|Abial Brown (variously spelled Abiel
The Gaspee Days Committee at www.gaspee.COM is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the 1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots as America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM. Our historical research center, the Gaspee Virtual Archives at www.gaspee.ORG , has presented these research notes as an attempt to gather further information on one who has been suspected of being associated with the the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Evidence from obituaries to
Providence Journal, July 1, 1902
The reporters from the Providence Journal
to the obituary beat, as cub reporters often are, were a
on their facts, but perhaps more because those family
story were likewise confused. Only the 1902 obituary for
Brown is accurate. The others variously gave credit to
Abial's son and
grandson for attacking the Gaspee. Note that
Abial Brown of 1755 is
age for the events, 18 years old, like known
and most of his 'youthful companions', as Bowen
record #S21659 (spelt as Abial) is
available on-line through the NEHGS
at HeritageQuest, and lists him as being born in
Attleborough, MA on
April 25, 1755, and he died April 11, 1839, and that he
had a wife,
Lucy, at the time of his (late) pension application in
1839. He rose
through the ranks from Private to Sergeant to Adjutant,
received any written discharge paperwork. He was awarded
based on 2 months service, and the moneys were sent to a
Seawall of Providence, RI, probably his attorney.
into service from Attleborough, MA and served variously
Richardson, Dexter, and Samuel Robinson, Colonels
Walker, Lippitt and
Brown, and Generals Mercer, Sullivan, and others.
He recalled he
served in Captain Richardson's and Captain Robinson's
two men named Jack Aldrich and John Howland.
According to Rhode Island Pensioners, 1835
apparently had his Revolutionary War service pension
rescinded in 1821
because he had not been credited a total of nine months
service in the
but then he had it restored in 1828. Possibly, this was
all due to
or incomplete paperwork. These records indicate he was
of the rank of
and we know from family records he made Sergeant,
in the army longer than nine months to make that rank,
service in many Revolutionary War battles.
From the Providence
discovered several advertisements between 1800 and
1811 from an Abial Brown who was operating a lumber yard
also note that Abial Brown gave a written
statement in October 1832
testifying to the accuracy of the pension application
submitted by John Howland.
This is important,
since John Howland was an eminent person, a revered hero
Revolutionary War, President of the RI Historical
Society, and an actual eyewitness to the events
surrounding the attack
on the Gaspee
Abial Brown descendant Robert Perkins Brown himself was
President of the RI Society of the Sons of the American
wrote the following summary for inclusion in the
registry of his
Abial Brown went to Boston with the Rhode Island Militia, and participated in the battle of Bunker Hill, handling a musket in the skirmish. He afterwards enlisted as 3rd Sergeant in the Seventh (7th}Capt. David Dexter's Company of Christopher Lippitt's Regiment, which was ordered enlisted by the General Assembly of Rhode Island for one year, from 18th January 1776. In September, 1773, the Regiment marched westward after the disastrous action on Long Island, and joined Gen. Washington's troops in New Jersey. On the 31st of December, 1775, at Crosswicks, New Jersey, the Regiment at solicitation of Gen. Washington through Gen. Mifflin, volunteered. another months service beyond the 18th January, 1777, when their enlistment expired and participated in defense of bridge at Trenton, which successful defense, together with captures made Princeton, turned the tide of war in favor of the colonies. As proof that Abial Brown served through the campaign the pension stands as evidence, which Judge Benjamin Cowell obtained for him sometime subsequent to 1830; and every 4th of July he was paraded in the procession in an open barouch so long as health permitted. He lived at 17 Planet St. in the house now owned and occupied by myself, where he died April 11th, 1839.It is interesting that Abial Brown's travels and actions during the Revolutionary War were remarkably similar to that of Colonel Daniel Hitchcock, and to Joseph Bucklin (V) who were both suspects in the attack on the Gaspee in 1772. Robert Perkins Brown (1850-1921) was the brother of Maria & Elizabeth Brown, and the son of William Whipple Brown to all of which we have the obituaries listed above.
Left: An "open barouch", a form of carriage equivalent in status to the modern stretch limousine.
The "open barouch" in which Abial Brown was paraded each July 4th is too similar to the "barouche" in which Gaspee veterans were paraded on July 4th, 1826 to be coincidental (see http://gaspee.com/EarlyCelebrations.htm written by Warwick historian Henry A. L. Brown, no relation to Abial). There were probably still too many Revolutionary war veterans around at the time to give them all such an honor. It's safe to conclude that the organizers of such parades were sticklers for historical accuracy, and would not have let Abial ride in the barouch unless he was, in fact, a Gaspee raider. Moreover, he would certainly not be welcomed by the other Gaspee raiders into the celebratory barouch if he had not deserved a place in it. While he probably was not in good health during the 1826 Independence Day Parade depicted in Henry Brown's article, he was undoubtedly at other celebrations in Rhode Island such as the Annual Bristol 4th of July Parade, which is the oldest continuing Independence Day Parade in the nation, since 1786. We see from family records that he was alive on July 4th, 1827, this was noted by the Providence Journal, probably because he was being paraded on that date at the age of 72. He died on 15 March or 11 April 1839, so Ephraim Bowen, as claimed, did outlive him as well as all the other Gaspee raiders.
If we are crediting Abial Brown as being a Gaspee raider, some genealogical clarification seems to be in order on his exact lineage. A descendant of Abial Brown, Patty Meyer of Maine provided family records to clarify the history. We can ascertain that Abial (mistyped as Abiel) Brown was born April 26th, 1755 and died April 11, 1839. Birth records kept in the county seat of Attleborough, MA for the town of Rehoboth (and rediscovered courtesy of genealogist Marcia Briggs) show he was the son of Abial Brown (c1726-1821) and his first wife, Salley Bucklin. Since nothing further is heard from Salley Bucklin, and since Abial Brown of 1726 later remarried to her younger sister, we may presume that Salley Bucklin died shortly after the birth of her son, Abial Brown of 1755, and is likely buried in Rehoboth, MA.
Abial Brown of 1726 was born in Rehoboth,
(an easterly adjoining suburb of Providence now known as
Providence), and was reportedly to have been
a millwright and a wheelwright. He subsequently
of Rehoboth in 1760 they went on to have eight later
Following customs of the time, this Abigail Bucklin was
very likely the
younger sister of his first wife, Salley
Bucklin. From History
of Providence County,
Rhode Island, by Richard M. Bayles, New York, 1891, page
was an Abiel Brown who was treasurer for the Town of
1770. Abial Brown (Sr.) died 18Aug1821 listed
Brown, Abial (ESQ.) and is buried in Cumberland, RI, as
is his second
Abigail. The Esq. title probably came from his
status rather than that of a lawyer.
As noted in the pension file above, our Abial Brown later married for a third time to Lucy Taylor in 1801 His son by Hopestill, Whipple Brown was a sea captain who married Betsy Pettingill (or Pettingale), and had offspring, one of which was William Whipple Brown (1814-1902). William Whipple Brown married Maria Perkins with who he had nine children, two of which were Maria and Elizabeth listed in the obituaries above, and one of which was Robert as listed in the article above.
Confusion may be caused my the fact that the only Hopestill Whipple (1723-1793) discoverable via 2003 computerized genealogical files was married to a Nicholas Brown (c1720-1793) in 1744 and lived in Smithfield, RI, an adjoining town to Cumberland where the Abial Brown of 1727 lived. Furthermore, this Nicholas and Hopestill Brown had eight children, the last being an Abiel Brown born in 1760 who married a Polly. We don't know when Abial's (1755) wife, Hopestill died, but we can know that it was sometime between the birth of their ninth child in 1796 and Abial's later marriage to Lucy Taylor in 1801 (see pension evidence below). We might surmise that Hopestill Whipple was in some way related to Gaspee raid tactical leader, Commodore Abraham Whipple.
So as to avoid even further genealogical confusion, there was another distinct set of Abial Browns in Connecticut. LDS search gives us an Abiel Brown b24 May 1754 but who, upon digging deeper, died in 1755 in Woodstock, CT -- so that's a dead end (sic), even though the father was also an Abiel Brown. On top of that, an Abiel Brown (presumably not of our concern) wrote: Genealogical history, with short sketches and family records, of the early settlers of West Simsbury, now Canton, Conn. There may also have been another pair of Abiel Browns in the North Kingstown-Exeter, RI areas around the time. We have not been able to establish any relationship between Abial Brown and the much more famous fellow Gaspee raider, John Brown and John's brother, Joseph Brown. We also have not been able to establish a relationship to George Brown, the lawyer that falsely denied knowledge of the meeting at Sabin's Tavern to plan the attack on the Gaspee.
|The Gaspee Days Committee proudly recognizes Abial Brown as a Gaspee raider, one of the select group of true American patriots.|
Right: Patricia Meyer, who sent along her family papers above, also gave the Gaspee Days Committee a family-owned gavel reportedly made from one of the floor joists of the old Sabin Tavern when it was torn down in 1891. The Brown family, who had lived next door for generations, were obviously aware and proud of the significance of the old building. During Gaspee Days Proclamation ceremonies held at the RI State House in May 2003, Abial Brown's descendant, Patricia Meyer, was formally 'indicted' for the treasonous crimes of her ancestor against King George III.
On other points, the Providence Journal (Sunday, May 24, 1942) ran a short article about the sea-going house under "Funny Facts about our Rhode Island Forefathers". The Brown homestead at 17 Planet Street in Providence was next door to Sabin's Tavern, where the plans were laid to destroy the grounded Gaspee in 1772. This much storied Brown house was originally a house of ill repute in the old sea port of Pawtuxet Village, and was sold to pay off debts to one of the Brown family. (We note that Abial's daughter had married a Charles Rhodes of Pawtuxet Village). To the amusement of onlookers, Abial Brown moved the house onto a barge and shipped it upriver into Providence. Along the way, half of the house collapsed into the Providence River, and the remnants were placed at 17 Planet Street. This move most probably occurred after the Burning of the Gaspee, as Brown family deed records show that Welcome Arnold, whose house is on the other side of the location, and which still exists, sold the plat to Whipple Brown in 1816 for $1800. Abial Brown did not grow up in this house, but may have lived in it prior to his death in 1839. Whipple Brown could have been so proud of his father's role in attacking the Gaspee that he moved his house next door to the place where the plans were laid. Alas, the Brown house no longer exists as of this writing (2002). We're not sure of when it was torn down, but it was later than 1931 photo below, and the site is now the upper parking lot for the law offices of Partridge, Snow, & Hahn.
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