ItELATIVK TO TIIK
Early Town Records.
[Presentfd March 7, 1802.]
S;^£ |!robiL>cncc ^^rcss!
Snow & Farniiam, City Printers,
.■^7 Custom House Street.
To THE Honorable the City Council of the City
Gentlemen : In accordance with the joint resolu-
tion of the City Council, which was approved March
6, 1 89 1, and which reads as follows, viz. :
''Resolved, That Horatio Rogers, George M. Car-
penter and Edward Field are appointed record com-
missioners, who shall serve without compensation, for
the purpose of collecting and printing the early re-
cords of the town of Providence, and said commis-
sioners are authorized to expend the sum of one thou-
sand dollars for collecting and printing said records,
said sum to be charged to the appropriation for print-
ing," the undersigned respectfully submit a volume
of the early records of the town of Providence,
which they have caused to be printed. The report
presented to your honorable body by the Joint Com-
mittee on Education recommending the passage
of the aforegoing resolution contains this clause :
" On the completion of this volume the commis-
sioners will be able to report much more definitely
than can be estimated the probable extent and cost of
the work, and the city council can better decide when
and how far it is advisable to continue." The commis-
CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
sioners therefore present for your consideration the
following report and recommendations.
A brief review of the action taken by this town and
city from time* to time towards the preservation of its
ancient records, will show that much consideration
has been given to this subject. The earliest effort in
this direction was made Aug. 12, 1678, when Daniel
Abbott was elected town clerk, to succeed John
Whipple, Jr. At this time Roger Williams and
Daniel Abbott were appointed a committee " to take
a list of what they received, and to give to ye sayd
John Whipple a cleare and full discharge for the
This action was taken shortly after the Indian war
[1675-76], when the town suffered so severely from
its effects, and when the records passed through a se-
vere ordeal. The original document, a copy of which
is hereto annexed and marked "Appendix A," is pre-
served in the files of the Rhode Island Historical
Society, and is among the manuscripts of the Foster
papers, and from it is derived much information as to
the extent and number of the earliest volumes of the
town records. From it we also learn how much of
the books yet remain intact, and what portions have
been lost or effaced during the years that have elapsed
since that time. The next account is embraced in a
schedule found by the commissioners among a lot of
loose papers in the store room at the city hall, and
sheds much light on the condition and number of the
records nearly ninety years later than the list pre-
viously mentioned. It is of peculiar value in many
respects, especially in showing the advance and growth
1^^2.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS.
of the town in the number of volumes of land trans-
actions which had taken place during these years be-
tween the date of the previous list and the date of this
A copy of this document is annexed, marked "Ap-
pendix B." It is to be regretted that certain of the
books and papers contained in these lists or schedules
are not to be found in the possession of the city, hav-
ing doubtless been lost, as too little care was exercised
in the preservation of old papers in the early years of
the town. The late John Howland, a man of intense
fondness for antiquarian research in Rhode Island
history, often lamented the recklessness with which
the papers of the early settlers of Rhode Island had
been destroyed. " From a quantity thrown into the
street, which he gathered up and carried to his place
of business, he recovered several ori<rinal letters of
Roger Williams," a fact painfully illustrating how lit-
tle the value of these ancient papers and documents
was regarded in years gone by.
June 6, 1796, a committee was appointed for the
purpose of examining the town records and ascertain-
ing " what record books it may be necessary to cause
to be transcribed, indexed or otherwise amended, and
that said committee make report of their proceedings
herein at the next town meeting." "Appendix C."
That committee reported June 23, 1796, recommend-
ing that the work be done, and a resolution was
adopted in town meeting authorizing it. "Appendix
D." The outcome of this action was the Book of Tran-
cripts, so called, which has been used and referred to
from that time to this, in place of the earliest books of
CITY DOCtJMENT. [No. 18.
record, except, perhaps, by a comparative few who
wished to examine the original records themselves.
This volume is valuable in some respects, although its
accuracy is questionable. Of it Judge Staples in his
"Annals " says, " It would have been more valuable had
the committee who superintended the work, and the
clerk who performed it, been a little more careful and
a little less anxious to compress it in one volume."
The original books from which this transcript was
made remained in their worn and mutilated condition
for many years without any attempt being made to
have them preserved. The inaccuracies of the tran-
script and the continued deterioration of the old vol-
umes seems to have become a matter of serious con-
sideration, and September ii, 1865, a committee was
appointed by the common council " to examine the con-
dition of the early records of the town of Providence
to the year 1800; and the committee was authorized
to employ a suitable person to transcribe and print the
same, and to take such measures as might by them be
deemed expedient for a proper preservation of the
records," the sum of five hundred dollars being ap-
propriated for this purpose, "Appendix E." No-
vember 13th, of that same year, a committee, slightly
different in its composition from the previous one,
was appointed "to examine the early records of the
town of Providence prior to the year 1800, and re-
port what in their opinion is the best manner of pre-
serving the same, and in case they may deem it
expedient to have them printed to report the probable
expense thereof." "Appendix F."
In May, 1 881, the Library Committee of the Rhode
Island Historical Society, in a communication to
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 7
Mayor William S. Hayward, called attention to the
damaged condition of the early records, and urged
upon the city council the importance of their preser-
vation. In accordance with this recommendation a
resolution was approved June 7, 18S1, authorizing the
recorder of deeds " to cause the first volume of the
records of the town of Providence to be suitably re-
bound and the leaves to be inlaid in new paper, the
expense to be paid from money in the treasury not
otherwise appropriated." "Appendix G." In July,
1884, Mayor Thomas A. Doyle in a message to the
city council, stated that " By a resolution of the city
council, approved June 7, 1881, the recorder of deeds
was authorized "to cause the first volume of the re-
cords of the town of Providence to be suitably re-
bound and the leaves to be inlaid in new paper, the
expense to be paid from money in the treasury not
otherwise appropriated. The work proposed in this
resolution has never been accomplished, and very little
progress has been made in regard to it." The city
council again passed a resolution similar to those that
had previously been adopted, instructing the "joint
committee on printing to inquire into the matter of
printing the first four books of the records of the town
of Providence, with the probable cost thereof and all
matters connected therewith, and to report thereon to
either branch of the city council." "Appendix H."
It will thus be seen that the matter of preserving the
public records has had consideration by the authori-
ties, and their value and importance have been many
times acknowledged by resolutions, recommendations
and special messages ; but beyond the fact that a few
CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
of the earliest books of record have been repaired
and re-bound, no step whatever has been taken to-
wards the only safe means of preserving permanently
these priceless writings until the action of the city
council in March last, in pursuance of several peti-
tions presented by persons and societies interested in
The subject of preserving ancient records in print
is one which has received most serious consideration
by many of the states, cities, towns and parishes in-
cluded in the thirteen original colonies. The city of
Boston, in the year 1875, appointed a commission for
this purpose, and upwards of twenty volumes of re-
ports have been issued from their hands, bringing the
printed records of that city up to the year 1800. The
city of Worcester has also given pecuniary encourage-
ment to the publication of their town records, and
among the smaller towns and cities in New England
having a similar object in view, are included Braintree,
Cambridge, Danvers, Fall River, Salem, Amherst,
Brookline, Dedham, and others that either have the
subject under consideration, or have already placed
their copies in the printers' hands.
The reason for this care in the preservation of
records will be apparent, even upon a brief considera-
tion. In the first place these records are highly im-
portant as furnishing evidence by deeds, lay-outs, wills
and many other documents of the greatest conse-
quence, in tracing and proving the ownership and de-
scent of property, furnishing material for the history
of the towns themselves, and preserving the records
of the births, deaths and marriaores.
"1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS.
The loss of this material, so extremely valuable if
not priceless, would be deplorable, and yet while in
many instances these records have withstood the rav-
ages of time for more than two hundred and fifty
years, they are to-day in greater danger of destruction
than they were during that period of their existence
when they were kept in the home or shop of their cus-
todian without any unusual care on his part to guard
their contents. In the report of the record commis-
sioner of Massachusetts in 1885, it is stated that some
of the public records " have resisted decay for more
than two hundred and fifty years, but it is only too evi-
dent their powers of resistance are now in many cases
nearly at an end, and that the time is not far distant
w^hen these records will have entirely disappeared.
Perhaps if we had continued in the simple ways of
our forefathers, the evil day might have been still fur-
With the modern equipments of public offices has
come a new danger, although remote yet still liable to
occur at any moment. Steam heat, gas, and electricity
are a constant source of danger to public records.
Steam heat seriously affects books and papers, and the
danger of fire from gas and electricity is not an un-
common one; indeed, the probate office for the county
of Suffolk, in the city of Boston, has been on fire
within the past year from electric wires, but happily
in the day time, when it was seasonably discovered.
Public records of any character are constantly in dan-
ger of destruction, and a long list of such casualties
could be enumerated. All the records in the registry
of deeds for the county of Barnstable, Mass., were
10 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
destroyed by fire October 22, 1827, and all the probate
records for the county of Cumberland, which although
now in Maine was formerly a part of Massachusetts,
were destroyed in the great Portland fire, July 4, 1866.
In our own state the records of all kinds of the
town of North Kingstown were seriously injured, if
indeed, not practically destroyed, in the same way in
1870, for their condition now is such that they are of
little use. The old records of Newport were so badly
damaged during the Revolution that they are well
nigh valueless. During the Indian war [1675-6], the
records of the town of Providence were in imminent
danger of destruction. An attack was made on the
town March 30, 1676, and thirty houses were de-
stroyed, one of which says Staples "was the house of
John Smith, the miller. Mr. Smith was at that time
town clerk, and the records of the town were then in
his possession. They were thrown from his burning
house into the mill-pond to preserve them from the
flames, and to the present day they bear plenary evi-
dence of the two-fold dangers they escaped and the
two-fold injury they suffered. After they were res-
cued from the mill-pond they were carried to Newport,
and were not returned again to Providence until after
the war was at an end."
The Proprietors' Records of Providence were con-
sumed by fire in 1888, when the Aldrich House and
other adjacent buildings in the city of Providence
The state of Maine has committed to print their
early probate records, including all the wills from 1640
to 1760, and the deeds of York county, from 1642 to
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. I'l
1699. ^ The early deeds of Suffolk County, Mass.,havc
been similarly treated. In this connection is presented
the following abstract from the report on the dangers
to which public records are exposed and the proper
method of preserving them, made by the committee
of the council of the New England Historic Genea-
logical Society, at the meeting of the society held in
Boston Jan. 2, 1889: "Some of our ancient towns,"
says the report, " have lost all their records by fire, and
the same is true of many parishes. Indeed, the loss
from this cause alone of town, county or church record
is in the aggregate little short of appalling. Under
these circumstances it is almost criminal nefrlisrence
to allow any book of record to exist only in a single
copy. Its life then hangs by a single thread. Now
what is the remedy for this state of affairs.? It is not
far to seek, but is made manifest to every thinking
man. Not even the crumbling of the paper, the cor-
rosion or fading of the ink, not even a sweeping con-
flagration can utterly destroy records whose custo-
dians have taken proper means to preserve them.
How can this be done-f^ In one way only. Simply
by the multiplication of copies. The invention of the
art of printing has made great changes in the modern
world. In no direction has the advance been sfreater
than in this. Copies, instead of being made toilsomely
and laboriously by hand, can now be produced almost
with the quickness of thought; and the great reduc-
tion in the cost of printing of late years has placed it
in the power of every town and parish, however poor
and feeble, to put into imperishable form its records,
at least the earliest of them. And the work cannot
12 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
be begun too soon. Nor is this all. The greater use
made of stereotyping now-a-days, for even newspapers
are printed from stereotype plates, has given us an
additional safeguard. The printed volumes, being
widely distributed, could not all be destroyed by fire,
and being subject to different atmospheric conditions,
could not all crumble to pieces at once. Some would
certainly survive. But even if they should not, the
stereotype plates would remain. From them other
copies could be printed at the mere cost of press-work
and paper. This would forever set at rest all fear of
a total loss of records, a fate which hangs over most
town and county records to-day.
" Where an ancient town has remained intact from
its first settlement until now, the necessity of preserv-
ing in print records of such great historical value is
readily apparent. Yet where other towns have been,
in more modern times, set off from an ancient town,
the need becomes still more evident. The safety of the
records and the convenience of the public alike require
it. Some towns have been repeatedly sub-divided.
In one instance some seventeen or eighteen towns
have been, in whole or in part, formed from the terri-
tory granted by the general court to the original town.
And other instances equally striking can doubtless
be cited. Although the newer municipalities have a
history in common with the older towns of which
they once formed a part, their records are defective,
inasmuch as they extend back only to the time of sepa-
ration, the books prior to that date remaining in the
hands of the clerk of the parent town. This works
serious inconvenience. Matters are continually com-
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 13
ing up which necessitates reference to the earlier
records, and they are not at hand. Each new town
should have a complete set of the records, j)rior to
separation of the original town of which it then
formed a part. They belong as much to it as to the
other. A new town should not be forced to see such
invaluable documents placed beyond its control and
in the keeping of officials not responsible to it, sub-
jected to all the vicissitudes and dangers which records
are continually running. Now the art of printing
enables us to obviate all these difficulties. It solves
the problem completely. When once the records are
in type extra copies can be had merely for the cost of
press-work and paper, and each is an exact duplicate
of the other. No copyist's errors need be feared
where the work is done with such mechanical accu-
racy. A printed copy is vastly superior to any manu-
script copy that can possibly be made.
" But it must not for a moment be supposed that
the people who live in any given town are the only
persons interested in its records or concerned for the
preservation of them. All of our towns, both ancient
and modern, have contributed no small portion of
their population to build up and develop the other
parts of our rapidly growing country. There is hardly
a remote corner of any one of the states and terri-
tories of the West where representatives of our New
England families are not to be found. They naturally
feel a peculiar pride in the place of their birth, and the
children of these exiles should be encouraged to keep
constantly in mind the home of their fathers. The
publication of these records, therefore, interest a
14 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
much larger number of people than are to be found
within the limits of any single town, and these printed
volumes reach more readers than we can easily imag-
In the preparation of the volume which is herewith
submitted and accompanies this report, the commis-
sioners have devoted much personal attention. The
commissioners met for organization April 25, 1891,
and Horatio Rogers was made chairman, and Edward
Field secretary. The work authorized under the reso-
lution was at once commenced, and it was determined
that the book known as the " First Book " should be
printed. This book was evidently the first one used
for records by the early settlers, for in it were recorded
the earliest orders and votes of the town meetings,
though it seems to have been discarded for this pur-
pose after a time, and then to have been solely used
for the enrollment of deeds, lay-outs of lands and
The transcribing of this book and the other cleri-
cal work of the commission were intrusted to Miss
Huldah D. Sheldon, her services in recording offices
for a number of years past peculiarly fitting her for
the work in hand.
The commissioners desire to testify to the interest
she has manifested, the care with which she has inves-
tigated the many perplexing questions involved in
copying, and to the general excellence of the work
which she has performed. The course pursued in
this respect has been to cause to be made a manu-
script copy of the original, preserving the orthogra-
phy, punctuation, and in fact every feature so far as
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 15
practicable that appears in connection with the re-
corded matter in the book. Upon the completion of this
work the commissioners together examined the written
copy and compared it with the book called the Book of
Transcripts, made by order of the town council in the
year 1800, as well as with the original record. 'Die
proof sheets as received from the printer's hands were
carefully corrected from the original record, or, where
such record was defective, from the Book of Tran-
scripts, so called. The pagination of the original has
been preserved by placing each of its page numbers
in a bold faced type, as the leaves are now arranged
in the printed book, in brackets, in that part of the
printed page where each page of the original begins ;
the pagination of the printed book, however, is the
one referred to in the index. The types from which
the book has been printed have all been stereotyped
for the many advantages which are derived from this
course. In the first place fewer copies need be printed,
as subsequent editions can be struck off at any time
when needed, which effects a saving in many particu-
lars. The stereotype plates can be easily corrected if
errors are found, which will obviate a list of " errata,"
so often met with in publications of a similar nature.
Criticism may be directed towards the appearance
of the printed pages of the volume submitted, but
appearance was not the end which the commissioners
sought to attain. It is not within the power of any
one to decide which of the several matters appearing
in old records is of the most value ; what may be valu-
able for a certain purpose to one may be of little or no
value to another, and vice versa ; and therefore it is
16 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
important that each item, mark or figure contained in
the original should be reproduced or represented.
Nothing has been omitted or garbled, and the recorded
volume has been as faithfully and accurately repro-
duced in type as the most painstaking care the com-
missioners were possessed of would enable them to do
it. The cost of the books and the amount of time
and labor required for their preparation make them
too valuable for an indiscriminate distribution. The
commissioners would recommend that they be gratui-
tously distributed by a method similar to that pursued
by the city of Boston. A blank form of request such
as is there used, a copy of which is herewith sub-
mitted, "Appendix I," might be used, and such per-
sons as apply to a member of the city council or to the
commissioners should be given a copy of the book,
and their names kept on record for subsequent vol-
umes, should the city council see fit to have them
Public libraries and similar institutions in this and
neighboring states should, of course, be furnished with
copies when desired. The indiscriminate free distri-
bution of public documents, too often pursued, wastes
many copies, for experience has shown that in a short
time the book thus distributed is considered of little
value, and sooner or later is thrown aside and finds its
way into the junk shop and the pulp mill. The course
adopted by the city of Boston has been found to work
well, and the commissioners are informed that their
volumes have seldom been found out of the hands of
those who received them or of those who were enti-
tled to them.
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 17
The commissioners have examined the ancient
books, papers and documents relating to the town of
Providence in the possession of the city, and submit
a statement of their number, kind and condition,
which is as follows :
1. The First Book town of Providence.
2. The Old Burnt Book or Book with the Brass
3. An ancient book of miscellaneous records in
two volumes as now arrano^ed.
These volumes are included in the Book of Tran-
scripts, heretofore referred to, inaccurately transcribed
and unreliable, and contain all of the earliest meas-
ures adopted by the town, besides a vast amount of
information of the greatest value. By authority of
the city council they have been bound and inlaid in
heavy paper, and are now in the custody of the re-
corder of deeds.
Vol. I. Town Council Records, 1692-1714, con-
taining seventy-two pages.
Vol. 2. Town Council Records, 1715-1732, con-
taining seventy-eight pages.
Vol. I. Town Meeting Records, 1692-1715, con-
taining one hundred and two pages.
Vol. 2. Town Meeting Records, 1716-1721, con-
taining sixty-two pages.
These volumes are rapidly becoming worn and mu-
tilated, the edges of the leaves being broken and torn
by handling for many years, and each day only adds to
their liability to destruction. Save the fact that they
were cheaply bound many years ago, nothing has ever
been done to preserve them.
18 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
Will Book I [so called,] 1670-1716, containing two
hundred and eighty pages.
This book is in the custody of the clerk of the Mu-
nicipal Court, and is the first book now known to be
in existence which was particularly used for recording
documents relating to the estates of the first inhabi-
tants of the town. There was a book of an earlier
date than this, and it is mentioned in the schedule of
1678 "Appendix A," but as no reference is made to it
in the schedule of 1755 "Appendix B," the book was
evidently lost or destroyed between those dates. This
book has been repaired from time to time, and is in as
good condition as these many years of usage would
In addition to the books of record, there are stored
in cupboards in a room in the city hall a large num-
ber of papers and documents, tied up in bundles and
partly classified, dating back as far as 1678. These pa-
pers contain information of great value, which would
be gladly welcomed by our citizens could they be
privileged to examine their contents. Included in
these papers are depositions, indentures, documents
relating to the Revolutionary war, tax-lists, a mass of
records relating to the colonial monetary system, and
many other varieties of records too numerous to par-
The effort to preserve ancient records already ex-
isting in their proper depositories should not be the
sole aim of a commission of this kind. There are
to-day stored and packed away in attics, old chests,
trunks and boxes, papers and documents as valuable
as the old records themselves, which shed light on the
history and development of this town and city.
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS.
These are not particularly valued by those in whose
hands they are, but if it were known that there was
competent authority to exercise a watchful care over
such matters, the present owners and custodians
would often gladly transfer them to such an authority
that they might forever be secure against destruction.
Indeed, the influence of this commission has already
been felt in this respect, and there have been placed
in their hands a number of orifjinal documents and
papers bearing date from 1642 to 1774, consisting of
wills, deeds, agreements and other writings which have
been handed down through six generations to the
present donor. Miss Ann Elizabeth Arnold, of Paw-
tuxet. Such gifts as these add additional links to the
chain of evidence which surround our early history,
and appreciation should insure their careful preserva-
tion and perpetuation.
In consideration of the value of the papers, books
and documents herein referred to, and after giving
the subject attentive investigation, the commissioners
would make the following recommendations: That
the work already inaugurated be continued until the
early records of Providence are placed beyond the
possibility of destruction. A small appropriation
from time to time will accomplish this object, and the
cost to the city will hardly be apparent. The amount
required for the whole work cannot be satisfactorily
estimated, but by pursuing the course herein recom-
mended the city council wull be informed of the cost
and nature of the work from time to time as it pro-
o-resses, and can continue or discontinue the same m
20 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
The commissioners herewith present a statement of
the expenditures made from the appropriation placed
at their disposal by the aforegoing resolution of the
city council :
Amount paid H. D. Sheldon for transcribing
First Book, ^36 00
Amount paid H. D. Sheldon for transcribing
Second Book or book with Brass Clasps, y8 00
Amount paid H. D.Sheldon for transcribing
First Book or Town Meeting Records, 90 00
Amount paid H. D. Sheldon for transcribing
First Book of Town Council Records, 56 00
Amount paid Snow & Farnham for printing
500 copies First book, including electro-
type plates, ...... 383 64
Amount paid Snow & Farnham for printing
application blanks, . . . . . 3 50
Amount paid Akerman Co. for binding 500
copies First Book, . . . . • 76 75
Amount paid J. C. Thompson for cuts for
First Book, . . . . . . 6 84
Amount paid sundry persons for stationery,
index cards, etc., . . . . . 16 18
Amount paid H. D. Sheldon for preparing
index for First Book, . . . . 139 00
Amount paid H. D. Sheldon for listing old
papers and type writing, . . . . 69 00
Amount paid G. H. Richter & Co. for use of
typewriter, 16 00
Total expenditures, .... $970 91
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 21
Amount of appropriation by City Council,
March 6, 1891, $1,000 00
Amount of expenditures as above stated, 970 91
Balance on hand, .... 29 09
The Commissioners would respectfully recommend
the passage of the accompanying resolution.
G. M. CARPENTER,
March 7, 1892.
No. 138. Resolution Appropriating a Further Sum
of $1,500 for the Collecting and Printing of the
[Approved April 2, 1S92.J
Resolved, That the First Volume of the Early Records
of the Town of Providence already printed and such volumes
as may be hereafter printed be distributed in accordance
with the recommendation of the Record Commissioners ;
and that the sum of fifteen hundred dollars be and the same
is hereby appropriated for the purpose of continuing the col-
lecting and printing of said records, said sum to be charged
to the appropriation for printing.
22 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
Book VII. Collections R. I. Hist. Society. Page 103.
Early Attempts at Rinode Island History.
The Original Records of the Town of Providence-
Where as the Towne of providence did upon ye : I2th : of
August : 1678 : at a Towne meeting upon Ajornement, or-
der and Appoynt mr. Roger Williams, and Daniell Abbott,
Gierke, to receive of John Whipple junr the former Towne
Gierke, the Townes Bookes, and recordes belonging to the
Towne now in ye handes of the sayd John Whipple, and to
take a List of what they Receive, and to give ye sayd John
Whipple a cleare and full Disscharge for the same, the which
wee have Done, Vizt
Impri The Towne old Booke : Gontaineing of : 70 : leaves,
and one not wrott upon, ....
[Item]. The longe Booke with parchment Govers Gheifely
Consisting of recordes of Deedes, and of landes,
Gontaineing of : 69 : leaves, and 7 peces of leaves
all wrott upon, besides two leaues pinned to an
" The Booke with Brass Glapses, Gontaineing of:
164 pages wrott upon besides fower leaves wrott
upon which are not paged, as also : 18 : leaues
wrott upon at that end of ye Book where the Al-
phabett is, ...... .
" Papers of Generall Asserablys Acts to ye num-
ber of : 24 : Each of them haveng the scale of ye
Gollony affixed, the scales being all of them in
Good Condition nott defaced, saucing one which
is an Assemblys Acts beareing date may ye : 4 :
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS.
The new Booke, for ye entry ol iuwne Acts
and orders, with eight pages wrott upon besides
part of the ninth wrott upon,
The new Booke for ye entry of land euidences,
with nine pages wrott upon, and part of ye tenth
page wrott upon,
The new Book for ye entry of ye Towne Coun-
sells Acts, there being part of one page of ye
sayd Booke wrott upon. ....
A small paper Book Containcing the Enrolenient
of wills .......
Courts Acts sewed to geather, in ye manner of :
2 : Books, As also seuerall Courts Acts made up
in roules to the number of : i8 : with noe scales
Seuerall Coppies of William ffeildes and William
Carpenters papers .....
A Deed of Gift from Richard Waterman to his
Grand Chilldren the Chilldren of Resolved
Waterman [Deceased] ....
The old Deed called the Town T^uidence
The Deed of Confirmation from Cussuckqunsh,
and nenekelah with Richard Smith junr Testi-
mony pinned thereto.
The deed of Confirmation Scattupp, and Quequa-
The deed of Confirmation from Caujanaquant,
being alsoc subscribed Aiaquaomitt. the three
Deedes of Confirmations being all indorsed with
Testimonys on the back sides
The Deed in parchment from mr. Roger Williams
to the Towne of providence
The inuentory of the Estate of John Clawson,
Assalsoe an account in a paper by Thomas olney
senr of ye Disspossition of John Clawsons :
The Indenture of Daniell Comstock .
24 CITY DOCLfMENT. [No. 18.
" The Bond of Joshua Winsor and James Ashton,
as also the Award of Arbetration upon a deffer-
ance betweene ye sayd Winsor, and James Ash-
" As alsoe seuerall papers wherein was the Com-
ittys Act, to ye number of: 15: Delivered by
mr. Williams to John Whipple the former Gierke
" As alsoe a roule of papers, being most of them
bills, some of them being Answered and some of
them reffered . . ....
" As also seuerall other papers. All the rest of the
Towne Recordes not here perticularized with a
linning Bagg in which they are In Closed
We whose names are here under
subscribed, being impowered by an order of this
Towne as before sayd, have this Twenty third day
of August : 1678 Receiued of John Whipple
Junr the former Towne Gierke, all the sayd
Books, papers, parchments, and writeings herein
before mentioned and perticularized, which be-
long to ye Towne, And Doe thereof in the
Townes behalfe fully, clearely, and absolutely,
Acquitt and Disscharge the sayd John Whipple
Junr of and from all papers that Gonscerne this
In wittness whereof wee doe here unto sett our
handes the day and yeare aboue sayd :
DANIELL ABBOTT Gierke-
Memorandom, the wordes Twenty Third were
enterlined before these presents were Delivered
as wittness our handes ....
DANIELL ABBOTT Gierke. .
1892.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 25
An Acco* continued of the liooks of Records & Papers, on
file found in y*^ Office of Richard Waterman Esq' Late Town
Clerk of the Town of Providence Dcceas.'' and D'' to Nich"
Tillinghast the present Town Clerk of said Town by Dan'
Abbott Esq'' Elisha Brown Merch.' and George Taylor
Esq.^' a Committee appointd at a Town Meeting of S**.
Town Specially Called by Warrant : and held on Saturday
the 2G'^ April 1755. vizt
1 Town Old Book many of the Leaues schorcht and
2 The Long Book parchment Couer with many leaues
torn and partly lost
3 The Book with brass Clasps, sundry Leaues torn out
and others Defaced
The Books of Deeds & Land luiidcnces N" i begun. 1677-
Do No 2 begun 1705. Do No 3 with a Loose platt therein
begun 171 7
Do 4 begun 17 19 Do 5 begun 1720 Do No 6 .-1723
Do 7 begun 1725/6 Do 8 begun 1728/9 Do 9 1731
Do 10 begun 1735/6 Do small No 10 Do No 11 1741.
Do No 12 1746
a book with a blue paper Couer something shattered begun
The Town Book of Acts and orders with a parchment
Two Paper Schedules relating to Town Affairs somewhat
Two Books & a shattered Schedule of Town Council af-
fairs with sundry Loose papers in one of them
A Small Sticht Schedule of Town Meeting Affairs begun
1717/8 , ^
Book for Registring Marriages, P.irths &c
26 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
Town Meeting Book with a Cloth Couer begun June 7.
1725 with some Loose papers in it pinn''
The Town Council book No 2 begun 17 16. Do No 3 be-
Do No 4. 1 74 1 with a bundle of Coppys of Letters Ad-
Do No 5 with Tho^ Waterman's Will and Inuentory
Do begun Aug^*^ i743- with sundry Loose papers therein
A small blue Couer** paper Schedule of Town Council Af-
A Colony Law Book
A Draught of House Lotts at Pawtuxet made 1752
A Copy of the platt of Wesconaug Land
a plan & papers relating to the back Street, in Proui-
A plan and papers of Pawtuxet Highway
A Deed of the Land where the Goal, and Courthouse
Do of the Highway and Training Field
A Plan of Highway a Cross Watermans Marsh
A Plan of Highway from Power's Lane Southward
Schedules of the Acts of Assembly in Number . . 135
Ten Bundles of Mortgages Deeds of the seueral Banks
Eleuen Small Bundles Do of the Eighth Bank
Six Bundles Do of the Ninth Bank
One Book of Mortgage Deeds of the third Bank
seueral Loose Deeds of the Ninth Bank
Thomas Patey's Deed, and Sundry papers belonging to the
Return of a Landing place at Ruttenburgh with Jnvento-
ry's and other papers in a bundle
Return of a Highway. Potters & Bakers
West Riuer, Thurbers Highway plan thereof, by Burrows
Bridge so Called
Platt of a Thatch Bed and papers relating thereto Jos
Brown & Co plan of the Road to Pawtuxet
1^92.] EARLY TOWN RECORDS. 27
an Old Rate Bill
fine Baggs of Old papers
I Bundle Deeds, and returns of Highways
The Jury Box
Coppy of the Receipt giucn to the Committee
!x a bundle of Bonds
X a bundle of
X 2 Bundles of Jndentures
TOWN MEETING RECORDS.
Book 7, Page 371. June 6, 1796.
Resolved : That Moses Brown, Zephaniah Andrews and
Benjamin Reynolds be and they are hereby appointed a
Committee for the purpose of examining the Town Records
and ascertaining what Record Books it may be necessary, to
cause to be transcribed, indexed or otherwise amended and
that said Committee make Report of their Proceedings here-
in at the next Town Meetinor.
TOWN MEETING RECORDS.
Book 7, Page 375. June 23, 1796.
Whereas the Committee appointed on the si.\th Instant
to examine the Town Records have submitted the following
Report thereon to Wit -
Agreeable to Appointment We have examined the Anticnt
Records in the Town Clerk's Office and it is our Opinion,
28 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
that it is necessary the three first Books be transcribed in a
Book or Books for the purpose and that an Index or Indexes
be made to the same, and that several other Books appear to
require Indexes to be made and some others to be amended :
and it appears to us proper that a Committee be appointed
to have the same done in the most legible Manner and to
compare and see that the Transcripts be fairly and accurately
which is submitted by Moses Brown
Providence June 22d 1796 Zep'^ Andrews
And said Report being duly consider'd it is thereupon Re-
solved that the same be received and that Mess" Jabez
Bowen, Moses Brown, Zephaniah Andrews, Benjamin Rey-
nolds & the Town Clerk be and they hereby are appointed a
Committee for the purpose of procuring such of the Town
Records to be transcribed as have become defaced or illegi-
ble, that they procure suitable Blank Books for that pur-
pose and agree with an Amanuensis on such Terms and
Conditions as the Nature of his Service may require.
PROCEEDINGS OF COMMON COUNCIL.
September ii, 1865. Book ii, Page 297.
Resolved :- That Messrs. Coggeshall, Paine and Stone
with such as the Board of Aldermen may add, be and they
are hereby appointed to examine the condition of the earlv
Records of the Town of Providence to the year 1800,
That said Committee be and they are hereby authorized to
employ a suitable person to transcribe and print the same,
and to take such other measures as may by them be deemed
expedient, for a proper preservation of said Records.
1892.] I^AKLY TOW.X llECOKDS.
Resolved :-that the sum of five hundred dollars be, and
the same is hereby appropriated for this inn-pose to be' paid
from any monies not otherwise appropriated.
[Concurred & Alderman Barker added]
CITY COUNCIL AND BOARD OP ALDERMEN.
September ii, 1865. Journal 10, Page 161.
A Resolution appointing a joint special committee to cause
the early Records of the town to be transcribed and printed
came from Common Council.
Read and Concurred. Aid. liarker added.
CITY COUNCIL RECORDS.
September ii, 1865. Book 5. Page 314.
Resolved :- That Messrs Coggeshall, Paine, and Stone,
with Alderman Barker be and they are hereby appointed a
committee to examine the condition of the early Records of
the Town of Providence, to the year 1800: That said Com-
mittee be and they are hereby authorized to employ a suita-
ble person to transcribe and print the same and to take such
other measures as may by them be deemed expedient, for a
proper preservation of said Records.
Resolved: -That the sum of five hundred dollars be and
the same is hereby appropriated for this purpose ; to be paid
from any moneys not otherwise appropriated. Passed Sep-
tember II, 1865.
[Returned by the Mayor to the Common Council, October
9, 1865, without approval.]
30 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
CITY COUNCIL RECORDS.
Book 5. Page 326.
Resolved : - That Messrs. Coggeshall, Thomas, Sweet and
Harris with Alderman Barker be appointed a committee to
examine the early records of the Town of Providence, prior
to the year 1800, and to report what in their opinion, is the
best manner of preserving the same and in case they may
deem it expedient to have them printed, to report the proba-
ble expense thereof.
Passed November 13,1865.
Approved the same day.
THOS. A. DOYLE, Mayor.
IN CITY COUNCIL.
No. 219. Message of the Mayor relative to the First Book
of Records of the Town of Providence.
[Presented May 19, 1881.]
City of Providence,
Executive Department, City Hall,
May 19, 1881.
Gentlemen of the City Council :
A communication from the library committee of the
Rhode Island Historical Society, a copy of which is herewith
transmitted, calls attention to the condition of a most valua-
ble relic of the early days of the town of Providence, the
the loss of which would be greatly deplored by all.
18^2.] EARLY TOWiN REOOKDS.
The damao-ed state of these records, the natural result of
age and former usage, is such as to justify the desire of the
Historical Society, that more than ordinary pains be taken
to restore so far as possible, and preserve them for future
generations. I therefore recommend the passage of the ac-
WILLIAM S. HAYWARD, Mayor.
Providence, May 3, 1881.
To His Honor the Mayor of the City of Providence :
Sir : The library committee of the Rhode Island Histori-
cal Society having recently learned of the condition of the
earliest book of records of the town of Providence, feel it
to be their duty to call your attention to its character and
condition, and to state what in their judgment is necessary
to be done in order to preserve it. This book contains, be-
side its records of titles and tranfers of real estate, the origi-
nal agreement under which the second comers to the
settlement joined the first proprietors and were by them ad-
mitted to become inhabitants. It was the establishment of a
government, a pure democracy, wherein men bound them-
selves to be obedient to the majority of masters of families
only in civil things. The entire separation of church from
state was made, and perfect religious liberty guaranteed.
This document, written by the hand of Roger Williams, the
founder of this state, stands at the top of the first page of
this book and bears the signatures of thirteen of the second
As to its present condition, it is entirely removed from its
binding, it now having no covers whatever. Its leaves are mis-
placed, ragged and torn. Its first and most valuable leaf is
torn entirely asunder. The name of one of the signers
has been torn apart, and is now illegible, and some words
have been torn from the edges in sundry places.
32 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
It has seemed to us that unless immediate measures are
taken to preserve this unique and precious volume from fur-
ther ruin, that it will soon be among the things of the past.
Hereon Roger Williams, with his own hand, wrote the doc-
trine of religious liberty, a principle which has since become
the corner-stone of every civilized government on earth, but
which, when he wrote it, was a thing unknown to men.
This, we say, deserves preservation at our hands.
Our remedy is, that each of these precious leaves be inlaid
in paper of the strongest and most durable texture by a
workman cunning in this art, of whom there are several in
this country. Every irregular edge and every letter to be
carefully preserved as now, and then that the volume be
strongly, even elegantly bound. This can all be done with-
out removing the volume from the city hall, where it now is,
to be kept over night, and at a cost which is small as com-
pared to the intrinsic worth of the precious relic.
Thus will be preserved to our remotest posterity this me-
mento of the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors.
SIDNEY S. RIDER, ^ Library Committee
HORATIO ROGERS, V RJwde Island
THOMAS DURFEE, ) Historical Society.
No. 220. Resolution relative to the First Book of Records
of the Town of Providence.
[Approved June 7, 1881.]
Resolved, That the recorder of deeds be hereby author-
ized to cause the first volume of the records of the town of
Providence to be suitably re-bound and the leaves to be in-
laid in new paper, the expense to be paid from money in the
treasury not otherwise appropriated.
1892.] EAllLY TOWN KECOItDS.
No. 352. :\Icssage of the Mayor relative to Priiuin- the first
four Records of the Town of Providence.
[Presented July 2, 1884.]
City of Pkovidknce,
Executive Department, City Hall,
July 2, 1884.
Gentlemen of the Citv Council :
By a resolution of the city council, approved June 7, 1881,
the recorder of deeds was authorized " to cause the first vol-
ume of the records of the town of Providence to be suitably
re-bound and the leaves to be inlaid in new paj^er, the ex-
pense to be paid from money in the treasury not otherwise
The work proposed in the resolution has never been ac-
complished, and very little progress has been made in regards
to it. Some other course must be adopted in order to pre-
serve the record contained, not only in the first book, but in
three other books, two of which are in the office of the re-
corder of deeds, and one in the office of the clerk of the
The work of preserving, by printing, the early records of
Suffolk county, Massachusetts, has been for some time in
progress, and I recommend that a similar course be pursued
in regard to the first four books of the records of the town of
I therefore suggest that this matter, the importance of
which to future generations can hardly be estimated, be re-
ferred to the committee on printing, to inquire into and
THOMAS A. DOYLE, Mayor.
34 CITY DOCUMENT. [No. 18.
No. 353. Resolution Instructing the Joint Committee on
Printing to report upon the matter of Printing the first
four Books of Records of the Town of Providence.
[Approved July 5, 1884.]
Resolved, That the joint committee on printing be and
they are hereby instructed to inquire into the matter of
printing the first four books of records of the town of Provi-
dence, with the probable cost thereof, and all matters con-
nected therewith, and to report thereon to either branch of
the city council.
Boston, . . . 189
To THE Record Commissioners :
I hereby apply for the volumes of your Reports hitherto
published, and ask to be put on the list for future issues.
Boston, . . 189
I hereby certify that I believe the above application should
Member of City Council.
City Hall, . . . 189
To the City Messenger :
Dear Sir :
Please comply with the above request.
Yours very truly,
For the Record Commissioners.
( ir V DOCUMENT.
liELATIVE TO THB
Early Town Records.
[rreseuled Miiich 7, 18U2.]
She ^robihiujt ^Ksst
Snow & Farnham, City Printers,
.^7 Custom I louse Street,
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
0014 1102199 #