History of Woonsocket [Rhode Island], page 5

Rhode Island Reading Room

History of Woonsocket

by E. Richardson
Woonsocket: S. S. Foss, Printer, Patriot Building, Main Street, 1876.

p. 86 - 99.



This chapter has rather a pretentious title, but the reader need have no apprehension that he will be taken into waters beyond his depth.  He will not be called upon to brush the dust from his Greek Lexicon, or to revive his acquaintance with his old friend Horace.  It will be a sufficient exercise of his memory if he recalls some of the floggings which he received and merited in his school days, and a satisfactory tax of his mental powers, if he takes the trouble to read my simple narrative.

Those who have made Woonsocket what she is, have been plain and practical men.  They have been to much occupied in subduing the wilderness, in building mills and in earning a living, to consume much time in discussing Greek verbs, or in quarrelling over Latin idioms.  But in the midst of their labors, they have not lost sight of the duty which they owe to their children and their country, and have contributed largely to the cause of education.

The Quakers, from whom flow nearly all of the good and perfect gifts in the early history of Rhode Island, after erecting their meeting-houses proceeded to establish schools in various localities.  I quote the following from their records:
6th mo., 1771.  It is thought necessary yt poor children be schooled. 4th mo., 1777.  Moses Farnum, Moses Brown, Thomas Lapham, Job Scott, Elisha Thornton, Samuel Aldrich, George Arnold, Antepast Earle and David Steere are appointed to draw up a plan for establishing a free school among Friends.

The following sixth month, the committee present their report to the meeting, recommending:
1.  That the donation of Rachel Thayer be appropriated towards the support of a school.
2.  That subscriptions be received at each preparative meeting.
3.  That a teacher be procured at once.
4.  That a committee to judicious Friends be appointed, their duties to be - 1, To select a place or places for the school from time to time; 2, to agree with teachers; 3, to inspect the poorer sort of Friends' families, to determine who shall be schooled from the fund; 4, to raise and forward subscriptions; 5, to make rules and regulations; 6, to receive the income of the Rachel Thayer donation; 7, to act and transact all other matters and things belonging to the school.

The meeting accepted the report, and appointed the following-named persons as probably the first School Committee of Northern Rhode Island:  Thomas Steere, Moses Farnum, David Steere, Moses Brown, Ezekiel Comstock, Benjamin Arnold, Rufus Smith, Daniel Cass, George Smith, Samuel Aldrich, Gardner Earle, David Buffum and Thomas Lapham, jr.

The philanthropical zeal of the Quakers awoke such an interest in educational matters, that measures were taken at the beginning of the present century to establish a school which should be free to all.  This was partially accomplished, but was finally defeated by those for whom it was designed.  By a vote of the ignorant backwoodsmen of Smithfield, many of whom were unable to write their names, the first Free School in these regions was brought to an end.  In the years 1800 and 1801, the town of Smithfield appropriated $2,200 for free schools.  This was divided among twenty-four schools.  At the August town meeting in September the vote was 'repealed'.  Is it strange that the same intelligent freemen should have 'vandued' the poor of the town to the lowest bidder, and have rejected the constitution of the United States by a vote of 159 to 2.*

*R. I. Col. Rec., Vol. X, page 275, say 158 to 2.  But the records of the town of Smithfield say as above.

But by the efforts of the women in these parts, a Free School was finally successfully inaugurated, and the enterprise continued for several years.  A public library was also in existence at Woonsocket during the first thirty years of the present century.  About the same time a library was established in Northern Cumberland.  It was known as the 'Social Library'.  But the private schools of Woonsocket in the last generation are all that it is worth while to say much about.

A short time previous to the Revolution, a young man of studious habits and amiable disposition became a citizen of this part of the world.  From a natural impulse to benefit his fellow-men, and for the purpose of earning a living, he devoted a large portion of his time and of his dwelling-house to the cause of education.  He had an ample field before him, for the ignorance of the inhabitants of Smithfield at that time was only equalled by their narrow-mindedness.  The language and the penmanship which recorded their highways, as well as the highways themselves, were an abomination in the sight of the Lord.  The poor immigrant was treated as a criminal, and invariably ordered out of the town.  If he returned, it would then be voted that the 'transhunt person' either be whipped or 'suffer corporal punishment by being fined', or allowed to 'remane', provided he behave 'hisself'.  I find the following 'prescriptions' among the papers of a celebrated physician of those days:

'Jonathan should wash and hold his feet some time in warm water; then bleed, then put on the plaster on his feet, go to bed with the bed warmed; also with a blister plaster on the back side of his neck, and then the blister is near don running, then take the pills, two of them just before bed, about as big as a middleing pee, if they work five times once in three nights; and if it doth not work much every other night.  Also, steep burdock rotes, biter sweet rotes and lovage - steep them for a drink.  So when gone threw with, then gow a short voiage to see.'

I have been unable to ascertain whether or not Jonathan went to 'see'.  Next comes a 'surrop' for the Rickets:

'One gil of easworms, petemorel rotes; one handful of rock leather, low polepode rotes; solomon's seal rotes, learge polepode rotes, cunefry rotes, hemlock bark from the rote on the north side of the tree', etc.

But they, who are most in need of education, appreciate it least.  Elisha Thornton, who was the young teacher to whom I have referred, would have starved had he depended solely upon the patronage of his neighbors.  Nay, his very mental attainments caused him to be regarded with suspicion and dread.  His telescope and his globe, by which he illustrated the grand harmony of the universe, aroused the superstitious fears of the ignorant boors in the vicinity to such an extent, that they expostulated with him for teaching the 'black art'.  The Thornton Academy was located near the present village of Slatersville.  The fame of this school was as extensive as it was well deserved, and pupils came from distant regions to be mentally and morally enlightened by the great and good man who presided over it.  Among these was John Osborne, who came from New Hampshire, and afterwards made Woonsocket his home.  The sterling virtues of this many are too well remembered to this day to require other than a passing allusion to him from my hands.  Elisha Thornton was at the head of this school for thirty years, the existence of which was terminated about the beginning of the present century, by the removal of its principal to New Bedford.

About this time schools were started in various places hereabouts.  The inhabitants of 'neighborhoods' united, built school-houses, and employed teachers from time to time.  The L of Deacon Stephen Hendrick's house at Union Village, what is now a barn on the Brownell estate, and what is now the wood-house of Elisha Read, were once temples of knowledge.  A school-house was where now stands the blacksmith shop of Proctor Brothers, at the Globe, and another was located at the 'Daily Hole'.  In addition to these, the father of Otis Bartlett procured students from Brown University to teach at his house, admitting the children of his neighbors to share his liberality.  Although some of the teachers in these institutions were - to use the language of a pupil in one of them - too stupid to get a living by any other means, still they kept the people from lapsing into barbarism.

This brings me to a point in my narrative, where I am permitted to speak of an institution of learning which had its seat among the inhabitants of these regions, and which they have reason to remember with particular pride and satisfaction - whose facilities for teaching and illustrating the various branches of sciences were at one time beyond that of any academy in New England; whose cabinet of minerals and chemical and philosophical apparatus were equal to those of Brown University; among whose teachers have been men, well known in after life to fame and honor; and among whose pupils are many who have become justly celebrated in science, art and literature - I refer to the Smithfield Academy.

The movement to erect the building was started about the year 1810.  The method of raising funds for the enterprise was by a lottery.  The first class resulted in failure.  The second class, started by George Aldrich and others, was more successful, but the money thus raised was insufficient to complete the work, and the balance was finally adjusted by Joel Aldrich.  The building eventually became his private property, but he leased the same at a nominal figure.

The building was erected in 1811, and in the Autumn of that year, David Aldrich, the son of Joel, became the first teacher therein.  This man is spoken of as a deep student and a successful teacher.  He died in 1814.  From then until 1830 there was no permanent teacher therein.  Spindle-shanked pedagogues, and soft-haired students - pedants and coxcombs tried their hands in the teaching line, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.  Among the successful teachers were John Thornton, a son of Elisha, George D. Prentice, afterwards of the Louisville Journal, and Christopher Robinson.  Of the unsuccessful teachers nothing need be said.

In the Fall of 1830, James Bushee commenced his labors therein, which continued until 1853, when the career of the institution was brought to an end.  The building has since been removed.  A beautiful grove of linden trees, planted by the last teacher within its honored walls, is all that now remains to mark its ancient site.

An institution of learning had its seat at Cumberland Hill during the first part of the present century, which demands a passing notice.  It was called the Cumberland Academy.  This, like its sister on the opposite side of the river, was favored with teachers who left the marks of their labors upon the hearts, the minds, and sometimes the backs of their pupils.

Among its numerous teachers I find the names of Dr. Ariel Ballou and Ira B. Peck, Esq., who about fifty years ago presided therein.

To the former gentleman Woonsocket is largely indebted for the active interest which he has always taken in the promotion of all good works.  As a leader and counseller (sic) in educational matters, a stern and inflexible advocate of needed improvements, and of  honesty and economy in the administration of town, State and national affairs, his name will be long held in grateful remembrance.

Mr. Peck is more retiring in his habits.  He seldom if ever mingles in the turbulent arena of politics.  He seems to be content that others should lead in social matters.  But he is far from being indifferent to true progress and reform.  To those who know him best his heart and his intellect are fully alive to the problems of the hour.  His influence in promoting the industrial and the moral growth of the village has been silent, but it has been powerful.  Like most men of this kind, he is best known outside of his immediate neighborhood.  As an antiquarian and geneologist (sic) he ranks among the first of New England.  To him I am most deeply indebted for material of which this work is composed.  He has given to the world a most valuable production in his geneology of the Peck family, and is now engaged upon an account of the Ballou family, which aside from its family record will contain matters of interest to every student of Rhode Island history.

Among the pupils at the Cumberland Academy, was Thos. A. Jenckes.  His career is too well known throughout the country for me to say other than as a boy, he was never a boy.  He was Thomas A. Jenckes, Esq., always.  Dr. Ballou, who was one of his teachers, describes him as the most thoughtful boy whom he ever knew, and that in times of seeming idleness and indifference his mind was always at work.

Willis Cook and his brother, Lyman A., were also pupils at this institution.  Of these distinguished Woonsocket citizens I shall much to say further on.

At last the people began to awaken to the fact, that a free school is one of the necessities of a free country, and to take measures to place the advantages of education within the reach of all.

The present town of Woonsocket was made of two school districts of old Smithfield, and six school districts of old Cumberland.

When about half a century ago these districts were formed, the inhabitants were but a step above barbarism.  Many of the school committee were rude in manner and in speech, and many of the pupils were so vulgar, uncouth and savage, that one of the chief requisites of a successful teacher was a good muscular development, in order to keep his school within the limits of common decency.  The discipline of these ancient institutions may be inferred from the fact, that the capacious spitboxes which polluted many of the school-houses were inadequate to contain the floods of tobacco juice which would run down and stand in pools in the centre of the rooms.

The Smithfield districts were the Globe and the Bernon.  The first public school-house in the Globe District was built about the year 1841.  Up to 1858 the school was supported in this building chiefly from the fund distributed by the State.  It was therefore limited to a short Summer and a somewhat longer Winter term.  At this time the progressive men in the district succeeded in awakening the public mind to such an extent, that an appropriation was made and a teacher engaged at a salary of $500 per annum.  The old house has recently been abandoned.  The new school-house on Providence street was dedicated April 22, 1875, with appropriate exercises.

The Bernon district has not until this year been the proprietor of a school-house.  A beautiful and substantial brick edifice now crowns one of the hills of this locality.  It will be ready for the reception of pupils at the beginning of the Fall term.  Although the district has not owned a house it has not gone far behind its sister districts in educational facilities.  Since 1832 it has leased a building of the Woonsocket Company, in which schools have been kept that have been an honor to the town.  In fact at one time the Bernon district was the banner district of Woonsocket.

The Cumberland portion of Woonsocket, comprises what is now the educational as well as the business centre of the town, and deserves an extended notice.

In the year 1828, the town of Cumberland was divided into sixteen school districts. Three of these districts, which were afterwards increased to six, comprise the Cumberland portion of the town of Woonsocket.

District No. 1, comprised what was then called the village of Woonsocket, which was the region extending from the 'Falls' to the 'Social'.

District No. 2, comprised the 'Social' and Jenckesville.

District No. 3, comprised what is now known as the 'Union' district.

There were no 'Trustees' in those days.  The school committee was composed of a man from each district who performed the duties that were afterwards assigned to Trustees.

At the first meeting of the school committee, the Jenckesville portion of district No. 2, was set off therefrom and designated No. 17.  At the same session the money received from the State was apportioned as follows:  One-half equally among the several districts, and the remainder according to the number of pupils.  The following table will show the sums received by the Woonsocket districts at that time, and other matters which may be of interest:

Districts.      Committee.              Pupils.     Money.
1                Dexter Ballou,          198         $70.83
2                Smith Arnold,             70          43.74
3                Reuben Darling,          81          46.84
17              Nelson Arnold            74          44.80

In August, 1838, a new district was fromed from No. 1, and designated No. 19.

Districts.      Committee.              Pupils.      Money.
1                 Eli Pond,               194          $116.79
19              Ariel Ballou,           145            100.37
2                Melville Knapp,      304            153.64
3                Welcome Cook,       82              79.27
17              Albert Jenckes,         75              76.92

July 8, 1839.  It was voted by the School Committee that 'An Exameing Commitee (sic) be appointed to consist of five, who shall examine all teachers in the branches of reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammer and geography, who shall apply to them for examenation, and that said Commitee shall give to each, as by them shall be thought qualified, a certificate of approbation, and no teacher shall be entitled to pay, untill they obtain a certificate, and that Ariel Ballou, Benjamin Fessenden, Fenner Brown and Arnold W. Jenckes be said Committee.  The Secretary was Fenner Brown.'

January 13, 1840.  It was reported that district No. 2 had no school-house and no public property; that there was a house owned by private parties which had been used for school purposes, but that it was too small for the accommodation of all the pupils.

June 8, 1840.  It was voted in town meeting that the Examining Committee shall consist of three persons, and be paid one dollar for the examination of schools and teachers, provided that they shall be engaged one-half a day.

At the meeting of the School Committee on January 13, 1840, a new district was formed from No. 2 (making the second division of this district) and named No. 20.  This completes the six Woonsocket districts.  I will now give a tabular statement of schools at Woonsocket, from 1840 to 1845 inclusive.

Districts.      Committee.              Pupils.      Money.
1                Abner Rawson,        183          $121.09
19              Ariel Ballou              160            113.28
2                James M. Cooke     152             110.56
20              Joseph Smith           184             121.44
3                Olney Burlingame      67               81.60
17              George Jenckes         81               86.42

1               Abner Rawson,         187           $137.70
19              L. A. Cook,             183             136.24
2                John Boyden, jr.,      139             119.31
20              Linus M. Harris        125             113.91
3                Jonathan Sweet          68              91.98
17              Nelson Jenckes          87              98.29

1                Barton Darling ,       187           $135.89
19              George N. Wiatt      183             135.00
2                John Boyden, jr.       139             117.81
20              Seth L. Weld            180             136.57
3                Olney Burlingame        75              93.61
17              Nelson Jenckes           90              99.46

1                Barton Darling,          183          $143.80
19              Dan. King                  182            143.40
2                John Boyden, jr.         145            128.60
20              John A. Corey            201            150.89
3                Charles Smith               83            104.15
17              Nelson Jenckes            86            105.46

1                John Bartlett, jr.,         233          $182.42
19              Aaron Rathbun           168            153.52
2                John Boyden, jr.         160            149.97
20              John B. Tallman          210            172.19
3                Welcome Cook             81           114.85
17              Nelson Jenckes             80           114.41

1                B. E. Borden              250          $207.92
19              Ariel Ballou                171            167.97
2                John Boyden, jr.         171            167.97
20              John B. Tallman          257            208.39
3                Welcome Cook            69            120.03
17              Nelson Jenckes             81            125.07

During this year the act was passed authorizing the several districts to elect a Clerk, Treasurer and three Trustees.

June 8, 1846, the school committee met at the inn of E. L. Cook, and organized under the new law.  The president was Dr. Ariel Ballou, the Secretary was John Boyden.

Friday, November 30, 1849, the electors of Districts 1, 19, 2 and 20 met for the purpose of organizing these four districts into one, which has since been known as the 'Consolidated District'.  The movement to this end was started in 1846.  The school officers of this consolidation in 1849 were:

John Boyden, Moderator.
Olney Arnold, Clerk.
Elijah B. Newell, Treasurer.
Christopher Robinson, Trustee
Bethuel A. Slocumb, Trustee
Robert Blake, Trustee

The pupils, etc., were as follows:
Districts.                   Average Attendance.       Money.
1       \                                81 3-4                  $244.48
19        \ Consolidated        78 1-2                    238.04
2          /                              101                        282.62
20      /                                 98                         276.67
17   Jenckesville                   24                          130.00
3     Union                       35 1-2                        152.88

This consolidation was a great victory for the friends of education, for thereby the schools could be graded and a High School established.  The High School building was in process of erection during the years 1848-9.  It was built on land kindly given to the district by the Hon. Edward Harris, and cost about $8,000.  The District has been favored with donations from two other liberal-minded persons, namely - Dexter Ballou, who bequeathed fifteen shares of Providence & Worcester Railroad stock to the 'secondary' or Grammar School of Woonsocket; and Mrs. Rachel F. Harris, who gave the district thirty shares of the same stock.  The 'High School house' was destroyed by fire on the morning of October 16, 1875.  A new and more substantial edifice is now being erected on the site of the old building from plans drawn by William R. Walker, of Providence.  The builder is Hon. Nathaniel Elliott.  It will cost $25,350.

Among those who have labored earnestly and wisely for the advancement of popular education at Woonsocket, I think that I may safely allude to Rev. John Boyden without awakening a feeling of jealousy in a single breast.  His name first appears in 1841, and for a quarter of a century it continued to adorn the school records.  The veneration and respect with which his memory is held at the present day is a sufficient evidence of his zeal and philanthropy.

A movement is now on foot to consolidate all of the districts of the town.  That this may be consummated at an early day, is the earnest wish of every true friend of educational progress.

Aside from its public schools, the town enjoys the use of a magnificent building through the munificence of the late Edward Harris.  Here the Woonsocket Lyceum holds its meetings, a public reading-room is daily visited, and a large and well-selected library is opened to all.  A portion of this library was originally a distinct organization, and named in honor of its most liberal benefactor, Mr. Edward Carrington.  This was afterwards annexed to a library founded and endowed by Edward Harris, and the whole now bears the name of the 'Harris Institute Library'.

Since the inauguration of the public school system, a great advance has been made in educational matters.  The rude and poorly-constructed school-house has been supplanted by the well-arranged and elegant edifice; the race of pedagogues has become extinct, and the pupils have been brought within the restraints of civilization by means more effectual than the ancient birch.  This advance has had its effect upon society.  Literature and art have come up to a higher plane, in order to keep pace with the requirements of the age.  The daily newspaper is now the guest of nearly every household.  The music of Strauss has driven out the noisy jigs of our ancestors, and the squeaking fiddle has lost its olden charms.  Whether our youngsters are better that they appear to be wiser, or whether the softening influences of culture and refinement have tended to make society more virtuous and more patriotic, I shall not stop to discuss.  I have only to say, in conclusion, that Woonsocket has reason to congratulate herself for the mite which she has contributed during the last century for the cause of education, and to feel that she has fairly earned the applause of the Christian, the philanthropist and the patriot!"

p. 100- 120.



Although Woonsocket was a Quaker settlement, it was not exempt from warlike experiences and preparations.  Indeed, it was first settled when King Philip and his tribe were engaged in their revengeful struggle, and its first settlers were honored with military titles - one being 'Capt.' Richard Arnold, and the other being 'Ensign' Samuel Comstock.*  Whether or not any outrages were committed in this immediate vicinity at that time I have been unable to ascertain;** but tradition speaks of a skirmish which took place between the whites and Indians a short distance from the 'Daily Hole Woods'.

*August 9, 1710, Captain Samuel Comstock ordered Henry Mowry, of the 2d Company, to impress men to go with him to Port Royal.

**On the estate now owned by Stafford Mann, Esq., a few miles south from here, two houses were destroyed by King Philip in his northward march.  One of these was occupied by a man by the name of Fox, a weaver.  When, many years ago, an out-building to the Mann house was being erected, traces of the fire-place to one of these houses were discovered.

During subsequent Indian troubles in these regions, the garrison was erected on the summit of 'Fort Hill, some twenty rods north-east of the Arioch Comstock house, in which families sheltered themselves and their flocks, and set watch to protect them from incursions from the Indians.'* *From ancient MSS, kindly loaned me by Miss Esther Osborne.

It was also during this period that the following military company was in existence:

Capt. Jonathan Mowry
Lieut. Ananias Mowry
Ensign Thomas Arnold
Clerk Samuel Aldrich
Surgeon John Philips
Surgeon Nathaniel Staples
Surgeon Aaron Herenden
Sergeant Henry Blackmore
Sergeant Richard Sayles, jr.
Sergeant Thomas Hereden
Sergeant John Sayles, jr.
Corporal John Harris
Corporal Obadiah Herenden
Elisha Mowry
John Melavory
Francis Hereden
Thomas Walling
Moses Arnold
William Bates
John Mann
Joshua Philips
Ezekial Goldthwaite
Ebenezer Thornton
Jos. Arnold, jr.
John Mowry, minor
William Comstock
John Philips
Daniel Philips
Stephen Sly,
Jabez Brown
Edward Bisnap
Edmund Arnold
Thomas Lapham
Israel Wilkinson
Philip Logee
anthony Comstock
Elisha Arnold
Noah Herenden
Amos Sprague
Jos. Cooke, jr.
Daniel Sayles
Gideon Comstock
Benjamin Thompson
Nathaniel Mann
Moses Mann
Samuel Cook
Daniel Arnold, jr.
Thomas Beedle
John Blackman, jr.
Elisha Dillingham
George Wilbour
Thomas Cruff
Thomas Cruff, jr.
Richard Sayles, jr.
Joseph Buffum
Benjamin Paine
Oliver Mann
Andrew Mann
Ebenezer Howard
Ezekiel Mowry
Stephen Inman
John Knox
Seth Cooke
John Comstock
John Alrich, minor
John Aldrich, jr.
Samuel Sprague
Samuel Bassett
Jeremiah Brown
Samuel Tucker
Abel Inman
John Mann, jr.
Sylvanus Sayles
Richard Aldrich
Enoch Arnold
Benjamin Buffum, jr.
Nathan Paine
Benjamin Buxton
Jeremiah Ballard
Daniel Mann, jr.
James Weatherhead
Daniel Cass
Joseph Hicks
James Buxton
Jonathan Arnold
Daniel Sprague
Caleb Callom
Job Philips
Peter Cooke
Roger Darbey
Joseph Lapham
Ezekial Sayles
Daniel Walling
Benjamin Cooke
Hezadiah Comstock, jr.
Uriah Arnold
Samuel Goldthwaite
James Bassett
Theophilus Blackman
Daniel Comstock, jr.
John Harris
Richard Spencer
Henry Aldrich
Elijah Aldrich
Samuel Fisk
Nathan Staples
Richard Arnold, jr.

The above company was a 'home guard', but in looking through the records of old Smithfield, I find that two members of this company subsequently enlisted in the regular army and died at Cape Breton.  These two were Caleb Callom and Jabez Brown.  The former died at the place mentioned in January, 1746, and the latter about that time.  I also find the names of two others who lost their lives in this conflict, namely:  Richard Lewis, died sometime during the year, and Eleizer Arnold, who died Oct. 26, 1746.

2.  The next war was that which is spoken of as the 'Old French War'.  In this conflict Elkanah Speare was Lieutenant in one of the Rhode Island regiments.  This man was the husband of Daniel Arnold's granddaughter, and the grandfather of Arnold Speare, to whose virtues many of our citizens will bear willing testimony.  The following despatch from Col. Samuel Angell tells its own sad story:

Camp Fort Edward, July 22, 1757.

'Mistress Speare:
With  reluctance, I give you the following account:  One the 11th inst. your husband died, after a few days illness, of the small pox.  His clothing and other things I have had inventoried and shall ship them round to Providence by the first opportunity.
 From your friend,  SAMUEL ANGELL.'

I find on the Smithfield records an allusion to one other victim of this struggle.  It is to the father of Thomas Newman who enlisted and afterwards died in His Majesty's service.  This Thomas Newman, who July 7, 1760, was sixteen years of age, was the grandfather of Mr. Benjamin Newman, now a thrifty farmer in the vicinity of Albion, R.I.

3.  In the war of the Revolution but few of the inhabitants of these parts were active workers.  Their conscientious scruples prevented them from being ardent patriots.  The records of the Quaker society at this place, and those of the town of Smithfield, show that many were deprived of official positions in consequence of their lukewarmness.  Among these I find the name of Arnold Paine, the grandson of John Arnold, from whom the office of Town Treasurer was taken in November 1776, for refusing to sign the 'Test Act'.  But the freemen of the town could not long afford to dispense with the services of so honest and able a man, and in 1779 he was elected to the Town Council, in which he acted for many years.  Many others, who, during these exciting times were regarded with unnecessary suspicion, both before and after the war, were honored with the respect and confidence of their fellow townsmen.

But there was one citizen of these parts whose patriotic zeal was equal to the emergency, and whose eminent abilities were appreciated not only in his immediate neighborhood, but in the councils of the nations.  I refer to Judge Peleg Arnold, to whom reference has been made in a preceding chapter.  In spite of the atmosphere of his surroundings, and of the averseness of the major part of the inhabitants to warlike preparations, the news from Lexington and Concord aroused his indignation, and with all the enthusiasm of his nature, in the Spring of 1775 he began the work of recruiting soldiers for the coming struggle.  At a town meeing held at his house, June 26, 1775, a committee was chosen to select 'one hundred fire arms at once and put them in proper shape fit for battle'.  One-third to be lodged at the dwelling house of Capt. Joseph Jenckes, one-third at the house of Col. Elisha Mowry and the remainder at the house of Peleg Arnold.  In 1780 he was chosen Lieutenant Colonel of the 2d battalion of Providence County.  In 1786 he was elected delegate to Congress and was continued four years in the position.  In 1790 he was chosen Assistant Governor of the State.

I select at random the following items of Revolutionary interest from the records of the town of Smithfield*:

*Among some ancient papers I find the following letter which in these centennial times may be thought worth preserving:

'Smithfield, August 26, 1776
Mr. Wm. Shelden, Sir:
I am ordered by Col. Slack, to give you notice, that the troops is called and will meet at Mr. Larned's on Thursday next, at nine o'clock in the morning, and I order you not to fail of time and place.  This from  BENJAMIN HUBBARD.'

Sept. 16, 1776.  It was voted to raise thirty-nine men to march to Newport.  Men well accoutred to receive a bounty of 48 shillings, and men without arms 36 shillings.

June 1, 1778.  Soldiers received a bounty from the town of 35 pounds, and from the State of 20 pounds.  They were furnished with a uniform coat, 2 waist-coats, 2 pairs breeches, 3 shirts, 3 pairs stockings, 2 pairs shoes, 1 hunting shirt and 1 pair of overalls.

June 24, 1780.  It was voted to raise 35 men and pay them a bounty of 50 silver dollars each.

One silver dollar at the time was equivalent to seventy-two old Continental dollars.

In 1779, the General Assembly ordered that the town of Smithfield, deliver thirteen cords of wood per week from January of that year to April 1st, inclusive.  I think the matter of sufficient interest to give the apportionment of this requisition among the land-holders of the town:

Silvanus Sayles 1 cord.
Eleazer Mowry   1 cord.
John Whipple    1 cord.
William Whipple 2 cord.
Elisha Olney                10 cord.
Joseph Whipple  5 cord.
Nehemiah Sheldon        3 cord.
Jonathan and A. Arnold  7 cord.
Jonathan Arnold 2 cord.
Thomas Jenckes  2 cord.
Lydia Brown             3 cord.
Enoch Angell lot        2 1/2 cord.
Oliver Angell lot       2 1/2 cord.
David Harris            5 cord.
Jeremiah Smith  5 cord
Daniel Wilbur   1 cord.
Henry Jenckes   1 cord.
Daivd Harris, jr.       1 cord
Daniel Angell   3 cord.
Rufus Smith             2 cord.
Charles Angell  4 cord.
Jeremiah Harris 2 cord.
Richard Harris, jr.     2 cord.
Jonathan Harris 1 cord.
Preserved Harris        1 cord.
James Shelden   1 cord.
Jeremiah Scott  3 cord.
Jonathan Sprague lot   3 cord.
Benjamin Smith  3 cord.
Oliver Arnold   1/2 cord.
John Angell             1/2 cord.
Joseph Jenckes  1 cord.
John Jenckes    1 cord.
Luke Arnold             2 cord.
Nathaniel Arnold        2 cord.
Samuel Day and Yeates 4 cord.
Samuel Keach    1 cord.
Daniel Whipple  2 cord.
Ephraim Whipple 2 cord.
Abraham Keach   2 cord.
Joseph Angell lot       2 cord.
Ezekial Angell  3 cord.
Job Angell              3 cord.
Abner Harris            2 cord
Jabez Harris            2 cord.
Stephen Brayton 1 cord.
Benjamin Ballard        1 cord.
John Smith, jr. 2 cord.
Daniel Smith            1 cord.
Elisha Mowry, jr.       2 cord.
Emer Smith              3 cord.
Cushing farm    1 cord.
Enoch Barnes    5 cord.
Robert Latham   2 cord.
Elisha Smith            3 cord.
Nebadiah Olney  2 cord.
Stephen Farnum  2 cord.
Jos. Spaulding and Son  2 cord.
Ahab Wilkinson  2 cord.
Jonathan Dexter 1 cord.
Samuel Dexter   1 cord.
Stephen Whipple 2 cord.
Edward Thompson 1 cord.
Thomas Newman   2 cord.
Simeon Arnold   1 cord.
Knight Dexter   1 cord.
Daniel Mowry, jr.       1 cord
Joshua Arnold   1 cord
Samuel Arnold   1 cord
Samuel Winsor   6 cord.
John Winsor             3 cord.
George Streeter 2 cord.
David Bowen     1 cord
John Mann               1 cord.
Caleb Aldrich   1 cord.
Ezekiel Angell, jr.     1 cord.
Benjamin Medbury        1 cord.
John Smith (3d) 1 cord.
Job Aldrich             1 cord.
James Appleby, jr.      1 cord.

4.  The last war with the mother country did not awaken sufficient enthusiasm in these parts to give Woonsocket a place either in its records or its traditions.

5.  The next war is that which is known to the poet and the historian as the 'Dorr War'.  It is unnecessary, and would be irrelevant (I came very near writing 'irreverent') for me to trace the causes of that ever-memorable conflict, the antiquity of which, in the language of one of my enthusiastic critics, reaches back nearly to the times of Charles II.  But it will not be out of order, I trust, for me to give the copy of a resolution adopted by the freemen of the town of Smithfield, August 28, 1792:  'That the Representatives be instructed to move at the next General Assembly that a convention be appointed to make a constitution for the State.'

I am fully alive to the fact that at this point in my narrative I am about to step upon forbidden ground.  During this exciting period the history of Rhode Island contains two apartments.  If the historian enters at all, he must cross the threshold of the 'Dorrites' or the 'Algerines', and in either event he is sure to be tossed in a blanket.  There is something irresistibly funny in the thought that the bare mention of the word 'Dorr' contains such potency.  It almost makes one to have faith in the Oriental miracle, wherein it is said that the rubbing of an old lamp would call up genii and hobgoblins from the bowels of the earth.  But I beg of the reader that he will allow me to go around the sacred edifice and simply warble at the outer gate the immortal epic of Mr. John Damphney.  It is as follows:
'Laban Wade,
With his brigade,
And Landers with his cannon' --

Some liken this song of Mr. Damphney to that of the three wise men of Gotham, and urge that had his bowl been stronger, his song would have been longer.  Others insist that the bowl of Mr. Damphney was strong enough and his song long enough.  Many are of the opinion that the brevity, or rather the magnificent incompleteness of the work was its crowning glory, whereby its author chose to excite the imagination and the vanity of his audience.  On the other hand, it has been insinuated that the Pegasus of Mr. Damphney balked at the third line, and was unable to surmount the obstacle of the word 'cannon'.  But there is too much evidence of poetic fire in the master-piece which I have quoted, for me to believe that its illustrious author was deficient in rhyming power, or that his production was other than it was intended to be - the epic of the Dorr War.  And so, for the purpose of showing his detractors the many sources from which the poet might have drawn, rather than to mar the beauty of his work of genius by attempting its completion, I will take it upon myself to supply the wanting rhyme.  My 'poem' will consist of three cantos and be named


Laban Wade,
With his brigade,
And Landers with his cannon,
For Mr. Dorr
They went to war -
Foot soldier, horse and man on,.

Laban Wade
With his brigade,
And Landers with his cannon,
With spade and hatchet
Took Chepachet,
Kettle, pot and pan on.

Laban Wade
With his brigade,
And Landers with his cannon,
 From Acote's hill
Through Burrillville,
They ran, and ran and ran on.

The Algerines were not so fortunate as their adversaries in having a Mr. Damphney to celebrate their achievements.  But the plan of their campaign was a masterly conception, and deserves a place in history if not in song.  One of their armies - which for want of a better name we will call the Army of the Blackstone - was stationed at Woonsocket for the purpose of guarding the village and to cut off the retreat of the Dorrites, when the armies of the Woonasquatucket and of the Pawtuxet had driven the rebels from their strong hold at Chepachet.

On the ever-memorable 27th of June, when the 'lurid halo seemed to surround the sun', of which Mr. King speaks in his 'Life and Times of Thomas W. Dorr', intelligence was received that the Dorrites were marching on Woonsocket, 'six hundred strong'.   Then 'There was hurrying too and fro, and mounting in hot haste.' Sheet-iron shutters were placed in the windows of 'Holder's Block', piercing with loop-holes, and everything made ready to give the audacious rebels a warm reception.  The fun of the thing was, that upon the arrival of the scouts confirming the report, the Army of the Blackstone was immediately ordered to fall back to Manville, and poor Woonsocket was left to its fate!  The next morning, after ascertaining, probably, that the danger was all over, or that there had been no danger whatever, the army marched back to Woonsocket again, looking as brave and warlike as ever.

Up to this time, in the language of Col. Brown's famous despatch from Acote's Hill, there had been 'none killed and none wounded'.  The war was practically at an end.  Gen. DeWolf and Col. Comstock could now beat their swords into pruning-hooks, and Welcome B. Sayles retire from the turbulent scenes of diplomacy to the more peaceful pursuits of trade.  All was quiet on the Pawtuxet, the Woonasquatucket and the Blackstone.  But the Algerines had got on their war-paint.  They had realized the terrors of battle without tasting its ecstasy; they had endured the suspense of waiting for an approaching enemy, and had undergone the hardship of running away.  To return to their wives and their sweet-hearts - to resume their year-sticks and their pen-wipers, to remove their epauletts and lay aside their canteens without performing a single heroic act, was not be thought of.  'I shall never forget,' said one of the Algerine braves, 'my terrible sensations as I waited in Holder's block for the approaching Dorrites.  My heart beat like a trip-hammer, and my gun, which was poked through an aperture in a sheet-iron shutter, trembled like an aspen leaf.  I could endure the suspense no longer, and I stepped down and out and ran for the Bernon woods, as if Dorr and his whole army were in hot pursuit.  The next morning I crept back to the village, and learned to my great delight that the Dorrite forces at Chepachet were disbanded.  You ought to have seen me then!  How bravely I shouldered my musket, and with what a martial air I marched about!  I felt as if I must shoot somebody, and seeing what I supposed to be a Dorrite about half-a-mile distant, I discharged my gun towards him.  It did me no good to see him run, although my bullet could not have gone within a thousand yards of him!'  Such were the emotions of many of the 'Law and Order' advocates, and for three long months the law was set aside under a pretext of its vindication.

To close this warlike chapter without referring to the Woonsocket Guards, would be an act of which I am incapable.  Indeed, I am admonished that a military organization, whose exploits upon the parade-ground and in the banquet-hall have given to Woonsocket so much renown, deserves a larger space than the limits of this work permit.  Previous to 1840, military companies at the 'Old Bank', at Cumberland, Lime Rock and elsewhere formed the 6th Regiment R. I. Militia.  This was at one time commanded by George L. Barnes, who was afterwards promoted to Major-General.  If I could do justice to the subject I would give a description of a 'training' of this ancient organization, although by so doing I might forfeit the respect of the staid and sober reader.

About the year 1840 Captain Handy, of Providence, came here and recruited a military company.  It was called the 'Woonsocket Light Infantry'.  This was when the faint rumbling of the famous Dorr rebellion was beginning to be heard.  The company was recruited and chartered, to be used by the friends of law and order in case an outbreak should occur.

But in 1842, and while in command of Capt. John Worrall, the company rebelled, transferring their allegiance and their muskets to the 'Dorrites'.  For this act, of course, their charter was annulled, and the Woonsocket Light Infantry came to an inglorious end.

In October, 1842, another military company was formed and chartered under the name of the 'Woonsocket Guards'.  Its first officer was Captain Arnold Briggs.  Being largely made up of the 'Algerine' element, a rival company was formed during the year and named the 'Cumberland Cadets'.  Of this organization, L. C. Tourtellot was an active member.

May 30, 1844, the 'Guards' and the 'Cadets' joined hands, and reorganized into a skeleton regiment under the new militia law - the regiment taking the name of 'The Woonsocket Guards'.  It was composed of seventy men, and officered as follows:

Colonel - L. C. Tourtellot
Lieut.-Colonel - John Glackin
Major - Orin A. Ballou
Captain - William O. Bisbee
Adjutant - John Bartlett, jr.
Quartermaster - E. H. Sprague
Paymaster - R. P. Smith
Commissary - Asa N. Holbrook.

During the Summer of 1845 Armory Hall was erected.  This was designed for a rendezvous for the 'Guards', and a hall for public lectures, concerts, &c.  It cost about $3,000.  Towards this the State appropriated $1,000, and $800 were raised by private subscription, leaving a debt of $1,200.  This hall, in the eyes of Woonsocket citizens, was one of the wonders of the world.  'Particularly are we pleased', says a correspondent to THE PATRIOT, 'with the paneling of the ceiling; while the stucco centre-pieces from which the chandeliers are to be suspended, fully equal, if they do not surpass anything of the kind we have ever before witnessed'.  The chandeliers were procured - the money for the purpose having been loaned by Paymaster R. P. Smith - and the hall was dedicated by one of the grandest balls that was ever given in the world.  Distinguished guests from Boston, Providence and elsewhere were present, Dodworth's full band from New York furnished the music, and it was verily a 'splendid time'.  In the appendix the reader will find the names of the members of the 'Guards', from 1842 to 1863 inclusive.  A perusal of this list may revive pleasant memories in the breasts of many.

6.  To the war with Mexico, Woonsocket contributed no treasure and but few men.  I have been able to find but seven names of those who enlisted from this place, and I think but two or three are wanting to make the list complete.  These were:  John Glackin, John B. Batchelor, Philip Melville, Robert Melville, Nicholas Tweedle, Durk Greene and ----- Burpianna.  They enlisted in Company B of the 9th Regiment U. S. A.   The Captain of this company at first was Joseph S. Pitman; 1st Lieutenant, John S. Slocum; 2d Lieutenant, John Glackin*.  The Captain was afterwards promoted to Major of the Regiment.  Lieutenant Slocum was promoted to a captaincy, and John Glackin became 1st Lieutenant.  The last-named gentleman, while sojourning with us, was the pet of the young ladies and the terror of the older ones hereabouts.  At last, the handsome dry goods merchant fell hopelessly in love, and he enlisted in the army with the hope of falling in battle; but his hope was not realized, and he returned from the war to drag out the remnant of his life in poverty and neglect.  His loved one died of a broken heart.

*John Glackin was commissioned February 24, 1847.

7.  In the War of the Rebellion Woonsocket, in common with her sister towns both north and south, was forced to take an active part in every sanguinary conflict from Bull Run to Appomattox.  A history of what her sons encountered in camp, in field and in prison, would be a history of the war itself, and a list of those who had a personal interest in almost every battle would be a census of the town.  I shall, therefore, confine myself to giving the names of Woonsocket boys who received commissions in Rhode Island regiments.

The thrill awakened by the news from Sumter, the patriotism aroused by the early defeats, and the enthusiasm enkindled by the glorious ending of the conflict has not yet faded from our minds, and I trust that the simple mention of those who led our noble boys to victory or a glorious death may serve to keep alive those memories which are so sacred to every American patriot.


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