GaspeeVirtual Archives
George Brown

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 implicating George Brown
From: <> p.53
John Andrews, Esq., Judge of the court of Vice Admiralty within the Colony of Rhode Island; Mr. Arthur Fenner, Clerk in the Supreme Court in the county of Providence; Messrs. John Cole, George Brown, and Daniel Hitchcock, Attorneys at Law in the town of Providence; James Sabin, Vintner in the town of Providence.

It is the desire of Admiral Montagu that the above named persons may be summoned and examined before the commissioners relative to the assembling of people in the town of Providence, in the evening of the 9th of June last as a measure necessary towards the discovery of the persons concerned in the burning his Majesty's schooner the Gaspee.

From: <> p. 70: James Sabin wrote:
On the 9th day of June last at night I was employed at my house attending company, which were John Andrews, Esq., Judge of the court of Admiralty, John Cole, Esq., Mr. Hitchcock, and George Brown, who supped at my house and stayed there until two of the clock in the morning following; and I have not any knowledge relative to the matter on which I am summoned; which I am ready to make oath to before any Justice of the Peace.
Note here that Sabin, a tavern owner and hardly a legal scholar, took pains NOT to refer to George Brown and Daniel Hitchcock as "Esquire". Although they were both considered lawyers at the time, they may not have received formal legal training and probably never practiced in the courts since they weren't referred to as "Esquire", a title that fellow historian and lawyer Leonard Bucklin indicates was reserved for those lawyers admitted to the bar and priviledged to serve in the courts.

From: <> p. 70

EAST GREENWICH, Jan. 19th, 20th, 1773.
May it please your Honors:—Late last night I received a summons from Providence, to appear at the Council Chamber in Newport before your honors, there to give evidence of what I knew concerning the burning of the schooner Gaspee, and I should have waited on your honors accordingly, but as the Court of Common Pleas was then sitting in the county of Kent, and being concerned in several cases then pending in said court, could not possibly attend according to summons, therefore hope you will excuse my not attending. It has long been a custom for the attorneys, upon the concluding evening of filing pleas to the court, to meet together to spend the evening; that night the said schooner was burnt happened to be the concluding evening of filing pleas; accordingly, the Gent. of the bar, together with myself, met at the house of James Sabin, in Providence, that being a public house of entertainment.

Some time after, I being there, heard a drum beat; I asked the reason of said drum beating; was answered by some one of the company, that there was a number of boys met together, they supposed, to divert themselves. I knowing it to be no uncommon thing, thought no more about it; and do solemnly declare that I have no knowledge, directly or indirectly, of any plot being laid, or any person concerned in perpetrating so vile a crime, and shall be ready at all times, when in my power, to appear and answer any question relating to said affair, if required.

I am, gentlemen, your honors' most obedient and humble servant,

From: <> p. 91
The examination of George Brown, of Providence, in the colony of Rhode Island, Esq., taken on oath at Newport, in said colony, this fifth day of June, A.D. 1773: Who saith, that the evening preceding the burning of the schooner Gaspee, he, with several other gentlemen met at the house of Mr. James Sabin, in Providence aforesaid it being a public house, to spend the evening together about ten o clock, as I suppose, I heard a drum beat in the street. I asked the reason of said drum beating, on which some one of the company but whom I do not recollect, answered, that there were some boys beating the drum, which was common for two or three years past in summer evenings in said town; it is also usual for the young people to assemble to learn to beat a drum, and other military exercises; before sunset that evening I had heard that the said schooner was aground; but had not then the least suspicion that any mischief was intended to be done to said schooner, or any body on board of her not having heard any intimation to that purpose; and I further declare that I have not any knowledge, directly or indirectly, of any plans being laid to burn or otherwise destroy said schooner, or of any person concerned in so vile a crime, or wounding Lieutenant Dudingston; some time after I heard the drum, I had occasion to go to the door, when I plainly saw about ten or a dozen boys with a drum, and am confident there was not at that time one man among them; nor had I during that evening, any conception of any mischief intended The place where said schooner was burnt is in the township of Warwick in the county of Kent, in the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. From the dwelling house of Mr. Samuel Tompkins to the place where said schooner was burnt, is, according to my judgement, about nine miles; and further this deponent saith not.
From <>:
John Cole, Daniel Hitchcock, and George Brown (were) three Providence lawyers who were alleged to have taken part in the Gaspee affair, or to have information about it. They claimed that they could not leave East Greenwich, where they were involved in court sessions, to testify before the Commission. They all signed depositions denying any significant knowledge, but later Brown and Cole did appear in person to say essentially the same thing.
From <> p. xxviii
The absence of the key witnesses highlighted this session of the inquiry. Arthur Fenner and John Andrews pleaded ill health, and George Brown, John Cole, and Daniel Hitchcock the press of business. Hitchcock and Cole apparently collaborated on their testimony concerning events in Sabin Tavern the night of the raid. One day before, Brown, Cole, and Hitchcock had told Hopkins that they intended to refuse to appear before the commissioners, presumably on the advice they had received earlier from Sam Adams. Adams had challenged the jurisdiction of the commissioners, but Hopkins obviously convinced them to move away from this kind of direct challenge and to submit written depositions instead. Misrepresentation, intimidation, and evasion are all evident here in this first session.
From: <> p. xxix
As the proceedings of the second session show (pp. 83-96), the testimony of Cole, Andrews, and Brown added little to their written statements of January.
It is too curious that George Brown and his group of fellow barristers, Andrews, Cole, and Hitchcock, denied any foreknowledge of the attack on the Gaspee, particularly when such a large meeting of angry men had gathered at the same inn that night to plan the Gaspee's destruction. We can only conclude that Brown's testimony was obviously false.  He stalled having to give testimony before the Commission in January. By June all four lawyers had time to collaborate and practice their false charade.
Biographical and Genealogical Information:

From <>:

According to the Descendents of #01 Francis Sprague website, Mary Earle Tillinghast's mother was Mary Brown (1733-1800) whose father was George Brown.
So this George Brown was the grandfather-in-law to Gaspee raider Joseph Tillinghast.

From the Early American Newspapers Collection available through the NEHGS website we gather the following possibilities:  In the 1760s a George Brown, Silas Downer, John and Joseph Alpin were four lawyers who together took out periodic advertisements informing their clients that court fees associated with judgments had to be paid by the clients themselves. In March 1773 there was a George Brown and a Nicholas Tillinghast advertising a house to lease in the upper end of town. [This Nicholas Tillinghast was a State Assistant-(State Senator)]. A brief obituary appeared in The United States Chronicle [Providence] of  23March1786 that is likely our man.

Died- At East Greenwich, aged 85 Years, George Brown, Esq, formerly of this Town.

This would make this guys dates c1701-1786. 

In November 2010 researcher James Allie opined the following:
If the conclusion is that George Brown, Esq (died 23 March 1786) is the individual associated with Nicholas Tillinghast regarding the house for let, I would propose the referenced George Brown may instead have been the son of James Brown (died Providence December 1765 - buried in the Old North burial Ground) and Ann Noyes. James Brown's will left all his residual real property in trust to his son George. The executors and trustees were Nicholas Tillinghast of Providence (brother of the Diarist Captain Samuel Tillighast) and James' brother Clark Brown of Newport. I am speculating that based on other legal conveyances made by Nicholas of property owned by James Brown, that the George Brown involved was not the lawyer b. 1703, but the son of James.

From the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, we have the following candidates:
BROWN         GEORGE                           1703  - 18 MAR 1786    PV001
BROWN         GEORGE, HON                1747c - 16 JAN 1836    WY008
BROWN          GEORGE                            1745c - 18 FEB 1823         BU002
George Brown b1703 was buried in Providence's Old North Burial Ground as were many other Gaspee raiders. The George Brown born in1703 would be of the right age to have been the Grandfather-in-law to known Gaspee raider Capt. Joseph Tillinghast, and we know that he lived in Providence at the time of the birth of his daughter, Mary in 1733. From we get:
George BROWN
Birth: c 1703 in England
Marriage 1 ESTHER b: c1701 d 1796  buried in Old North Burial Ground
      Anne BROWN b: ABT. 1727 m Benjamin (twin) COZZENS b: 1721 in Newport, RI
       Mary BROWN b1733
While we can establish this George Brown's family link to a Gaspee raider, and feel strongly that this is George Brown the lawyer, and the one involved in the Gaspee affair himself.  From files we find him in the 1777 military census.
BROWN, GEORGE ESQ. Township: Providence
This could, however, stretch our credibility somewhat in that this George Brown, Esq mustering in 1777 would be called to serve at the age of 69. Still it's possible, or it may be that he had a son named George that also went on to follow him in the legal profession.

From the 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers we get the following George Brown families:

Brown    George    I A 2   
Brown    George    XI D 4   

Note the George Brown's property in Plate I corresponds to a location on the map as being just south of the Sabin Tavern on South Main Street.  The property in Plate XI is located on Weybosset Street on the west side of the Great Bridge.

From comes up empty.

From LDS, Gendex and searches we get other George Browns:

George BROWN, JR
Birth:   Abt. 1703 in Westerly, RI
 Spouse:  Mary LEWIS m 1730/1733 in Westerly, RI

George BROWN
Birth:   Abt. 1705 in Westerly, RI
 Spouse:  Jerusha  LEWIS m 1734 in Westerly, RI

George Brown b  30 Sep 1721 in RI
Parents: William Brown Elizabeth Brown

George BROWN
Birth: 1723 in Newport, RI
Burial: Old North Burial Ground, Providence, RI
Father: James BROWN b c1700 in Newport, RI died 13 DEC 1765 in Providence, a mariner
Mother: Ann NOYES b: 19 JUN 1704 of Stonington, CT (next door to Westerly, RI)
This is interesting, because no George Brown of these dates, or of no dates, shows up in PV001 (The Old North Burial Ground)  in the RI Historical Cemetery Database.
We also note that two sisters of this George Brown, Elizabeth and Herminome, were both successively married to Joseph (son of Elisha) Tillinghast, although this is not the Captain Joseph Tillinghast that was definitely one of the Gaspee raiders.

George Brown
Birth: 20 Feb 1745 in Cumberland,  Rhode Island
Father: Benjamin Brown 1716/17-1787
Mother: Priscilla Chilson

Spouse: Abigail Aldrich m 1770 from Gloucester, RI
Spouse2: rachel Dyke m 1777

The other standout candidate is George Brown b1747c, listed as Honorable ...could've be a judge, but also could've been a politician which wouldn't have required he be a lawyer. Since we know that our George Brown was not an 'Esquire', he would not have been eligible to be a judge, so would not be referred to as Hon. George Brown unless he was an elected official. In actuality, it was this George Brown who was elected Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island in 1799 according to RI Genealogies. Vol I, p86. His dates according to this source are 10Jan1745/1746 to 19Jun1836. He married in 1768 a Hannah Robinson (1750-1822) and had nine children. This is the same Hon. George Brown that with slightly different dates was buried in Wyoming, RI, about 35 miles south of Providence, but that doesn't necessarily mean he lived all his life in Wyoming. We do know that the father of Lt. Govenor George Brown executed his will in South Kingstown, which incorporates the hamlet of Wyoming, so we are probably talking the same man here.

George BROWN
BORN: 10 JAN 1745/1746, South Kingstown, RI
DIED: 19 JUN 1836
Parents: Robert Brown & Sarah Franklin
MARRIED Hannah ROBINSON, on 24 APR 1768, Narragansett, RI & had 9 children
This guy is the one that is listed as Hon. George Brown, buried in Wyoming, RI
It turns out that he also was elected Lieutenant Governor of RI in 1799-1800, is sometimes referred to as "Governor", but he was not

William BROWN (died 1824) m. Anne DOCKRAY (b1779), the daughter of John B. & Mary DOCKRAY.
Sarah BROWN (died Feb1804) m. John WATSON in 1799.

George Brown b  04 Jul 1751 in RI
d 17Sept1773
Parents: Elisha Brown Patience Brown 04 Jul 1751

Brown, George
  Spouse: White, Elizabeth   Marriage Date:   November 1780
  City: Little Compton County: Newport
  State: RI
Child: George Brown b 1789  

Note that in the eighteenth century New England, it was usual practice to name a daughter after the mother. We would anticipate the the mother of Mary Earle Tillinghast would have possible also been named Mary. It was also not uncommon to have two children of the same parents share a common name.  It is quite possible that George Brown, Jr. had a younger brother George Brown, and both married respective sisters, Mary and Jerusha Lewis. 

As to a relationship to Gaspee raiders John Brown and Joseph Brown, it is evident that George Brown is so distantly related that we would have to go back far enough that the question would be moot, ie, there is no close family relationship between the clans.
Our conclusion is that our most likely candidate to be our George Brown is the one born in c1701 and died in 1786, and who served as a lawyer in Providence and East Greenwich.  We present George Brown as an unindicted co-conspiritor in the Gaspee Affair, guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice at the very least. In doing this, we acknowledge him as a patriot to the cause of American independence.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 9/2002    Last Revised 11/2010    JohnAndrewsEsq.htm