Biographies East & West Greenwich

History of Washington and Kent Counties,
Rhode Island

by J. R. Cole; W.W.Preston & Co., New York, 1889


p. 1128 - 1129

Colonel William BODFISH. -- William Bodfish, who was of English birth, resided in Sandwich, Mass.  His son William, a native of the latter town, followed a seafaring life, and at the early age of nineteen was master of a ship sailing from Boston and engaged in the West India trade.  His death in 1835 was the result of a fever contracted during his last voyage.  He married Deborah T. Hatch, whose children were:  Mary, wife of Edward Landers, of Newport, and William, a native of Falmouth, Mass., whose birth occurred February 22d, 1815.  Here his youth was passed, though deprived in infancy of the affectionate care of a mother.  The common and private schools of Falmouth afforded excellent opportunities for a thorough training in the English branches, after which at the age of sixteen he removed to Providence and began his apprenticeship to the trade of a tailor.  At the expiration of the fourth year he returned to his native place, spent several years at his trade, and again made Providence his home.

In February, 1843, Colonel Bodfish became a resident of East Greenwich, and was for two years employed at his trade, after which he established himself as a merchant tailor and dealer in clothing.  In 1855 he was tendered the cashiership of the Rhode Island Central Bank, which he filled until the financial crisis of 1857 caused a suspension of the bank.  He then embarked in the tailoring business in Providence and continued thus engaged until 1861, meanwhile retaining his home in East Greenwich.  The latter place again found him one of its prominent business men from 1861 to 1866, when Taunton, Mass., afforded an opening for a dry goods and millinery store, which was four and a half years later removed to East Greenwich.  This he continued until 1880, the date of his retirement.  In 1878 he built the Bodfish Block and occupied it until his discontinuance in business when George H. Fuller became the lessee.

Colonel Bodfish was in 1835 married to Elizabeth S. Synya, of Providence, who died in April, 1863.  They had eight children as follows:  William S., born in 1837; Joshua L., in 1839; Mary A., in 1841; Celia C., in 1844; William E., in 1846; Frances E., in 1848; George W., in 1851, and William H., in 1852.  Joshua L. and William H. are the only survivors of this number.  He was a second time married October 2d, 1865, to Abbie Frances, daughter of the late Sidney S. Tillinghast, of East Greenwich.

Colonel Bodfish began his political career as a whig, later became a republican, and is now an earnest prohibitionist.  He held the office of clerk of the court of common pleas for the years 1850 and 1852, and was elected to the state senate in 1873 and 1874.  He was a charter member of the East Greenwich Savings Bank, as also of the East Greenwich Mutual Insurance Company, of which he was both treasurer and agent.  He is an active mason and was master of King Solomon's Lodge, No. 11, of East Greenwich.  In 1843 he joined the Kentish Guards elsewhere spoken of in this volume, was the following year made paymaster of the company, and in 1846 held a commission as colonel of the organization, in which capacity he served for eleven years.  Under the militia law of 1862 he organized one of the county regiments of which he was made colonel and held the position until the repeal of the law.  Colonel Bodfish was originally a member of the Baptist church in Providence, and aided in establishing the church of that denomination in East Greenwich.   He was one of the building committee on the erection of the first edifice and chairman of the same committee when the present beautiful house of worship was constructed in 1884.  He at present fills the office of deacon, has been for a long period clerk and treasurer, and for twenty-five years chorister of the church.

p. 1129 - 1131

General Thomas W. CHACE. -- On the 22d of June, 1834, on the southern shores of Rhode Island, in the town of Charlestown, a son was born to Isaac and Celina (Littlefield) Chace.  They gave their son physical and intellectual vigor, christened him in the name that heads this article, and to-day he is the widely and favorably known General Thomas W. Chace, of East Greenwich and Providence.  His mother, as the daughter of Captain Nathaniel Littlefield, of New Shoreham, had in her veins some of the best blood on that island, while his father, the son of Maxon Chace, a soldier of the war of 1812, had lineally descended from William Chace, one of the early settlers of the colony.

The general's father was born in Westerly, R.I., in 1807, and died in New Shoreham, R.I., in the thirty-eighth year of his age.  Soon after the death of his father, Thomas W. removed to Westerly.  In September, 1846, he went to live with his uncle, T. W. Foley, of Providence, with whom, after receiving a good common school education, he learned the business of a merchant tailor.  On attaining his majority, he purchased the stock and good will of the business of Mr. Foley.  Since 1856 he has carried on business successfully in Providence.  He still continues business on Westminster street, under the firm name of T. W. Chace & Co.

For several years he was prominently identified with the military organizations of the city and state.  In 1857 he enlisted as a private in the First Light Infantry Company of Providence, and in 1861 he assisted in the formation of the Burnside Zouaves, now known as the United Train of Artillery, and served as adjutant and major of that command.  At the May session of the general assembly in 1874 he was elected brigadier general of the Fourth Brigade, Rhode Island Militia, and in 1873 and in 1875 was chosen to command the Third and First brigades respectively.  He was mustered out of the service on the reorganization of the militia in June, 1879.  'The Governor and Commander-in-Chief, in general order No. 11, series of 1879, returned thanks to Brig.-Genl. Thos. W. Chace for his valuable services and constant devotion to the interests of the State Militia.'  At the May session of the general assembly, 1879, 'It was voted to present to Genl. Chace the colors and standards of this Brigade for his efficient services in the State Militia'.

In 1874 he was elected member of the republican state central committee, and from that time until the present he has held an influential position in the party councils, and after serving ably as chairman of that committee he declined a re-election in 1888.  In June, 1888, he was chosen for a term of four years to represent Rhode Island on the Republican national committee. He was an alternate to the national republican convention  in 1876 and a delegate to Chicago in 1880.  While giving much of his attention to state and national politics, he has frequently taken part in the more local affairs of East Greenwich, which town in his present home.  In 1882 and in 1883 he was elected to represent East Greenwich in the general assembly, and in 1885 and again in 1886 he was elected to the state senate from that town.

In the January session of 1887, on the floor of the senate chamber, he demonstrated his strength as a debater and a leader, and took a position on a great public question, by which he became at once better known throughout the state.  The bill, now chapter 634 of the Laws of Rhode Island, was then on its passage, and General Chace was credited by the friends of the prohibitory amendment with well directed efforts in the best interests of the cause.

He has belonged to the great brotherhood of Masons since 1859, and in the fraternity has filled important offices.

In 1857 he united with the Central Baptist church of Providence, with which he is still connected.  He assisted in the formation of the Rhode Island Baptist Social Union in 1871, of which he was for several years treasurer and vice-president.  From 1863 to 1872 he served as vice-president of the Young Men's Christian Association, of which he was president from 1872 to 1875.  He married in February, 1865, Emily S. Starkweather, of Windham, Connecticut.

p. 1131 - 1132

Joseph DEWS was born May 13th, 1843, in Horbry, Yorkshire, England, and when five years of age emigrated with his parents to America.  He first located at Trenton, three years later removed to East Greenwich and at the expiration of the third year made Westerly his home.  When a lad he entered as an apprentice the Pollard Mill at East Greenwich, and until the age of sixteen continued to serve in various mills between school seasons.  He attended the public schools, but being desirous of more thorough opportunities than were possible in that limited educational field, became a student of the East Greenwich Academy.  In 1859 he entered the employ of Messrs. H. N. Campbell & Co., in their factory store at Westerly and remained thus occupied for seven years, in the meantime taking a vacation for the purpose of securing a commercial education at Poughkeepsie, New York.  He then became a partner with them in the purchase and sale of wool.

In 1876 he made an engagement with Messrs. Brown, Steese & Clarke, wool commission merchants, of Boston, Mass., and continued this business relation until 1882.  His ambition from boyhood to become the owner of a woolen mill was now gratified, as two years previously Mr. Dews had started a small mill in Westerly, which he managed until his lease of the American Mill Company's property at East Greenwich.  He had already experienced some of the vicissitudes peculiar to the manufacturer, but nothing daunted, thoroughly equipped to the latter mill with new and improved machinery and began operations with eighteen looms.  Under his successful management the demand for his products greatly increased, sixty-three looms were introduced and two hundred and eighty hands employed in its various departments.  The sales during the last year reached the sum of $535,000 net.  This is entirely the result of the ability and judgment evinced by Mr. Dews in the management of every detail of his increasing business, and places him among the leading manufacturers of the state.  He has recently established in East Greenwich the Phoenix Electric Light and Coal Company, of which he is the sole owner, and is a director of the Hope Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Providence. He has never been diverted from the field of business to the arena of politics, but given his thought and attention more especially to church matters as one of the vestry of St. Stephen's Protestant Episcopal church in Providence, of which he is a member.

Mr. Dews was in 1866 married to Anne M., daughter of Levens Shumway of Oxford, Mass.  Their children are:  Fred S., Mary L., Annie Louise, Joseph Howard and Bessie S.

p. 1132 - 1133

Thomas G. FRY. -- Mr. Fry is of English descent.  His grandfather, Joseph Fry, spent his life on the homestead in East Greenwich still in possession of the family.  Among his sons was Thomas, born on the above spot, in the vicinity of which his days were passed in the congenial pursuits of a farmer.  He was not, however, indifferent to the demands made upon his time and ability as a good citizen, and devoted much attention to the public interests as member of the state legislature, judge of the court of common pleas, and justice of the peace.  In these varied offices he indicated that strong common sense and practical knowledge which enabled him to maintain an influential position in the county during the whole of his active life.  He married Hannah, daughter of Nicholas Spink, of Quidnessett.  To this union were born children:  Nicholas S.; Eleanor, wife of Doctor Charles Eldredge; Anna, married to Gordon W. Nichols; John; Ruth, wife of Joseph Arnold; Joseph; Thomas G., and a son Richard, who died in infancy.

Thomas G. Fry was born on the 13th of August, 1810, on the farm which is his present home.  He became a pupil of the district school, mastered there the elementary branches, and as a lad helped in various way in the work of the farm.  The whole drift of his mind and the constitution of the man tended toward the life of an agriculturist, and in obedience to his tastes he followed his father's pursuits.  On the death of the latter, in 1831, he succeeded to the estate, each of the brothers receiving a farm as their inheritance.  Mr. Fry continued thus actively employed until 1877, when, having gained by industry and application a respite from further care, he relinguished the management of the property to his son-in-law.

He was on the 10th of February, 1841, married to Miss Hannah A. U., daughter of Jonathan Reynolds and sister to Hon. John J. Reynolds, of Wickford, whose family is more fully mentioned elsewhere in this volume.  Three daughters - Hannah, Susan Elizabeth and Helena - are deceased, and a daughter, Lydia, is the wife of William A. Vaughn.  Mr. Fry cares little for the busy scenes of public life, and has, therefore, never sought office.  Positions of trust, both of a civil and business character, have always been gratefully declined by him.  Formerly a whig, he now supports the republican party.  During the turbulent period of the Dorr war he joined the law and order party, and was a member of a company enrolled for the defense of the state government.  He was reared in the faith of the Society of Friends, and worships with the East Greenwich Friends' meeting.

p. 1134 - 1135

Thomas E. KENYON. -- George Kenyon, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, resided in the town of Hopkinton in Washington county, Rhode Island. To his wife, formerly a Miss Hoxie, were born thirteen children, one of whom was Solomon, a native of Hopkinton, who married Eunice Sheffield, of Portsmouth, in Newport county, in the same state.  Their children were: Martha, Peleg, Solomon H., Catherine, George C., John T., Eunice S., and Thomas E.

The youngest of this number, Thomas E., was born April 21st, 1807, in Richmond, Washington county, where a private school, conducted during the winter months, afforded the only opportunities for education he enjoyed, the remainder of the year being devoted to work upon his father's farm.  He continued to reside with his parents until 1836, meanwhile for several years leasing the property.  During the year above mentioned, he purchased a small farm at Pawtucket, cultivated the land until the fall of 1838, and returned to Richmond, where his first experience as a farmer occurred.  In 1842 Mr. Kenyon became the owner of his present home in East Greenwich, then embracing thirty-five acres, which by industry and thrift he has since fully doubled in area.  He has made farming the business of his life, and is ranked among the most successful agriculturalists of the town of East Greenwich.

He was many years since a director of the Rhode Island Exchange Bank of East Greenwich, and has borne a somewhat conspicuous part in affairs connected with his town and county.  A whig of positive opinions during the existence of that party, and afterward a republican, he has been a member of the town council and held other local offices.  He has twice been elected to the state legislature, and been each time assigned to various important committees.  He was educated in the faith of the Society of Friends and still maintains his allegiance to that belief.

Mr. Kenyon has been thrice married.  To his first wife, Mary L. Pierce, of Richmond, were born two children, Peleg G. and John R.  He was married a second time to Mary Ann Garnder, whose only son, Thomas E., is deceased. His present wife is Elizabeth N. Austin, of Coventry, whose children are Thomas E., Albert A. and Mary E.

John R. Kenyon was born in 1834 and married Clara, daughter of Charles Nichols.  Their four living children are:  John H., Frank T., Eunice N. (wife of Lewis A. Walton of Cranston) and Solomon H.

p. 1135 - 1137

Thomas MAY, of Mayville, in East Greenwich, is a conspicuous example of success in life as the result of industry and thrift.  The son of Thomas and Mary Mercer May, he was born in Milton, near Clitheroe, Bowland, Yorkshire, England, on the 31st of May, 1819, and spent the first four years of his life at this point.  Removing with his parents to Whiteash, near Blackburn, his father there started the first power loom and operated it for a period of two years. The town of Acerington (sic) then became his home, where at the age of seven he entered the weaving room, and was there engaged in carrying cops to the operatives, at half a crown a week.  While residing here he was left fatherless and largely dependent upon his own exertions. Enjoying no opportunities for education, he was taught to read in the Sunday school.

On the death of his father he lived for three years with a farmer, and, returning again to his home, entered a spinning factory, where he soon became conversant with the spinner's art.  At the age of sixteen the young man entered the giant print works near Bolton, in Lancashire, first in the dye room, and second in the department of printing.  Here he served an apprenticeship of seven years, at eleven shillings per week for two years, twelve shillings for the succeeding two years, thirteen shillings for the two years following, and fifteen shillings for the final year.  Having been married on the 20th of March, 1839, this apprenticeship was begun the day following.  On its conclusion he received thirty-six shillings, and later two pounds per week.  He was then employed at Belmont, near Bolton, and as foreman printer here introduced the then new style of rainbow printing, at a salary of fifty shillings per week.

Mr. May has crossed the ocean twenty-one times, during seven of which his wages were paid while absent, and on several occasions his passage.  The first of these trips occurred in 1850, in response to a summons from the Dunnel Print Works at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where he was employed for one year.  The last was on the occasion of the Queen's jubilee, with a wife and two children.  He returned again to England, remained a year, and in 1852 settled in Manchester, New Hampshire, his wages at this point being twenty-five dollars per week.  The year 1853 found him again in England, at Syddall's Print Works at Chadkirk, near Stockport, in Cheshire.  Mr. May had meanwhile become thoroughly imbued with the American spirit, and in 1854 accepted an engagement at Crompton, Rhode Island, as foreman for Abbott & Sanders.  His voyage, with a wife and eight small children, on accepting this offer, was an eventful and perilous one.  Shipwrecked off Cape Race rock, and detained amid many inconveniences at St. Johnes, Newfoundland, for three weeks, at the expiration of the seventh week their destination was reached in safety.  Mr. May spent the period between 1861 and 1862 in England, was for a brief time in Dover, New Hampshire, and then engaged in machine printing for the Richmond Manufacturing Company at Providence.

The year 1866 Mr. May spent in Cranston, and in 1867 made East Greenwich his residence, having closed a contract as forman for Messrs. Adams & Butterworth.  With the exception of brief intervals of absence, this village has since been his home.

His wages have at times been as high as forty dollars per week, indicating the appreciation in which he was held by his employers.  Having by prudence and unceasing industry gained a competence, he has retired from active labor and invested his savings in real estate at Mayville, which hamlet is being constantly improved.  Mr. May is the father of nineteen children, thirteen being daughters and six sons.  Fifteen of these are living.  On the 15th of October, 1888, he raised the stars and stripes in celebration of the birth of the nineteenth child, a daughter.  He is not attached to any political party, but enjoys the privilege of the franchise and votes for the best man, irrespective of party ties.  He was educated in the faith of the Wesleyan Methodist church, and still worships with that body.  Mr. May is in his seventieth year, though still hale and hearty as a boy.

p. 1137 - 1138

Richard SPENCER. -- John Spencer, who came from England on the 24th of March, 1633, and died in 1648, leaving no children, was uncle to John Spencer, the progenitor of the family in East Greenwich.  The latter participated in the King Philip's war, and was one of the forty-eight settlers who purchased the territory now embraced in East and West Greenwich.  His son John born in 1666, married Audrey Greene, daughter of Deputy-Governor John Greene.  Their son William, born in 1695, was the father of William, whose birth occurred in 1723 and his death in 1777.  His son John, born in 1760, and representing the fifth generation in line of descent, was the father of the subject of this biography.  He was drafted during the revolutionary war and finding it impossible to leave, secured a substitute.  By his marriage to Huldah Johnson were born five sons -- John, William, Hezekiah, Oliver and Richard - and two daughters -- Huldah and Betsey.

Richard Spencer was born May 9th, 1798, on the farm where he has during his lifetime resided.  His education was received in the school house his father assisted in building, after which he began his active life as a farmer.  In consideration of the care bestowed upon his parents in their advancing years, he was given one half the farm, and purchased the remainder.  This embraced originally ninety acres, but was reduced in its dimensions by the sale of twenty acres with which a substitute was secured for revoluntionary service, when his father was drafted.  Richard Spencer has added to this until his landed possessions now embrace three hundred acres, much of which is under a high state of cultivation.  He has been industrious and frugal, realizing that diligence and integrity in business are the prerequisites to success.

Always a democrat in his political convictions, his voice has been heard in the meetings of the town council, and the offices of auditor, overseer of highways for over twenty years, and manager of the town asylum have been filled by him.  He was appointed justice of the peace but declined the honor, and likewise refused all offers of legislative preferment. Frequently made executor and administrator, his judgment no less than his stern integrity, have made his services invaluable in the settlement of estates.

Mr. Spencer regards the business aspect of his life as of little moment beside that larger religious experience which has been to him the support and comfort of his later years.  He was 'born a second time', as he graphically describes it, in 1838, was chosen deacon of the Six Principle Baptist church of Frenchtown in East Greenwich the same year, and ordained to that office in March, 1839.  His life has since been a beautiful example of the virtues which should adorn the Christian character.

Deacon Spencer married April 3d, 1817, Roby, daughter of Joseph Tarbox. Their children are: Richard Anthony, Audra E., Joseph J., William A., Huldah E., E. Amanda, and two who died in infancy.  Richard Anthony died at the age of twenty-seven, leaving one daughter, Anna M., wife of John J. Spencer, whose children are:  Richard Augustus, William J. B. and Alfred Earnest. Audra E. is now the widow of Benjamin Spencer; William A. is married to Mary E. Harrington; Huldah E. is the wife of Daniel C. Bailey; and E. Amanda is married to Job Briggs.

p. 1138 - 1139

Silas WEAVER. -- The Weaver family, having originally emigrated from Wales, first settled in Newport.  Dutee Weaver, the father of Silas Weaver, and a revolutionary soldier, was born February 11th, 1758, and resided in East Greenwich, where he first pursued his trade as a tailor, and later engaged in the sale of groceries and cultivated a farm he owned.  He filled the office of justice of the peace, and held other positions of local importance.  He married Almy Andrew, of East Greenwich, whose children are: Phebe, married to Thomas Howland; Arnold, Lydia, wife of Christopher Weaver; Jonathan, Paul N., Eunice, married to Lewis Collings; Silas and Simeon.  The death of Dutee Weaver occurred May 9th, 1842, in his eighty-fifth year.

Silas weaver, the youngest, with one exception, of the above children, was born March 2d, 1802, in East Greenwich.  He received private instruction, chiefly at evening schools, and until the age of twenty availed himself of any opportunities that afforded an honest livelihood.  Then entering his father's shop he began the tailor's trade, and concluded the period of his apprenticeship at Nantucket and Providence.  Returning to East Greenwich in 1822 he opened a shop, and soon found himself at the head of a prosperous business.  This he continued until 1842, meanwhile working assiduously at his trade, and finally for a series of years abandoning any active pursuit. He early espoused the principles of the democracy, and has since been an active and influential member of the party.  Mr. Weaver determined in 1835 to enter the arena of politics, and was, in October of that year, elected a representative to the general assembly, and again for the two succeeding terms.  To this office he was again chosen under the new charter on the 5th of April, 1865.  In June, 1849, he was made town clerk, and acceptably filled the office until 1865.  He also held various other town offices previous to and after 1835, on many occasions receiving the suffrages of the opposite party.  He was appointed surveyor of the Port of East Greenwich, R.I., in June, 1845, and continued to hold the office for four years, having been appointed by James K. Polk, then president of the United States.  He has also been and is a leading spirit in the business affairs of the town, having been chosen a director of the Rhode Island Central Bank of East Greenwich, and held the same position in the Greenwich National Bank since its organization.  In 1842 he embarked in the business of a real estate broker, which was successfully continued until 1870.

Mr. Weaver was, on the 28th of July, 1868, married to Sarah E., widow of Bradford C. Shaw, of Providence, and daughter of the late Nathan Whiting, Esq., a native of Massachusetts, who graduated at Brown University, and practiced law for many years in East Greenwich.  Although reared in the faith of the society of Friends, Mr. Weaver and his wife worship with the congregation of St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal church.


p. 1216 - 1217

Stephen Watson GRIFFIN. -- Benjamin Griffin, the grandfather of Stephen W. Griffin, was a farmer in the town of West Greenwich.  By his marriage to Mary Watson were born two children, a son, Benjamin, and a daughter, Dorcas, who became the wife of Jesse Wood.  Benjamin Griffin, who was born December 14th, 1798, in West Greenwich, settled on a farm in Exeter, and married Elizabeth, daughter of David and Elizabeth Gardner, of South Kingstown. Their children were: Nicholas, Benjamin, Joseph, Stephen W., Lewis, Elizabeth, Thomas J., Mary A., Gardner W., William W., George A., and Abby A.  Mr. Griffin's death occurred April 20th, 1879, and that of his wife October 14th, 1851.

Their fourth son, Stephen Watson, was born August 3d, 1826, in Exeter, Washington county, at that time the residence of his parents.  In early youth he removed to Cranston, his home until the age of fourteen, when the family located at Foster.  Here he was variously occupied for four years, when the young man at the age of eighteen began the battle of life, with no other capital than a sturdy will and a sufficiently vigorous constitution to enable him to render his labor self-supporting.  His first effort was in the direction of farm labor, with the fall and winter months devoted to school. He thus acquired more than a mastery of the English branches, and was soon fitted to take charge of a neighboring school.  He at this time learned the trade of brick making.  Mr. Griffin, however, early found another avenue of usefulness open to him, and abandoned his trade to become a town official. As a republican he was elected to the office of town and probate clerk of Coventry, and has each succeeding year been re-elected.  He has, by his fidelity, accuracy and courtesy, won the regard of the public, and stands in trusted and confidential relations with many of his townsmen.  He has also for twelve years been clerk of the school committee of Coventry.  He is a member of Massachusetts Lodge, No. 12, of Free and Accepted Masons, of Anthony, and of Anthony Lodge, No. 21, of  the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  He at the age of seventeen became a member of the Baptist church of Sterling, Conn., and now worships with and aids in the support of the Methodist Episcopal church of Washington.

Mr. Griffin, in the winter of 1852, married Adeline A., daughter of Hazard and Sarah Champlin, of Washington.  Their children are:  Ella Frances, born July 29th, 1855, and Sarah Elizabeth, whose birth occurred July 7th, 1857. Their nephew, Gardner W. Griffin, who resided with them, was born April 29th, 1869, and died May 27th, 1886.

p. 1217 - 1220

John J. KILTON. -- The Kiltons came from England and settled in Providence. At a conflagration of their dwelling house in Providence the early records of the family were destroyed.  Some of the family were buried in the North Burial Ground.  Thomas Kilton resided in Providence, where he died May 11th, 1749, aged fifty-nine years.  His son, Thomas, was born in Providence, and married Sarah Pearce, sister of Samuel Pearce, of Prudence island, who was the father of Dutee J. Pearce.  Thomas Kilton, like many ambitious young men of his time, chose a seaman's life, and rose by the usual gradations to the command of a vessel.  During a tempestuous gale his bark was, in 1753, wrecked on Cape Breton.  As the unfortunate seamen were washed ashore by the breakers they were surrounded by savage Indians, and all, excepting the mate, barbarously murdered.  Sylvanus Hopkins, son of Stephen Hopkins, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the crew, and suffered death.  The mate returned to the colony with the sad news of the slaughter of his comrades.  The widow of captain Thomas Kilton, with her only child, a son, resided in Providence, and was teacher in a school, of which Silas Downer was the principal, whom she afterward married and had four daughters.  Mr. Downer was a man of literary taste and ability, and was prominent in the early history of Providence, where he delivered a discourse at the dedication of the Tree of Liberty.  Extravagant in his habits, he soon spent the property left his wife by her first husband.  Consequently her son was in early life thrown upon his own resources.

John Jenckes Kilton, only son of Captain Thomas and Sarah (Pearce) Kilton, was born in Providence March 1st, 1749, and there learned the trade of a tailor, at which trade he worked most of his life, and by which and farming he supported himself and family.  He was one of the heroes who opened the great drama of the American revolution.  In June, 1772, he, with a brave party disguised as Indians, and led by John Brown, of Providence, boarded the British revenue sloop 'Gaspee' and set her on fire.  He was frequently in service during the war which followed, and was in Sullivan's expedition to the island of Rhode Island in 1778.  He moved from Providence to Scituate in 1772, and afterward removed to Coventry, upon a farm a mile north of Washington, where, with his family, he spent the remainder of his life.  In 1771 he married Sarah, daughter of Francis & Sarah (Phillips) Brayton. Francis Brayton, when a lad, migrated with his elder brother, Thomas, from the island of Rhode Island.  They were the first settlers in Washington, and from them it was first called Braytontown.  Here he resided till he died, May, 1784, aged sixty-three years.  His body, with those of his wife, children and grandchildren, three infant sons of his daughter, Sarah (Brayton) Kilton, are interred in the yard of the Methodist Episcopal church in Washington.  John Jenckes Kilton died February 28th, 1824, aged seventy-five years.  He was buried on a spot selected by him on his own land as his family burial place, and now lies in Woodland cemetery.  His wife died December 1st, 1832, aged eighty-one years, and was buried by his side. They had twelve children, of whom three sons died in infancy.

John J. Kilton was born January 24th, 1788.  His childhood was spent at his father's home on the farm.  He attended the common schools in his neighborhood, of which at one time his sister Betsey was teacher, and afterward spent one or two terms at the academy in Plainfield, Connecticut. He worked on the farm, and later became an apprentice under his eldest brother, Thomas, to learn the carpenter's trade, boarding in his family in Washington.  He worked at this and the machinist's trade till over forty years of age, living in Arkwright a portion of the time.  In December, 1827, he married Jane McMurray, only child of Alexander and Hannah (Bennett) McMurray.  In April, 1829, he, with his wife, removed to Washington, being employed as machinist by the Washington Manufacturing Company, who owned a mill on the north side of the river, with four-fifths of the water power. He afterward purchased the remaining one-fifth of this water power and land on the south side of the river, in 1831 built a mill, and the next year commenced weaving cotton cloth.  By the advice of his friends, Governor Elisha Harris and Mr. David Whitman, he commenced the manufacture of a style of goods unlike any in the market, carefully selecting and using the best kind of cotton.  The Kilton sheetings soon gained a wide reputation, and orders were received faster than could be filled.  For them he received many diplomas from the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry, of which he was for many years a member; and also from the American Institute, New York.  The latter, in 1852, awarded him a silver medal for the best brown sheeting then made.  He had, by economy, been able to save only an amount of money sufficient to pay for the land and water privilege, and when the mill was built and filled with machinery was in debt; yet he had no difficulty in purchasing all the stock and supplies needed to commence work, giving his note for eight months, without indorser or security.  For twenty years he had the entire management of this business, employing no agent or bookkeeper.  He bought the supplies for the mill, kept the books, and paid the help, depending upon no watchman, but going through the mill twice each night after work had ceased.  He prospered, and was soon able to pay his entire indebtedness.  Mr. Kilton then purchased an estate near the mill, and in 1840 erected a house, where, with his family, he lived during the remainder of his life.  After conducting the business about twenty years he relinquished the management to his son, who bore his father's name, and who finally leased the mill property.  The last years of his life were devoted to farming, for which he retained his early fondness.

He was for many years a director in the Bank of Kent, which position he held until the institution was closed.  He was also a director in the Warwick Insititution for Savings.  He was a whig and republican, and a law and order man at the time of the Dorr rebellion.  He was neither a politician nor an office seeker.  He was identified with the anti-slavery reform when to be an abolitionist rendered a man unpopular.  He was always interested in the temperance cause, and a member of the first temperance society in his native town.  Mr. Kilton took a deep interest in the cause of education, was many years a trustee of the public school, and did much toward its improvement. He was not a member of any church, but a believer in the truths of divine revelation and a reader of the Bible.  He was a constant attendant on public worship, and never absent from the church on Sunday unless detained by sickness.  He preferred the Methodist Episcopal church, of which his wife and three elder sisters were members, and mainly through his influence the church property  in Washington, of which he at the time owned nearly one-fourth, was given to the Methodist Episcopal church.

He gave liberally for the support of the church and for benevolent and charitable purposes; was modest, unassuming and cautious.  His word was as good as his bond.  He was not brilliant, but displayed good common sense and business capacity.  He was hospitable, felt a strong attachment for his family and friends, and was a kind husband, father and brother.  His death occurred July 7th, 1873.  He was buried in the family burial lot, now in Woodland Cemetery, where a plain granite monument is erected to his memory and that of his wife, who died July 27th, 1877.  A son and daughter survive their parents.

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Charles MATTESON, of Providence, associate justice of the supreme court of the state, is a native of the town of Coventry, and was born March 21st, 1840.  He is a son of Asahel and Julia M. (Johnson) Matteson, of Anthony. Asahel Matteson, a native of West Greenwich, was a merchant at Escoheag, afterward at Rice City, where the subject of our of sketch was born; and subsequently in the city of Providence.  He now resides in the town of Coventry, where he enjoys the confidence of the people, and where he has held several important trusts.  He was president of the Coventry National Bank of Anthony for ten or twelve years, trustee of the Coventry Savings Bank, and also state senator from that town for a number of years.  Mrs. Julia M. Matteson is the daughter of Uzal Johnson, who was a resident of Lyme, Conn.

Judge Matteson received a liberal education, both in the literary and legal departments of learning, being a graduate of Brown University and a student of Harvard Law School.  He took his preparatory course of instruction in the Providence Conference Seminary, now East Greenwich Academy, and in the University Grammar School, Providence, graduating from the latter institution in 1857.  In the meantime he clerked for his father in his store in Anthony for two years.  The opportunities here afforded the young student for reading character from the multitude of faces that came and went from that place of business, modified by so many conditions and circumstances in life, were not only educational in their tendencies, but the advantages herein afforded did much to qualify the judge for that high position he has so long and ably filled on the bench.

In the fall of 1857 he was matriculated for Brown University and in 1861 he graduated from that institution with the degree of A.M.  In the year 1861 he entered the office of Wingate Hayes, U.S. district attorney, and began the study of law.  He was with Mr. Hayes two years then entered Harvard Law school.  Here he remained another year and then returned to the office of Mr. Hayes, and on January 9th, 1864, he was admitted to the bar of the supreme court of the state of Rhode Island.  From this time until his election as associate justice he practiced law, part of the time on his own account and then as a member of the law firm of Hayes & Matteson.  His success at the bar gaining for him the confidence of his brothers in the profession led to his election as associate justice of the supreme court of the state February 11th, 1875.  On February 28th, fourteen years ago, he took the oath of office qualifying him for the duties of the bench, and he has held that position ever since.

August 2d, 1872, Judge Matteson was married to Miss Belle, daughter of Paul and Sally (Covil) Hines of Warwick.  Her father was for many years superintendent of the Brayton Foundry at River Point.  Three children were the result of this marriage:  Archibald C., George A., and Paul.  At the time of his marriage Judge Matteson resided in Coventry, and from that town was elected senator in 1871, and re-elected in 1872.  In 1872 he removed his residence to Providence.  His acquaintanceship with members of the general assembly, by reason of his recent service in that body, probably contributed largely to his election in 1875.  In 1885 he erected his present residence in the city of Providence.

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Pardon S. PECKHAM. -- The Rhode Island Peckhams are descended from English ancestors.  Judge Samuel, the grandfather of Pardon S. Peckham, resided in Charlestown, Washington county, where he cultivated a farm, and also followed his trade of cooper.  He married Hannah Stanton of the same county, to whom were born eleven children.  The birth of Daniel, the youngest of this number who grew to mature years, occurred September 10th, 1796, and his death in April, 1862.  He was both a farmer and boat builder, occasionally engaged in contracting, and was one of the most active and enterprising men of his town.  He was much interested in local military affairs, attaining the rank of captain of militia, and was familiarly known among his friends as 'Captain Daniel'.  He married Olive, daughter of Pardon Kenyon, of Hopkinton.  Their children were:  Pardon S., Samuel, Daniel, Olive A.F., Thomas C., and John G.   Mr. Peckham married a second time Maria Ennis, of Cranston, whose children were Leander W. and Luther A.

The eldest of these sons, Pardon S. Peckham, was born October 2d, 1821, in Charlestown, Rhode Island, from whence he removed at the age of twelve years with his parents to Westerly.  His education was obtained under difficulties, the winter months only being devoted to study at the nearest school, located nearly two miles distant and requiring a tedious walk to and from his home each day.  Such, however, was his determination, that a thorough knowledge of the English branches was soon obtained, and later a mastery of elementary mathematics, that contributed greatly to his success as a business man.  At the age of seventeen he removed toWarwick, in Kent county, and was employed to tend woolen cards in a mill near Pawtuxet.  His skill and fidelity to the work assigned him soon placed him in charge of that department, where he remained three years, when it ceased operations.

Removing in Apponaug, he entered the employ of Festus L. Thomson as superintendent of the carding room, and later assumed the management of the mill, which he purchased in 1846, forming a co-partnership with E. S. Peckham under the firm name of E. S. & P. S. Peckham.  This business association lasted two years, the product of the mill being woolen stocking yarns, which found a ready sale and soon established a reputation for the 'Peckham Yarns' as the most popular and desirable goods of their kind in the market.  Selling his interest in the spring of 1848, he removed to Coventry Centre and established the firm of Peckham & Spencer, which a year after became Peckham & Card.  This firm continued four years in business, woolen yarns being their specialty, when the senior partner in 1853 purchased the entire interest and conducted the mill alone until the year 1861, when his brother, Thomas C. Peckham, was admitted to a quarter interest.  This relation existed for a brief time, when the subject of this biography again became the exclusive owner and purchased in addition a cotton mill which underwent material changes and was devoted to the manufacture of woolen yarns, his selling agents at this time being Messrs. Tafft & Co., of Providence.  In the year 1865 a corporation formed under the title of the Peckham Manufacturing Company operated the the two mills above mentioned and a third, located at Spring Lake in the town of Coventry.  In 1870 Mr. Peckham became sole owner of the Spring Lake property, a year after dissolving the connection with the Peckham Manufacturing Company.

In 1881 his two sons, Samuel D. and Pardon S., Jr., were admitted to a partnership under the firm name of P. S. Peckham & Co., and have since assumed the management of the business.  To them is attributable in a large degree its success, the senior partner giving it little attention aside from a general supervision of the business of the concern.  In 1884 a new and commodious mill was erected on adjacent ground.  Ten sets of woolen machinery are now used, the amount of business formerly done multiplied by six representing the present capacity of the establishment.  This indicates the growth and success of the woolen mill under judicious and successful management.

Mr. Peckham is a democrat in his political views, and a firm believer in free trade principles.  He has been for three years a member of the town council and is now its president.  He has been actively interested in the cause of education, and for a long period held the office of school trustee. He was formerly a director of the Coventry Savings Bank.  He was formerly identified with the Free Will Baptist church of Warwick and has since espoused the belief of the Second Adventists.

Mr. Peckham in 1841 married Hannah E., daughter of Gardner Gorton, of Apponaug, who died in the fall of 18147.  He the following year married Sarah J., daughter of George W. Bates, of Warwick.  Their children are: Samuel D., Ellen F, wife of George H. Tyler, who has two children; Mary Jane, deceased, wife of George E. Rounds; Pardon S., Jr., Olive A., married to Mason Dewitt, who has five children; Sarah G., wife of N. B. Vars, who has one child; William H., Charles H., deceased; Eva A., Emily B., and Walter W.

Samuel D. Peckham was born at Coventry Centre in 1847.  After having spent five years at Westerly on a farm which his father owned, he began in business with the Peckham Manufacturing Company.  His wife is Eugenia, sister of George H. Tyler.  They have one son, Irving Peckham.

Pardon S. Peckham, Jr., was born in 1855. His wife was Ella Tucker, of Hopkinton, R.I.  He was educated for business as was also his brother Samuel D., at the Bryant & Stratton Business College at Providence.

William H. Peckham was born in 1863, was married in 1881 to Eunice A., daughter of Stephen and Mary Cornell, and has two sons.

p. 1224 - 1226

Thomas C. PECKHAM.  The name of Peckham is largely identified with the growth and development of the town of Coventry and equally so with its manufacturing interests.  Thomas C. Peckham was born December 21st, 1836, in Westerly, R.I., where his parents at that time resided.  At the age of fifteen he removed to Coventry Centre, and from that date until the present his life has been one of unceasing industry.  His education was chiefly acquired during the winter months, his time and services for the remainder of the year being of more value on the farm and in the saw mill.  He also sought employment in the immediate vicinity, and thus at an early age became self-reliant and independent.  Removing to Coventry Centre in 1851, he entered the woolen yarn mill owned by an older brother, Pardon S. Peckham, where he was assigned to the pickers and cards, receiving for his services seven dollars per month and his board.

Two years later he was placed in charge of the carding room, and in 1861 his industry was rewarded with a quarter interest in the business.  This copartnership existed for a brief period, when Mr. Peckham, on retiring, established the firm of T. C. Peckham & Co., removed his business to Spring Lake in the same town, and there purchasing a cotton mill, materially improved the structure and converted it to the purposes of a woolen mill. He made many important changes in the property and its surroundings, placed in the mill four sets of machinery and continued the manufacture of woolen yarns.  In 1865 the Peckham Manufacturing Company was organized, its stockholders being Thmas C. Peckham, Pardon S. Peckham, and the firm of Hartwell Richards  & Co., of Providence.  Three mills were operated, two at Coventry Centre and one at Spring Lake.  Pardon S. Peckham in 1870 withdrew from this corporation and purchased the Spring Lake property.  The subject of this biography, who had previously acted as agent of the company above-mentioned, now assumed the management of its mills at Coventry Centre, which are devoted to the manufacture of worsted and stocking yarns, fine underwear and tweeds.  Mr. Peckham is the president of this corporation, and Hartwell Richards & Co. its agents.  A more detailed description of the mills of the Peckham Manufacturing Company will appear on another page of this volume.  Their successful operation and the excellence of their products is largely the result of the master mind at their head, who has added extensively to the property, erected a commodious and well equipped store, numerous buildings for the comfort of his employees, and infused into the little hamlet the spirit of progress and business.  Through his influence a post office was established, as also a station on the New York and New England railroad.  He is besides intersted in the Oneco
Manufacturing Company in Connecticut, of which he is secretary and treasurer.

Mr. Peckham is an earnest champion of the principles of the republican party, and has learned from practical experience the necessity for protection to home industries.  He was a delegate to the republican national convention convened at Chicago in 1884, represented his town in the general assembly, as a member of the house of representatives during the sessions of 1875, 1876 and 1877, and as a member of the state senate for the years 1882, 1883, 1884, filling among other positions that of chairman of committee on accounts and claims.  He is actively interested in all measures affecting the town, has been a member of the town council, president of the board of assessors, and for fifteen years a school trustee.  He has also attained to rank and influence in the Masonic fraternity, with which he has for years been identified.

Mr. Peckham was on the 8th of March, 1858, married to Mary V., daughter of the late Daniel Reynolds and Hannah H. Gardner of Washington village, and granddaughter of John G. Reynolds of East Greenwich.  Their children are: Daniel W., born January 26th, 1859, who died April 18th, 1881; Annie F., wife of Louis L. Angell, born July 23d, 1860; Mary E., wife of Sylvester L. Tillinghast, born June 15th, 1862, who died April 10th, 1883; Grace G., wife of Frank W. Tillinghast, born March 27th, 1864; Hattie, born December 24th, 1865;  Amie G., November 14th, 1868; Susie E., March 30th, 1870, who died October 17th, 1881; Bertha V., born August 13th, 1872, whose death occurred October 16th of the same year;  Bertha E., born March 3d, 1874, who died on the 3d of the following October; Isabella B., born March 21st, 1871, and Charles Herbert, born December 29th, 1875.

The Peckham family were largely represented in Rhode Island and presumably trace their descent from the common ancestors, John Peckham and his wife, who was a daughter of one James Clark.  Their son William was born in 1675, and married Mary Clark, whose birth occurred in 1680.  To this union were born two sons, William and Samuel, one of whom is the direct progenitor of the grandfather of the subject of this biographical sketch, Judge Samuel Peckham.  By the marriage of the latter to Hannah Stanton were born eleven children, one of whom, Daniel, married Olive, daughter of Pardon Kenyon, of Hopkinton, Washington county.  Their fourth son in order of birth is Thomas C. Peckham.

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Byron READ, the subject of this sketch, whose portrait appears in this volume, is the youngest son of Henry and Phebe (Wait) Read, and grandson of Joseph and Sabria (Knight) Read, and was born in Coventry, Kent county, R.I., April 7th, 1845.  His father was born in Coventry, R.I., April 7th, 1801, and died August 11th, 1887.  His mother was born September 6th, 1804 and is still living.  They had a family of thirteen children, whose names are as follows:  Almond, Levi B., Julia A. (the last two twins), Rebecca W., Henry, Jr., Sheffield W., Sybiel W., Joseph, Sheldon, Christopher J., Phebe W., Jane W., and Byron.  Those deceased are Henry, Jr., Sheldon and Jane W.

The father was a farmer, and the son, Byron, also followed that honorable calling until he became twenty-one years of age.  His early education was such as could be obtained in the district schools of his native town.  He showed, however, at a very early age, that he possessed both industry and perseverance, and the lessons learned, both on the farm and in the school, have not been forgotten.  In the year 1866 he entered the employ of his brother, Henry, Jr., who was at that time engaged in the business of undertaking, furniture and small hardware, in the village of Anthony.  He continued with his brother until 1872, at which time he bought a half interest in the business, and the firm was known as H. Read, Jr. & Co.

In March, 1873, his brother died, and Byron at once purchased of the heirs their interest in the business and became manager of the same, although the old firm name was allowed to be used for seven years, when it was changed to his own.  The increasing trade demanding larger quarters and better facilities, and as the building where he was located belonged to the estate of Isaac B. Aylesworth, who originally began the business, Byron decided to erect buildings of his own, sufficiently large and convenient to meet the demands.  Having previously purchased of the Coventry Manufacturing Company a lot of land just opposite the old stand, he proceeded in the year 1878 to build a barn 40 by 80 feet, with an L 20 by 21 feet, with compartments especially arranged and adapted to the needs of the trade.  In 1882 work was begun on the store, a building 40 by 100 feet, with three stories and basement.  Instead of giving out the work to a contractor and having an architect to superintend the work, Byron secured the services of his brother-in-law, Horace N. Foster, to plan and execute the work, giving it his own supervision.

In the basement is the workshop and store room, where all goods are received, also a room especially designed for embalming purposes.  By means of an elevator the goods are taken from the store room below to the various compartments above, while telephone, speaking tubes and call bells provide for conversation with workmen in and about the various rooms and adjacent business centers.  In the center of the first or main floor, as you enter from the street, is the office and salesroom.  On the right is the carpet and paper-hanging room; while on the left of the office is a room, second to none outside of Boston and New York for convenience in the display of funeral furnishings.  The second and third floors are reached either by elevator or easy flight of stairs and are used for household furniture of every description.  The entire building is heated by steam, and thoroughly furnished with all modern appliances for extinguishing fire.

In June, 1870, Mr. Read married Julia A., daughter of Edward S. and Eleanor (Johnson) Pinckney, of Coventry Centre, and granddaughter of Jacob and Sarah (Fowler) Pinckney, of Providence, and by this union has two sons: Herman Byron, born February 17th, 1878, and Charles Sheldon, born November 23d, 1879.

It now seemed desirable that he should have a more commodious dwelling place, and in 1887 he purchased of Eliza F. Briggs, the estate of her father, Oliver Matteson, and removing the old house to another lot, to be used for tenements, erected on the old site, the house 33 by 44 feet, with all modern improvements, where he now resides.  Thus, by his industry, perseverance and economy, Byron Read has acquired a competency, and gained the confidence of all with whom he has been associated.

He is a member of Manchester Lodge, A. F. and A. M., and of Anthony Lodge, No. 21, I. O. O. F.

In politics he has always supported the principles of the republican party. He has declined all public trusts tendered him and giving his undivided attention to his business, has become one of the leading business men in the country.

These documents are made available free to the public for non-commercial purposes by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project.
Transcribed by Beth Hurd, 2000.

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