GaspeeVirtual Archives
Abner Luther (1750-c1793)

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
Evidence to support Abner Luther's participation in the raid on the Gaspee

The following entry was rediscovered by genealogist Pam R. Thompson in the Revolutionary War Pension File, #S21404, for Ezra Ormsbee, born 30 March 1751 in Warren, RI, son of Ebenezer Ormsbee (sometimes spelled Ormsby) and Hannah Cole (Benjamin3, Hugh2, James1)  Ezra applied for his pension in Warren, RI, on 24 August 1833.
In June 1772 when the English Revenue Cutter Gaspee was burnt in Providence River, I was one that went from this town and helped do it. Capt John Greenwood, James Smith, Abner Luther, Abel Easterbrooks, Nathaniel Easterbrooks, Hezekiah Kinnicut and myself went together in a whale boat and we helped burn her. I mention this merely as a revolutionary incident and not as connected with my pension claim. All the above named persons who were with me in burning the Gaspee have a long time now decd.
We have long known that people from the Bristol and Warren, RI area participated in the attack, but we had previously known only the names of Simeon Potter and  Thomas Swan.  
Biographical notes and random musings

A search of our own site lists some incidences of "Luther".  Gaspee raider Amos Sylvester of Scituate, RI had a daughter that married a John Luther of Johnston, RI, and there is a Seth Luther household listed in the 1770 Providence taxpayers list.  We also know that his fellow Gaspee raider from Warren, Hezekiah Kinnicutt, had married a Lydia Luther, and that many of Hezekiah's neighbors in the 1800 Federal census had the surname of Luther.

We get two hits on Abner Luther from the NEHGS site.  The first is the 1782 census of Warren, RI listing Abner Luther as head of household with a total of three persons.  There are also listed in this census a William Luther. Ebeneezer Luther, Fradrick Luther, and a Mary Luther.  The second hit is on a 1780 list of American prisoners of war from Rhode Island held at Forton Prison in England.  The names of Abner Luther (as well as an Isreil Luther and an Amos Luther) is listed amongst crewmen of the brig Angelica, 16 guns, William Davis, Captain,  taken 30May1778 by the Andromada, 28 guns. There is no record of a pension file for any Abner Luther based on Revolutionary War service. Those who were solely in the Privateer service would not have been considered eligible.

Alas, there is no Abner Luther listed in the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, and perhaps he died elsewhere or at sea sometime after the 1782 census.  At the LDS site, we do get several area Abner Luthers including ones born in 1732, 1750, and 1758.  We'll discount the 1758 as having been too young to be in the raid by 1772.  And all incidences point to the Abner of 1732 having died at the ripe old age of 104 in 1836.  But for this to be true, he would have been a relatively well-known figure in the Warren-Bristol area in 1834 at which time Ezra Ormsbee indicated that the others he knew from the Gaspee attack "...have a long time now decd."  Therefore, our most likely candidate is the Abner Luther born in Swansea, Bristol, Massachusetts (the adjoining town to Warren, RI) on 27June1750 of parents Edward and Sarah (Sweet) Luther.  One record indicates that he married c1776 a Sarah Harte, born c1752.  The only other Abner Luther showing up in any later Federal Census data was an Abner Luther in Argyle, NY in 1800. This leap-of-faith logic is not enough on which to hang one's hat, however.

In August 2008 we did receive an e-mail from genealogist Jamie Adams, to wit:
    Captain John Luther came over from England in 1635.  He settled in Swansea, Massachusetts before his death in 1647.  His children, Samuel and Hezekiah and their descendants settled the area.  Samuel and Hezekiah are among the earliest burials in Kickemuit Cemetery.  The descendants of Captain John have been documented in several works, most recently, The Luther Genealogy by George A. Luther (2001.ISBN:0-89725-432-5) 
    The Abner Luther listed on page 310 is the same Abner Luther you have identified as a raider with the Angelica service being one of the many common data elements.  Our listing states that he died "before 1793" and that he married Sarah(?) Harte.  His Abner's parents are Edward Luther (of Swansea) and Sarah Sweet of Providence.  His children were Edward and Abner. 
    There are many instances of Luthers marrying Coles so Ezra Ormsbee was almost certainly a distant cousin.  Abner is a descendant of Hezekiah.  Lydia Luther, wife of Hezekiah Kinnicutt is a descendant of Samuel.  Our sources spell the name as Kennicutt.  Lydia is certainly a distant cousin of Abner. 
    I can find no reference to John Greenwood, James Smith or Abel Easterbrooks.  However, Nathaniel Easterbrooks is listed as the father of Ann who married David Luther.  David and Abner are first cousins, i.e. their fathers were brothers. 
    There were many generations of Luthers who stayed in the Swansea area as well as a group who migrated to New York after the Revolution.
The Gaspee Days Committee proudly recognizes Abner Luther as a Gaspee raider, one of the select group of true American patriots.  We unfortunately do not know more about this man.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 1/2006  Last Revised 4/2009     AbnerLuther..html