GaspeeVirtual Archives
James Smith (probably 1745-1826)

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 Implicate James Smith

While blissfully preparing for Christmas 2005, we were presented with the following surprise e-mail from Pam R. Thompson who was doing some genealogical research of her own.

I found the following curious entry 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."
I do not find any of these names on your lists of participants.

We have long known that people from the Bristol and Warren, RI area participated in the attack, but we have only known of the names of Simeon Potter, and possibly Thomas Swan.  In fact, we only know the names of about half of the 64 men alleged to have participated in the attack on the Gaspee. This gives us a first hand list of an additional seven men to investigate to be patriots of the forthcoming American Revolution
Biographical notes and random musings

A search of our own site is negative for other incidences of "James Smith".  Gaspee raider Turpin Smith apparently came from the Providence family of Smiths that ran a distillery. The common name of James Smith obsfurcates the search using computer techniques. 

We get too many hits from the NEHGS site to sort them out. A James Smith is listed among those who moved out of Bristol in 1777 in response to the presence of the Briish fleet. 

There is no James Smith listed in the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, with anything approaching reasonable dates.  At the LDS site, we get, of course, many incidences, but the only one with correct dates from the Bristol-Warren area is a James Smith born 3May1745 in Bristol, RI to Samuel and Elizabeth (Drown) Smith and who married in 1767 a Phoebe Wardwell born in 1749. 

We do find this man's widow, Phebe's application for pension (W12985) based on the Act of 1836 for his Revolutionary War service. Unfortunately, the copy available on HeritageQuest through NEGHS is hard to read--much of this is guesswork. The pension appears to have been applied for on 3Oct1836 from Bristol, RI, which was granted of $30 per year, and notes he served as a Private in the Captain Jeremiah Ingraham's Company of Bristol Militia from the commencement of hostilities until January 1776.  In Januray 1776 he enlisted into Captain Loring Peak's Company, serving three months while the company was stationed at Bristol. In 1777 her husband enlisted into Captain Caleb Carr's Company of Colonel Archibald __(?Throop)__'s Regiment one year while in Bristol, and at which time she and her children were inhabitants of Bristol during the Alarms, from which she moved to Dighton, MA and remained for the remainder of the war.  She did recall that her husband served out the war, and that he had been attached to Colonel Ormsby's Regiment. She also recalled her husband was involved with British General Sullivan's capture from Portsmouth, RI.  She stated that she married James Smith in Bristol in December 1767, and that her husband James Smith died on 30June1826, and that she had since remained a widow. Documentary evidence accompanying the application includes a certification of the marriage between Phebe Wardwell and James Smith, and relates that James was the son of Samuel Smith of Bristol, and Phebe was the daughter of John Wardwell of Bristol.  There is also a statement from James Smith, Jr  corroborating the facts as his mother claims. There is no mention made in the pension paperwork about the Gaspee attack.

From February 26, 1774 Providence Gazette we see that Phebe's father John Warwell had recently died and James Smith was executor.
The Gaspee Days Committee proudly recognizes James Smith 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 09/2009     JamesSmith..html