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

History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical

NY: The American Historical Society, Inc. 1920

p. 405 - 408:

WATERMAN FAMILY  --  Colonel Richard Waterman, immigrant ancestor and founder of the Waterman family of New England, was a passenger to America in the fleet with Higginson in the year 1629, and having been sent as an expert hunter by the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, although tradition brought forward at various times has stated that he came in the same ship with Roger Williams, with whom he later joined his fortunes. The family bore coat-of-arms as follows:

Arms  --  Or a buck's head cabossed gules.

Richard Waterman settled in Salem, Mass., where he became a member of the church.  He soon fell into disrepute in the Salem settlement because of his sympathy with the views of Roger Williams, and in March, 1638, followed Roger Williams to Providence, having been banished from Salem.  In Providence in the same year he was the twelfth among those to whom were granted equal shares of the land that Williams received from Canonicus and Miantonomi.  After a period of years he joined with Randall Holden, Samuel Gorton, and others, in the purchase of a large tract on the western shore of Narragansett Bay from Miantonomi.  Here was commenced the settlement of Shawomut, which afterward became known as Warwick.    Richard Waterman did not removed thither, however, but remained in Providence. He endured with the other purchasers of that property the losses and persecutions which fell upon the small colony through the unjust claims of Massachusetts to the district.  In 1643 the Massachusetts authorities sent a squad of soldiers to arrest the leaders of the colony, and carried them prisoners to Boston, where many of them were imprisoned for several months. Richard Waterman suffered the confiscation of part of his estate by order of the court in October, 1643, and was bound over to appear at the May term following.  His companions  barely escaped the death sentence, while the sentence pronounced against Waterman at the General Court was as follows:  'Being found erroneous, heretical and obstinate, it was agreed that he should be detained prisoner till the Quarter Court in the seventh month, unless five of the magistrates do find cause to send him away; which, if they do, it is ordered that he shall not return within this jurisdiction upon pain of death.' After his release, however, he took an important part in securing justice for the Warwick settlers.  The long controversy was eventually settled by a decision of the English authorities in favor of the rightful owners who had purchased the land from Miantonomi. Waterman held possession of his valuable property in Providence and in old Warwick, bequeathing it to his heirs, whose descendants have been numerous and prominent and influential in Rhode Island affairs to the present day.

He was a prominent church officer, a colonel of the militia, and a man of great force and fine ability in large affairs.  In 1639 he was one of the twelve original members of the first Baptist church in America. Richard Waterman died in 1673.  A monument to his memory has been erected by some of his descendants on the old family burying ground on the corner of Benefit and Waterman streets, Providence.  His wife Bethiah, of whose family no trace has been found, died December 3, 1680.

(II)  Resolved Waterman, son of Colonel Richard and Bethiah Waterman, was born in 1638.  He only lived to attain the age of thirty-two years, but he had risen to the distinction of deputy to the General Court in 1667, being then twenty-nine, and gave great promise of a life of usefulness and honor. He died in 1670.  Resolved Waterman married, in 1659, Mercy Williams, who was born in Providence, R. I., July 15, 1640, the daughter of Roger Williams.  Mercy Williams Waterman married (second) January 8, 1677, Samuel Winsor, and died in 1707.

(III)  Ensign Resolved (2) Waterman, son of Resolved (1) and Mercy (Williams) Waterman, was born in Providence, R. I., in the year 1667, and in 1689 settled in what is now the town of Greenville, R. I.  He served as ensign of militia for many years, and in 1715 represented the town in the General Assembly.  He died January 13, 1719.  Ensign Resolved Waterman married (first) Anne Harris, born November 12, 1673, daughter of Andrew Harris, and granddaughter of William Harris, the founder of the family in America.

(IV)  Colonel Resolved (3) Waterman, son of Ensign Resolved (2) and Anne (Harris) Waterman, was born in the town of Smithfield, R. I., March 12, 1703.  He built the Greenville Tavern in 1733, and was a man of importance who in the records is dignified with the title of Esquire. He represented Smithfield in the General Assembly in May and June, 1739, and in May and October, 1740, and May and October, 1741.  He died July 15, 1746.  He married, September 20, 1722, Lydia Mathewson, daughter of John and Deliverance (Malavery) Mathewson, who was born in Providence, June 7, 1701.

(V)  Captain John Waterman, son of Colonel Resolved (3) and Lydia (Mathewson) Waterman, was born in 1728.  He became a ship owner and sea captain, sailing his own ships to China and other foreign countries. He was known as 'Paper Mill John', from the fact that he built one of the first paper mills in America.  He was an early and extensive manufacturer not only of paper, but operated a fulling mill, a woolen cloth finishing mill, and a chocolate factory.  In 1769 he engaged in printing and publishing.  His enterprises brought him great gain, and he was rated among the wealthiest men in the State, part of his wealth consisting of slaves.  His property and personal estate were inherited by his only son, his daughters receiving only their wedding outfits.  He died February 7, 1777.

Captain John Waterman married, January 17, 1750, Mary Olney, who was born in 1731, died September 5, 1763, daughter of Captain Jonathan and Elizabeth (Smith) Olney, her father the founder of Olneyville, R. I., her mother a daughter of Christopher Smith.  Mrs. Waterman was a granddaughter of James and Hallelujah (Brown) Olney, and a descendant of Chad Brown.

John O. Waterman(VI) John Olney Waterman, son of Captain John and Mary (Olney) Waterman, was born May 28, 1758.  He inherited and spent his father's large estate in his short life of thirty-eight years.  He became a member of St. John's Lodge, No. 1, Free and Accepted Masons, in 1779, as soon as he was eligible (twenty-one years), his name being the ninety-third to be enrolled a member of this body, which is the oldest lodge in Rhode Island. He died February 18, 1796.

John Olney Waterman married Sally Franklin, who was born in February, 1762, a woman of strong character, a great beauty and belle.  She was the daughter of Captain Asa and Sarah (Paine) Franklin, and was related to the Benjamin Franklin family.  Captain Asa Franklin was ensign of the First Light Infantry, of Providence county; ensign in June, 1769, of the Second Company, Providence Militia; ensign, May, 1770; ensign in August, 1774, of Providence County Light Infantry; lieutenant in May, 1789; September, 1790; May, 1791, June, 1792; May, 1793, rendering a military service long and honorable. Mrs. Sally Franklin Waterman, widowed at the age of thirty-four years, married (second) Edward Searle, of Scituate, R. I.  She spent the last twelve years of her life with her son, John Waterman, and died June 5, 1842, aged eighty years.

John Waterman(VII)  John Waterman, son of John Olney and Sally (Franklin) Waterman, was born in Providence, R. I., March 22, 1786, and lived to the great age of ninety-three years.  He was educated in the public schools, and then began to learn the carpenter's trade.  After a few months he entered the employ of his uncle, Henry P. Franklin, a cotton manufacturer, and finding the milling industry greatly in accordance with his tastes and ambitions, he remained and became an expert not only in cotton mill management but in the building of machinery for the mill.  In 1808, in partnership with Daniel Wilde, he contracted with Richard Wheatley to operate his cotton mill at Canton, Mass. In connection with the mill was a machine shop equipped for repairing and rebuilding machinery, which was an important adjunct to the business during the three years the partnership existed.  For a time thereafter, Mr. Waterman continued alone in the manufacture of machinery, but in 1812, in association with his uncle, Henry P. Franklin, he built and put in operation the Merino Mill in Johnston, R. I.  This mill, with a capacity of fifteen hundred spindles, was run for seven years with Mr. Franklin as financial head, Mr. Waterman acting as manufacturing agent.  In 1819 Mr. Waterman leased the Union Mills, in which he had first learned the business.  He suffered considerable loss in the operation of the Merino Mill, and to finance the Union Mill purchase and outfitting he borrowed $20,000 of Pitcher & Gay, of Pawtucket.  Four years later, so profitable had the venture been, that after paying Pitcher & Gay he had a handsome balance to his credit.

For the next three years he was resident agent for the Blackstone Manufacturing Company, but health failing, he resigned and went south, although there he acted as purchasing agent for the Blackstone Mills and also as salesman. For ten years he remained in the south, located at New Orleans, acting as cotton broker for northern mills, associated part of that period with Thomas M. Burgess, of Providence.  In 1829 he returned to Providence, and that year built the Eagle Mills at Olneyville, R. I.   Mill No. 1 began operations in the spring of 1830, and in 1836 Mill No. 2 was completed, Mr. Waterman continuing their operation until his retirement in 1848.

Mr. Waterman was initiated in St. John's Lodge, No. 1, Free and Accepted Masons, May 1, 1822, and raised to the degree of Master Mason the following November.  He became a companion of Providence Chapter, No. 1, Royal Arch Masons, February 27, 1823; a cryptic Mason of Providence Council, Royal and Select Masters, No. 1, January 29, 1824; and a Sir Knight of St. John's Commandery, No. 1, Knights Templars, February 7, 1825. He was in sympathy with the Baptist church, although not a member, and it was largely through his generosity that the Baptist church in Olneyville was built.

John Waterman died at his home in Johnston, R. I., to which he had retired after leaving the business world, October 26, 1879.

He married, in Canton, Mass., in 1809, Sally Williams, who was born March 1, 1787, and died suddenly, April 10, 1862, daughter of Stephen Williams, and a lineal descendant of Roger Williams.

John Waterman(VIII) John Olney (2) Waterman, son of John and Sally (Williams) Waterman, was born in Canton, Mass., November 4, 1810.  In infancy he was brought to Johnston, R. I., and all his life was a true and loyal son of Rhode Island in all but birth.

He was educated in the public schools and Plainfield (Conn.) Academy, early beginning work in the cotton mills.  He was clerk in the store operated by the Merino Mills in 1827-28-29, leaving in the last year to become agent for the Eagle Mills, owned by his father, at Olneyville. He continued in that capacity until 1847, when he was engaged to build and operate the first cotton mill in the town of Warren, R. I., for the Warren Manufacturing Company.  From that time until the present, the name of Waterman has been connected with successful cotton manufacturing in Warren.  From the completion of the first mill, Mr. Waterman maintained official relation with the Warren Manufacturing Company as treasurer and agent, devoting thirty-three years of his life to its affairs, seeing the single mill of 1847 grow to three large mills equipped with 58,000 spindles and 1,400 looms, weaving sheetings, print cloths, and jaconets.  The second mill was built in 1860 from the profits of the first, and the third in 1870 from the profits of the first and second mills, the company later increasing its capital stock to $600,000.

Mr. Waterman, during his Providence residence, served as a member of the Board of Independent Fire Wards.  In 1845 he was elected to the Rhode Island Legislature from Providence, and reelected in 1846, serving with honor.  In 1848 he moved his residence to Warren, R. I., and there his great business ability, his conservative managerial talents and his sagacious financiering made him a leader.  In 1855 he was elected a director of the Firemen's Mutual Insurance Company of Providence; in 1860 a director of the newly organized Equitable Fire and Marine Insurance Company; in 1868 a director of the Blackstone Mutual Fire Insurance Company, organized that year; and in 1874 of the newly formed Merchant's Mutual Fire Insurance Company, holding these directorships until his death. He was equally prominent in Warren's banking circles; in July, 1855, he aided in organizing Sowamset State Bank, and was chosen a director; also was made a director of the First National Bank of Warren upon its organization in 1864, and was elected vice-president in 1866, serving in that office until his death; was one of the founders of the Warren Institute for Savings, and in 1870 was chosen a trustee; in 1875 was elected a director of the Old National Bank of Providence, and later and until his death was its honored president.  He was identified with other interests and institutions, among them the Providence Board of Trade.  He was a friend of every deserving person or enterprise, and freely gave them his aid.  In fact, 'he represented that class of men whose untiring industry, superior national gifts and strict integrity place them at the head of the great manufacturing interests for which Rhode Island is justly celebrated.'

John Olney Waterman died at his home in Warren, April 24, 1881, all business in the town being suspended on the day of his funeral, in respect to his memory.

He married (first) in 1838, Caroline Frances Sanford, who died in 1840, daughter of Joseph C. Sanford, of Wickford, R. I.  He married (second) June 26, 1849, Susan Johnson Bosworth, born March 22, 1828, died in Warren, March 16, 1897, daughter of Colonel Smith Bosworth, of Rehoboth and Providence, and his wife, Sarah Tripp.  Mrs. Waterman is buried with her husband in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence.  The children of John Olney and Susan Johnson (Bosworth) Waterman were:  1.  Caroline Frances Waterman, who was born in Warren, R. I., July 9, 1850; she married, March 2, 1908, Arthur Henry Arnold, of Providence, who died April 24, 1913. (See Arnold IX).  2.  John Waterman, of whom further.

(IX)  John Waterman, son of John Olney and Susan Johnson (Bosworth) Waterman, was born in Warren, R. I., January 11, 1852.  He was educated in a private school in Warren until thirteen years of age, then spent six years in Warren High School, leaving at the age of nineteen years to enter the business world in which his forefathers had won such high reputation and such sterling success.  He inherited their strong business traits, and although but forty-eight years were allotted him, he bore worthily the name and upheld the family reputation.

Upon the death of his honored father, in 1881, he succeeded him as treasurer of the Warren Manufacturing Company, and at the time of his death was a director of three of Warren's four banks and connected with banks and insurance companies of Providence.  In 1895 the three mills of the Warren Manufacturing Company were destroyed by fire, and from the ruins arose one magnificent mill with the capacity of the former three, a splendid monument to the Watermans, father and son, to whom the wonderful success of the company was due.  For many years John Waterman emulated the example of his sire in the interest he took in the George Hail Free Library, and all public affairs of Warren.  He was a member of the building committee in charge of the erection of the town hall, and at the time of his death chairman of  a committee for increasing school facilities.  He was for many years colonel of the Warren Artillery, and was past master of Washington Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons.  From boyhood he had been an attendant of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, of which he was confirmed a member; had been a member of the church choir, had served as an officer of the Sunday school for thirty-one years, for twenty-four years was a vestryman, and for eleven years junior warden.  He personally superintended the improvement and enlargement of St. Mark's Chapel, a movement he inaugurated and generously supported.  He possessed the Waterman energy; vacations were almost unknown to him; and although the possessor of great wealth he was one of the most democratic of men.  Kindly and genial in nature, he mingled freely with all classes, preserved the strictest integrity in his dealings with all, and in all his enterprises exhibited remarkable persistency and tenacity of purpose, laboring faithfully and unceasingly.

John Waterman married, December 17, 1884, Sarah Franklin Adams, who survived him, and married (second) April 4, 1904, Rev. Joseph Hutcheson, of Columbus, Ohio.  John Waterman died at his home in Warren, R. I., December 21, 1900

p. 408 - 409:

OLNEY FAMILY  --  Thomas Olney, immigrant ancestor and progenitor of the Rhode Island Olneys, was born in Hertfordshire, England, in 1600, and prior to the time of his emigration to the American Colonies had resided in the town of St. Albans, where he followed the trade of shoemaker. On April 2, 1635, he embarked in the ship 'Planter' from London for New England, bearing from the minister of St. Albans the certificate of conformity to the Church of England.  The records state his age as thirty-five at the time.  The Olney coat-of-arms is as follows:

Arms  --  Or, three piles in point gules, on a canton argent a mullet sable.
Crest  --  In a ducal coronet or, a phoenix's head in flames proper, holding in the beak a laurel branch vert.
Thomas Olney was accompanied by his wife and two sons, Thomas and Epenetus. He settled first in Salem, Mass., where he was admitted a freeman, May 17, 1637, and in the same year received a grant of land.  In January, 1636, he had been appointed a surveyor and been granted forty acres of land at Jeffrey Creek, now known as Manchester, Mass.

He early became associated with those who accepted the views of Roger Williams, and on March 12, 1638, was banished from the colony with a number of others of the latter's followers.  He accompanied Mr. Williams to the new settlement, and on October 8, 1638, was one of the twelve men to whom Roger Williams deeded equal shares with himself in the Providence lands.  He became one of the 'Original Thirteen Proprietors of Providence.' In July, 1639, he and his wife and their companions were excluded from the church at Salem, 'because', wrote, Rev. Hugh Peters, of Salem, to the church at Dorchester, 'they wholly refused to hear the church, denying it and all the churches in the Bay to be true churches.'  In 1638 Thomas Olney was treasurer for the town of Providence.  In 1639 he was one of the twelve original members of the First Baptist Church. He became one of the most prominent men in the new colony.  In 1647 he was one of the commission to form a town government.  In 1649-53-54-55-56-64-65-66-67, he held the office of assistant, and in 1656-58-59-61-63-64 was commissioner. On February 19, 1665, he held lot 23 in a division of lands.  In 1665-67-70-71 he was deputy to the General Court, and in 1665-66-69-70-71-74-77-81, was a member of the Town Council, again in 1669 filling the office of town treasurer.  In 1645, with Roger Williams and Thomas Harris, he was chosen a judge of the justice court, and in 1656 was chosen to treat with Massachusetts Bay in the matter of the Pawtucket lands; in 1663 his name appears among the grantees of the Royal Charter of Charles II.  He was one of the wealthiest men of the colony, and had a large real and personal estate.  His homestead stood on North Main street.  Thomas Olney died at the age of eighty-two years, and was buried  in the family graveyard in the rear of his dwelling.  In 1631 he was married, in England, to Marie Small, and they were the parents of seven children, among them Epenetus, mentioned below.

(II)  Epenetus Olney, son of Thomas and Marie (Small) Olney, was born in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England, in 1634, and accompanied his parents and brother Thomas to New England in 1635.  He resided in Providence all his life, and kept a tavern there.  In June, 1662, he was appointed with others to get the timber out and frame a bridge which was built over the Mashassuck river.  On February 19, 1665, he had lot eighty-seven in a division of lands.

Like his father, he also rose to prominence in civic affairs, in Providence, and in 1666-76-84-86 was a deputy to the General Court.  In 1688 his ratable estate was two hundred and seventy acres, 3 1/2 shares of meadow, house and lot, three acres within fence, five acres tillage, 2 horses, 1 mare, 4 cows, 4 oxen, 2 yearlings, 5 swine, 23 sheep.  In 1695-96-97 he was a member of the town council.  On January 27, 1696, he and others were granted a lot measuring forty feet square for a school house. Epenetus Olney died June 3, 1698, and administration on his estate was granted to his widow Mary and son James.  He married, March 9, 1666, Mary Whipple, daughter of John and Sarah Whipple, who was born in 1648, and died in 1698.

(III)  James Olney, son of Epenetus and Mary (Whipple) Olney, was born in Providence, R. I., November 9, 1670.  He married, August 31, 1702, Hallelujah Brown, daughter of Daniel and Alice (Hearnden) Brown. He held the rank of captain in the militia.  On February 26, 1740, James Olney and other Baptists were given permission by the Assembly to meet on the first day of the week in the County House in Providence to worship during the pleasure of the Assembly, upon security being given to the sheriff to repair all damages.

James Olney died October 6, 1744.  His will, dated September 2, 1744, was proved November 19, of that year, and names his wife Hallelujah as executrix.

(IV)  Jonathan Olney, son of James and Hallalujah (Brown) Olney, was born in Providence, R. I., March 9, 1710.  He also held the rank of captain in the militia, and was  a prominent man in early Providence. He was the founder of the town of Olneyville, R. I., which was named in his honor.  Captain Jonathan Olney married Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Christopher Smith.  They were the parents of Mary, mentioned below.

(V)  Mary Olney, daughter of Captain Jonathan and Elizabeth (Smith) Olney, was born in 1731, and died September 5, 1763.  She married, January 17, 1750, Captain John Waterman.


These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project. Transcription and pictures 2001-2 by Beth Hurd

Mail e-mail