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Providence County Records



It is impossible to fix the exact date of the arrival of Roger C Williams, but that it was in the latter part of the spring or the beginning of the summer of 1636, two hundred and fifty years ago, that he landed, for the first time, with intent to commence a settlement within the limits of Providence, seems to be a settled fact. "In gratitude to his supreme deliverer" he called the new settlement Providence.

The town of Providence originally comprised the whole county. The city was incorporated by an act passed November 5,1831, which went into operation on the first day June of the following year. Portions of the town of Cranston
were re-annexed to Providence, June 10, 1868, and March 28, 1873. Portions of North Providence were also re-annexed June 29, 1867, March 28, 1873 and May 1, 1874.

We give below a copy of the deed of Roger Williams and his wife Mary, dated Dec. 20th 1661, confirming to his companions the purchase he had made in their behalf. There seems to have been some question as to the original ownership
of the land. It was contended by many of the inhabitants that the original purchase was made by Mr. Williams as the agent of the whole company, and that they refunded to him their proportions of the original cost. This he denied in the strongest terms. In a letter from him to the town, many years after the settlement, speaking of Providence and Pawtucket he says "they were mine as truly as any man's coat upon his back. It was not his intention, however, to retain the whole purchase to himself or to make his companions any way dependant upon him.

Soon after the purchase of the land he executed a deed, known as the "Initial deed", to his companions. There is no date to this deed, but it is understood that it was executed October 8, 1638. It was lost before 1661. It is presumed that the deed here given was executed in pursuance of the request of a committee who had been appointed by the town of Providence to wait on Mr. Williams and procure from him a deed of the first purchase. Staples in his "Annals of the town of Providence"  says "the acceptance of this deed and the enrollment of it by the town in their records, is in some degree an acknowledgment of the truth of the recitals contained in it, and the part which he subsequently acted by appointment of the town in procuring other deeds of cession and confirmation from the natives, prove that the town reposed full confidence in his integrity and uprightness. With respect to the dates referred to in this deed, they are probably incorrect. His deed from the sachems bears date the 24th of the first month, in the second year of the plantation, corresponding with the 24th day of March, or the last day of the year 1637.

The deed of 61 was accepted by the town of Providence and entered on their records. This, with the evidence then in existence of the so called initial deed.* constituted the whole title of the town until 1666, when Mr. Williams executed another instrument dated "Providence 22. 10 mo. 1666, which is also recorded, and which follows the deed in this article. [R. H. T.]

"Be it known unto all men by these presents, that I, Roger Williams, of the Towne of Providence, in the Narragansett Bay,  in New England, having in the year one thousand six hundred and thirty-foure, and in the yeare one thousand six hundred and thirty-five, had several treaties with Conanicusse and Miantonome, the chief sachems of the Narragansetts, and in the end purchased of them the lands and meadows upon the two fresh rivers called Mooshaasick and Wanasquatucket; the two said sachems having by a deed under their hands two years after the sale thereof established and confirmed the boundes of these lands from the river and fields of Pawtuckqut and the great hill of Neotaconconitt on the northwest, and the towne of Mashapauge on the west,  notwithstanding I had the frequent promise of Milantenoiny my kind friend, that it should not be land that I should want about these bounds mentioned provided that I satisfied the Indians there inhabiting, I having made covenantes of peaceable neighborhood with all the sachems and natives round about us. And having in a sense of God's mercifull providence unto me in my distresse, called the place Providence, I desired it might be for a shelter for persons distressed of conscience; I then, considering the condition of divers of my distressed countrymen, I communicated my said purchase unto my loving friends John Throckmorton, William Arnold, William Harris, Stukely Westcott, John Greeno, senior, Thomas Olney, senior, Richard Waterroan and others who then desired to take shelter here with me, and in succession unto so many others as we should receive into the fellowship and societye enjoying and disposing of the said purchase; and besides the ffirst that were admitted, our towne records declare that afterwards wee received Chad Brown, William Ffeild, Thomas Harris, sen'r, William Wickenden, Robert Williams, Gregory Dexter and others, as our town booke declares, and whereas, by God's mercifull assistance, I was the procurer of the purchase, not by monies nor payment, the natives being so shy and jealous, that monies could not doe it; but by that language, acquaintance, and favour with the natives and other advantages which it pleased God to give me, and also bore the charges and venture of all the gratuetyes which I gave to the great sachems, and other sachems and natives round and about us, and lay ingaged for a loving and peaceable neighborhood with them all to my great charge and travell. It was, therefore, thought by some loveing ffriends, that I should rece ive some loving consideration and gratuitye; and it was agreed between us, that every person that should be admitted into the fellowship ofinjoying lands and disposing of the purchase, should pay thirtye shillings into the public stock; and ffirst about thirtye pounds should be paid unto myself by thirty shillings a person, as they were admitted.    This sum I received in love to my ffriends; and with respect to a towne and place of succor for the distressed as aforesaid, I doe acknowledge the said sum and payment as ffull satisffaction.  And whereas in the year one thousand six hundred and thirtye seaven, so called, I delivered the deed subscribed by the two aforesaid chiefe sachems, so much thereof as concerneth the aforementioned lands ffrom myselfe and my heir unto the whole number of the purchasers, with all my poweres right and title therein, reserving only unto myself one single share equall unto any of the rest of that number, I now againe iu a more formal way, under my hand and seal, confirm my former resignation of that deed of the landes aforesaid, and bind myselfe, my heirs, my executors, my administrators and assignes never to molest any of the said persons already received or hereafter to be received into the societye of purchasers as aforesaid, but they, their heires, executors, administrators and assignes, shall at all times quietly and peaceably injoy the premises and every part thereof; and I do futhere, by these presentes, binde myselfe, my heirs, my executors, my administrators and assignes, never to lay claime nor cause any claime to be laid, to any of the lands aforementioned, or unto any part or parcell thereof, more than unto mine owne single share, by virtue or pretence of any former bargaine, sale or mortgage whatsoever, or joyntures, thirdes or intails made by me the said Roger Williams, or of any other person either, for, by, through or under me. In wittnesse thereof, I have hereunto sett my hand and sealethis twentyeth day of December in the present year one thousand six hundred and sixty-one.

Signed, sealed and delivered, in presence of us,

Rogers Williams [L.S.]

Thomas Smith;
John Carpenter.
I, Mary Williams, wife unto Roger Williams, doe assent unto the premises. Wittness my hand this twentyeth day of December, in the present year one thousand six hundred and sixty-one.
The marks of M. W., Mary Williams.

Acknowledged and subscribed before me,
William Fieild, General Assistant.

The following note in the Colonial Records, Vol. I, page 2-4, by Hon. John R. Bartlett, is worth republishing in this connection :
"The lands transferred by Roger Williams to his associates were subsequently divided into what are called "home lots" and "six acre lots." In the clerk's office of the city of Providence is "A revised list (saving corrections with additions) of lands and meadows as they were originally lotted from the beginning of the plantation of Providnce in the Narragansett Bay in New England unto the (then) inhabitants of the said plantation, anno, 16." The first in order are the "home lots," beginning at the "mile-end cove" at the southbend of the town between Fox Point and Wickenden St.

This book gives a list of fifty-four persons who received their lots with their location. It is here given to preserve the names:
Robert Williams,
John Field,
Christopher Unthank,
William Field,
William Hawkins,
Richard Scott,
Robert West,
George Rickard,
Hugh Bewit,
John Lippit,
Matthew Weaton,
Edward Hart,
Thomas Hopkins,
Widow Sayer,
Widow Tiler,
Nicholas Power,
William Wickenden,
William Man,
William Burrows,
Adam Goodwin,
Thomas Harris,
Joshua Winsor,
William Harris,
Roger Williams,
Widow Reeve,
John Greene, Sen.,
William Arnold,
Benedict Arnold,
John Greene, Jr.,
Matthew Waller,
John Warner,
Chad Brown,
Daniel Abbott,
William Reynolds,
Stukeley Westcott,
Ezekiel Holyman,
Richard Waterman,
Francis Weston,
Thomas Angell,
Thomas Almey,
Robert Cole,
William Carpenter,
John Sweet,
Alice Daniels,
John Throckmorton,
Joshua Verin,
John Smith,
Thomas James,
Francis Wickes,
Edward Mantou.
Thomas Painter,
Gregory Dexter.

Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society July 1886 - Submitted by Barb Ziegenmeyer



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