The WATSON Family of West Greenwich, Rhode Island
A branch of the Watson family of Rhode Island settled in West Greenwich and lived there for nearly one hundred years.
The patriarch of this branch was Samuel, designated #7 in The American Family of John Watson of the Narragansett Country, Rhode Island. Samuel was the grandson of John Watson, and the son of Samuel2 and 1st wife Mercy (Helme) Watson. His line of descent as a 3rd‐generation Watson is rendered Samuel3 (Samuel2, John1).
Abbreviations and Nicknames:
Patriarch = Samuel Watson of the third generation; first of the family to settle in West Greenwich
EX = Exeter, Rhode Island
WG = West Greenwich, Rhode Island
Land evidence records may be shortened to (vol:page), i.e., (2:37), after the first few chapters.
TMA, “Ted,” Ted Atkinson = Rev. Theodore Mayo Atkinson, Jr. (see Sources)
Table of Contents
The Patriarch and His Children
Prior Residence in Exeter
Early Paper Trail in West Greenwich
Sorting Out Nicholas Watson
Early Town Council and Census Records
Revolutionary War Era
Final Years of the Patriarch
Part Two: Under construction
The Patriarch and His Children
SAMUEL3 WATSON was born circa 1717 in colonial Kingstown, the son of Samuel2 Watson and Mercy Helme. Around 1735 he married Hannah Hazard, daughter of Jeremiah and Sarah (Smith) Hazard, born circa 1716.
John Watson says Hannah Hazard was Samuel’s second wife. We have studied this matter and concluded that such an assertion is likely incorrect. You are invited to read the author’s own take on this question: Regarding Hannah Hazard, wife of Samuel Watson #7
Samuel and Hannah Watson had seven children – six sons and a daughter:
ROBERT, born circa 1737; died intestate in Exeter before 3 September 1810. Robert married Rebecca RICHMOND on 3 August 1758 in Exeter. He and his family lived in both Exeter and West Greenwich.
To read about the life and times of Robert Watson, click here.
SILAS, born circa 1739; died 20 January 1827 in Hoosick, Rensselaer county, NY. Silas married Sarah BOWDICH on 26 December 1762 in West Greenwich. He left Rhode Island, living much of his life in Pownal, Bennington county, Vermont.
To read about the life and times of Silas Watson, click here.
HAZARD, born circa 1742; died in late October of 1762. Hazard Watson was “of Exeter” when he made his will prior to leaving on an ill‐fated expedition to Havana, Cuba, during the Seven Years War.
To read a transcription of Hazard Watson’s will and see images of the original document, click here.
NICHOLAS, born possibly in Exeter; he married Martha MOON. Nicholas Watson’s year of birth is a matter of speculation, and his date of death is known only as “before 13 June 1817.”
To read about the life and times of Nicholas Watson, click here.
MARY, born circa 1750; she married Peleg MOON, son of James, on 5 November 1768 in West Greenwich.
SAMUEL was born circa 1753 (not 1749 as we’d originally thought), probably in Exeter. Samuel married Abiah YOUNG on 3 January 1778 in Exeter. He died on 19 December 1834 in West Greenwich.
FREEBORN’s dates of birth and death are unknown. He married Sarah WILLCOX.
To read about the life and times of Freeborn Watson, click here.
The birth order of Samuel and Hannah Watson’s children as listed here is necessarily tentative.
While various records exist for all of these people, few of them offer clues as to how old they were at the time. Hazard Watson, who died in 1762 on a military expedition to Havana, Cuba, was thoughtful enough to draw up a will before he left. The order in which he named his siblings in his will probably reflects their birth order, from oldest to youngest. Where Hazard himself fit into that birth order is another question. We have endeavored to present the most likely order, using Hazard Watson’s own listing as a guide.
Prior Residence in Exeter
Samuel3 Watson served his king and country in the Old French and Indian War (the North American portion of the Seven Years War). In 1759 he was 2nd Lieutenant of Capt. Fry’s company and, in the following year, again served under Capt. Fry as a 1st Lieutenant. In these military records, he is named as “Samuel Watson Jr. of Exeter.” The generational suffix “Junior” would later pass to his own son Samuel.
Exeter is the town immediately south of West Greenwich and situated in Kings county (becoming Washington county after the American Revolution). Exeter was set off from North Kingstown in 1742/43. Town records for Exeter contain numerous references to Samuel, many of them noting his name as witness to land transactions involving his neighbors.
Two of Samuel’s sons, Robert and Hazard, also are identified with the town of Exeter. Hazard Watson, as noted above, was “of Exeter” when he made his will prior to leaving on an expedition to Havana, Cuba, during the Seven Years War. Robert Watson did reside in West Greenwich for a time, appearing there in the 1790 federal census and executing property transactions of his own in that town. But the bulk of records for Robert Watson exist in Exeter, leading one to surmise that he spent more of his life there.
In 1751 Hezekiah Willcox “of Exeter in Kings county” sold 200 acres of land in West Greenwich for £200 to Samuel Watson “of the same Town County and Colony” as Hezekiah. The bounds of this parcel were described as abutting the property of Benjamin Tillinghast and Jeremiah Hassard (Hazard), and by landmarks such as the Wood River and a “pitch pine tree” marked with the letters E R. The description corresponds pretty well to the western part of town known as Escoheag, bordering the colony of Connecticut.
But Samuel Watson continued to generate records in Exeter, witnessing land transactions as late as 1758, 1761, and finally on 21 January 1763. (He was away in 1759 and 1760 doing military service as noted earlier.)
Samuel did not generate any records as a resident of West Greenwich until 1763, when he gave his son Silas fifty acres of land “for Love Good will and Effection” [sic]. In the document recording the transfer of land from Samuel to Silas, both father and son are named as West Greenwich residents. The deed was signed on the “first Day of December in the fourth year of his most Sacred Majesties Reign George the third King of great Britain france and Ireland Defender of the faith &c Anno Domini 1763.”
We may assume, then, that some time between January and December 1763 Samuel Watson removed from Exeter to reside in West Greenwich.
Before Samuel3 Watson was “of West Greenwich,” he was “of Exeter.” In 1751 Samuel bought land in West Greenwich but apparently did not take up residence there until a decade or more later. Two of Samuel’s older sons, Robert and Hazard, were also “of Exeter.”
Early Paper Trail in West Greenwich
As noted in the preceding paragraphs, the first reference to Samuel Watson in West Greenwich occurs in 1751 when he purchased 200 acres of land from Hezekiah Willcox. The first reference to Samuel and his family residing in West Greenwich occurs in 1763, when Samuel gave his son Silas a portion of those acres.
On October 27, 1760, William Wilson of West Greenwich sold 98 acres of land in WG to Nicholas Watson of South Kingstown for “two thousand five hundred pounds old tenor or current mony [sic] of New England.” This particular Nicholas Watson, however, was not brother to Silas; he was half-brother to Silas’s father Samuel, patriarch of the Watson family in WG. How do we know which Nicholas Watson this was? In 1764 Nicholas Watson of West Greenwich sold those same 98 acres to Robert Campbell of Newport for “three thousand pounds in bills of publick Credit of the old Tenor.” At the bottom of that deed appears the name of Nicholas Watson’s wife, Miriam, formally releasing her dower rights to this parcel of land. Thanks to the John Watson book, we know which Nicholas Watson married a woman named Miriam.
The above-mentioned Nicholas Watson, who bought land in West Greenwich in 1760 and sold it in 1764, was the grandson of John Watson; the son of Samuel2 and 2nd wife Mary (Northup) Watson; and the younger half-brother of patriarch Samuel3. In John Watson, Nicholas is designated as #11; his line of descent as a third‐generation Watson is rendered Nicholas3 (Samuel2, John1).
On December 26, 1762, Silas4 Watson, son of patriarch Samuel, married Sarah Bowdich in West Greenwich. While this matrimonial event happened nearly a year before Silas was given those fifty acres by his father, it tells us more about the bride than the groom. Longstanding tradition has a wedding taking place in the hometown of the bride. While it’s likely that Silas was indeed resident in WG at the time he and Sarah wed, the record of his marriage is not proof of that.
Apparently Nicholas and Miriam Watson stuck around West Greenwich long enough for their son to fall in love. This son, also named Samuel—alas! Too many Watsons named Samuel in the same place!—married Lois Moon in WG on October 1, 1768. Lois Moon is said to have been the daughter of James Moon and his wife Mary. According to John Watson, Samuel4 and Lois (Moon) Watson are “believed to have removed to NY before the American Revolution.”
In 1766, patriarch Samuel Watson sold land in West Greenwich to Stephen Northup. Not having a copy of this particular deed, we can’t tell you how many acres this involved or how much property Samuel might have retained in WG.
In 1767, Silas Watson sold his fifty acres of land in WG to Latham Stanton of Exeter for the sum of “thirty pounds Lawfull Money.” Silas’s wife Sarah joined in this transaction.
Wedding bells continued to chime for the Watsons. On November 5, 1768, in WG, Mary Watson, daughter of patriarch Samuel, tied the knot with Peleg Moon, son of James Moon. Peleg likely was the brother of Lois Moon, mentioned above.
The record of the release that Silas gave to his brother Robert Watson for twenty pounds (WG Land Evidence, Book 6, pg. 392) is dated in John Watson as 1777, but the hand-written record preserved in West Greenwich Town Hall has the date 1770 written on it. This irregularity is buttressed by the record being sandwiched among others dated 1774 and referring to an “above sd deed” that does not appear above. It looks to us as though the record got copied from an earlier version, possibly the original, and lost something along the way. Given that in 1773 Silas Watson is on record as a freeman in Pownal, Vermont, the 1770 date might well be the correct one, marking the time when Silas and his family left West Greenwich. (See also the first paragraph of Early Town Council and Census Records, below. The WG Watson families were moving around in 1770.)
The trail grows cold for Nicholas and Miriam Watson after the marriage of their son and the sale of their property in West Greenwich. We thought perhaps they left to settle in Vermont or New York, like their son Samuel and his bride Lois; nephew Silas Watson and his wife Sarah; and niece Mary (Watson) Moon who, with her husband Peleg, eventually moved to Bennington, Vermont.
But maybe Nicholas and Miriam Watson stayed in Rhode Island after all. Please see the next section, “Sorting Out Nicholas Watson,” for more on this question.
Samuel3 Watson, the patriarch, and his brother Nicholas are on record in West Greenwich in the 1760’s in a series of land transactions. Samuel’s son Silas4 also appears in these land transaction records, one of which concerns his brother Robert4. Several Watson cousins got married in this same time frame. Two of these newlywed couples moved away from West Greenwich before the American Revolution.
Sorting Out Nicholas Watson
We find more than a little confusion around which Nicholas Watson is which Ė and there are only three* of them that concern us. These Nicholas Watsons all were alive around the same time, and Rhode Island is a small place.
Let us also say that we donít have enough lifetimes to examine each piece of extant evidence in hopes of nailing this down, though we wish we did. Instead, we will do a basic comparison of data given in the John Watson book, as well as census data available in other places, like Ancestry.com.
We were able to identify which Nicholas Watson bought 98 acres of land in West Greenwich in 1760 simply because his wife participated in the 1764 sale of that property by signing away her dower rights. John Watson has little to say about this particular Nicholas Watson (#11) outside of land transactions; but on page 21 his wifeís name is printed in all caps: MIRIAM.
If Nicholas3 Watson (#11 in the John Watson book) sold all his property in West Greenwich, would he continue to live in that town? Itís possible that he stayed, especially if he and Miriam had offspring in WG who welcomed their parents to share a home. But common sense and ordinary logic tell us itís unlikely: Nicholas and Miriam probably moved away.
Now we consider the Rhode Island census of 1774 as found at Ancestry.com. By this we mean that the data have been transcribed; an image of the original record is not available for scrutiny.
There is only one Nicholas Watson recorded in the Rhode Island census of 1774, and he lived in West Greenwich. This Nicholas Watson was the head of a household of five people – 1 male above the age of 16 (that would be Nicholas); 1 male under age 16; 1 female above 16; and 2 females under 16. Since this appears to be a young family, we think this particular Nicholas Watson is the son of patriarch Samuel.
Info from the Rhode Island census of 1782 comes to us in another transcription, this one done by the late Katharine U. Waterman of North Scituate. For the town of West Greenwich, there is only one Nicholas Watson listed. His household included 1 female under the age of 16; 1 female between the ages of 16 and 22; and 1 male over 50. The relatively advanced age of this man, per this record, suggests that he is the brother, not the son, of patriarch Samuel.
Is it possible that Ms. Waterman incorrectly transcribed the age of this Nicholas Watson? Yes. Can we reference the original manuscript which is held by the Rhode Island Historical Society Library? Not at the moment. Even if the transcription proved to be correct, we are still left wondering if uncle and nephew moved in and out of West Greenwich with baffling regularity.
On the other hand, this 1782 transcript seems to indicate a widowed man with two fairly young daughters under his roof. Once again we are inclined to believe that the Nicholas Watson listed in this 1782 census is, in fact, the son of patriarch Samuel.
This datum from the RI census of 1782 is the reason many people list this Nicholas Watson with a birth date that precedes his parents’ marriage in 1735. Indeed, if Nicholas Watson were born before 1732, Samuel and Hannah (Hazard) Watson would have been parents by age 16 or 17. It could have happened that way, but we think it unlikely.
In the 1790 census, Nicholas Watson of West Greenwich headed a household of six – the people under his roof seem to have doubled in the intervening eight years. We have information from WG town council records (book 3) that helps to explain part of this expansion. An entry for September 8, 1787, noted that “Nicholas Watson have an order on the Town Treasurer for 3 pounds lawful money towards his keeping his daughter’s child laid to Zebulon Tanner.”
This means that Nicholas Watson’s daughter had an out‐of‐wedlock child with a man named Zebulon Tanner. Illegitimacy was more common in those days than one might think; some women had multiple children outside of marriage. Nicholas Watson’s daughter and ‘bastard’ grandchild continued to live under his roof. All of them effectively were pulled into West Greenwich’s poor relief system, which assessed the fathers of bastard children for financial support and then administered those funds.
We found a Nicholas Watson living in Exeter in both the 1790 and 1800 censuses. In both cases, the household consists of two people – one male and one female. This Nicholas could be the patriarch’s younger half‐brother. We may reasonably guess, then, that Nicholas Watson of West Greenwich, as enumerated in the 1790 census, was the son of the patriarch.
*The third Nicholas Watson alive during this time span, per the John Watson book, was Nicholas4, the son of Caleb3 Watson #8 (Samuel2, John1). Caleb’s son Nicholas was not given his own number in John Watson, which is what happens when nothing else besides the person’s name is known.
Two different men named Nicholas Watson – uncle and nephew – lived in West Greenwich. The scarcity of information on these men has made it necessary for us to sort them out via educated guesses. It is possible that the patriarch’s younger half‐brother Nicholas (the uncle) is the man of the same name found to be living in Exeter in 1790 and 1800.
Early Town Council and Census Records
The first mention of our Watsons in the town council records of West Greenwich (book 2) appears in an entry dated as the “last Saturday of May 1770.” It was noted that, on 28 May 1770, Samuel Watson and Nicholas Watson and their families were granted certificates to the town council of Exeter. This means that the Watsons were heading back to Exeter to live, with permission from the town of West Greenwich.
NOTE: It’s our best guess that the Nicholas Watson mentioned in the above paragraph was the son of patriarch Samuel. By this point in time, Samuel’s older children, likely including Nicholas, were married, with families.
The WG town fathers issued the Watsons a formal document saying, in effect, to the town of Exeter that the Watsons’ legal settlement was in West Greenwich. If the Watsons fell on hard times, the town of West Greenwich (not Exeter) would bear the responsibility of providing poor relief. And the Watsons would be spared the indignity of being “warned out” of Exeter.
This brings up two questions for the casual reader: How did Samuel Watson establish his legal settlement in West Greenwich, after living previously in Exeter? And where was he going to reside in Exeter in 1770, if his home was in West Greenwich?
Samuel doubtless established his legal settlement in West Greenwich by owning sufficient real estate there. As to where Samuel and Nicholas and their families were going to live in Exeter – apparently Samuel continued to own property in Exeter, presumably with a “dwelling house.” A record detailing Caleb Robbins’ sale of 200 acres in Exeter to Edward Wells, in April 1770 (Exeter Land Evidence 1:56-57), described it as bounded by the Flat River; Jeremiah Haszard; Samuel Watson; highway.
And then these two Watson families came back: They were living in West Greenwich again prior to the last Saturday of November 1771, the date on which the WG town council assigned men to help build a new highway on the western side of town. This road crew (for the district of Philip Greene, with Benjamin Tillinghast as overseer) included Samuel Watson, Samuel Watson Jr., and Nicholas Watson. Yet another record (WG book 3), for the last Saturday in May 1772, lists a highway maintenance crew that again included Samuel Watson, Samuel Watson Jr., and Nicholas Watson (for the district of Benjamin Tillinghast).
In the Rhode Island census of 1774, two Watson households show up in West Greenwich – those of patriarch Samuel and his son Nicholas. We feel confident in declaring this Nicholas Watson to be the son of the patriarch, not the brother. The head count and age range of the people in his household are descriptive of a young family.
Early town council and census records give evidence of two Watson households in West Greenwich – those of patriarch Samuel and his son Nicholas.
Revolutionary War Era
While Massachusetts describes itself as the “birthplace of the American Revolution,” Rhode Island played a pivotal – and earlier – role in the war leading to the creation of the United States of America.
On June 9, 1772, a full eighteen months ahead of the famed Boston Tea Party, a group of Rhode Islanders attacked the revenue schooner HMS Gaspee when it ran aground in Narragansett Bay. They took control of the ship, wounding its British commander, Lieut. William Duddington, in the process. Then they set fire to the Gaspee, burning it to the water line. This was the first act of armed rebellion by North America colonists against Mother England. “The shot heard round the world” would not be fired in Concord, Massachusetts, for nearly another three years.
On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island passed its Act of Renunciation, becoming the first colony formally to sever its ties to King George III. Two months later, the Continental Congress would issue the Declaration of Independence on behalf of all thirteen colonies.
Two of the patriarch’s sons, Silas4 and Samuel4 Jr., were actively involved in the American Revolution, on the Patriot side. Another son, Freeborn4, appears not to have fought for either side, as far as we can tell. Freeborn Watson was cited twice by the town of West Greenwich for not being properly equipped with a firearm.
Samuel4 Jr. was the only one of the patriarch’s sons who did military service out of West Greenwich during the Revolutionary War. He enlisted on January 20, 1776, serving in Capt. Thomas Gorton’s company, in the Rhode Island militia regiment commanded by Col. Christopher Lippett. Samuel Jr. was honorably discharged on January 18, 1777, in New Jersey.
While Samuel Jr. was away from his home state, fighting for independence, the British moved in. In December 1776, General Henry Clinton captured Newport, a vital shipping port on the southern end of Aquidneck (“Rhode”) Island. Sir Robert Pigot was left in charge of 3,000 British and Hessian troops quartered there. Newport was occupied for nearly three years.
In March 1777, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed an act to have a military census taken of all males 16 years of age and up. The person collecting the data for West Greenwich submitted it on April 18, 1777, to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census recorded which men were able or unable to bear arms. Interestingly, the Rhode Island Genealogical Society’s description says that “men counted out of their place of settlement (because of the Revolutionary War) are noted.” But only one Watson male was counted in West Greenwich in this military census, and that was patriarch Samuel3, whose name was written as “Samuel Wattson.” He was recorded as being 50‐60 years of age, and marked as able to bear arms.
The omission of son Freeborn4’s name suggests that Freeborn left West Greenwich sometime between January 1777 (when his name appears in West Greenwich town council records) and March‐April 1777, when the military census was taken.
Where was Samuel4 Jr. when the military census was taken? We know he was discharged from his Continental service on January 18, 1777, at Morristown, New Jersey – and had to make his own way home (on foot, like everyone else) to Rhode Island. After returning home, Samuel Jr. served in the Rhode Island state troops at various times, including one monthís service in 1777 as a substitute for his brother Freeborn.
Samuel4 Jr.’s absence from the RI 1777 military census might be explained by the possibility that he was staying with other family in Exeter at the time – and Exeter’s records are missing from this census, along with those from Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, New Shoreham (Block Island), and Little Compton. Or perhaps a separate page for those men in service from West Greenwich got lost as well. It’s also possible Samuel Jr. had not quite made it back to Rhode Island from New Jersey by the time the military census was being taken in West Greenwich.
Samuel Watson Jr.
As mentioned above, on January 20, 1776, in West Greenwich, Samuel4 Watson Jr. enlisted as a soldier in the Patriot cause. He served in Capt. Thomas Gorton’s company, in the Rhode Island militia regiment commanded by Col. Christopher Lippett.
Col. Lippett’s regiment became part of the Continental Army on May 11, 1776. As a soldier in Col. Lippett’s regiment, Samuel Watson Jr. fought in the Battle of White Plains (New York, October 28, 1776). In the same regiment, Samuel Jr. served under Gen. George Washington during the second Battle of Trenton (New Jersey, January 2, 1777), and the Battle of Princeton (New Jersey, January 3, 1777). Samuel Jr. was honorably discharged from his Continental service on January 18, 1777, at Morristown, New Jersey.
After returning to Rhode Island, Samuel Jr. served in the Rhode Island state troops at various times, including one month’s service in 1777 as a substitute for his brother Freeborn Watson. In 1778 Samuel was drafted into a state militia regiment and served on Newport “one month or more” in Sullivan’s Expedition. This correlates with the timing of the Battle of Rhode Island.
The Battle of Rhode Island took place in August 1778, with French naval forces poised to assist the Patriot forces on land. The American forces outnumbered those of the British. But they failed to oust the British, due to a combination of extreme weather, unlucky timing, problems between the French and American commanders, and the fact that the British had the strategic advantage of prepared positions. The British occupied Newport for another year. They left the devastated city in autumn of 1779 to concentrate on New York and the southern states.
In the early part of summer 1780, Samuel Jr. enlisted for six months in Col. Christopher Greene’s regiment, Capt. John Holden’s company. These were Rhode Island state troops designated as a Continental Battalion. In Samuel’s own words, he “served six months on the Island of Newport and Providence in the state of Rhode Island.”
Samuel served other tours of duty as well, all in his home state. In applying for a Revolutionary War pension, Samuel recounted that he was “drafted and served two months or more on Boston Neck and Narragansett Bay guarding the shores if I recollect under Capt. George Willcox and Col. Charles Dyre.”
Samuel Watson and Elisha Sweet, another man from West Greenwich, both mentioned that Samuel served one month as a substitute for Jared Bailey, though they differ on what year this took place (Samuel said 1779; Elisha said 1781). Jared Bailey himself, in a deposition made for his own pension application, testified that he was “drafted in the State of Rhode Island for one month but could not go, but hired a Substitute for which [I] paid him fifteen dollars & equipped him.” West Greenwich town council records for September 29, 1781, include an item regarding those exempted from being fined for their inability to equip themselves with “war like essentials.” Samuel Watson Jr. was listed among the currently unarmed men. This may explain why Jared Bailey had to equip Samuel Jr. when hiring him to fight in his place.
Samuel4 Watson Jr. was the only one of the patriarch’s sons to do military service out of West Greenwich during the American Revolution. In 1776 Samuel Jr. served in a Continental regiment under General George Washington. After returning home, he served at various times in Rhode Island state troops, including at the Battle of Rhode Island.
Patriarch Samuel3 Watson was enumerated in West Greenwich, in the Rhode Island 1777 Military Census, as able to bear arms.
Final Years of the Patriarch
Samuel3 Watson was last of record in West Greenwich, RI, in 1790, both in town council records and in that year’s census. He helped to provide relief to the poor of the town and in turn was reimbursed by the town council for expenses incurred. Between December 3, 1785 and March 11, 1786, and again during the summer of 1790, Samuel Watson provided for the basic needs of WG resident Mary Tanner and her children. The very last time Samuel was mentioned in WG town council records was July 26, 1790, when his “order on the Town Treasurer for $8 for keeping Mary Tanner and her children 8 days in the last of June passed and first of July instant” was noted in Town Council record book #4.
Samuel and Hannah Watson left Rhode Island to live in Pownal, Vermont, where their sons Silas and Freeborn were then living. The numbers for Silas Watson’s household in the 1800 census record supports the notion that Samuel and Hannah resided with him.
We don’t know exactly when Samuel and Hannah Watson left West Greenwich, but we have one small clue: An entry dated November 28, 1791, in the WG town council minutes refers to “Samuel Watson Junr.” The use of Junior would differentiate the younger Samuel from the elder. We may surmise then that the patriarch had not yet left West Greenwich.
Samuel and Hannah lie buried in a small cemetery known as the Carpenter Lot, just over the line from Pownal into the town of Bennington. (On the map of Pownal, shown in our separate article about Silas Watson, Ted Atkinson marked the location of this lot with an X and noted it as “Orchard Cem.” because the lot now lies amidst apple trees.) Samuel and Hannah Watson are the only interments who are not members of the Carpenter family. This unusual arrangement provides our best clue for why Samuel and Hannah Watson went to Vermont.
Both Jeremiah Carpenter and patriarch Samuel Watson were born in Rhode Island around the same time (1715‐1717). The 1747 colonial census for Rhode Island records Jeremiah Carpenter as living in West Greenwich, where the patriarch settled around 1763. While Jeremiah and Samuel doubtless knew each other in West Greenwich, it’s also likely that they forged a friendship even before Samuel took up residence there (Rhode Island being a small place).
Jeremiah Carpenter left Rhode Island to settle in Bennington, Vermont, prior to 1773 (the year his name shows up in Bennington town records) – a time period that parallels Silas Watson’s own departure from West Greenwich.
On July 24, 1792, in the presence of witnesses, Jeremiah Carpenter signed his will with an X. This puts the lie to Bennington cemetery records that say he died in May 1792 – as well as his own gravestone, inscribed with a death date of March 1792. (Ted Atkinson told us that Jeremiah’s gravestone was a later addition, i.e., not installed at the time of interment.) Jeremiah Carpenter probably died in March 1793, because his will was entered into probate in Bennington on March 19, 1793.
We may guess that word of Jeremiah’s decline reached patriarch Samuel in West Greenwich. And we think Samuel and Hannah went to Vermont to be with their old friend before he passed away. The window for their journey thus narrows to 1792 as the likeliest time of their departure from Rhode Island.
Had Samuel intended to stay in Vermont? Or had he planned to return to Rhode Island?
There is no record of the patriarch owning land in Pownal, nor is there any record of him transferring property in West Greenwich, RI, in or after 1790. One would think that if Samuel intended to remove to Vermont permanently, he might have sold his RI real estate. We find ourselves speculating that the elder Watsons’ health may have begun to decline as well; both were nearing 80 years of age. Perhaps a return trip wasn’t feasible.
On December 17, 1801, Hannah (Hazard) Watson passed away “in the 86th year of her age.” She was laid to rest in the Carpenter Lot, joining Jeremiah Carpenter and his wife Elizabeth (Reynolds) Carpenter, who died in 1799.
Samuel Watson, the patriarch, died on June 28, 1806, “in the 90th Year of his age.” He was buried next to Hannah in the Carpenter Lot, where they share a twin headstone and a twin footstone. The inscription, In Memory of Cap t. SAMUEL WATSON, preserves Samuel’s military service rank.
somewhat in order of their appearance in the text, and with no consistent format
Davis, George C., and Jean Adams Bradley. The American Family of John Watson of the Narragansett Country, Rhode Island. Kingston, R.I.: Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, 1983. Also cited as: John Watson and The American Family of John Watson.
Rhode Island Colonial War Servicemen, 1740-62, Flint, James, ed. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999. Original data: Chapin, Howard. Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars. Providence, RI, USA: The Society, 1920.
Exeter Land Evidence, Volume 9, Old Date, 1758-1763, “Abstracts of Exeter, RI, Land Evidence,” by Margaret L. Beaman, Rhode Island Genealogical Register, Vol. 12, page 325.
Census records: Images of actual census pages; and information gleaned from census indexes (when images are not available) obtained at Ancestry.com
Information and photos pertinent to various burials obtained at Find A Grave
Rev. Theodore Mayo Atkinson, Jr. (1926‐2011) became a professional genealogist after retiring from active ministry in the Congregational Church. Per one of his obituaries, Ted “specialized in researching early Vermont families, notably the Carpenters of Carpenter Hill in Pownal and Bennington, from whom he was descended.” To read our brief tribute to Ted and to see a picture of him, click here.
Click here to see Images for Samuel #26 Watson
Click here to read Where’s Alice? The Location of the “Lost Watson Lot”
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