highways. The line as constructed ran from its present terminus at the bridge, the same as it does to-day, to Pawtucket. In March, 1864, it was opened for travel.
At the same session of the general assembly in 1861 an act was also passed to incorporate the Broadway & Providence Railroad Company to run tracks under the same provisions to Olneyville, and the road was built and put in operation under authority of an ordinance of the city council, passed November 28th, 1864. The Cranston road was incorporated at the May session, 1864, in which Mr. Amasa Sprague was largely interested, on account of the desirability of facilitating communication with the Cranston Print Works from the city. An ordinance of the city council, passed August 8th, 1864, authorized the laying of tracks both on Cranston street to Cranston, and on High street to Olneyville. A 'Providence and Olneyville Railroad Company' had been chartered to run cars on the latter route, but never took up its charter. The Cranston road at once began operations and ran its cars over both lines. The Elmwood, Pawtuxet and South Main Street Companies, all chartered at the May session, 1864, were empowered to begin work by ordinances of the city council, dated November 28th, 1864.
The accommodations offered by the horse railroad lines were found to be a great convenience, but there were difficulties which arose from the fact that they were run independently of each other. They used each other's tracks to a large extent, and the time table interfered to a greater or less degree. A consolidation was so obviously to the advantage of all that a very short time was sufficient to bring it about. In January, 1865, the general assembly consolidated the Cranston, Broadway, Elmwood, South Main Street and Pawtuxet Railroad Companies into one corporation, under the name of the Union Railroad Company, with a capital of $700,000. This included all the original street railroads except the Providence, Pawtucket & Central Falls line, which continued to run independently. In 1872 the Union Railroad Company purchased this line, and it then came under its control and was run in connection with the other lines. The company, when the consolidation was effected, possessed an equipment of 35 cars and 250 horses. Fares were established the same as they have ever since remained. In 1867 the present station was erected on the Great Bridge. New lines and extensions have repeatedly been opened and the rolling stock of the company correspondingly increased till now there are 1,320 horses, 249 cars, operated by about 600 employees.
The Newport County Reading Room Index More Biographies and History.