Category Archives: Rhode Island

Richard Smith – Elizabeth Barton

Smith_Castle's_Rhode_IslandSmith’s Castle from a drawing – 1882

Besides the guy who was burned at the stake twice, Richard Smith is one of my favorite ancestors. He must have been a remarkable man. He came to the colonies, first in Virginia, second to New England. Richard “of gentle blood and ancient families”, was a Jamestown colonist. He was away (not sure if it was a hunting/fishing trip or a big trip back to England) when the massacre occurred.  When he got back to Jamestown after the destruction, he decided not to stay but to try the Plymouth Colony instead.  He wasn’t happy there due to the Colony’s intolerance of religious free thinking. He moved to the other side of the Narraganset Bay (Rhode Island),

 

According to the Willett Papers:

Mention is made of the residence of Miantinomo, and the impression is clearly given that this chief resided on Boston Neck, at the head of Pettaquamscutt river, on the east side. The same papers indicate that Canonicus resided on the plain opposite the trading house of Roger Williams.”

The building of Richard Smith’s block house is the first step recorded in the settlement of this town. The first notice of a town in this region is the appointment by the council of Connecticut July 10th, 1663, of selectmen and other town officers and the order was to be called “Wickforde.” This order was issued two days after the signing of the King Charles II. charter, and no action was taken for its execution. The town was incorporated under the name of “King’s Towne,” October 28th, 1674, as the seventh town in the colony, with an area of 178.5 square miles, which territory now belongs to North Kingstown, South Kingstown and Exeter.

Roger Williams had a trading house in North Kingstown called Narragansett. He was here between the years of 1648 and 1651, and from this place he wrote a score or more of letters.

Captain Richard Smith built what has long been designated as the “Old Castle,” within one-half mile of the village of Wickford. This, in 1639, was erected for the farm house of Captain Smith, and here the good Roger Williams, who also fled from persecution, often visited. The brave and just old Canonicus and also Miantinomo frequently visited Smith. This castle was built by Smith as a trading post or house, and as a protection against the troublesome Indians. It was fifty feet square, two stories high, and its walls were of rough stone, two feet in thickness. It was used as a garrison and fortification during the Indian war, and it was there that Captain Benjamin Church assembled his forces before marching to the great swamp fight, and after his victory, with the dead and wounded, burying some forty-two of the slain in one grave.

In the year 1664 Gilbert Updike, of New Amsterdam, married Smith’s daughter, and the fitted up the castle in English style by covering it with wood work (inside and out) for a permanent [p. 374] dwelling. And it has remained until the present day, except occasional covering and repairing on the outside. It was retained in the Updike family until the fourth generation. In 1878 it passed into the hands of General Walter R. Chapin. This house was burned down in the Indian war but was rebuilt again and used as a garrison until the Great Swamp Fight.

Mr. Smith did (sic) in 1664. His grave is yet unmarked, save by a common stone with the letters “R.S. died 1664.” Richard Smith, Jr., was a major in the service of Cromwell. He died in 1692. His sister married Gilbert Updike, who came from Long Island in 1664 and settled on the old homestead at the heard of the cove. Gilbert had three sons, Lodowick, Daniel and James. Daniel and James were both killed at the swamp fight, and with forty others were brought home and buried in one common grave. Lodowick Updike alone survived his father. He died I 1737, leaving two sons, Daniel and Richard. Daniel was the king’s attorney, and left a son by the name of Lodowick, who was born in 1725 and died in 1804 in the old mansion that still stands upon the foundation walls of the old trading house and garrison of long ago. Lodowick also left sons and daughters, many of whom lived to a good old age.

The scenes in and around the old mansion have been changed since the days of the last Lodowick Updike. In the interior of the mansion, most of the large, square rooms are yet retained in their primitive style.

The Great Swamp Fight of December 19th, 1675, decided the fate of King Phillips’ war and the life of New England. In that fight the colonists lost six captains, one lieutenant and over tow hundred soldiers. Deacon A. B. Chadsey, speaking of the slain on this battlefield, says: “the dead bodies of 42 white men, slain by the Narragansetts in the Great Swamp Fight of Dec. 19, 1675, were transported from the scene of slaughter in South Kingstown in carts to the Block house (a garrison house) of Major Richard Smith in North Kingstown, one mile north of Wickford, and buried in the garden of Major Smith, near the house, in one grave near a large rock on which a few letters have been chiseled to preserve the identity of the BIG GRAVE. The block house, erected by Richard Smith about the year 1640, has been well preserved by timely repairs, and still remains the ‘fist English house’ erected in the thicket of Narragansett country.”

Once an apple tree grew upon the grave, but it was blown [p. 375] down in the September gale of 1815. The present lettered builder serves as the only monument to the soldiers here sleeping together.

That the settlement of Smith was the third in the colony and about the year 1639, is forcibly demonstrated in a letter of Roger Williams dated July 24th 1679, in which he says: “Richard Smith, Sen., who for his conscience to God left fair possessions in Gloucestershire and adventured with his relations and estate to New England, and was a most acceptable inhabitant and prime leading man in Taunton in Plymouth Colony. For his conscience sak (sic) (many differences arising) he left Taunton and came to the Narragansett country, where by God’s mercy and favor of the Narragansett sachems he broke the ice (at his great charge and hazard), and put up in the thickest of the barbarians the first English house among them. I humbly testify that about forty years (prior t this date) he kept possession, coming and going, himself children and servants, and had quiet possession of his houses, lands and meadow; and there in his own house, with much serenity of soul and comfort, he yielded up his spirit to God the father of spirits in peace.”

In 1639, three years after Roger Williams settled at Providence, Richard Smith established his trading post and commenced a settlement at the head of what is known as Point Wharf Cove.

800px-Smith_Castle2 Post card

The materials for the first English dwelling here were shipped form Taunton in boats. Here Smith continued to live and carry on his traffic with the Indians successfully. Soon afterward Roger Williams and Mr. Wilcox moved into the country and settled near Smith, his trading house being near where Royal Vaughn last lived, the next house north of “Spink’s Inn.” Mr. Williams in 1651 sold out to Smith his trading house, his two big guns and the small island (Rabbit island) for goats.

In 1659 Randall Holden and Samuel Gorton made an important purchase of land in North Kingstown, consisting of Fox Island and the neck of land between Wickford and Annaquatucket river. This was afterward sold to Richard Smith. A little later and during this same year Humphrey Atherton, in company with others, bought land in Quidnessett and that part of Boston Neck which had not already been sold to Smith. Mr. Atherton came from Plymouth colony.

The assembly in 1671, foreseeing dangers arising from landed proprietors establishing a monopoly, ordered “that persons [p.376] owning large tracts of land in Narragansett should sell it out to persons in want of it.” From this time the land began to be divided up into smaller parcels, and settlements became more numerous. The general court, in 1677, had ordered a survey of the Narragansett country, and found that the whole of Boston Neck was owned by Humphrey Atherton, John Winthrop, governor of Connecticut; Richard Smith, Sr., and Richard Smith, Jr., of Cocumscussuc, traders; Lieutenant William Hudson and Amos Richardson of Boston; and John Tinker, of Nashaway, trader. Mr. Richardson was a native of Stonington. His will was proved in 1683. His grandson, Amos, fell heir to his farm on the east side of Pawcatuck river, and to his sons Stephen and Samuel he gave his other lands.

For all that “gentle blood and ancient families” little is known Richard’s history in England.

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