Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Biographical, 53
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History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical

NY: The American Historical Society, Inc. 1920



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Charles W. LittlefieldCHARLES WINSOR LITTLEFIELD  --  The State of Maine is deserving of the title 'Mother of Pioneers'.  Her sons and daughters have gone forth by thousands to help build up other states of the union.  There is hardly a town or city of any size in the country that does not have living within its borders either a native of that State or a lineal descendant of a Maine ancestor.  The accomplishments of Maine-born men and women in other states of the union bespeak the fine old Puritan stock from which they sprung. Rhode Island has received her share of these Maine pioneers and has every reason to be proud of her adopted sons and daughters from her northern sister State.  In public and private life they have helped and are helping to make the State of their adoption a better State to live in.

From the old Maine stock springs Charles Winsor Littlefield, who traces his ancestry to Edmund Littlefield, who was born in England about 1590, and who came to this country with his son, Anthony, about 1636.  In 1638 he sent for his wife, Annis, and the six children who had remained with their mother in England.  They arrived on the ship 'Bevis' from Southampton, England, and shortly after their arrival the Littlefield family moved to Exeter, N. H., where Edmund Littlefield became a member of 'The Combination' and was alloted as head of a family twenty-one acres of land.  The Rev. John Wheelwright was at that time pastor of the church at Exeter.  After living in Exeter about three years, Littlefield, being dissatisfied with the conditions existing there, owing to religious controversies, removed with his family in 1641 to what is now known as Wells, Me., a town located in York county about thirty miles southwest of Portland.  The following year the Rev. John Wheelwright followed Littlefield and made his home thereafter in Wells.

Edmund Littlefield and his sons were the first settlers of the town and became mill men and farmers.  They built the first house, and first saw mill, and the first grist mill in their town, and became men of influence and wealth in their community, Edmund Littlefield being the holder of many positions of trust in the town he had settled.  Wells is still the family seat of the Littlefields, and it is there that Charles Winsor Littlefield was born.  He is the son of Captain Moses F. Littlefield, who was for many years engaged in coastwise trade, but long since retired from the sea, and has cultivated his farm at Ogunquit, a village in the southern part of the town of Wells.  Captain Littlefield married Abbie E. Perkins, daughter of Jedediah and Sarah (Haley) Perkins, and by her had two children:  William F., who is supervisor of schools in Porto Rico [sic], and Charles Winsor. Mrs. Littlefield died in 1896.

Charles Winsor Littlefield was born September 2, 1874, and obtained a good public school education in the schools of Wells.  He was prepared for college at Berwick Academy, South Berwick, Me., being graduated in 1894, and then entered Dartmouth College.  He was able to complete only his freshman year, circumstances taking a hand and deciding that he must seek wage-earning employment.  This resulted in Mr. Littlefield coming to Rhode Island in 1895 and securing employment as principal of Natick public schools.  He held that position for six years, then resigned, and in 1901 entered the agency force of the New York Life Insurance Company, winning his way into the select ranks of the Hundred Thousand Dollar Club, and during the last year of his connection holding the position of agency instructor for Rhode Island.  His three years in the insurance business were years of success, but the death of his father-in-law, Richard V. Browning, resulted in changed plans for Mr. Littlefield, who was appointed to administer Mr. Browning's estate.  The new duties assumed required the termination of his connection with the New York Life Insurance Company, and for three years he devoted himself to the administration of the trust confided to him, conducting the business of wholesale millinery to avoid sacrificing the assets of the estate.  This trust was the first of many trusts which have since been confided to him.

With the Browning estate settled, Mr. Littlefield began the study of law, his three years' experience having awakened within him a high appreciation of that profession.  He spent three years studying in the offices of Littlefield & Barrows, at Providence, and in 1910 was admitted to the Rhode Island bar, beginning practice in Providence.  The following year he was admitted to practise in the Federal Courts of the district, and is now well established in public esteem.  He specializes in bankruptcy and business law, and has, as  trustee or receiver, been concerned in the settlement of a very large number of estates.  He has been for several years a lecturer on business and corporation law before the Young Men's Christian Association classes in connection with the Providence Institute of Accounting and Business Administration.  Many graduates of leading New England colleges are enrolled among the students in this course in business law.  During the great World War, Mr. Littlefield served as a member of the forces of the United States Food Administration in the State, and as an associate member of the Legal Advisory Board for his district.  He is a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association, and has business connections of importance.

Mr. Littlefield has never held an office or position partaking of the nature of a sinecure.  He devotes a great deal of time to the practice of his profession and allows himself little time for recreation, although he is an enthusiastic out-of-doors man.  He has a camp on the Maine coast where his family spend their summers and where Mr. Littlefield spends his week ends. >From April to November he finds his principal recreation in his garden, and he declares that the planning for the next year's garden is a fine winter game.

In 1907 Mr. Littlefield went on an extended trip through the West.  He had long been interested in the resources and development of that part of the country and wanted to explore the region and determine for himself whether or not it would be better for him to take his family West to grow up with the country.  In order to see the country and learn what it had to offer him from the standpoint of agricultural,  commercial or professional life, he visited all the principal cities of the far West, taking numerous side trips from those cities into the great fruit growing region.  Always an enthusiastic pedestrian, he provided himself with blankets, cooking outfit and supplies, and went out into the wilds of California, Oregon and Washington on foot and alone, camping wherever night overtook him.  He acquired a great love for the West, and his narrative of his experiences in that part of the country is very entertaining.  Although the West made a deep impression upon Mr. Littlefield, he returned to the East to find his real opportunity in Rhode Island.

Mr. Littlefield has always been deeply interested in the religious welfare of his adopted State.  He is a Baptist, being a member of the local church in the village where he resides.  He has been interested in Sunday school work all his life, and for many years has been a teacher of adult classes. In this work he has spent a great deal of time, aiding in the establishment of men's classes throughout the State, and for many years was president and secretary of the Rhode Island State Baraca Union, an adult Bible class organization.

Mr. Littlefield is a member of several Masonic bodies including Warwick Lodge, No. 16, Free and Acccpted Masons; Landmark Chapter, No. 10, Royal Arch Masons; and St. John's Commandery, No. 1, Knights Templar.  He is also a member of the Central Grange, Patrons of Husbandry; Rhode Island Historical Society, Young Men's Christian Association, the Barnard Club and the Pine Tree State Club.  In national politics he has always been a Republican, but independent enough to stand against his party when he deemed it for the best interests of State and community.

On April 12, 1896, Mr. Littlefield married Mary Alice, daughter of Richard V. and Ida A. Browning, who, by a singular coincidence, traces her ancestry to Roger Williams, who came over in the ship 'Lyon' with John Perkins, one of Mr. Littlefield's ancestors.  Mr. and Mrs. Littlefield are the parents of four children, two sons and two daughters; Frank Browning, born June 3, 1899; Richard Webster, born Aug. 2, 1901; Camilla Abbie, born June 17, 1905, and Marion, born Sept. 4, 1915.  Of these children all are living except Camilla Abbie, who died Aug. 17, 1906.



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JOHN Y. THORNLEY  --  Well-known in the city adminstration circles of Pawtucket, R. I., as the City Inspector of Plumbing, John Y. Thornley is one of the native sons of the town who is serving the city of his parentage. His parents were Peter and Alice (Sedden) Thornley, of Lancashire, England, who had married there.  His father came over in 1831, and worked as an expert bleacher from 1831 to 1840 in New Jersey.  He then left New Jersey and came to Pawtucket, intending to give up this trade and become a farmer. From this intention he was however, dissuaded by F. A. Sayles, and he succeeded in persuading him to help him in his project of starting a bleachery.  Mr. Thornley then went back to England and married, later bringing his wife back to the United States.  After a connection with the Sayles & Lonsdale Bleacheries for a number of years, Mr. Thornley took up the agricultural work which had always been a dream of his whole life, and in this pursuit he spent the evening of his days in the neighborhood of Pawtucket.  He and his wife had seven children, the three oldest of whom died in infancy.  The others were:  James P., of Pawtucket, who is now living retired from business; Joseph S., of East Greenwich, who is in the coal business; George W., who is living retired in Pawtucket; and John Y., of further mention.

John Y. Thornley was educated in the public schools of Pawtucket, and at an early age became an expert in the coppersmith's trade and in plumbing.  As an industry, plumbing was then in its infancy, and he has grown up with the business.  His first business association was with his brothers, James and George, and later with James alone, the firm being known as Thornley Brothers.  He was then for a time in business alone.  In 1911, Mr. Thornley, with his sons, Albert L. and Wallace Y., organized the Thornley Supply Company, erected a building at  No. 40 Thornley street, and became jobbers in a very complete and up-to-date line of plumbers' supplies.  This business has become very widely-known, and has its connections all over New England, John Y. Thornley being treasurer.  For seventeen years John Y. Thornley has served the community as the City Inspector of Plumbing, a post which he has filled with the untiring faithfulness and devotion to duty which are characteristic of the man.  He occupies a high place in opinion of those who know him, a place which he has won by his own energy and upright character. The city's interests are well-served by servants of his type.

Mr. Thornley married, September 28, 1876, Harriet E. Merry, daughter of Charles W. and Harriet P. (Titus) Merry, both of whom are now dead.  They had six children:  Emma L., who married James Albert Longworth, of Pawtucket;  Ella L., who lives at home;  Cora B, who also is at home; Wallace Y., of mention in a later sketch;  Albert L., also of later mention in another biographical notice;  and Charles J., who lives at home.  Mr. Thornley is a member of the Masonic order, being  a member of Barney Merry Lodge, No. No. 29, Free and Accepted Masons, and also belongs to the Royal Arcanum.



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JOEL RILFORD FRITZ, D. D. S.  --  Barring the implication which a name may convey, both Dr. Fritz and his ancestors for many generations are free from all German relationships, his collateral lines leading into those sterling American families - Slocum, Brown, Banks, and other well-known ancient and honorable New England families.  He is a native of Nova Scotia, the younger son of William Henry and Elizabeth (Banks) Fritz, his father deceased, his mother still living near the old Fritz homestead in Annapolis county, Canada, aged eighty-two.  William H. Fritz was a substantial farmer in Annapolis county, and gave his children the advantages of education.  They had four children:  Emdon, medical specialist at Manchester, N. H.;  Oscar M., on homestead;  Inghram, deceased; and Joel Rilford, of whom further.

Joel Rilford Fritz was born at the homestead in Annapolis county, N. S., Canada, February 16, 1863.  He spent his youth at the home farm, and there was educated in the public schools and a private school, completing the course in the latter in 1881.  In 1884, he entered Normal School at Truro, N. S., there qualifying to teach, and receiving his authority at graduation in 1885.  He taught before and after his normal training in the public schools of Annapolis county for several years, then decided to use the fund he had accumulated in financing a dental education.  He selected Philadelphia Dental College (Philadelphia, Pa.), as his alma mater, and in 1888 was graduated D. D. S.  After graduation he began practice at Digby, a port of entry, watering place, and county seat of Digby county, N. S., one hundred and fifty miles west of Halifax, and at the western end of the famous Annapolis basin up which DeMonts sailed in 1604 to found the town that is now Annapolis Royal (old Port Royal).  There he remained until the spring of 1893, when he entered practice in a larger town, Yarmouth, in Yarmouth county, then came to Rhode Island, in 1907, locating in Providence, at No. 12 Olneyville square, where he has successfully continued for the past eleven years.  Dr. Fritz is a public spirited citizen and endorses all things promoting the welfare of the city.  He is a member of the West Side Dental Association of Providence, Rhode Island Dental Society, and American Dental Association; is a member of the Masonic order; the Independent Order of Odd Fellows; is an independent in politics, and is a deacon of Broadway Baptist Church, Providence.

Dr. Fritz married in Halifax county, N. S., August 22, 1888, Isabel H. Thompson.  They are the parents of five sons and a daughter:  Ernest St. Clair, died at the age of thirteen;  William Clifford, a civil engineer, graduate of McGill University, Montreal;  Earl Gladstone, an architectural draughtsman;  Carl Edwin, now a soldier serving in France with the Eighth Canadian Siege Artillery;  Willis Otto, a student; a and Elizabeth Louise, a student.  William Clifford and Earl Gladstone are now in training (1918) at Toronto, Canada, as members of the Royal air force, and Willis Otto, who is registered from Nova Scotia, will soon answer the call of his country.



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WANTON LILLIBRIDGE  --  The Lillibridge family in the United States dates from the close of the seventeenth century, when the first record of the founder, Thomas Lillibridge, is found in Newport, R. I.  His descendants, though not numerous, have figured honorably in Rhode Island life and affairs for two centuries, and the name to-day is unblemished.  The early Lillibridges were extensive landowners, and much of their holdings remain in the hands of their descendants.  The line of ancestry herein under consideration is that of Wanton Lillibridge, long a prominent resident of Richmond, R. I.

(I)  Thomas Lillibridge, immigrant ancestor and progenitor, was born in England, in 1662.  He is first of record in the New England Colonies in the year 1699.  On September 26, of that year, he signed a petition at Newport addressed to the Earl of Bellomont, then in Newport, to use his influence with his Majesty, William III., for the establishment of an Episcopal church in Newport.  This petition led to the founding of the original Trinity Church, in which Thomas Lillibridge was a warden in 1709 and 1713, and where he owned pew 8 until 1719.  He was admitted a freeman at Newport, May 6, 1701.  In 1718, 1722, 1723, 1724, he was vestryman in the historic St. Paul's 'Narragansett' Church, which was built in 1707, and in 1800 was removed to Wickford about five miles north of its original site.  This church, which is still occasionally in use, is said to be the oldest Episcopal church north of the Potomac.  Thomas Lillibridge removed to Westerly in 1715, and settled in the part originally called Shannock, and incorporated August 22, 1728, as Charlestown.  He reisded in that part of the town which on August 18, 1747, was set off as Richmond, R. I., and he died there, August 29, 1724.  He was a man of considerable wealth.  His will, dated August 24, 1724, disposes of much real estate:  'To my eldest son Thomas * * * one of my homestead farms * * * to take which he likes best;'  this contains the family burying ground of Thomas Lillibridge, Jr., also Thomas Lillibridge (1), (2), (3) are all buried there, and is situated just west of Richmond town hall; it is known as the 'Nelson K. Church place'; a second farm adjoining, he gave to his son Robert, and this still remains in the Lillibridge family, and is now the home of Mrs. Frank Reynolds Brown, nee Jennette Lillibridge.  Thomas Lillibridge, Sr., married (first) Mary Hobson; they were the parents of two daughters. He married (second) Sarah Lewis, and they were the parents of nine children, of whom Thomas, Jr., mentioned below, was the oldest.

(II) Thomas (2) Lillibridge, son of Thomas (1) and Sarah (Lewis) Lillibridge, was born in Newport, R. I. He settled in Westerly, where he was admitted a freeman, April 30, 1723. He was a commissioner to lay out the road from Pawcatuck bridge to South Kingston line, 1727. He died in Westerly, February 8, 1757, 'in the 55th year of his age.'   He married, June 12, 1726, Mary Woodmansee.

(III) Edward Lillibridge, son of Thomas (2) and Mary (Woodmansee) Lillibridge, was born on March 25, 1732, in Richmond, R. I.   He died February 3, 1810, and was buried in Wood River Cemetery, Richmond.   Edward Lillibridge purchased the farm of his uncle, Robert Lillibridge, in Richmond, and resided there until his death, taking a prominent part in local affairs.  He married (first) December 4, 1755, Patience Tefft; (second) January 6, 1765, Thankful (Tefft) Wells.

(IV) Amos Lillibridge, son of Edward and Thankful (Tefft-Wells) Lillibridge, was born in Richmond, R. I., in 1776.  He inherited all his father's lands, including the Robert Lillibridge farm in Richmond, where he made his home until his death.   He died July 4, 1857, and was buried in Wood River Cemetery.  Amos Lillibridge married Phebe Hoxie.

(V) Wanton Lillibridge, son of Amos and Phebe (Hoxie) Lillibridge, was born in Richmond, October 17, 1806, and resided there all his life.  He was a prosperous farmer and a prominent citizen, and for several decades occupied a prominent position in Richmond.  He was one of the framers of the Constitution of Rhode Island, member of the Legislature, very prominent, president of Town Council, and held many other town offices. He died in Richmond, September 4, 1890.  On November 7, 1841, Wanton Lillibridge married Sarah Ann Champlin, daughter of John A. Champlin, and member of one of the oldest and most prominent of old Rhode Island families. They were the parents of the following children:  1. Horace, died in infancy.  2. Sarah Mason; born May 11, 1843, died Feb. 2, 1906; married, May 25, 1871, Robert I. Moore.  3. Amos A., enlisted in the Seventh Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, and was killed near Spottsylvania Court House, Virginia, May 18, 1864.  4 Charles W., married Abbie Bowen.  5. Edward Hoxie, married Addie Shumard.  6. Jennette, mentioned below.  7. John H., married Emma Pinckney. 8. William W., married Ida Spencer.  9. Jennie F., married Charles H. Stevens.  10. Hattie E., married William F. Joslin.

(VI) Jennette Lillibridge, daughter of Wanton and Sarah Ann (Champlin) Lillibridge, was born at Richmond, R. I.  She married, June 26, 1884, Frank Reynolds Brown, born in North Stonington, Conn., and died there, son of Charles L. and Margaret (Reynolds) Brown.  Mrs. Brown makes her home an the Thomas Lillibridge estate, which she purchased in 1915. Mr. Brown was a farmer and prominent business man in North Stonington, also interested in school work.



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Constant S. HortonCONSTANT SIMMONS HORTON  --  The late Constant Simmons Horton, assistant superintendent of police and chief of detectives of the city of Providence, R. I., was a descendant of a family which has been prominent in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for a period of more than two hundred and fifty years.  He was of the seventh generation in direct descent from the founder, Thomas Horton.  The coat-of-arms is as follows:

Arms - Argent on a fease azure between two wolves passant in chief and a cross bow in base gules, three martlets or.
Crest - A cubit arm erect, vested gules, cuffed argent, holding in the hand proper an arrow azure, feathered and barbed or.
 (I)  Thomas Horton, immigrant ancestor and founder of the family in America, was of Welsh ancestry, according to family tradition, and was a relative of Thomas Horton, who settled early in Charlestown, Mass.  He settled in Milton, Mass., formerly Dorchester, as early as 1669.  His first wife, Sarah, appears to have been a member of the church at Braintree, Mass., where her son, Thomas, was baptized in 1677.  Thomas Horton married (second) at Milton, Mass., December 25, 1693, Susannah Keney.  His sons settled at Milton and Rehoboth, and he was doubtless the progenitor of all the Rhode Island Hortons of colonial days.  Children, born at Milton, of the first wife:  1.  Rachel, born Aug. 6, 1669.  2.  John, born June 6, 1672, settled in Rehoboth.  3.  Thomas, born Oct. 3, 1677.  4.  David, born  Oct. 14, 1679.  5.  Solomon, mentioned below, born Jan. 11, 1682.  6.  Esther, married at Rehoboth, April 10, 1701, Benjamin Viall.  There were perhaps other children.

(II)  Solomon Horton, son of Thomas and Sarah Horton, was born at Milton, Mass., January 11, 1682.  He resided at Milton, where he married, December 5, 1701, Susaan Babcock, and subsequently removed to Rehoboth, where he was the founder of the Rehoboth branch of the family.  The children of Solomon and Susanna (Babcock) Horton were:  1.  Sarah, born May 17, 1702.  2. Hannah, born Dec. 19, 1706.  3.  Solomon, mentioned below.  Perhaps others. Solomon Horton was prominent in the life and affairs of early Rehoboth.

(III)  Solomon (2) Horton, son of Solomon (1) and Susanna (Babcock) Horton, was born at Milton, Mass., between the  years 1712 and 1715.  He removed to Rehoboth, and there made his home until his death.  He married Mary ---- , and they were the parents of the following children, born at Rehoboth:  1. Charles, born March 18, 1739.  2.  Constant, born Oct. 29, 1740.  3. Solomon, born Jan. 15, 1742-43.  4.  Mary, born Aug. 10, 1745.  5.  Abiall, born Oct. 14, 1747.  6.  Daniel, mentioned below.  7.  Aaron, born March 21, 1752.

(IV)  Daniel Horton, son of Solomon (2) and Mary Horton, was born in Rehoboth, Mass., January 30, 1749-50.  He was a soldier in the American Revolution, enlisting in his native town, as a private in Captain Nathan Carpenter's company, at Brookline, Mass.  During the course of the war he served also in Captain Israel Hix's company, Colonel Thomas Carpenter's regiment, marching from Rehoboth to Bristol, R. I.;  he was sergeant in Captain Israel Hix's company, in 1780.  (See page 265, vol. viii, 'Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolution').  Daniel Horton married Mary Goff, and their children, born in Rehoboth, were:  1.  Nancy, born Oct. 15, 1780.  2.  Silvanus, mentioned below.  3.  Simeon, born Sept. 27, 1784; married Melvina M. Wheeler.  4.  Rachel, born Jan. 18, 1787; married John Slade, and died at Somerset, Mass.  5.   Polly, born Aug. 6, 1789; married Isaiah Simmons, and died at Bristol, R. I.  6.  Lettis, born Dec. 22, 1791; married George Case, and lived at Rehoboth.  7.  Royal, born Nov. 18, 1795.

(V)  Silvanus Horton, son of Daniel and Mary (Goff) Horton, was born in Rehoboth, Mass., September 20, 1782, and resided there all his life.  He was a prosperous farmer and well-known citizen.  He married Hannah Slade, and they were the parents of several children, among them Henry Slade Horton, mentioned below.

(VI)  Henry Slade Horton, son of Silvanus and Hannah (Slade) Horton, was born in Rehoboth, Mass., and like his father was a successful and well-known farmer.  He married Arabella Simmons, and they were the parents of nine children, among them, Constant Simmons, mentioned at length below.

(VII)  Constant Simmons Horton, son of Henry Slade and Arabella (Simmons) Horton, was born at the Horton homestead, in Rehoboth, Mass., January 7, 1848.  He received his education in the public schools of Rehoboth, and after completing his studies, learned the carpenter's trade.  He followed this trade until 1877, in East Providence and Pawtucket, R. I.  In the latter year, he removed to Providence, where he became connected with the police force in the capacity of patrolman.  From this minor position he rose, solely through worth and signal ability, to the post of assistant superintendent of police and chief of detectives of the Providence forces. During the thirty-seven years of his connection with the department he was eminently respected not only for his fine ability, but for his high standards of justice and honor.  His work through these years shed lustre on the police department of the city.  Constant S. Horton was a man of pleasing personality, and commanding appearance, tall and fine looking.  He was thoroughly acquainted with every phase of his work, and was one of the most efficient men who filled the difficult posts which he held.  His political affiliation was with the Republican party.  He was a member of the Men's Club of the Cranston Street Baptist Church.

On May 9, 1875, Mr. Horton married Calista W. Viall, who was born in Seekonk, Mass. (now East Providence), R. I., daughter of Willard and Calista (Lyon) Viall; both of her parents were of early Massachusetts families.  Mr. and Mrs. Horton were the parents of two children:  1.  Bertha Willard, who died at the age of ninteen months.  2.  Chester Shorey, was born April 7, 1878, and died April 8, 1917; he married in 1913, Alice Louise Ward.  Mr. Horton was connected with the Union Trust Company of Providence, R. I.  Mrs. Horton survives her husband and resides at the family home at No. 25 Almy street, Providence.  She has been a member of the East Providence First Baptist Church for fifty-one years, and is actively identified with the many departments of its work, taking an active part in charitable and philanthropic efforts.  Constant Simmons Horton died at his home, in Providence, R. I., April 13, 1914.



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ORRAY TAFT  --  The Taft families in America comprise the progeny of Robert and Mathew Taft, both of whom emigrated from Ireland in the second half of the seventeeth century and settled in Mendon, Mass.  Both were Protestant Irish by birth.  County Louth, the Irish home of the Tafts, in the province of Leinster, is on the northern coast of the island, bounded by Armagh and Ulster, and on the east by the British channel.  The name of Taft does not appear in Scotland in any form and only in England apparently among the descendants of the Irish family.  For several centuries the name has been spelled Taaffe.  The families of the Tifft and Tefft in England may have the same origin, and doubt still exists as to whether the family is of English or Irish origin.  Sir William Taaffe or Taft, a knight of Protestant faith, was among the grantees of the time of the Scotch emigration to Ulster province, in the region of King James, and in 1610 received a grant of one thousand acres of land in the parish of Castle Rahen, County Cavan. Genealogists have connected the founders of the American branch with this Irish family.  The family in America has played a prominent part in New England life and affairs since the time of its founding, and among the men of distiction which it has produced is the Hon. William Howard Taft, ex-President of the United States.  The family has been particularly prominent in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The late Orray Taft, 1793-1865, president of the People's Savings Bank of Providence, and of the Worcester Railroad, was a member of the Uxbridge, Mass., branch of the family, and a descendant of Robert Taft in the sixth American generation.

Robert Taft, immigrant ancestor and progenitor, was born in Ireland, in 1640, and came to America in 1678, in which year he was granted a lot of land in Braintree, Mass.  In the following year he bought land in Mendon, and sold the Braintree property on November 18, 1679, to Caleb Hobart.  He subsequently bought much land in the vicinity of Mendon pond, and evidently from the outset was a man of considerable wealth, as he became one of the largest property owners in the neighborhood of Mendon. Robert Taft was prominent in the affairs of Mendon from the time of his coming to the town. In 1680 he was one of the first board of selectmen of the newly organized town of Mendon, and also served on the committee to build the minister's house.  He and his sons built the first bridge across the Mendon river.  He was one of the purchasers of the land on which the town of Sutton was formed.  Robert Taft married Sarah ------ , who died in November, 1725.  He died February 8, 1725.

Captain Joseph Taft, son of Robert and Sarah Taft, was born in Mendon, Mass., in 1680, and died at Uxbridge, Mass., June 18, 1747.  When Uxbridge was set off from Mendon he moved there, and his farm was situated on both sides of thhe Blackstone river.  His home was on the west side of the river. At the first Uxbridge town meeting, on July 25, 1727, he was appointed one of the 'tithingmen'..  He was one of the foremost men of the town and served as lieutenant and captain of the local militia. He married, in 1708, Elizabeth Emerson, who was born at Ipswich, Mass., March 6, 1687, and died at Uxbridge, in 1760, daughter of James and Sarah Emerson.

Marvel Taft, descendant of Captain Joseph Taft, was born in Uxbridge, Mass., on February 6, 1763.  He resided on the old Taft homestead, where he was a prosperous farmer.  He married Ruth ----- , who was born October 2, 1762.

Orray Taft, son of Marvel and Ruth Taft, was born at the homestead in Uxbridge, Mass., April 9, 1793.  He was educated in the public schools of his native town, and at an early age entered mercantile life. At that period, the opening decades of the nineteenth century, the commerce between the cotton planter of the South and the manufacturer of the North was carried on on a vastly different basis than that which prevails to-day. Orray Taft made his first trip South as a cotton factor, taking with him Northern commodities which had a market in the South, and changing them for cotton which was shipped to New England mills or abroad.  He engaged in this field of activity until 1829, in which year he located in Providence, R. I., and established himself in business on a large scale.  Within a short period he became a well-known figure in the cotton manufacturing interests of the State.  Orray Taft was one of the organizers and owners of the Wauregan Cotton Mill, and dealt heavily and successfully in cotton as a manufacturer and as a cotton broker.  He was well known in the southern cotton markets, and on the plantations which he visited annually for many years.  Through the importance of his connection with the vital manufacturing interests of the State of Rhode Island, he was brought naturally into prominence in financial and public life.  Mr. Taft was one of the organizers of the People's Savings Bank of Providence, and succeeded the senior Governor Sprague as president of that institution. He was heavily interested in the Providence Gas Company, and in the Worcester Railroad, which he helped to organize and which he served as president. He served for one year as a member of the Rhode Island Legislature, but though eminently fitted by reason of his fine intellectual powers and masterly knowledge of public affairs for the office, he was essentially a business man and found his forte in the mercantile world.  He was deeply interested in the welfare of the city of Providence, and was prominently identified with many notable movements for civic betterment.  Orray Taft was an attendant of the Beneficent Congregational Church of Providence, and a liberal donor to all its charitable and benevolent work.

Mr. Taft married, September 24, 1821, Deborah Keith, who was born at Grafton, Mass., daughter of Royal and Deborah (Adams) Keith, of Northbridge, Mass., and a granddaughter of Simeon and Rebecca Keith.

Orray Taft died at his home in Providence, R. I., 1865, at the age of seventy-two years.  He had five children, of whom a daughter, Emma A. Taft, who resides at the old Taft homestead at No. 539 Westminster street, Providence, is the only survivor.  There are many grandchildren.


Continued


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


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