USGenWeb Rhode Island Articles, Block Island, Page 3
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Block Island, Page 3

This section contains articles of genealogical and historic interest on Rhode Island in general, from old Rhode Island books and newspapers.

   Mrs. Sarah Sands, wife of Captain James Sands

   Caleb & Nathaniel Littlefield, admitted freemen 1721, to Nicholas Littlefield, b. April 8, 1783

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Livermore's History of Block Island, RI, 1877 Bridgewater, MA  Pages 268 to 286 continued


This lady had virtues and culture which entitle her to more than a passing notice. Although at this distant day we can give but a few outlines of her character, yet these may indicate to some the beauty of the portrait had it been properly delineated in due season. There is also incidental, collateral information obtained from the biographical fragments of her no w presented. In speaking of Captain James Sands, one of the first settlers, his grandson, Rev. Samuel Niles, says:

"His wife was a gentlewoman of remarkable sobriety and piety, given also to hospitality. She was the only midwife and doctress on the Island, or rather a doctor, all her days, with very little, and with some and mostly, no reward. at all. Her skill in surgery was doubtless very great, from some instances I remember she told me of. One was the cure of an Indian, that under disgust, as was said, he had taken at his wife or squaw, shot himself, putting the muzzle of his gun to the pit of his stomach, and pushing the trigger. The bullet went through him, out and opposite at his back. He instantly fell, and one of the spectators who happened to be in the field at the time, and heard the report of the gun, told me, after he was fallen and wallowing in the blood, he saw the blood and froth issue out of his back and breast as often as he drew his breath. He was perfectly healed, and lived a hearty, strong man even to old age; whom I afterward knew, and often saw the scar at the pit of his stomach, as large or larger in circumference than our ordinary dollars passing among us."

"Another signal cure she told me God made her an instrument of making, was on a young woman that was struck with lightning through her shoulder, so that when she administered to her by syringing, the liquid matter would fly through from the fore part to the hinder, and from the hinder part to the foremost, having a free and open passage both ways, yet was cured, and had several children, and lived to old age. I also knew her long before her death. She had also skill, and cured the bites and venomous poison of rattlesnakes."

Her husband, in his last will, made her the sole executrix of his estate which, after his death, was inventoried as follows:

Mr. Sands died. in March, 1695, and in March, 1699, Mrs. Sarah Sands, his widow, had a lawful record made of the following emancipation of her slaves:

"Know all men by these presents that I, Sarah Sands, of Block Island, alias New Shoreham, in the Colony of Rhode Island, Providence Plantations, in New England, Wife to Mr. James Sands, of Block Island, and made sole executrix by my said husband, James Sands, at his death, and having three Negro children born under my roof and in my custody, being left to my disposing by my above said. husband."

"Know ye therefore that I, the above Sarah Sands, do hereby and voluntarily give and bestow of them as followeth, that is to say:

"First: I give to my granddaughter, Sarah Sands, daughter to my son, Edward Sands, one of the Negro girls named Hannah: The other Negro girl I give and bequeath unto my granddaughter, Catharine Niles, daughter to my son-in-law, Nathaniel Niles, of Point Judith in the colony above said - the two Negro girls I freely and voluntarily give to my two grandchildren above named until the said Negroes come to the age of thirty years, and then I do by these presents declare that they shall be free from any service, and be at their own disposal - the Negro girl given to my granddaughter, Catharine Niles, is named Sarah. The other negro above said being a boy named Mingo, I freely give and bequeath to my grandson, Sands Raymond, son to my son-in-law, Joshua Raymond, of Block Island above named, which I give freely until that he the said Negro boy comes to the age of thirty-three years, and then to be free and his own man and at his own disposal forever after that he shall arrive to the age of 33 years; for I Sarah Sands do by these presents freely declare that I have made a promise that no child whatsoever born under my service and care shall be made a slave of any longer than is above specified, and for the confirmation and ratification of this my free and voluntary act, I have under set my hand, and affixed my seal this ninth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and ninety-nine."

Signed in presence of
SAMUEL NILES.                                                                    SARAH SANDS.

Two years and a half passed away and Mrs. Sands, conscious of her approaching end, in her last will, left a preamble to it that speaks well for her character, revealing a faith which was her brightest ornament through her long and eventful life mostly spent among her fellow-Islanders, many of whom she had seen in their barbarous state, and all of whom, with her devoted companion, she had labored to improve both socially and religiously. 


"In the name of God, Amen. I Sarah Sands of Block Island, alias New Shoreham, in the colony of Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, in New England, being aged and weak in body, but of sound and perfect memory - Praise be given to Almighty God for the same - and knowing the uncertainty of this life on earth, and being desirous to see that things in order be done before my death, Do make this my last will and Testament in manner and form following:

"I being wife to Mr. James Sands deceased, and. made sole executrix by my said. husband., as by will bearing date June the 18th, 1694, may plainly appear, That is to say, First, and Principally; I commend my soul to Almighty God my Creator, assuredly believing that I shall receive full pardon and free remission of all my sins, and be saved by the precious death and merits of my blessed Saviour and Redeemer Christ Jesus; and my body to the earth from whence it was first taken, to be buried in such decent and Christian manner as to my executor hereafter named shall be thought most meet and. convenient: And as touching such worldly estate as the Lord in mercy hath lent me, my will and meaning in the same shall be implied....

[Things specified for each.] That they shall be equally divided. amongst my five children, viz.: John Sands, James Sands, Samuel Sands, Sarah Niles, and Mercy Raymond.....

Signed in presence of                                                   SARAH SANDS.
               SAMUEL NILES, and
               HANNA ROSE, Oct. 17th, 1703."

In Sept., 1704, she gave her negro woman to her grandson, Rev. Samuel Niles, to be kept by him ten years, at the expiration of which time she was to be free for ever thereafter. 


Their location is established, in the writer's mind beyond a doubt, by the following circumstantial evidence, to have been nearly where Mr. Almanzo Littlefield's residence is now standing.


That Captain James Sands had a stone house, used as a garrison and hospital, in times of necessity, is admitted, and shown by Mr. Niles' History.

  1. His sixteenth of the Island - nearly all of it, as seen in the original plat, a copy of which is in the possession of Col. S. Ray Sands, embraces the house lot, and mill-pond now owned by Mr. A. Littlefield.
  2. Rev. Mr. Niles, grandson of Capt. J. Sands, lived some years with his grandparents in the stone house, arid he says the mill-pond was "near the house." He speaks of that pond as having a "flume."
  3. He says that house was "not far from the Harbor," which then was the "Old Pier."
  4. The house was within musket shot of a French privateer lying at the Pier. After the French had plundered it and returned to their vessel they "fired many pens at the house," says Mr. Niles, and adds: "I heard several bullets whistling over my head."
  5. When the French took the stone house they "set up their standard on a hill on the back side of it" [the house]. After it had stood there some hours an English vessel hove in sight, which "put the Frenchmen into a great surprise," whereupon:
  6. They were seen "running up to their standard on the hill, then down again, and others doing the like."
  7. Mr. Niles, when the French landed, was "in fair sight of the house," and at the same time "saw them coming from the water-side," while just behind him was a "large swamp."
  8. The outlines of a cellar still visible between the present old water-mill and Mr. Almanzo Littlefield's house, and he states that part of a cellar-wall is there covered up.
  9. No other mill-pond on the Island could have had a "flume," and a flume implies the presence of a mill.
  10. The mill-pond now there has been there from the Most ancient traditions.
  11. Mrs. Sarah Sands, widow of the above James Sands, in her will transmitted to her son the "mill," and the "mill" was in the inventory of her husband's estate soon after his death.
  12. The stone house of Mr. Sands was "garrisoned." This implies the presence of a body of soldiers.
  13. That garrison existed when the men of the Island were only "sixteen and e boy."
  14. The mill-pond and mill were near the house and garrison when Mrs. Sands had "but one little child, a girl, just able to run about and prattle a little" when she was drowned in said mill-pond.
  15. Said garrison was established in the time of "Philip's War," as a protection against the Block Island Indians.
  16. The earth work of an ancient garrison that commanded said stone house on three sides, is now seen, directly east of the spot where said house stood, and within pistol-shot of it, with a sharp hill back of it or east of it, and adjacent from which the whole region around. was visible to a sentinel.
  17. The "upland in a great swamp" to which Mr. Niles fled the first time the French came to Mr. Sands' house, was a convenient place of concealment, lying a short distance northwest of the location of said house. The upland and swamp remain, and are easily pointed out, lying a little distance west of Erastus Rose's house.

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project, 1998.

Livermore's History of Block Island, Rhode Island, 1877 Bridgewater, MA Pages 333 to 336 


The families of this name have been very numerous on Block Island for many years, and have maintained a very respectable position in society.

Caleb Littlefield was admitted freeman in 1721, and Nathaniel Littlefield in 1721, and from the two the various branches now here may have originated. The latter was representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1738, 1740, 1746, 1748, 1754.

Caleb Littlefield, Jr., was admitted freeman in 1756, Nathaniel Littlefield, Jr., also in 1756, both on the same day, as were their fathers. The latter was representative from Block Island in 1758, 1762. Caleb Littlefield, Jr., was one of the committee of the Island to oppose the English tea-tax, in 1774.

John Littlefield was admitted freeman in 1788, was representative in the Assembly from 1747 up to the Revolution, nearly thirty years, and in 1780 received from Gov. Greene a present of six barrels of cider.

Samuel Littlefield was admitted freeman in 1736, Henry, Nathaniel, and Simon Ray Littlefield were on the Island in the early, and the last in the latter part of the Revolution.

William Littlefield obtained distinction by marrying the daughter of Simon Ray, Jr., Miss Phebe Ray, by his own daughter, Miss Catharine Littlefield, who married Maj.-Gen. Nathaniel Greene, by which marriage she became an intimate associate with the wife of General Washington.

Said William Littlefield took an active part in the Revolution, and in 1775 was appointed Ensign, and from that was promoted to the once of Lieut.-Captain. After about five years of faithful service in the American army, while on a visit to Block Island he was reported, maliciously, to the General Assembly as having assisted the Islanders in carrying on trade with the English, for which crime his name was greatly dishonored until he could get a hearing before the Assembly. He was censured, and denied his pay in 1781, but in 1784 obtained a hearing whereby the falsity of the accusation against him was admitted by the assembly, and his pay with interest granted. In 1785, he took his seat again as a representative of Block Island in the General Assembly, and also in 1792.

Henry Littlefield, familiarly called "Harry," or "old Harry," during and after the Revolution owned a large tract on the Island. He kept the only store, at the Harbor, and according to tradition, kept himself on friendly terms with the "refugees," by selling them liquor. He does not seem to have been a relative of the other Island Littlefields. It is said that in addition to his large real estate, "he had a barrel of dollars." In the height of his wealth, the tide of fortune set against him. He had unjustly taken the property of a woman whose daughter is an aged lady now living. He had taken eight of her feather beds, and she said to him, "My prayer is, that you may die so poor that you will not have a bed to die on I" Her prayer was answered.

Elias Littlefield, though a man in humble life, a resident for many years on the north end of the Island, was one of Nature's great men, and what was better, he was a most exemplary Christian, sound and clear in doctrine, familiar with the Bible, and always ready to converse upon religious topics. As we stood, one sunny day in spring, on the south side of his barn, when the winds were chilly, under the old man's farming garments, from within the old tenement of clay, shone out the bright rays of the beautiful garments of the "new man," that spoke heavenly words of his eternal youth, and of his happy home in prospect. He went there in 1875, at the age of eighty-six.

Anthony Littlefield, the brother of Elias, and Mercy, his wife, are now living, the former in his eighty-fourth year, and the latter in her eighty-fifth, both free from disease, although he has recently become blind. Their married life together, over sixty years, in comfortable circumstances, has passed away happily. They, for many years, have risen early, breakfasted by lamp-light, dined about eleven, supped about four P. M., attended to their own domestic matters without a servant or a third person in their house, with clear memories and reasoning faculties; as ready to die alone as in a crowd, and cheerful in the hope of a happy hereafter. They witnessed the fearful wreck of the Warrior, on Sandy Point, and received the corpses of the crew at their house for respectable preparation for the Island cemetery.

Elarm Littlefield, late of Block Island, for many years was an active business man, doing a large part of the mercantile trade here, and nearly all connected with the West Side, left many friends to commemorate his excellences, and sons to emulate his business example. His large store, near his house (upon which he had no insurance), was burned. His son,

Lorenzo Littlefield, a representative in the Assembly in 1861 and 1862, commissioner of wrecks, aud town treasurer, carries on an extensive mercantile business at the Center.

Hon. Ray S. Littlefield, brother of Lorenzo, and interested with him in the store, and proprietor of the popular Central House, has been representative in the Assembly since 1873 to the present, 1877.

Thomas D. Littlefield was born in 1754, and died August 30, 1829, aged seventy-five years. He was father of

Nicholas Littlefield, who was born April 8, 1783, died June 2, 1846, aged sixty-five years. His sons Elam, above-mentioned, Nicholas, and Almanzo Littlefield, the latter two now living, have been well-known and highly-esteemed citizens of the Island.

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project, 1998.