George T. Downing, abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City on December 30, 1819 into a prominent, well-to-do African-American family. His father Thomas Downing was a restauranteur, whose Oyster House was a gathering place for New York’s aristocracy and politicians. Under his father’s guidance, young George participated in the Underground
Tag: Founders of Rhode Island
Stephen Hopkins, 1707-1785, was Governor of Rhode Island for ten years and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Historians rate him as “one of the most illustrious citizens Rhode Island has ever produced. Stephen Hopkins.John Hagen, 1999, Brown University Portrait Collection.
William Blackstone (1595–1675) was born in Whickham, Durham, England, the son and namesake of a wealthy landowner and poultryman whose surname was also spelled “Blaxton” or “Blackston.” Young William earned his AB and MA from Emmanuel College of Cambridge University in 1617 and 1621, respectively, and he then became an ordained clergyman of the Anglican
Senator William Bradford (1729-1808) was a fifth-generation descendant and namesake of the famous governor of Plymouth Colony. He began his career as a surgeon, but after his arrival in Bristol in the late 1750s, Bradford left medicine and turned to a new profession in the law, and was admitted to the bar in 1767. He
Chief Massasoit, also known as Ousamequin, (ca. 1581- 1661) was born in present-day Rhode Island. As chief sachem of the Wampanoag nation, he befriended the Pilgrims at Plymouth, taught them farming methods, and joined with them in a 1621 thanksgiving feast. He was a cordial host to the original Pilgrim settlers and sheltered Roger Williams
Dyer, Elisha, 1811-1890 Governor Elisha Dyer (1811-1890) and Governor Elisher Dyer, Jr. (1839-1909) traced their illustrious ancestry to William and Mary Dyer of Boston who settled Portsmouth in 1638 as exiled disciples of Anne Hutchinson. They eventually embraced Quakerism, and Mary repeatedly returned to Boston to preach the new doctrine in defiance of the Puritan
Roger Williams (1603?–1683), Rhode Island’s most famous personage, was born in London, the son of James Williams, a merchant, and Alice Pemberton. Remarkably, the precise year of his birth is unknown, and Williams himself gave conflicting accounts of his age. As a very young man, he broke with the Anglican state church and joined the
John Aldrich Saunders, Jr. (1808-1882) was the central figure, chronologically and symbolically, of the noted South County family of boat builders, marine entrepreneurs, and seamen. He was born in Newport, the grandson of Stephen Saunders, a shipwright, and the son of Captain John Aldrich Saunders (1786-1832), who built one of the first three-mastered schooners and
Samuel Slater, 1768-1835, an English-born textile operative and inventor, has been called the “Father of American Manufacturing”. He migrated to Rhode Island from Derbyshire in 1789, and, in concert with Rhode Island investors and craftsman, built and activated spinning frames at Pawtucket Falls that were modeled on those of English inventor Richard Arkwright. On December
Nehemiah Dodge, 1769-1843 was a pioneering Rhode Island industrialist whose craft was that of “manufacturing jeweler”. He is generally regarded as the principle founder of Rhode Island’s costume jewelry industry. His most famous apprentice was Jabez Gorham (1792-1869), founder of the internationally renowned Gorham Manufacturing Company.
Dr. John Clarke (1609–1676) was the son of Thomas and Rose (Kerrich) Clarke. He was born in Westhorpe, Suffolk, in 1609, the fifth of seven children (according to a listing in the family’s Geneva Bible) and the third of five sons, four of whom ultimately settled in Newport. He was probably married to his first
William Coddington (1601–1678), principal founder of Portsmouth and Newport and governor of Rhode Island, was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England. By his thirtieth year, he had achieved substance and position. In 1630, at about the same time as John Winthrop’s arrival, he came to America as an assistant (director) in the Massachusetts Bay Company as
Henry Marchant1741-1796 from Newport and South Kingstown, was a well-educated intellectual and a protege of Ezra Stiles. Marchant, a prominent attorney, was an ardent Son of Liberty, a delegate to the Continental Congress, a leading Federalist and Rhode Island’s first federal district judge.
Gregory Dexter, 1610-1700, was one of London’s finest printers who became the printer for Roger Williams. He served Rhode Island during several crises and was elected President of the colony. He established a lime quarry in Lincoln that is one of the oldest continuous businesses in America.
Mary Dyer was the wife of William Dyer of Somersetshire, England, with whom she came to Massachusetts in the mid-1630s. According to Massachusetts governor John Winthrop, Mrs. Dyer was “a very proper and fair woman,” and both she and her husband were well educated. During the Antinomian controversy that rocked the Bay Colony in the
William Harris (1610-1681) had a reputation among colonial Rhode Islanders for stirring up controversy. In his lifetime, he was the instigator of numerous lawsuits, and he was charged and indicted for tumults and high treason – and subsequently released. While Roger Williams and John Clarke may vie with each other for the title of “founder
Massasoit Metacomet, 1639-1676, was also known as King Phillip. He was the Sachem of all Sachems from the Royal House of the Pokanokets of the Wampanoags. A native patriot who tried to preserve his own civilization and his people’s autonomy in the face of overwhelming odds. He died during the King Phillip War on the
Reverend Samuel Newman, 1600?-1663 was a learned clergyman and the first prominent settler of present-day East Providence. He was acclaimed for his studies of the King James Bible, and established the Newman Congregational Church in what is now the Rumford section of East Providence. He has not received as much acclaim as other Rhode Island
Captain Thomas Willett,1605-1674, was the principal early settler of Wannamoisett (present-day Riverside and northern Barrington). As a trusted friend of the natives he bought large tracts of land from them. He later became the first Mayor of New York City after helping to wrest it from the Dutch.
Samuel Cranston, 1659-1727, of Newport, was a statesman and governor of Rhode Island for almost twenty-nine years–1698-1727–a tenure not only longer than any Rhode Island governor but also exceeding the tenure of any other chief executive of an American colony or state. Cranston presided over the transformation of Rhode Island from a beleaguered cluster of
Silas Downer, 1729-1785, was a prominent Providence attorney and civic leader, author, scrivener, and leader of the patriot cause. He has been called Rhode Island’s “Penman of the Revolution.” Downer’s most patriotic treatise was a 1768 Discourse delivered in Providence repudiating Parliament’s Declaratory Act. This essay has been cited as the first significant challenge to
Samuel Ward,1725-1776, of Westerly, co-founder of America’s first party system, governor, chief justice, and Revolutionary War leader. He was the son of Rhode Island governor and gentleman farmer Richard Ward (1740-1742). He joined his great political rival Stephen Hopkins as the two Rhode Island delegates to the Continental Congress in the movement toward independence. Only
William Barton (1748–1831), of Warren and Providence, was a Revolutionary army colonel whose most notable exploit was leading a daring raid in July 1777 to seize General Richard Prescott, the commander of the British forces occupying Aquidneck Island. Born in the town of Warren, the son of Benjamin and Lydia Barton, William Barton received a
Leonard J. Panaggio of Newport was one of Rhode Islands all-time leaders in the promotion of tourism to the Ocean State. Few, if any, before or since, have done as much to promote Rhode Island, and especially Newport, as a tourist destination. Len worked so diligently in the tourism field not only because of his
William Ellery (1727–1820), merchant, congressman, chief justice, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the son of prominent Newport merchant William Ellery and Elizabeth Almy. His well-to-do father sent him to Harvard, from which young William graduated in 1747. He then embarked on a mercantile career, but when his father’s death in 1764 left
Normally sportscasters ” with such notable excep- tions of Chris Schenkel and Chris Clark ” do not gain accep- tance to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, but if one is a sportscaster for seven decades, the voice of the Rhode Island Reds for a quarter-century, the longtime coach of youth sports in his
Some individuals have been recognized for Hall of Fame induction because of the success and prominence of their business creations. Joseph Banigan, in whose building we conduct this ceremony, is one local example. He was a co-founder of U. S. Rubber Company (Uniroyal) and its early president. Today we honor another creator of a mam-
Stephen Olney (1756–1832), of North Providence, was one of Rhode Island’s most distinguished and longest-serving officers during the War for Independence. He was a fifth-generation descendant of Thomas Olney, a joint proprietor with Roger Williams in the settlement of Providence. In 1774, at the age of eighteen, Stephen Olney became a private in a newly
Ebenezer Knight Dexter, 1773-1824, prominent Providence merchant and a United States marshal who became Providence’s greatest philanthropist. In his will he bequeathed nearly 2.3 million square feet of land to Providence for aid to the poor and other civic purposes including the training of militia. His most notable gifts were the Dexter Asylum and the
Dr. Solomon Drowne, 1753-1834, a noted physician, graduated from Brown in 1773 with Senator Theodore Foster (1752-1828). He returned to Rhode Island from his far-flung travels in 1801 to settle in Foster. His estate, called Mount Hygeia, after the Greek goddess of health, became the setting for many botanical experiments and the formulation of several
Theodore Foster, 1752-1828, a lawyer and long-time state legislator, served as town clerk (1775-1787) and supported the movement for independence. He was a prominent advocate of the federal Constitution. His efforts in support of ratification, together with his advantageous marriage to the sister of Governor Arthur Fenner, gained him election as one of Rhode Island’s