The Hazards of Boston Neck, the Perrys of Kingstown, the Saunders for whom Saunderstown is named, and the Robinsons just south of Saunderstown are only a few of the recurring names seen over and over on road signs, historical plots, and their written recantations. Tom Hazard, learned and cultivated, purchased Boston Neck in 1738 for $29.00 an acre. His farm became a successful operation with 4000 sheep for woolen and linen production, 150 cows that supplied milk and 24 cheeses a day, employing 12 women and their helpers just in the dairy alone. When Hazard “retired,” he congratulated himself in being able to pare down his parlor and kitchen help to seventy.
Many repetious names have ties to their honorable service for their country in its fight for independence, not the least of these is the Perry family, for whom Perryville is named. Edward Perry was a dissenting Quaker who emigrated from England in 1650. His opinions continued to cause him trouble, but he wrote religious works and became a prominent citizen. His brother Benjamin, grandfather of Oliver Hazard Perry, the famous naval hero from the Battle of Lake Erie, was a prominent Quaker and one of five men who paid Ebenezar Slocum 40 shillings for the site of the Quaker Meeting House on Tower Hill Road. Samuel Perry, son of Edward, died in 1716, leaving a will of £700 with 1500 acres of real estate and a gristmill to his son, James. This was a basic element in the economy of early America. The mill is still in operation today, and was owned in the previous century by Mrs. Rowland Robinson, whose family history follows.
Rowland Robinson was a wealthy well-known planter, slave runner, and West Indies tradesman who brought a shipment of African slaves into South Ferry about 1710. His intention was to keep the strongest workers to help build his new house. His conscience got the best of him, and he kept them all, building quarters for them in the new house, freeing them from slavery, and never again importing slaves. Jamestown is still populated by many of Robinson’s ancestors, making the Robinson name quite prevalent on Conanicut Island.
Saunders family members were famous shipwrights and inventors. They lived in what was “Willettstown” until so many Saunders were building boats, it eventually became known as Saunderstown. Captain John Aldrich Saunders, an ancestor of Tobias Saunders, one of the original purchasers of Misquamicut, invented the centerboard in 1813, which wasn’t patented until 1865 by his grandson John G. Saunders. Captain Saunders, born in 1786 in Westerly, was given much criticism for his “Nonsuch,” a tri-keeled 50-ton vessel [today’s trimaran], 65′ long, with a draw of 5 1/2 feet and only 24″ of freeboard. In order to sail the boat close to shore for loading and off-loading, it had a broad, flat bottom and could run ashore in high water and load directly from cart or wagon. Because it had no bowsprit, it could load from all sides. Stillman Saunders built the Newport Ferry in 1907.
Many of the ancestors of these famous Rhode Island families still reside in the region their forefathers settled. Many are still active in similar professions. The Saunders moved up the Bay to Wickford, and as previously mentioned, Carpenter’s [nee Perry] Grist Mill is owned and operated by the present Mrs. Rowland Robinson. Edgar Mayhew Bacon, stated in his book, Narragansett Bay:
“These were the men who with their companions made the little state,
and by their progeny helped to people it, while by marriage their
descendants have not only established a general relationship with
each other but have absorbed also the best of the outside element
that sought homes among them during the long colonial period.”
Part 1 – Rhode Island History by the side of the road
Part 2 – Rhode Island History by the side of the road
History of Washington and Kent Counties, Rhode Island, by J. R. Cole, W. W. Preston, & Co, NY, 1889.
Narragansett Bay, by Edward Mayhew Bacon, G. P. Putnam & Sons NY, 1904.
Indian Names of Places in Rhode Island, by Usher Parsons, Providence, Knowles, Anthony & Co., 1861.
Writer’s personal onsite research.
Copyright, Sharon Watterson, 2010. Please do not copy, paste, or reproduce in any way without permission from author.
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