|Hazard, Thomas R. (Thomas Robinson), 1797-1886|
Thomas Robinson Hazard was a South Kingstown manufacturer, agriculturalist, author, and social reformer who embodied the egalitarian spirit of the pre-Civil War age of reform.
Affectionately called “Shepard Tom” because of his prize sheep herd, Hazard was a seventh generation descendant of Thomas Hazard, the progenitor of the famous Hazard clan of Rhode Island and one of the nine founders of Newport. He was also the grandson of Thomas Hazard (1720-1798), an eighteenth-century South County Quaker abolitionist called “College Tom” because of his advanced study at Yale, and the older brother of Rowland Gibson Hazard (1801-1888), a noted Peace Dale woolen manufacturer, railroad promoter, and writer on philosophical subjects.
Thomas Robinson Hazard grew wealthy as a South County sheepraiser and woolen goods magnate. By his forty-third birthday he had amassed a fortune sufficient to retire to Vaucluse, an estate in Middletown. His leisure and money also enabled him to promote various reform causes and pursue a religious passion called “modern spiritualism.”
Shepherd Tom served as vice president of the American Colonization Society, an organization to relocate freed blacks to Liberia; wrote an influential state-sponsored report in 1851 on the poor and insane that prompted several institutional reforms; led the successful 1852 fight for the abolition of capital punishment in Rhode Island; espoused women’s suffrage; worked to upgrade the public schools; undertook relief efforts to aid the Irish victims of the Great Famine; and wrote in opposition to slavery and war. In his early eighties he penned Recollections of Olden Times, a work that casts a rich afterglow on nineteenth-century life in South County while also providing genealogies of the fascinating Hazard family. The Jonny-Cake Letters, a collection of his discourses, appeared in 1882.