This section contains articles of genealogical and historic
interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers.
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History of the State of Rhode Island with Illustrations
Albert J. Wright, Printer
No. 79 Mille Street, corner of Federal, Boston.
Hong, Wade & Co., Philadelphia 1878.
|Lee's Block, Main Street, Pawtucket, R. I.
Spitz the Hatter
Fisk & Co. Apothecaries
|Old Slater Mill, Pawtucket, R. I.
first cotton mill in America built 1793
|Wilkinson Farm, Pawtucket, R. I. Hon. James Davis inset
portrait S. Clapp inset portrait
Residences of Hon. James Davis & S. Clapp
|detail - portrait of S. Clapp||H. F. Kinnerney portrait||Residence of Geo. D. Williams, Pawtucket, R. I.
George D. Williams inset portrait
Mrs. George D. Williams portrait
|Broad Street Hack, Livery and Boarding Stable, H. M. Arnold,
Pawtucket, R. I., built 1871
|James Davis & Son, Tannery||Res. L. B. Darling, corner of Walcott & Summitt streets, Pawtucket, R. I.|
|L. B. Darling & Co.'s manufactory, Pawtucket, R. I.||Benedict House, corner of Broad & Main streets, Pawtucket, R. I.||Res. of Olney Arnold, Broad Street, Pawtucket, R. I.|
|Res. of Mrs. Joseph Wood, inset portrait of the late Joseph Wood. Res. of Mrs. Benedict, inset portrait of the late Dea. Stephen Benedict. Central Falls, R. I.||portrait of the late Joseph Wood (detail)||portrait of the late Dea. Stephen Benedict (detail)|
|residence and portrait, R. J. Stafford|
pp. 224 - 232.
'Another race the following spring supplies;
They fall successive, and successive rise;
So generations in their course decay;
So flourish these, when those have passed away.'
It is common to apply to this continent the term 'New World', when the traditions of the Narragansetts lead into the remote past, and commingle with another race proceeding them, and all is dim, obscure, and uncertain. The stranger, visiting Pawtucket, will learn either from tradition, or find in relics, a confirmation of an ancient occupation of its territory. Not only are the utensils of peaceful industry scattered beneath the surface, and often exhumed by the plowshare, but the weapons of war, fashioned with exquisite skill, and giving evidence of European invasion, are likewise upturned, and gathered and preserved as souvenirs of a time when the fierce and wild aborigines roamed over its wooded hills and dales, and were hostile to the early pioneer. Nowhere, better than in the historical record of that self-same land could come the answer to the oft-repeated question, 'Whence came those old relics, curious in formation, and those ancient weapons, wrought with such dexterous skill?'
There is always a certain pleasure derived from the study of home history, and a certain degree of interest is felt by the reader, be that history traditional or official. Even a name, however humble or obscure, often revives some pleasing recollection, and an incident, however trivial in its character, may awaken some slumbering impulse and recall to mind a train of many pleasant reminiscences. From the most ancient times tradition has been intrusted with the greater portion of individual and national history. The same causes have conspired to prevent a more reliable and permanent record in all times; the captious criticism, the lack of education, the inappreciation of the future value of the common and ordinary affairs of life, and, most of all, the sense of responsibility which but few of us care to assume.
Around the old-cherished hearthstone, with its great open fire-place shedding its lurid light across the spacious, though sparsely furnished room, like some dim spectre in the ages past; the aged, on many a cold and wintry night, have gathered their descendants with listening ear and anxious heart, and have loved to recount to them the trials, the hardships, and the adventures of a backwoodsman's early life.
But all of these have perished, and their knowledge with them. The compiler of fragmentary history is impressed with the conviction of imperfection connected with memories thus handed down from parent to child, but regards it all the more essential, that what is yet extant should be gleaned and preserved in some imperishable form. What matters it to the native of Pawtucket, the early settlement at Jamestown, or the landing of the Pilgrims, in comparison with the pioneers of his own township, and a knowledge of localities and of the actors in events, now growing more remote, dim and shadowy?
Long before the advent of Roger Williams and his colony, the Narragansetts lived and roamed with savage independence over her wooded hills, through her verdant valleys, and along the banks of her crystal streams. These, and adjacent tribes, formed a numerous and powerful people, and had permanent villages in various parts of this eastern territory, and, jealous of their rights, looked with distrust upon the innovations of those early pioneers who had fled from European despotism to work out for themselves homes in these rude wilds, where their anthems and praises might arise to the one God, untrammelled by the decrees of 'God-ordained kings.' Small tracts of land were cleared of their dense forest-growth, - fields, cultivated for the growing of those products barely necessary for sustenance; and thus the early pioneer commenced his settlement, the accomplishment of which was not unattended with the endurance of many hardships. Their wild and untutored neighbors often invaded their fields and villages, destroying the products of the former, and laying in ashes the latter. Among the primitive forest-trees, were the walnut, oak, and wild-chestnut. Narrow trails, in use from time immemorial, led along dense jungles bordering upon swamps, and over the uplands, from village to village, and nation to nation.
But a very different landscape, to-day, greets the eye of the visitor as he traverses this locality. Fringes of the old forest alternate with well-cultivated fields, fine orchards, good dwellings, extensive manufactures; and there is seen the beauty of civilization, in marked contrast with the primitive grandeur and repose known to the early settler. While we indulge regret for Indian wrongs, we often shudder at the rehearsal of their atrocious crimes, and the practice of their savage barbarities. Time could not abate their malice, nor friendship deter them from the revenge of some real or fancied injury. But the red rulers of the shade, and the races they governed, yielded to manifest destiny, and have passed away forever, and with their timely exit we commence the history of the white settlements of Pawtucket.
The desire to better their condition is universal with the human race. While courage, endurance, and ability are combined, the result, in the main, is always success. The hardy pioneer, seeking a new home, usually avails himself of every natural advantage, and as the town possessed these natural features in abundance, it attracted the attention of many of the early pioneers. Tradition says that Joseph Jencks settled in the neighborhood of Pawtucket Falls, about the year 1655. He was a native of England, having been born in Buckinghamshire in the year 1632. He came to America in 1645, and resided with his father, who had preceded him, and settled in Lynn, Mass. Remaining with his father, who was engaged in the manufacture of iron, until about the year 1655, he removed to Pawtucket, and also engaged in the iron manufacture, he being a blacksmith by trade. His half-brother Daniel, born at Lynn in 1663, also removed into Cumberland, an adjoining settlement, and from him have sprung the numerous Jenckses in that locality.
Mr. Joseph Jencks, the founder of Pawtucket, soon after coming into this region, purchased a sixty-acre lot of Ezekiel Holliman, an early associate of Roger Williams. He immediately set about building a forge, preparatory to engaging in his vocation of blacksmithing. His forge was erected a little below the west end of the present granite bridge. Here, in this deep cavity, for two hundred years, stood a forge-shop, until it was removed to give place to the huge water-wheels of the present cotton-mill. Here this pioneer, with no one but the rude natives of the forest for neighbors, plied his vocation, and the products of his skill found a market in Providence and the surrounding neighborhoods. Mr. Jencks had four sons, named Joseph, Nathaniel, Ebenezer, and William, all of whom followed the business of their father. For twenty years or more, affairs went on smoothly; new emigrants were constantly arriving and settling throughout the neighborhood. The virgin forests were being invaded upon every hand; clearings cultivated and planted to those products best suited to their immediate wants. The smoke from many a cabin rose in graceful curls heavenward, and domestic joys were gladdening the humble firesides of these early settlers.
But dark and foreboding clouds soon began to gather along the horizon of the sky, and a storm was about to break over these almost defenceless settlements. The red men began to look with distrust upon the rapid influx of these white settlers. They had beheld, with jealous eye, the steady growth of the English, and fearing that their hunting-grounds would soon be wrested from them, they began to meet the pale faces with scowling brows, and it only needed a leader to arouse their savage natures, and combine their efforts to hurl a thunderbolt on the intruders. Philip of Pokanoket began his machinations, and soon the storm burst, with all its gigantic fury, upon the early settlements. In 1675, the war commenced, and desolation and ruin marked the spot where once stood the peaceful home, and the mechanic's blazing forge.
In 1676, one of the most tragic scenes occurred. For a long time, roving bands of Indians had harassed the settlements, and disturbed their security, both in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The torch was applied to many a happy home, and ruin marked scores of habitations. At last, Captain Pierce of Scituate, with a force of sixty-three Englishmen, and twenty friendly Indians, from Cape Cod, was ordered to follow the Indians, and to put a stop to their lawless depredations. He started with his little band, reaching Seekonk on the 24th of March. Marching up the river, he soon fell into an ambush, and a desperate struggle ensued. The heavy growth of forest that overhung the banks of the Blackstone River, formed a safe retreat for the Indians, and here they closed around the little band, and, as the shadows of evening fell, they enshrouded the lifeless forms of almost all of that little army. This contest occurred on the banks of the river, between Pawtucket and Valley Falls. Pawtucket, at the close of this struggle, was a lonelier spot even than when Roger Williams first began his early settlement. The effect of such a tragical contest could have had naught but a disastrous influence upon these feeble settlements, and the gravest alarm seized upon the hearts of the people, and they fled for refuge to the Island of Rhode Island.
After a few months, however, the dark clouds of adversity began lifting, and the dawning of a better day was at hand. Philip was soon after killed, his warriors slain, captured, or scattered, and peace and security once more returned. Mr. Jencks returns and rebuilds his forge, the woodcutters and charcoal-burners resume their industry. The tillers of the soil return to plant and sow, and a renewed activity pervades every department of human industry.
The Jencks family was influential in the political affairs of the Colony, as well as in business. The elder Jencks bore the title of assistant, which answers to our lieutenant-governor, or senator; while his son Joseph, born 1656, became governor of Rhode Island from 1727 to 1732, and died in the year 1740; he was blind seven years before his death. Nathaniel, born 1662, bore the title of major, and was a powerful man. In the writings of Eseck Esten, bearing date of 1813, he says, 'he lifted the great forge-hammer of five hundred pounds weight, together with seven men thereon and the handle thereof, one man whereof lifted up under the draw-beam with all his might to reach against him, a proof of very great strength indeed.' He died Aug. 12, 1723. Ebenezer was born 1669, and was a preacher of considerable distinction, and died, 1726. William was born 1674, and was the first chief justice of the Providence County court, and died Oct. 2, 1765.
Tradition is not so definite in regard to the other early inhabitants of this section. Other settlers were evidently allured here, as the natural advantages of the locality furnished ample employment, not only to the woodsman, but the artisan as well. One Samuel Smith is represented in an old deed bearing date 1738, and was doubtless contemporary with the Jenckses. In 1775, we find Captain Stephen Jencks manufacturing muskets in Pawtucket, and in 1770, Ephraim Starkweather settled in the hamlet on the east side of the river, and purchased a potash establishment of some parties from Boston. Mr. Hugh Kennedy began the manufacture of linseed oil about the year 1750; and also, about that time, one Sylvester Bowers, a ship-carpenter, moved to Pawtucket and engaged in the business of ship-building. Mr. Wilkinson removed from Smithfield in 1783, and settled in Pawtucket. His family consisted of five sons and four daughters. Their names were Lucy, Abraham and Isaac (twins), David, Hannah, Daniel, Mercy, Smith, and Lydia. Lucy married Timothy Greene; Hannah married Samuel Slater; Mercy married William Wilkinson of Providence, a race originating in Connecticut; and Lydia married Hezekiah Howe. The father and sons were blacksmiths by trade, and plied their vocation as workers in iron. They occupied part of the buildings located on the old coal-lot, and engaged in the manufacture of anchors. From their shop were sent out some of the largest anchors then manufactured in the country. On this old ground, commonly called the coal-yard, the Wilkinsons made large bed-screws and cannons. They were the first in the world to cast cannons solid, they being bored out by water-power. Mr. Wilkinson, also, at this early date manufactured nails, and it is said that he anticipated every manufacture of this article in the world. Later, when the new era in the industries of the town commenced, they were engaged extensively in the manufacture of cotton-mill machinery, and to them is due the credit of inventing many valuable machines. The Wilkinsons were long household names in Pawtucket, and to their activity and enterprise is due much of the present prosperity of the town. Major Ebenezer Tyler was among the early inhabitants, and was engaged in active business for many years. A short distance below here was the machine-shop and dwelling of Sylvanus Brown, father of James S. Brown, who was the inventor of several cotton-mill machines. Mr. James Weeden came next, and engaged in the baking business. George Mumford, Barney Merry, Hezekiah Howe, and George F. Jencks were among the early business men of the town, and not only gave character to the settlement, but facilitated progress. Ezekiel Carpenter kept a children's clothier's shop, or fulling-mill, in what was known as the old cotton-mill, near the western abutment of the present granite bridge, which was also the place occupied by Mr. Samuel Slater, in his experiments upon preparations for cotton-spinning. Near to this was the shop and dwelling of Jabez Jencks, brother of the ancient Pardon Jencks. Ebenezer Tiffany also occupied a store further on, near to or in a portion of the ground now occupied by the Messrs. Reed's building. Adjoining was the store of Josiah Miller, now occupied by Mr. Tingley. Where now stands the Union Block, was once the store and dwelling of Moses Jencks; adjoining this was the building erected by Nathaniel Croade and Otis Tiffany; and it was here that the first post-office was kept.
On the site now occupied by the Pawtucket Hotel, once stood the dwelling of Judges William and Jonathan Jencks; next came the house of Mr. Slater, in which he resided for some years, but subsequently removed to a brick house adjoining the residence of Samuel Merry, on Pleasant Street. He afterwards removed to Webster, Mass. George Walker was an early innkeeper, and the old tavern has since been moved back to make room for the large bank building, owned by David Lefavor. Next came the old Cleveland home, noted as being the former residence of Isaac Wilkinson. It was built by an early inhabitant named Samuel Healy. Erastus Sweeting and David Carpenter owned dwellings adjoining, which have been removed to make room for the present Lee Block. These are but a few of the early places and settlers upon the west side of the river. There are many others whose names are identified with the growth and prosperity of the business interests of the town, and whose lives furnish many examples worthy of emulation.
We pass to a brief review of the early settlers and places upon the east side of the river. As has already been stated, this portion of the town has, for nearly two centuries, belonged to the State of Massachusetts. It was situated in the ancient town of Rehoboth, which was founded by the Rev. Samuel Newman, about the year 1636 or 1648. He was a native of England, having been born in Banbury, in 1600. He received his education at the Oxford University, and became a minister and was settled over several different churches, before his emigration to New England. This original settlement was first made by those men belonging to Newman's company, who were Bucklin, Smith, and Reed. Their original purchase was bounded westerly by the river, which, in different accounts in those early times, bore the names of Pawtucket, Blackstone, and Seekonk. Their purchase extended northerly to the southern line of the town of Attleborough; easterly for some distance on the Seekonk Plain; and southerly to some distance below, where now stands the Dunnell Print-works. For about a century, the descendants of the Bucklins, and the Smiths, and the Reeds held possession of their ancestral domains; and while the early settlers on the Rhode Island side were mechanics and tradesmen, those upon the Massachusetts side were engaged in agricultural pursuits. A company from Boston came into this section, and purchased of the Smiths a tract of land and set up a potash establishment, near the river, a little above the falls. The names of these parties were Stover, Bant, and Bowers. They were but transient residents, as it has already been remarked that they sold their establishment to Ephraim Starkweather.
About 1760, Hugh Kennedy settled near the bridge, which was erected in 1712, a little below the falls. Soon after came Samuel Pitcher, Joshua Fisher, Eliphalet and Samuel Slack, Ephraim Starkweather, Sylvester Bowers, Major Nathan Daggett, Sylvanus Wing, and Cyrel Peck. A family by the name of French, and also one by the name of Robinson, soon after moved in, and still after the Walcotts, Joseph Smith, and others. These all engaged in various pursuits, and to their early efforts is due in a measure the growth and prosperity of Eastern Pawtucket. Hugh Kennedy's dwelling stood on the site of the present large bank building, and his premises are now covered with mills, stores, and buildings of various kinds. He was of Irish descent. The dwelling of John Bucklin adjoined this one of Mr. Kennedy's, but has long since been demolished. Mr. Bucklin was the owner of the water-power at the falls, on the east side. He died in 1795. His son Joseph married a niece of Samuel and John Slater, and his daughter Ruth married John Slater, brother of Samuel S. Slater. He afterwards became the founder of the large and flourishing manufacturing village in Smithfield, which bears the name of Slatersville. All the parties are now dead.
Samuel Pitcher was a native of Providence; some of his descendants of the fifth generation are now found residing in the town. Mr. Pitcher resided here a few years, and then removed to Attleborough, where are found the graves of the family for several generations. In early life, Samuel Pitcher married Ruth Bucklin, a daughter of James Bucklin, of the third generation from the original William Bucklin, a member of the Newman settlement in Rehoboth. Joshua Fisher was a native of Wrentham, Mass. He married in early life the young widow of David Bucklin. Her infant son, David Bucklin, became the well-known citizen to the older inhabitants of the place, and dwelt for a long time in the old Wing house, the site of which is now occupied by the mansion of Ellis Pitcher. From a second marriage descends the widow of the late Squire French. Anna, of the Fisher children, married Cyrel Brown, whose daughter married the late John W. Dexter; their descendants are the representatives of this ancient family.
Eliphalet Slack, more familiarly known as Colonel Slack, was born in the town of Attleborough, Mass. He was the son of Benjamin Slack, a deacon in the Congregational church of the town above named. He had no children, and his estate was mostly devised by himself and wife to their respective heirs. Samuel, a brother of Colonel Slack, died at the Landing, in a house owned by Joseph Smith & Co. His representatives are found in the descendants of his daughters, who married Josiah Miller and Ezekiel Robinson. Ezekiel G. Robinson, D. D., is the head of the Baptist Theological Institute, situated at Rochester, N. Y. The wife of Dr. Whitney, of West Pawtucket, and also of young Dr. Miller of Pawtucket, are also representatives of his descendants. Ephraim Starkweather, the father of this family in Pawtucket, was a native of Connecticut, and a graduate of New Haven College. He was a man of considerable distinction, and occupied many positions of political honor, both in the town and State, among which were local magistrate, member of the General Assembly, and in the governor's council. His son Oliver, and also his grandson James C., were no less influential in the political affairs of the town and State, they each holding the same offices. Oliver was one of the electors of John Q. Adams as President of the United States. Sylvester Bowers was a ship-carpenter, having removed from Somerset, Mass. He commenced his business at the Landing, upon the premises now owned by Joseph Smith & Co. There was a large family of Bowerses, but they became extinct, and none of them are found in the place at present. Joseph Smith was a native of Glocester, R. I. He was engaged in an extensive business, upon ground once occupied by Mr. Bowers. The business, with much larger facilities, and many important changes, is now represented by Henry F. Smith and John T. Cottrell, under the firm-name of Joseph Smith & Co. The first settled minister, of any order, in this section, was Rev. David Benedict, D. D., to whose historical and biographical sketches we are largely indebted for the above historical items. The first settled physician, was Dr. Humphrey. The first settled lawyer, was Jesse May.
Thus, is briefly reviewed the history of some of the early settlers in the town of Pawtucket. We have found among their ranks, men that gave character to the settlement; and the present business enterprises and manufacturing industries, are but the outgrowth of their persistent effort and mechanical genius. With increased facilities, and the many improvements in machinery, Pawtucket is indeed destined to a prosperous and successful future.
Old Places, Incidents, &c.
The Comstock farm, south and west of the Thornton & Co.'s purchase (which bounded the Jencks purchase, or the Widow Mowry's place), was in turn bounded on the south by the Thomas Arnold farm. Moses Brown of Providence, owned the lands extending to the city. The Scotts, Bagleys, Comstocks and Estens, were early land owners about Pawtucket. The Scotts were owners around the Scott Pond. One of the family settled on what has long been known as the Adam Anthony farm, situated on the old turnpike to Providence. The Bagley farm contained about three hundred acres, lying on the east side of the Smithfield road, now known as Lonsdale Avenue, and north of the present Mineral Spring pike, its eastern boundary reaching nearly to the present Pine Street. The old homestead portion of this farm is now occupied by William Binford. Joseph Bagley was the founder of the name here, and removed from Maine. He died in the latter part of the last century, as is evidenced from the date of the settlement of his estate, which occurred in 1790. Eight generations of this family have in turn occupied this original homestead of Joseph Bagley.
Dr. Clapp and L. B. Darling have made valuable farms from portions of the old Comstock place, which lies on the Mineral Spring Turnpike, near the Moshassuck River. The Esten farm joined the Comstock place on the south, and was settled by Thomas Esten, from Wales. Nine generations have occupied the old homestead, which bears date of erection in 1680. This date-stone was placed in the chimney, as was the custom in those early times, and is the only relic that remains of this ancient domicile, and is in the possession of Cornelius Esten, who resides in the mansion on the old Comstock place, which was erected about 1797. Roger Williams was a frequent visitor to this old homestead. This farm was originally owned by Ezekial Holliman and subsequently by Abel Potter. Eseck Esten died in 1823, and left valuable memoranda of places and events, to which, as also Rev. Dr. Benedict's works, we are indebted for much valuable information.
The old Sayles place lay near by, and the old house is now occupied by J. Sayles Pidge, into whose possession it came through his mother, who was a Sayles. Jeremiah Sayles kept, at one time, a hotel here, and it is said that General Lafayette encamped near here with his army, and was accustomed to get his meals at this public house. The old-fashioned fireplaces are still to be seen, and recall to memory many pleasing reminiscences. This is among the oldest landmarks in the town, and the frame remains to-day in a remarkable degree of preservation. Joseph Jencks purchased sixty acres, of the Widow Mowry of Plymouth, in 1655, which gave to him the water-power on the Rhode Island side of the river. He preserved the timber from destruction, having been impressed with the fatal results of this wholesale slaughter of the forests during his sojourn at Lynn, Mass. On Pleasant Street, formerly on the old Neck road, on the old Comstock farm, which is now cut up into small parcels, resides Mrs. John T. Kenyon. The old homestead was erected in 1774, as the date on the chimney indicates. This tract of land comprised about one hundred acres, but is now cut up into several different parcels. Woodlawn in the western suburb of Pawtucket. The old mansion formerly owned by Peter Thornley, stands where it was built over a hundred years ago, on the corner of Lonsdale Avenue and Thornley Street. It was built by a Mr. Shreive.
On the opposite side of the street from the old house is the old riding-park, now in disuse. Another old place was that built by Eseck Esten, in 1750. It was located upon the present site of George A. Kenyon's house, on the west side of Lonsdale Avenue. It was the home of three generations of Estens. Deacon Eseck Esten was the first man to peddle milk in the city of Providence, being engaged in this business as early as 1810. On Pleasant Street, adjoining the Riverside Cemetery on the north, and running from the Pawtucket River (or Seekonk as it was formerly called) on the east, to the old Neck road, or the present Pleasant Street on the west, and running far enough north to make about fifteen acres of land, is the old Benchley (incorrectly spelled Bensley) place.
This tract was occupied at first by Davis the Hermit. This house stood at high water-mark, about six rods south of Benchley Point. This eccentric old man lived here a very retired life, in a little house reared by himself, about fifteen feet square. Among his eccentricities was that of preparing for his death by making a coffin, which he kept in readiness for that event. To economize room, he used this burial-case for the storing of beans, of which it was said he raised large quantities. He was an English-man by birth, and moved to Boston, where he left means for his support. He died and was buried near St. John's Church in Providence. From him the land passed to the Jenckes. It subsequently passed into the hands of Samuel Benchley, about 1804. The place was used for a hospital as early as 1790, and Mrs. Benchley, then Polly Peck Bucklin, was a patient and nurse. The site was selected for its fine scenery, excellent water, and healthy location.
Before we pass from this side of the river, mention must be made of an antiquated building located at 177 Main Street. It is now owned and occupied by Miss Emily Jones. This house was built in 1677, and is one of the oldest buildings now standing in Pawtucket. It was erected by Colonel Eleazer Jencks, who occupied it for some time, when it came into the possession of the Wilkinson family. From them it passed to Mary D. Jones, and has since remained in the possession of this family. This was also the home of a very remarkable man, whose daring exploits were a wonder to the age in which he lived.
No history of Pawtucket would be complete without at least a brief mention of 'Sam Patch', the jumpist. He was born at Marblehead, Mass., about 1796, and came to Pawtucket in the early part of the present century, and was a mule-spinner in a cotton-mill that once occupied the site of the mill now owned by Thurber, Horton & Wood, at Central Falls. He was a remarkable athlete and rivalled all his associates in jumping and many other sports. He became more and more daring in his feats, and having successfully jumped from the bridge, a distance of some twenty-five feet, and also from a mill five stories high, a wager was made and accepted by him to jump the Genesee Falls, at Rochester, N. Y. He was successful in this attempt, and won the wager. He afterwards performed the daring feat of jumping the Niagara Falls, and several other equally hazardous achievements. His fame became world-wide and he was the wonder of the age. But his career was destined to a speedy and tragic termination. Returning to the scene of his former success, he again attempted to jump the Genesee Falls. He made the fatal leap which resulted in his death. This terminated the career of this man, who, like thousands of other, have sacrificed home, friends, and life itself to gratify the morbid curiosity of the populace, and gain their momentary applause.
We pass now to the east side of the river, and find ourselves on the bank of Ten-Mile River, at a point where the Daggett road crosses the river, being the extension of Brook Street. John Daggett, an Englishman, settled here upon a tract originally containing about four hundred acres, in 1680. The homestead building stood a few rods southeast from the present one, which bears date on the wall, of 1700. The place has been in possession of the family since its settlement, and is now occupied by Hannah Daggett. The place adjoining, on the west, was what is known as the Hutton place, and is in possession of John Hyde. The Oliver Bucklin farm joined on the west, and extended to the Pawtucket River. From the falls, running in an easterly direction towards Bucklin Brook, was a cow or bridle path. This was undoubtedly the road that led to the old grist-mill and the good fishing rocks, at an early date, and was the only exit from the town in an easterly direction, until the opening of the present Walcott Street. The Bucklins were, from early times, noted for being great land-owners, from Bucklin Island downward. The Pawtucket lands are supposed to have descended to Joseph Bucklin, who, undoubtedly, built the old stone-chimney house, near Hammond's Pond. This whole tract was styled the Bucklin farm and this pond derived its name from Samuel Hammond, and is now owned by the Dunnell Manufacturing Company, it being raised or dammed, for the purpose of forming a reservoir. Mr. Hammond owned land adjoining, and had a residence located upon its banks, which was built about 1790. The brook running into this pond is called Bucklin Brook, and derives its name from the early settlers by that name.
The first improvements made upon this brook were by Mr. Fitz, who polished gravestones by water-power. He constructed a dam across the stream, at or near where the Dunnell Print-works are now located. The Taunton road over the Ten-Mile River, about two and a half miles from the present granite bridge in Pawtucket, is what was early known as Kent's Mills, but it now bears the name of Lebanonville. This was first settled by a family by the name of Kent. They improved the water-power, and erected a grist and saw-mill, which was subsequently converted into a cotton-mill, which passed into hands of the Pawtucket Bank, in 1843. A blacksmith-shop was also located here in the early part of the present century, and conducted by one Perry. He was killed at Perrin's Crossing, on the Boston and Providence Railroad, some years ago; his son succeeded him, and finally converted the shop into a hame [sic] factory. Mr. W. Gardner located a broom factory here a few years ago, and is now doing a lucrative business. A store on the Massachusetts side of the river is of recent date, and stands near the site of the old Kent homestead.
Between this place and Pawtucket was once the famous Seekonk Plains. Here many sportsmen used to resort and test their skill in shooting plover. It is now, however, laid out into pleasant streets, and many fine buildings adorn this once forsaken and almost worthless tract. These plains were early used as a pasture for sheep, and large flocks were herded here. Here, also, was located the old race-track, that was a source of annoyance to many of the early mill-owners, inasmuch as every time a race was announced, which was not unfrequently, their help were accustomed to leave their duties and repair to the grounds to join in the sports and excitement of the race. They however devised a plan to put a stop to these pastimes, by taking a number of teams and plows and plowing up the track, thus effectually removing this source of their difficulties.
In 1839, Mr. John W. Ashton, foreseeing the future advantages to be derived from the occupancy of such a tract, in so close proximity to such a growing and thriving town as Pawtucket, purchased a considerable portion of the tract now in the vicinity of the town farm. At this time, there were but three houses on the plains. Mr. Ashton at one time offered to donate to the town a piece of land sixty feet wide, for the laying out of a street known as Brook Street; but the offer at the time was rejected by the town. They however laid out a street, irregular in form, and but thirty feet wide. This was thought, at the time, to be of sufficient dimensions for all practicable purposes. Their oversight, however, soon became apparent, and in the summer of 1877 the town was obliged to expend five hundred dollars for the privilege of widening and straightening this thoroughfare. A few years hence the traveller over this rapidly developing plain will find no traces of this once barren and worthless tract; and could the old settler, long since departed, return to the scenes of his early adventure, the surprise at the first view would be lost in the amazement that succeeded it.
Successive steps, facilitating travel between other towns and villages, have, in a great measure, enhanced values, and proved favorable to the town of Pawtucket and the surrounding villages. The earliest effort to improve highways was the construction of bridges over the river and the various streams flowing though the town. It was more than half a century after the settlement of the western village before a bridge was built across the river. The population being small, they lacked the means with which to erect a suitable structure, and the quantity of water in the Blackstone at this early date was less regular than now, and the stream was easily forded just below the falls, in summer, while in winter, the ice formed a free bridge. But as the town increased, and the facilities of trade widened, the subject of a passageway over the river began to be agitated, and the Colony of Rhode Island invited Massachusetts to join her in providing a thoroughfare that should increase the convenience of travel, and thus enhance the business interests of the two towns.
The legislature of the latter Colony, in 1712, took into consideration the subject of building a bridge in connection with the Rhode Island Colony, and, on the 29th of May, they made the following report: 'We are humbly of the opinion, that a place called Pawtucket Falls near the Iron works on said river, is the most suitable place to erect said bridge, and when built [it] may be of benefit of some parts of the Province, especially it will be of service for travelling into the Narragansett country, Connecticut, and New York at all times of the year, particularly in the winter season, when by rising of the water and great quantity of ice coming down the river it is very difficult and hazardous, which if there be a bridge, will make travelling more easy and safe.'
Accordingly the first bridge was erected in 1713, the expense of which was shared by both Colonies. Other bridges have been built from time to time. But as the subject of bridges is treated elsewhere more fully, we forbear further mention of these structures. Some of the early settlers regretted their removal to a point so distant from the main channels of travel and communication, and little thought that along the valley of the Blackstone the railway would bear the tide of immigration, and the burdens of a growing commerce. The earliest public conveyance was a stage-coach running from Providence to Boston. Thomas Sabin was the first to open a stage-route, and he generally went but once a week. After him came a Mr. Robert Currey, and, succeeding him, was Samuel Whipple. This was a slow and tedious way to journey, and if they succeeded in getting through by daylight, they thought it was doing remarkably well. In 1783, they began to run the stage between Providence and Boston twice a week. In 1823, the public demand became so great, that they began to run a local conveyance between Pawtucket and Providence. Horace Field was the first man to run such a conveyance, but was soon after succeeded by Simon Arnold, who continued to transport passengers between the above-named places for several years. At a somewhat later period Mr. Abraham H. Adams established a coach running between Pawtucket and Providence, making his trips twice a day. In August, 1836, Messrs. Wetherell & Bennett established a line of omnibuses, and continued to run them for many years. In June, 1854, Sterry Fry bought the line, and continued to run them until superseded by the horse-cars. In May, 1864, Mr. Hiram H. Thomas completed his arrangements, and the horse-cars began running.
Some time before the omnibuses were taken from the road, and before the horse-cars began to run, the Providence and Worcester Railroad was built, and formed a rival for the local passenger-travel. In 1847, the first engine, bearing the name of Lonsdale, attached to a general train, passed through Pawtucket, and a new era in the transportation of freight and passengers, was at hand. The regular passenger-trains commenced running October 25, of the same year, and thus communication was facilitated, and the low rates of fare on the Providence and Worcester Railroad afforded great convenience to all classes of citizens. The Boston and Providence Railroad was constructed in 1835, and afterwards a branch-road was built from Pawtucket to East Junction, and trains began running in March, 1848. This has since become part of the main trunk. The Stonington steamboat train began running through Pawtucket on the first of May, 1848, and the regular passenger trains on the Boston and Providence Railroad, commenced running on June 12 of the same year. There are at present some sixty-three passenger, and fifteen freight trains passing through this town daily. A branch road having been constructed from Valley Falls to East Providence, which carried freight to deep water, and receives it therefrom, has lessened the number of regular freight trains that formerly passed through the town.
A road has just been completed, starting from the main track of the Providence and Worcester Railroad, between Pawtucket and Providence, and, following the valley, enters upon the grounds of the Messrs. Sayles' extensive bleachery, who built this entire road. The effect of the construction of these roads has been to materially lessen the price of coal, wood, and many other products, while they not only afford a pleasant and speedy transit for passengers, but a convenient conveyance for the transportation of the products of the many manufactories located within the boundaries of the town.
Organization of Pawtucket, Town Meetings, Officers, &c.
The present town of Pawtucket is situated in the northeast part of the State, and lies on both sides of the Blackstone River. It is bounded on the north by Lincoln and Massachusetts; on the east by Massachusetts; on the south by East Providence and Providence; on the west by North Providence and Lincoln. The surface of this township is uneven, consisting of moderate elevations and gentle declivities. The rocks are primitive, and some limestone is found. The prevailing soil is a gravelly loam, which is interspersed with tracts of sandy loam, and some of a calcareous nature. The forests consist of some oak, walnut, and pine. Its agricultural products are grass, hay, corn, rye, potatoes, vegetables, and fruits, the latter of which are especially grown and raised for the Providence market.
This town is noted for its manufactures, particularly those of cotton, which form an important branch of industry. The extent of this business having concentrated a large capital, and an immense aggregate of industry, has given rise to the large and flourishing village known as Pawtucket. The river here affords numerous water-privileges which are scarcely rivalled, for manufacturing establishments of almost every description, and which are to-day largely occupied. This rapid growth of manufacturing and mechanical industries has few examples in this country, and has produced one of the most flourishing manufacturing towns in the State. That part of the town lying on the east side of the Blackstone, was, for a long period of time, a part of Massachusetts; while the portion lying upon the west side of the river has always been a part of the State of Rhode Island, and, for a century or more, was known as the village of Pawtucket, in the town of North Providence.
Before proceeding further with the history of the town of Pawtucket, it will be necessary to go back, and give a brief review of the organization of the towns of North Providence and Seekonk, of which this town formed an integral part up to 1828, that we may be able to better understand the causes that led to the division, and the separate incorporation of the new town of Pawtucket. The original territory of Providence comprised a large tract, and the continual controversies in regard to boundary lines, and the inconveniences attending the going to and from the numerous town-meetings, by many residing in the outskirts of this extensive territory, and the clashing of interests of the different sections, all combined to arouse a feeling of dissatisfaction upon the part of the original proprietors, and a desire for separate town organizations. In order, therefore, to remedy these fast-increasing difficulties, the formation of new towns became a necessity, and the territory of Providence was greatly limited. Several new towns were set off and incorporated as separate townships. Smithfield, Glocester, and Scituate were cut off in 1731; and Cranston and Johnston in 1754 and 1759.
In February, 1765, a petition was sent to the General Assembly, praying for a still further division, and the town of North Providence was soon after formed, embracing the territory known as the fields of Pawtucket. In the course of a few years a village grew up along the western bank of the river, and bore the name of Pawtucket. On the eastern side of the river was the town of Rehoboth, and it was here in this territory that Roger Williams first settled after his flight from Massachusetts. But soon finding that he was still within the bounds of the Plymouth Patent, he crossed the river and began a new settlement, which he called Providence, in recognition of that Divine Power that had thus shielded him from the persecutions of his enemies. In 1812, the town of Rehoboth was divided, and the town of Seekonk became incorporated as a separate and distinct township.
In due time, however, the diversity of interests arising from the rapid growth of manufacturing and mechanical industry, rendered it necessary to divide the town of Seekonk, and accordingly the new town was passed and called Pawtucket. The act incorporating the new town was passed Feb. 29, 1828. The act provided that 'The northwest part of the town of Seekonk, within the following lines, namely, beginning at a bend of the Seekonk River, about forty rods from the mouth of Beverage Brook, so called, thence running a due east course till it strikes the Ten Mile River, so called, thence by said river till it comes to the Attleborough line, including the island of which Kent's factory is situated, also the bridge a few rods north of said Kent's factory; thence westerly on the Attleborough line, till it comes to the Rhode Island line; thence southerly on said Rhode Island line, till it comes to the first corner, with all the inhabitants living thereon, be incorporated into a town by the name of Pawtucket.'
The first town-meeting under this incorporation was held on March 17, 1828, in Rev. Mr. Greene's meeting-house. Oliver Starkweather, Esq., was chosen the first Moderator, James C. Starkweather was chosen Clerk, and William Allen, Treasurer. Messrs. David Buckin, Elijah Ingraham, and Remember Kent were elected Selectmen. At this time the population of the town was about 1,458, as shown from a census taken two years afterward by authority of the General Assembly. For years this town belonged in part to Massachusetts, but its growth in population and the constant increasing of its business interest, seemed to call for a union of the two sections. The inhabitants of both States cherished a certain degree of pride, and many little local jealousies often occasioned a feeling of unfriendliness, and in spite of the many advantages to be derived by a union of the two sections, their consolidation was a matter of considerable doubt for many years. At last, however, the long-standing dispute between the two States, in regard to their boundary lines, was amicably adjusted in 1861, and the town of Pawtucket was ceded to Rhode Island. Soon afterwards the remaining territory of North Providence was subjected to dismemberment, and the people of both towns, by a majority vote, decided to annex one portion to the city of Providence, and the other to Pawtucket. The portion assigned to Pawtucket is as follows:
'Beginning at a point in the centre of the Blackstone River, being the southeasterly corner of the town of Lincoln, and the northeasterly corner of the town of North Providence; and running thence westerly on and with the line dividing said towns of Lincoln and North Providence, to a point on said line eighteen hundred feet west of the east line of the Smithfield turnpike; thence southerly on a straight line to a point on the line dividing the city of Providence and the town of North Providence, as hereinbefore provided, eighteen hundred feet, measured on said line, westerly of the east line of said Smithfield turnpike; thence along said boundary line, and following the same, to the centre of the Seekonk River; thence along the centre of said river, to the place of beginning.'
This act took effect May 1, A. D. 1874, and under this new incorporation the town elected the following members of the town council: Olney Arnold, Claudius B. Farnsworth, John F. Adams, William T. Adams, William H. Haskell, James L. Pierce, and Henry B. Metcalf. General Arnold was elected President, Lewis Pearce, Town Clerk, and George W. Newell, Treasurer. In 1875, the same officers were re-elected, Mr. Metcalf, however, resigning his position before the close of the year. In 1876, a new town-council was chosen, consisting of the following named gentlemen: Isaac Shove, William D. S. Havens, Jude Taylor, Francis Conlin, William H. Haskell, James L. Pierce, and Edwin A. Grout. President, Isaac Shove; Town Clerk, Lewis Pearce; Treasurer, George W. Newell. At the time of the consolidation of the two towns, the population of the new town of Pawtucket was about nineteen thousand. Present board of town councilmen are: Isaac Shove, William R. Walker, Francis Conlin, Darius Goff, William D. S. Havens, George L. Littlefield, Joseph E. Dispeau. Town Clerk, Lewis Pearce; Town Treasurer, George W. Newell.
Early Manufactories and Mills.
Bishop, in his 'History of Manufactures', says, that 'manufacture of iron, including bar and sheet iron, nail-rods and nails, farming implements, stoves, pots, and other castings, and household utensils, iron-works for shipbuilders, anchors and bells, formed the largest branch of productive industry in Rhode Island toward the close of the eighteenth century. A slitting-mill was built on one of the branches of the Providence River. Another slitting and rolling mill, three anchor-forges, two nail-cutting machines, and several other mills and factories carried on by water, were soon after erected at Pawtucket Falls. A screw-cutting machine, hollow-ware furnace, and several forges were also in operation.' We have already seen that iron formed the principal product of manufacture from the very earliest settlement of this territory, and up to the close of the last century was emphatically king in Pawtucket. The Jenckes, the Wilkinson, and many others, engaged largely in the manufacture of iron tools, and machinery of various kinds, in the early history of the town of North Providence, in which was located the thriving village of Pawtucket. After the successful innovations of Mr. Slater and Eli Whitney, cotton became the rival product, and was soon destined to supersede the manufacture of iron. The machines for spinning cotton, invented by Slater & Brown, were found to work satisfactorily, and the perfected machines were set up in a mill erected near the southwest abutment of the bridge that once spanned the Pawtucket. Here, in this mill, with this rude and simple machinery, was commenced the first spinning of cotton in the United States. The bridge has long since been demolished, and the old mill was washed away in the great freshet of 1807. A second mill was erected in 1793, on what is known as Mill Street, and bears the name of the Old Slater Mill. It has been enlarged and improved from its original size. This is the oldest cotton-mill in America. The second mill was built in the town of Cumberland by Elisha Waterman, and was located on what is known as Abbott's Run, opposite the site now occupied by the Cumberland Mills. In 1793, a slitting-mill was built by Oziel Wilkinson, and in the same year a grist-mill was erected by Thomas Arnold.
Pawtucket claims not only the honor of producing the first cotton-mill in the United States, but the first flouring-mill within the borders of her own State. The success attending Mr. Slater's inventions, stimulated this new enterprise of cotton manufactures, and soon others began to look about for suitable locations and privileges, and, in course of time, several cotton-mills were in process of construction. In 1799, the second cotton-mill in this town was erected by Oziel Wilkinson and his three sons-in-law, Samuel Slater, Timothy Greene, and William Wilkinson, under the firm name of Samuel Slater & Co., as appears from an advertisement under date of July 30, 1801. Timothy Greene, of the above firm, originally engaged in the manufacture of shoes, and also added a tannery to his business, as appears from a record made by one of his workmen at the time. He says that during the time he was in his employ, 'we grouned [sic] 200 cords of bark per year, Tanned 1,000 hides and fulled 1,500 for other parties.'
As early as 1791, Mr. Oziel Wilkinson built an air-furnace for casting
iron, and it is said that in this furnace was cast the first wing-gudgeons
known in America, and which were applied to the Slater mill. David
Wilkinson and some others set up a furnace, and were the first to cast
cannon solid. They were bored out by water-power, the drill remaining
stationary while the cannon revolved. To Pawtucket, also, belongs
the credit of producing cannon solid. Dr. Dwight, in his travels
in 1810, remarks: --
'There is no place in New England, of the same extent, in which the same quantity or variety of manufacturing business is carried on. In the year 1796, there were here three anchor-forges, one tanning-mill, one flouring-mill, one slitting-mill, three snuff-mills, one oil-mill, three fulling-mills, and clothiers' works, one cotton-factory, two machines for cutting nails, one furnace for casting hollow-ware, -- all moved by water; one machine for cutting screws, -- moved by a horse; and several forges for smiths' work.'
Thus at this early period, we find Pawtucket in the vanguard of manufacturing interests, and through all the vicissitudes of time, the adversities of trade, and revulsions in business, she has steadily kept pace with the march of events, and to-day finds her in the front line of manufacturing towns in the State. Early in the present century, one John Field, a clock-maker, commenced the casting of brass, and had his shop in the anchor-forge or shop of the elder Wilkinson. Nathaniel Croade, Major Ebenezer Tyler, Oliver Starkweather, Benjamin Walcott, Eliphalet Slack, Dr. Billings, and some others, formed themselves into a company, known as the cotton and oil company, having purchased the oil-mill formerly conducted by Mr. Hugh Kennedy. In 1805, they built what was known as the yellow mill; and in 1813, erected the stone mill. The freshet of 1807 swept away a large portion of these structures, situated on the forge lot, but steps were taken to immediately rebuild them. Elezer Jencks and his sons built the forge-shop; Pardon and Jabez Jencks built the carding-room; and Moses Jancks erected the grist-mill. The basement of the carding-machine building was used for a fulling and snuff mill, while the first floor was used for carding wool. The clothiers' shop was on the corner of Main Street and Jencks Avenue; the basement was used for a coloring-shop; the first floor was used for dressing cloth. Pardon and Jabez Jencks ran the whole business, until the death of Jabez, which occurred in 1817. It was subsequently carried on by other parties until 1821, when it was discontinued, and the building was resigned to trade.
The war with Great Britain, in 1812, while it prostrated commerce and kindred enterprises, enhanced the manufacturing industries of this State, and a fresh impetus was given to cotton manufacturing, and many other branches of trade. In 1810, Oziel Wilkinson built another mill, which is now standing on Mill Street, and is known as the Lefavour Mill. Owing to this fresh impetus in the manufacturing interests of the State, several new cotton-mills were erected, the first of which was built by Wilkinson & Greene, in 1813, and is now occupied by the Dexter Brothers. Another mill is said to have been built in the same year, south of the bridge that crossed the Pawtucket. Kent's Factory was also about this time converted into a cotton-mill.
Subsequently, and during the war, Pardon and Jabez Jencks erected another mill, which was called at a later period the Buffington Mill. This mill was first occupied by Major Tyler. Mr. Taft occupied it next, but was succeeded by Mr. Buffington in 1821, from whom it derived its later name. He engaged in the manufacture of cloth, and ran the mill up to 1844, when it was destroyed by fire. In 1813, Mr. Larned Pitcher began the machinist's trade, and soon thereafter Messrs. Hovey & Arnold became associated with him, and their first place of business was in the new mill on the west side of the river; but they shortly afterwards removed to what was called the yellow mill. A Mr. Gay became a partner in 1819, the other parties having previously retired, and the business was conducted under the firm name of Pitcher & Gay. This Mr. Gay invented a dresser, and also a speeder. He subsequently removed to Nashua, and the business was thereafter conducted by the well-known firm of Pitcher & Brown, and continued until 1842. In 1814, a man by the name of John Thorp, invented a power-loom, to take the place of the old hand-press. This machine was rude in its construction, and was soon superseded by a more complete instrument. Mr. William Gilmore had been at work at Slatersville, and had, while there, attempted to introduce the Scotch loom. This, like Mr. Slater's invention, was but a reproduction of a machine already in use in the old country. The proposition received unfavorable attention, until Judge Lyman, of North Providence, took the matter in hand, and prevailed upon Mr. Gilmore to make the experiment in his mill. The attempt was made, but from some cause or other, the loom did not work satisfactorily. The inventive genius of David Wilkinson was brought to bear upon the subject, and his practiced eye soon discovered the trouble, and he at once set about rectifying it, which he accomplished, and in 1817 the loom was perfected, and a new era in cotton manufacturing began. This newly invented power-loom worked successfully, and hundreds of manufacturers for miles about came to inspect this wonder of the age.
From the successful introduction of this machine, were laid the foundations of thousands of enterprising and thriving manufacturing villages that are scattered within the borders of New England. With the introduction of cotton spinning, came also the necessity of some process for bleaching the yarn; consequently the necessity was provided for, but in a somewhat novel and primitive manner. All that tract of land adjoining the old Slater mill, and lying between Mill Street and the Blackstone, was converted into a bleaching-meadow. Stakes were drives into the ground, and skeins of cotton were stretched from one to the other, while the cloth was spread upon the ground. A large number of persons, usually women, would then take sprinkling pots or pails, and sprinkle the fabrics thus exposed, when, with the application of the drying-sticks, the yarn and cloth assumed a whiter hue. This was a slow process, as it depended a good deal upon the weather; often a long storm, or a protracted period of dull and cloudy weather, would prevent the successful operation of this mode of bleaching. 'Mother Cole', as she is familiarly known, was the manager of this novel bleachery, and her fame is transmitted to the present generation, by the part she took in these primitive operations. Could the old lady return to earth, and pay a visit to the magnificent bleachery at Moshassuck, the thrill of wonderment at the first view, would be lost in the amazement that succeeded it.
The general appearance of this town at the commencement of the present century must have been indeed rude and primitive, when compared with the extensive improvements of the present. There were then but fifty or sixty houses, and these were scattered upon both sides of the river, and, 'like angels' visits, few and far between'. Dr. Benedict, in his historical sketches, gives a graphic description of the appearance of this town when he first visited it, which was in 1804. The only street then on the eastern side of the river was the old road that ran past the Slack Tavern, and out to what is now called North Bend. The main road ran toward Boston, and past the Dolly Sabine Tavern, while a branch led off to the south and run to what is now called South Bend. This street now forms what is known as Main and Walcott streets. On the western side of the river the street now known as Main Street, from the bridge upward, was in those times a low and miry place, and at certain seasons of the year was almost impassable. A large portion of the street was a mere ravine, through which ran a brook. This stream at present is made smaller than then, and runs beneath the surface. Quaker Lane comprised what is now known as East Avenue, from its junction with Main Street, and until quite recently it bore the name of Pleasant Street. This old Quaker Lane was a low and miry place, and in the spring and fall quite impassable. What is now Mill Street was but a narrow land, leading to Slater's Mill. High Street was not laid out at all beyond where the high school building now stands, and even that was but poorly cared for.
There was but one meeting-house, and it occupied a site near where now stands the First Baptist Church. The old red school-house was among the edifices of this early period, and stood not far from the old meeting-house. This old school-building formed the nucleus of all public gatherings, and doubtless many scenes have been enacted here, the record of which, if preserved, would be of interest to the present inhabitants. The population was but limited and the facilities for business small, when compared with the present. Thus is briefly sketched some of the pioneer establishments. We have found their record honorable, and the town of Pawtucket may feel a just pride in her manufacturing interests, not only for their past reputation but their present excellence.
Taverns and Hotels.
The nucleus of a village was always a tavern, a mill, or a store, and in general all these were pretty thoroughly occupied. In these days we are very liable to undervalue country taverns. In a newly settled country they are usually the pioneers, and oftentimes the house of the first settler becomes, of necessity, an inn or lodging-place for the weary traveller. As settlement increases and travel extends, the tavern becomes a place where gather the seller and buyer, and becomes, as it were, a real estate office, in which transactions are made, land bought or sold, and various other kinds of property transferred one to another. The scarcity of newspapers, and the lack of a post-office, not unfrequently render the country tavern the centre of information for those who are shut out from tidings of the world by a residence in the interior, far away from the busy marts of trade. Town meetings are often held here, and thus brought into communications with each other, the facilities for general information are increased. Tables of population may indicate growth of numbers, but lineal history deals in specialties.
We begin with taverns which had an early existence, and base our record upon the most authentic sources in our possession. Tradition tells of an old tavern that once stood on the western side of the Blackstone River, close to the old ford. It afforded entertainment to many a traveller in those early days, and doubtless many scenes were enacted there that would be of historical interest to the present, had they been preserved in the annals of tradition. Another of these ancient public houses stood near the present site of the extensive machine-shops now occupied and owned by Captain Brown. It bore the name of Martin House. It was originally built for a private residence, by one Captain Comstock, but it subsequently was converted into a tavern and was presided over by a Mr. Constant Martin. The sign placed in front of the house consisted of two posts, between which was suspended the portrait of Oliver Cromwell, and it was often jocosely remarked that 'Martin has hung the Protector'. This old place has long since passed away, and the memory of the old house has perished from the present generation. Still another tavern, although of later date, stood on the corner of Main and Broad streets, opposite the present fine and commodious Benedict House. The old building, or at least a portion of the old building, is now standing. It has been overhauled and repaired so often that it has lost much of its original appearance. Enough yet remains, however, to impress one with the antiquity of its architecture. It was built by the Rev. Maturin Ballou, father of the Rev. Hosea Ballou, a prominent clergyman of the Universalist denomination. This house was in use during the Revolution, and was kept also by Mr. Martin.
On the corner of the present High Street, David Ballou built a public house, which was occupied as a tavern for many years. It was subsequently removed and a building erected, known as the Lefavour Block. Mr. David Wilkinson also built a hotel, in 1813, at the corner of Main and Mill streets, and it was occupied as a place for public entertainment for nearly a half-century. These places were all upon the west side of the river.
We now pass to the east side and find the hotel occupied by Colonel Slack. It was situated on the side of the rectory of Trinity Church, and was quite a noted place in those early days. It afforded entertainment to many a distinguished guest, as well as to the humble traveller. Washington and his suite, it is said, received entertainment here when on their way to Boston; and here, too, the patriot Lafayette found shelter when on his way to New York. About the commencement of the present century, Colonel Slack erected the hotel now standing on Broadway, and occupied it for many years as a public house. The Dolly Sabine House is another ancient edifice in which the weary traveller could always find a good supper, and a comfortable night's lodging. Two sisters, named respectively Dolly and Molly Sabine, removed from Providence and bought this property in the early part of the present century, made some extensive improvements, and opened it as a public house. It had a spacious garden, which was adorned with choice fruit and flowers, and thus attracted much company. The old house still stands, and although the once genial hostess has long since departed, her name and memory are embalmed in the many pleasant reminiscences of this ancient edifice.
Of the present hotels, the Benedict House is by far the most prominent and popular. This splendid edifice was erected in 1871 by a company, and is at present presided over by the genial and very courteous proprietor, Mr. Bailey. It is a fine and commodious building, having forty rooms for the accommodation of guests, all of which are large and well-ventilated, and furnished and fitted up with all the modern improvements. This is said to be one of the best hotels in the State. Horse-cars pass the door every fifteen minutes, and it is less than two minutes' walk to the Providence and Worcester Railroad depot, from which trains run to the city every half-hour. In connection with this hotel is a fine shaving and hair-dressing establishment, conducted by the very gentlemanly proprietor, Mr. Christian Kollet. Mr. Kollet is an excellent workman, and keeps everything in connection with his business, usually found in a first-class tonsorial establishment.
Post-offices and Mails.
The first post-office in Pawtucket was established in the year 1806, with Otis Tiffany as postmaster. He held the position from 1806 until 1831. He was succeeded by a Mr. David Benedict, whose term of service extended over a space of some thirteen years, or until 1844. He was also succeeded by Mr. Frederick A. Sumner, who held the office until 1849. From 1849 to 1853 it was under the management of Thomas Lefavour. He was succeeded by Mr. Joseph T. Sisson, who occupied the position until 1858. Charles A. Leonard succeeded him, retiring in 1861. Charles E. Chickering held the office from 1861 until 1865, when the present incumbent succeeded him, and continues in its possession up to the present time, a fact that speaks well, not only for his integrity and business qualifications, but his popularity as postmaster.
Although it was always the Pawtucket post-office, it was kept in the town of North Providence until 1874, when consolidation took place. Mr. Perrin, the present incumbent, is the only citizen of the town of Pawtucket that has ever been appointed to the position of postmaster. When Mr. Perrin took the office, in 1865, there was but one mail daily to New York, two to Boston, two to Providence, and one to Worcester. There were then but six hundred boxes, while there are now some thirteen hundred in the new office. Twenty-two mails are received and despatched at this office daily. The average number of letters sent out fro this office daily, is seventeen hundred; while the average number received daily, is about eighteen hundred. This office, in all of its departments, is conducted with a wise economy, and, under the management of its gentlemanly head, together with his courteous and obliging assistants, this institution has a destiny of success in the future.
The Newport County Reading Room Index More Biographies and History.