Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, published 1869
Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America, 1869
Eighth Generation, cont.
I. L. Amelia married, Sept. 1, 1869, John C. Card, son of Rev. Wm. H. Card of Momence, [Kankakee Co.,] Ill. Resides at Mason City.
Pages 298-317 were not scanned, and therefore the text on those pages is not included here. The following section begins at the top of p. 318.
Biography of Lawrance Wilkinson, cont.
. . . reverses. Cromwell himself had complained of Manchester's backwardness to engage in battles when the most favorable opportunities presented themselves for victories, "as if he thought the King was now low enough, and the Parliament too high," as he expresses it.* Under such circumstances it is nothing strange that a young man like Wilkinson just arrived at his majority, and holding a Captain's Commission, should desire to make his escape and save his life if the rebellion was a failure, though his valor would be compromised by the operation. It was at this time that he sailed for America, where to say the least, there was a prospect of enjoying unmolested the principles for which he had been contending in his native land, and which at that time, there seemed to be no immediate prospect of success. That Cromwell did succeed at last, only proves the young man's judgment in error, and in this matter he was far from being alone.
Again, perhaps Cromwell's intention to become dictator had not been understood by Wilkinson before, as it certainly was not by a number of his firmest adherents, and seeing his determination in this respect, he had no choice in a change of Kings.
But this is mere speculation—the facts are otherwise. The statement in my father's Bible is confirmed by Somerby and Neal with the unimportant particular of his being a lieutenant
instead of a captain
. The oldest statement in the manuscript that has come into my hands, is that made by the elder Israel Wilkinson
, great grandson of Lawrance, which is a confirmation of the above. However much opposed it may be to our preference in this matter, the weight of evidence seems to be, that Lawrance Wilkinson was a loyalist, fighting in the service of his King, in favor of the constituted authorities, and against the usurpation of Cromwell and the Parliament. This is perfectly consistent with his belonging to the gentry of England, which fact we have stated in another place
. It also does away with the inconsistency
mentioned by Savage, and furnishes an additional inducement for leaving England and coming to America. His coming to Providence in preference to Massachusetts, is another item of proof of his position in England. "If Lawrance Wilkinson was a loyalist, and one of King Charles First's officers," (says an English Baptist minister, recently from near London, and who was a relative of Sir John Filmer, and who appeared well versed in English politics of the times of Charles), "he would come either to Rhode Island or Virginia." It is well known that both of these Colonies were resorted to by the loyal subjects of Charles, of all orders of society—the nobility, the gentry and the common people. Even during the Revolutionary struggle the latter named Colony contained a greater number who had not forgotten their loyalty, than any other province.
*See, Russell's Life of Cromwell, 137, I. Vol. Also, 5 Hume, 283-4.
Sec. 1, Russell's Life, &c., 138-150.
Upon his arrival in Providence, Lawrance signed the Civil Compact and received a gift of twenty-five acres of land, which was called a "quarter right," and upon this stood the primeval forest, consisting of oak, walnut and pine, which was to be cleared up before the "staff of life" could be obtained. Now commenced his pioneer life. And what a contrast to his life in the old world! There every luxury awaited his order, and faithful servants stood ready to do his bidding—here even the necessaries of life could not be had, and by the sweat of his brow must he earn his subsistence. In a new settlement the clearing away of the forest was a tedious task. The trees must be felled and cut into logs of convenient length—the underbrush and limbs piled, and when sufficiently dry, burned. To the inexperienced with implements ill adapted to the work, this clearing of land was peculiarly fatiguing, arduous and discouraging, and it is nothing strange that some, disheartened, returned to England. Expedients are restored to to hasten the work, and the skill of the settlers was constantly taxed in discovering more expeditious methods of cutting up, and disposing of the trunks of the long trees which had been brought to the ground by the repeated strokes of the ax. Fire was used,
and when the wind blew briskly they would place large limbs across the log, and setting fire at the point of contact, one man could do the work of three choppers. After burning the timber the land was prepared for Indian corn with a mattock, or heavy narrow hoe, which was struck into the ground, the seed put in, and the earth pressed back upon it. The rich, virgin soil yielded bountifully.
Tradition does not inform us what kind of a house Lawrance first built, but generally the settlers sic houses were built of logs with bark roof—crevices chinked with clay—with no jambs, but a stone back against which the fire was built, and an aperture in the roof for the smoke to escape. The doors were hung with wooden hinges, and were kept shut with a with a wooden latch with a string attached hanging outside. Glass windows, of a diamond shape set in lead, were sometimes used, but they were regarded as luxurious, not to be had by all. The floors were frequently made of hewn plank, and the hearth was—mother earth. When fire-places were first contructed, they were made eight or ten feet wide, and four feet deep, and five feet high, and large logs were rolled in, and a fire kindled that rendered candles, lamps and gaslight useless. Cellars were eventually dug, and we find an old record laying out to Lawrance Wilkinson, "on the plain where his cellar is" sixty acres, bearing date 1673. In the preparation of food the Indian mode was adopted until mills were erected. Corn was pounded in mortars—sometimes dug out of the top of a stump. Much of their food was obtained from the rivers and forests. Fish were abundant, and wild game, such as bears, deer, turkeys, and partridges were easily taken. So important was the supply of fish which the river afforded that as late as 1790, manufacturers were restricted by law in building their dams, and were required to leave a passage for the fish to go up during a certain part of the year. Their food was the plainest kind—tea and coffee were seldom used previous to 1780. Bean porridge, milk, and water was the universal beverage at the table.
Their clothing was chiefly home-spun. Sheep were kept and the wool was wrought with hand cards, spinning wheels, and hand looms by the women, and the various articles of apparel for both sexes were manufactured in each family. Flax was raised on every farm, and the best of cloth was turned out by our maternal ancestors, many of them acquiring a reputation which is attested by the present existence of the articles woven. Woolen and cotton mills were not know in New England then.
The social intercourse of the early settlers was of the most friendly character. An entire equality prevailed. As mutual sufferings begat mutual sympathies, it can readily be imagined that they were intensely sympathetic and friendly. Every one rejoiced in the prosperity of his neighbor. Envy, pride of birth or wealth and haughty gearing were unknown among them. The sick and unfortunate were readily assisted. The peculiar character of the government, and the religious principles of Roger Williams fostered the widest and deepest fellow-feeling and good-will, and every thing was tolerated but sin. They frequently visited each other, and the frigid formality—heartless ceremony and expensive entertainments of the present day had gained no footing among the early pioneers. They were cheerful, cordial, frank, full of humor, and practiced the broadest charity. Quiltings among the women, and evening parties were frequently attended six or eight miles distant upon ox sleds. Gov. Hopkins says in his "History of Providence," "that when Blackstone was old and unable to travel on foot, and not having any horse, he used to ride on a bull which he had tamed and tutored to that use."
Fruit was a luxury, and was not grown during the first years of the Colony. The first orchard in Rhode Island was planted by Blackstone, and Gov. Hopkins says, "Many of the trees which he planted about one hundred and thirty years ago, are still pretty thrifty fruit bearing trees now (1765)." He had the first of that sort called yellow sweetings that were ever in the world, perhaps the richest and most delicious apple of the
whole kind. Mr. Blackstone used frequently to come to Providence to preach the gospel, and to encourage his young hearers, gave them the first apples they ever saw.
They were bold men who first settled this wilderness country. Extreme hardship awaited them; and they who ventured forth to clear away the forests, and battle with the Indians for possession of their hunting grounds, have not received from their posterity the gratitude their sufferings and deprivations deserve. A great debt is still due them, and it is hoped an appreciating generation will soon arise, not only to cancel it, but to honor the founders of our native state with befitting testimonials. Their history is replete with bold adventure and daring enterprise, and should we commemorate the great events, and noble deeds and sacrifices that characterized them in different localities, a hundred monuments would arise as tributes due to our history, and to the memory of the early pioneers of Rhode Island.
Capt. Lawrance Wilkinson, as he was called by his townsmen, was admitted as one of the original "Proprietors of Providence," and in the laying out of the land, and in the draughts of the subsequent divisions on the east, and on the west side of the Seven Mile Line, his name constantly appears with the other purchasers of the town. He soon aquired a large estate, and held a prominent position among his fellow-citizens. In 1659, he was elected a member of the Legislature which met at Portsmouth. He subsequently represented the people in that body, and frequently was chosen to fill offices of trust in the infant Colony. He was an active business man, and though frequently called to serve in a public capacity, he by no means neglected his private affairs. He was greatly interested in building up the town, and entered heartily into every enterprise which had for its object the promotion of the Colony. The great principle of soul liberty, which characterized Roger Williams, found an earnest advocate in him. He participated in the Indian wars, and anecdotes are still related concerning his fearlessness in these encounters. He,
with Major Hopkins and Roger Williams would not leave Providence when the savages threatened its destruction. He was a man of great firmness and decision of character, and governed well his own household. As a father, he was kind and affectionate, and provided for his children as bountifully as the circumstances of a pioneer in the New World would admit; as a citizen he was affable and obliging, always ready to lend a helping hand to the distressed and needy; as a legislator, he met the approval of his constituency, and was friendly to every benevolent enterprise. He is entitled to the honor of being one of the original proprietors of Rhode Island, and his descendants still hold prominent places in that State, as well as in other states of the Union. And could he gaze upon his numerous progeny, as the generations have successively gone, spreading out with the unfolding and peopling of the country, dwelling, some of them where he dwelt, upon the Atlantic shores of the New World, and others of them on the opposite side of the continent where the golden sands of California enrich their toil, and the ceaseless roar of the Pacific lulls them to slumber—and still others roaming the ocean—inhabitants of every clime—upon the islands of the sea—in the heart of great cities—amid the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the Alleghanies of Pennsylvania—the prairies of Illinois and upon the branches of many rivers—with what astonishment would he contemplate the changes which two centuries have wrought! As he stood upon some lofty elevation and looked abroad, he could say in the language of truth as well as poetry:
"Another race has tilled
These populous borders—wide the wood recedes,
And towns shoot up, and fertile realms are tilled;
The land is full of harvests, and green meads;
Streams numberless, that many a fountain feeds;
Shine, disembowered sic, and give to sun and breeze
Their virgin waters; the full region leads
New colonies forth, that toward the Eastern seas
Spread like a rapid flame among the autumnal trees."
He lived in his adopted country nearly half a century, and we have no account of his ever returning to his native land. His
death occurred in 1692, nine years after Roger Williams, and if he arrived in Providence in 1645, he lived in the Colony as many years as Roger Williams did. The Council Records of Providence mention the inventory of his personal property, but the inventory itself has not been found. His last resting place is not known—probably on his own land which is now  known as the "Old Dexter Place" in Providence. To explain the cause why so many of the early pioneers sic graves have been forgotten, the following extract from Z. Allen's "Memorial of Roger Williams's" will be inserted:
The pioneer of the ancient forests deemed himself happy when he had succeeded in establishing his family in a log cabin, and in planting a few acres of corn among the huge stumps of trees. At his death the neighbors gathered around his humble cabin, and bore away his body to a convenient corner of his barn. No sculptor was there to record his name in brass or marble; and the only mark of his solitary grave was the little mound raised above the level of the adjacent green sward by the fresh addition of "earth to earth, ashes to ashes." On the widowed mother of orphan children, then devolved, as an only heritage increased toils with diminished means of subsistence.
Then, again, one of the prevalent sect of Christians in this Colony—the Quakers—were conscientiously scrupulous about indulging the worldly vanity of setting up a stone with a sculptured name to perpetuate the memory of a departed friend, deeming every such memorial of human affections, a wicked monument of human pride.
These peculiar conditions of the state of society as it existed during the period of the first settlement of the Providence Plantations, have given an appearance of stoical indifference, and even a want of decent regard for the memory of the dead.
So sleeps Lawrance Wilkinson—father of us all—without a stone to mark his grave, although he may be justly ranked with
"Founders of states that dignify mankind,
And lover of our race, whose labors gave
Their names a memory that defies the grave."
Biography No. II — Samuel Wilkinson
, the eldest son of Lawrance, and not the third, as the Rev. C. C. Bemen has it in his "Sketches of Scituate," was born about the year of our Lord, 1650. We have alluded to the obscurity of which rests upon his birth place in another part of this work
, and would refer the reader to what was said of him there for all the information we now possess upon this point.
In 1672, he was married to Patience Wickenden, daughter of the Rev. William Wickenden, who was the second pastor of the first Baptist Church in America.*
A brief notice of this worthy man may not be out of place in this connexion sic
. He came from Salem to Providence in 1639,
and was ordained by the Rev. Chad Brown who was at that time pastor of the church established by Roger Williams. Mr. Brown immediately associated Mr. Wickenden with him in the pastoral office. According to Richard Scott
, Backus, and some other
authorities, William's service as pastor continued only from March to July. But Dr. Benedict, in his "History of the Baptist," says, "Mr. Williams held his pastoral office about four years, and then resigned the same to Mr. Brown and Mr. Wickenden, and went to England to solicit the first charter
." It is not our purpose to reconcile these conflicting statements, although it may not be a difficult task; our object being merely to show the early relation of Mr. Wickenden to this first Baptist Church in New England. On the resignation of Mr. Brown, Mr. Wickenden was sole pastor, and served several years in that capacity. It will be remembered these men were not salaried pastors, and settled as ministers are now, but preached without pay, and labored like other members upon the lands they had taken up, or otherwise, and when the people came together on the Sabbath, would arise and address them upon gospel duties.*
They were called the Elders of the Church, and when more than one was present, and the first had exhausted himself, he would say "there is time and space left if any one has further to offer." In that case, another, and another would offer what he had to say; so there was no set time for the meeting to close. After Mr. Wickenden's service closed at Providence, he preached sometime in New York City, and such was the violence of feeling and persecution against Baptists, and their doctrine of Soul Liberty, that he was imprisoned four months as a reward for his labors. After his incarceration he returned to Providence with broken health, and soon removed to a place called "Solitary Hill,"
where he died Feb. 23, 1669, sic
deeply lamented, not only by his own family, but by the church and community, as he had been a prominent man in the early days of the Colony in both sacred and secular matters. A street in the south part of the city of Providence still bears his name.
* "Rev. Wm. Wickenden was the first Elder of the first Baptist Church in America." So says "Mass. Hist. Coll., 2d Series, Vol. 9, p. 197. Evidently incorrect.
"Wickendon, or Wickington, more commonly Wickenden. William, perhaps of Salem, 1639, but was of Providence, 1640, a strong friend of Roger Williams, and opponent of Samuel Gorton. Died 3 Feb., 1670 sic—had three daughters, Plain, who married Samuel Wilkinson—Ruth married Thomas Smith, and Hannah married John Steere. An extravagant tradition assigns the name of his first mentioned daughter to her want of beauty, but as a descendant rejoices in our day in the same prefix, we give less than usual credit allowed to such tales." Savage's Genealogical Dictionary. Fox's N.E. Fire Brand Quenched. Part 2, p. 247.
Richard Scott was one of the first settlers in R. I., and had his house, and owned the land where the village of Lonsdale now stands. The old "Scott Place"—the homestead had descended from father to son without alienation until 1825. See R. I. Society for I. D. I., 1861, p. 149.
*See, Guild's Manning and Brown University, p. 226. John Howland says they did not approve of singing, and never practiced it.
Tradition says this hill received its name from Roger Williams. It is situated near the south part of Olneyville. It is fast disappearing.
See Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, p. 15, n.
His daughter Plain was an accomplished young lady of a sprightly disposition, and was discreet and prudent in her conduct notwithstanding her fearlessness and boldness, and was highly esteemed by all who were acquainted with her. She was possessed of more than ordinary executive ability, and performed feats that would astonish, and perhaps shock the exquisite sensibilities of modern ladies of fashion. Her education in consequence of her father's position in society, and the excellent opportunities of home instruction, was far superior to many of her day and sex. It is nothing strange that the youthful Samuel just verging upon manhood, should be captivated by her artless demeanor, for they had grown up together from early childhood and knew each other's worth, and she had become to him the one altogether lovely, if not the chief among ten thousand. The Poet has said the course of true love never did run smooth, but whatever trials, or oppositions they may have had, none are now remembered. The nuptials were duly celebrated, and the young couple had just turned of twenty with bouyant hearts, and doubtless, many a vision of future happiness and prosperity, retired to their home—having taken up a farm in the wilderness, about ten miles north from Providence, in what is now Smithfield, on the west side of the Blackstone River and about half a mile north-west of what is now known as the "Harris Lime Rock"; the farm lately owned by Capt. John Jencks. The precise locality of the old house of Samuel Wilkinson is at this late period (about 200 years after its first settlement) difficult to ascertain. The "Great Road" leading from Providence to Worcester is known to pass through his lands, and the old graveyard wherein is buried Capt. John Jenckes, William Aldrich, and others of more recent date, a few rods east of said road, was a part of his possessions. Within that solitary enclosure, by the side of a thrifty growth of at least the tertiary forest—surrounded by a thick stone wall, may be seen some very ancient mounds of earth nearly leveled with the surrounding land, and marked by rough, unhewn, moss-covered stones. No inscription
informs the passer by who sleeps beneath them, and the uncertain index of tradition hesitatingly points to them as being the last resting place of Samuel and Plain Wilkinson. Spruce, pine and evergreen have sprung up, or have been transplanted here in modern times, but whether the passing breeze murmurs their requiem, or that of others, we cannot tell. Silence is all around the solitary spot. Neither the sound of the great city, nor the hum of spindles, nor yet the bleating of flocks, nor lowing of cattle may be heard in that lonely place, nought but the sighing breeze and the chirp of the cricket breaks upon the ear. Oblivion and silence envelop all; and silence and oblivion will envelop them till the trump of the Archangel shall awaken the sleeping dead, causing them to burst their cerements, and to come forth to newness of life. It is sad to search for the last resting place of departed ancestors, and be obliged to return unsuccessful. But this is a world of change. How impressive the word of inspiration—"Man dieth and wasteth away"—"As a flower of the field so he flourisheth, for the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more."
Though it be difficult to locate the old house of Samuel, yet it is by no means difficult to locate the homestead farm. The place where he toiled, and by the sweat of his brow earned their daily bread is well known. Fortune smiled upon him in the morning of life, and by frugality he increased his store. It may be said of Plain that "She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands," though a minister's daughter; and her husband found her price "far above rubies." "His heart did safely trust in her."
Frequent visits were made to Father Wilkinson's in Providence, for Father Wickenden had been born to the silent tomb three years before their marriage. And these visits were returned by their "loving parents," whose hearts were made to rejoice in the prosperity of their children.
Plain was a decided character, and some traditional anecdotes are still related concerning her. After they were well established in their new home, she assumed and performed the duties of a pioneer housewife with an energy that bespoke the former training she had received at the hands of a Baptist minister of the primitive days of Rhode Island Colony. The "Harris Lime Rock," and "Dexter Lime Rock" are monuments that will always perpetuate the memory of the first residences of Samuel and John Wilkinson. Their settlement, however, was many years antecedent to the quarrying of limestone at these respective places. A foot path at first by marked trees leading from one cabin to the other was all the road in those days—then followed the bridle path, and finally the road was made by felling the trees and making way for the transportation of produce in ox carts and wagons.
Whoever will take the pains to go up the Blackstone about seven miles from Providence will come to what has been called for nearly two hundred years "Martin's Wade" or "Martin's wading place," which is a ford in the river a little south of the present villa of Ashton, formerly called the "Sinking Fund." From this "wading place" extends a winding road back into the country. You first go down the river, and then turning right amid the young forest of shrub oaks, pine and underbrush for which the town of Smithfield is noted, and winding over the hills in a westerly direction you come to a little settlement called the "Lime Rock," containing a public house, store and about twenty dwelling houses. A few rods west of this village lies the "Harris Lime Quarry" where the far-famed R.I. Lime is excavated and burnt. The "Great Road" runs in a north-westerly direction here, and out upon this road about a half-a-mile, on the west side of the highway was where Samuel and Plain pitched their tent and erected erected their cabin amid the primitive forests of R. I. No trace now remains of their house, no stone, tree or ruin may be seen to point out the exact locality of their dwelling, as we have before remarked, but somewhere here it was, near a running brook
that winds its way down the valley towards the river. Into this dreary, solitary place Samuel brought his metropolitan wife, and commenced the work of civilization. The forests fell before his repeated strokes, the fields waved with grain, and the harvest of corn and potatoes, and the cereals rewarded his labors. Cattle, sheep, swine and horses were soon raised, and luxuries began to flow into their wilderness home, not however, without the toil and perseverence of Plain. Sugar, tea, coffee, raisins and the groceries so common now in every country store could not at that time be so easily obtained. Providence was ten miles away, and was but a small town. Boston was about forty miles distant, and abounded with the much coveted articles. Samuel could not leave his farm and stock long enough to do the shopping, and like a sensible man allowed Plain to do the small business of this kind. Mounted upon her own mare with panniers filled with the veal of a well fatted calf, killed the night before, and such other articles of farm produce as would find a ready sale by way of barter—at three o'clock in the morning she might be seen wending along the bridle-path I have described, making her way to Boston. Winding through the forests, descending the hills, through the vales; turning now to the right, now to the left, as the blazed trees would indicate, till she came to the river at "Martin's Wade," when gathering up her feet to keep them out of the water, she would cross and arrive at what is now called Attleboro at sunrise. After breakfast she would remount and pursue her journey to "Shawmut," "the City of Notions," alias Boston; exchange her cargo, receive her longed for luxuries, and return home next day, and none the worse for wear! Now there's a wife for you! No wonder her husband valued her above rubies. When it is remembered that wild beasts and wilder Indians inhabited and roamed unmolested all along her route, we may well suppose a degree of moral courage was required not to be found among the fair sex of the present age.
But an event was approaching fraught with anxious interest to the
young couple. Sept. 18, 1674, Samuel and Plain welcomed their first born to this shifting world of joy and sorrow. Now their mutual love was centered upon their darling boy, and a king with all the wealth of Ormus and of Ind might envy their rural happiness. The tender sentiment of the author of "Gertrude of Wyoming" finds its antecedent here.
O love! in such a wilderness as this
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss.
And here thou art a god indeed divine.
Here shall no forms abridge, no hours confine
The views, the walks that boundless joy inspire,
Roll on ye days of raptured influence, shine!
Nor, blind with ecstasy's celestial fire,
Shall love behold the spark of earth-born time expire."
But this is a world of change, and these halcyon days were not to last forever, else this earth would have been a heaven. Frequently had the red-man, the native of the soil looked in at their cabin door and asked for something to appease his hunger and thirst, and never had been sent away empty. But now he seldom called, and when he met the pale-face, a certain something in his eye and bearing bespoke mischief. It was merely noticed and passed by, and
"All went merry as a marriage bell,"
among the pioneer settlers of the Colony.
Suddenly in the spring of 1675, all New England became the theater of the most sanguinary, furious and desolating Indian war that America ever witnessed. King Phillip, that powerful, aspiring Chief of the Wampanoags had established a league with nearly all the tribes througout the Colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and Maine extending over 300 miles, with a view to exterminate the English and avenge what they conceived to be, the wrongs of the Indians.
"The better to affect this," says the historian, "and to disguise his intentions, he amused the English by professions of friendship and submission; renewed the treaties which his father had made; disposed of his lands, and gave quit-claims of those
before sold by his father and brother to raise the means for supplying his men with fire-arms and ammunition; cultivated the friendship of neighboring tribes of Indians—smothering the feuds and reconciling the quarrels of centuries; and thus by deluding the English, and strengthening himself by increasing his connexions sic and alliances, he was preparing secretly and silently the work which was to shake New England to its centre, and deluge the land with blood."
Roger Williams was the first to perceive the secret machinations of this wily chieftain, and made vigorous efforts to avert the impending tornado of savage wrath, and at first seemed successful, but the hearts of King Philip and his young men were fired with vengeance sic
, and nothing but the blood of the English could satiate their thirst. Four thousand of these savage warriors rushed forth to scenes of fire and blood and carnage that beggar description. Skulking behind logs, stones, houses and barns, they would pour a deadly fire upon unsuspecting occupants of almost every house, as they came forth to their daily labor. There was no safety anywhere. No one knew but the next moment the crack of the rifle would salute his ears, and the whizzing bullet pierce his heart, and prostrate him upon his own doorstep a corpse.*
*See Church's Indian Wars.