GaspeeVirtual Archives
John J. Kilton (b1749-1824)

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 John Kilton:

Noted local historian Henry A. L. Brown was rambling through some of his extensive collections of history books one recent day and came across this piece which he dutifully passed on to us.  From Transactions of The Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry in the Year 1861.  Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co. 1862. p147-148, in which early members of the Society are given short biographies.

Was born in Scituate, on the 6th of October, 1781.  His parents were John Jenckes and Sarah (Brayton) Kilton.  His father was one of those who opened the great drama of the American Revolution, by the destruction of the Gaspee, in 1772. During the war that followed, in common with his fellow-citizens, he was frequently in active service in the field.  He was in Sullivan's expedition to the island of Rhode Island, in 1778,--and in the battle which followed the retreat of the Americans, the barrel of his gun was heated, by repeated discharges, to such a degree as to compel him to desist from reloading it.  He used to relate, that a soldier near him on that occasion, was struck by a spent musket ball on his front teeth with such force as to displace four of them.  Nothing dismayed, added the ball and the four teeth to the next charge in his gun, with the wish, expressed in terms more forcible than pious, that the redcoats might derive some advantage from them.  The father of Caleb resided in Providence in 1772, but removed to Scituate before the birth of Caleb. 
    His son received the education which could then be acquired at the common country schools.  After completing this, he came to Providence and served as an apprentice to Earl Potter, as mason.  When out of his apprenticeship, he set up the business and pursued it assiduously until about the year 1840.  Among the largest buildings erected by him, may be named, Washington factory, in Coventry, one of the factories in Phenix Village, and the Plainfield Meeting house and Academy, in Connecticut.  After retiring from the active business of his trade, he employed himself in farming and gardening.  His residence, after setting up business, was with his sisters, in Washington Village, in Coventry.  He was never married.  The family first consisted of himself and six maiden sisters, four of whom deceased in his lifetime.  He died on the 10th of November, 1861, and his body was interred in the family burying ground near Washington Village.  He was extensively known as an industrious, prudent, honest man, and an efficient, faithful mechanic.
    The time of admission of Mr. Kilton into this society, cannot be ascertained from the records.  It must have been many years since.

Note that the second sentence, for clarity sakes, should have been "His parents were John Jenckes Kilton and Sarah (Brayton) Kilton."

From: Revolutionary Fire: The Gaspee Incident <>

Justin Jacobs, Benjamin Hammond, Paul Allen, John Kilton, Simeon Olney - Providence residents known to have taken part in the raid on the Gaspee.
John L. Kilton, not as certain as the others because of a dubious source

John Howland - Important community leader in Rhode Island after the American Revolution. He was 14 years old in 1772, and stood on the dock at Fenner's Wharf as the longboats pulled out to attack the Gaspee. Years later, he wrote a brief memorandum about it in which he named several of the participants.

Natalie Robinson, the author of Revolutionary Fire: The Gaspee Incident probably got this list of names of participants in the Gaspee affair from the notes of John Howland, the original director of the RI Historical Society.  Howland undoubtedly knew many of these men personally through his life.  At this point, however, we have been too lazy to actually go down to the Historical Society Library and see these references for ourselves. The names are otherwise uncited by other known participants, such as Ephraim Bowen and John Mawney, and is not cited by Staples.  But the first reference to John Jenckes Kilton is excellent, coming from close family sources, and we no longer feel that Kilton's participation in the burning of the Gaspee is "dubious" as it was probably the John I. Kilton that was spurious.
A search for John Kilton is otherwise negative in files
Biographical and Genealogical Information:

A John Kilton is listed amongst the names of Rhode Island privateersmen captured by the British and imprisoned at Forton prison in 1778, according to William Sheffield, An Address, 1883, p 67.

RI Historical Cemeteries Database shows only one John Kilton to be of the right age:

KILTON, JOHN JENCKES   1749c - 28 FEB 1824    CY066 (Coventry)

This date of death creates considerable confusion, as we will soon see. search shows John Jenckes Kilton to have married a Sarah BRAYTON born 20 Nov 1751 in Coventry, and is buried with him:
KILTON, SARAH  (BRAYTON)    1751c -  1 DEC 1832    CY066

His parents were Samuel Kilton and Anne Harris b: in Providence, RI.  Harris and Jenckes are both surnames of other known Gaspee raiders, and there may well be a relationship here.

USGenWeb search show that: Kilton, John J. was listed in the 1800 Federal census for Kent County that includes Coventry. In the 1790 census he was also listed as:

Kilton, John   1-3-5-*-*
That is himself, 3 males under 16, 5 females, no other freepersons, and no slaves. More importantly, this man shows up in the 1782 Federal Census of Coventry, RI as John J. Kilton. Our John J. Kilton of Kent County may have had a son with that name since in 1830, a John J. Kilton was named a Director of the Bank of Kent located in Coventry, RI.

But there is yet another....Captain John Kilton died Nov. 23, 1811 aged 88 years and is buried in Oak Swamp Churchyard, Rehoboth, MA. (Calculated birthyear 1723) This is not our man.


 there may well have been two John Kiltons. Also from USGenWeb files: An Historical Sketch of The Town of Scituate, R.I.; Part 4

Scituate was not invaded, but she was called upon, and responded nobly to the call, to march her troops to the port.  The British, on Sunday, Dec. 8, 1776, landed and took possession of Rhode Island, and remained there until Oct. 25, 1779, during which time the inhabitants were greatly oppressed.

In a list of Capt. Knight's company, April 2, 1775, the day after the Lexington battle, are found the following names:  Joseph Knight, captain; Samuel Wilbor, Benjamin Wood,  Isaac Horton, John Hill, Nathan Walker, James Parker, John Bennet, jr., Jeremiah Almy, Joseph Remington, Nathan Ralfe, John I. Kilton, Jonathan Knight, jr., Joseph Briggs, David Knight, Joseph Collins, William Taylor John Manchester, Edward Bennett, Thomas Parker, John Edwards, jr., Simeon Wilbor, Isaiah Austin, Samuel Eldridge, Christopher Knight, Samuel Hopkins, Benajah Bosworth, Obadiah Rolfe, Ezekiel Wood, Caleb Fisk, doctor, Jolin Phillips, Constant Graves, Stukely Thornton, James Andrews, jr., Christopher Collins, Joseph Bennet, Thomas Knight, Peleg Colvin, Eleazor Westcott, Caleb Steere, Collins Roberts, Daniel Fisk, William Knight, Nathan Franklin, Uriah Franklin, jr., Ephriam Edwards, Stephen Edwards, Francis Fuller, jr., Benjamin Whitmore, William Stafford, Daniel Angell, Furmer Tanner -- fifty-two in all.

Imagine how John L, John I. or John J. could all look the same in script of the time. The town of Scituate adjoins John J. Kilton's later hometown of Coventry. It is quite improbable that the John J. Kilton referenced above, and the John I. Kilton from the Scituate Militia are the same person, in that John I. was captured and imprisoned by the British, and died in 1778 after his release..

We have definite references that it was John Jenckes Kilton that burnt the Gaspee in 1772, and no such definite references that John I. Kilton did so. John J. Kilton's grave in Coventry says he died in 1824, while John I. Kilton apparently died in 1778 and we're not sure where he is buried. John J.'s wife Sarah Brayton died in 1832 and had at least seven children with him, one Caleb being born in 1781. John I. married a Mary Owen in 1769 with who he had one child, Sarah born in 1772. Both John J, and John I. curiously took part in the Battle of Rhode Island at the same time, and later lived in the adjoining towns of Coventry and Scituate.

Two John Kiltons being in close proximity to each other probably explains why John J. Kilton was referred to as John Jenckes Kilton, and spelled out as such in the biography of Caleb Kilton.  It also explains why the John I. Kilton is listed with his middle initial in the Scituate militia, a list in which other men do not have their middle initials. This is an important clue that we are dealing with two separate individuals. This confusion may also explain why one historian considered John I. Kilton's participation in the raid to be of "dubious source". Correspondence received in 2018 from Steve Farrington elucidates that the John I. Kilton referred to here may have been often spelled as John Kelton, 1745-1778.

In July 2016 we received correspondence from amateur genealogist George M. Prescott, Jr. Esq.
The following recapitulations are drawn from two sources:  The following recapitulations are drawn from two sources:  New England Families Genealogical and Memorial, Volume III (William Richard Cutter, editor) (New York:  Lewis Historical Publishing Company 1914), and Genealogy of the Jenks Family of America (William B. Browne, compiler) (Concord, New Hampshire:  Rumford Press 1952).
The first Thomas Kilton was born at Providence on January 17, 1690.  New England Families @ 1189.  On September 13, 1716, he married Phebe Dexter, born August 4, 1700 to John Dexter and Alice Dexter (née Alice Smith in 1665).  Id. @ 1190.  Their son, the second Thomas Kilton, was born at Providence, September 17, 1725.  Ibid.
On February 3, 1727, the widow Alice Dexter married the Honorable Joseph Jenckes III, the Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.  Jenks Family @ 13.  Governor Jenckes thus became the stepfather of the Phebe Kilton who was the wife of the first Thomas Kilton (not to be confused with their daughter Phebe Kilton; see New England Families @ 1190), and the affined husband of the maternal grandmother by consanguinity of the second Thomas Kilton.
The second Thomas Kilton, who became a mariner and captain at sea, married one Sarah Pearce.  New England Families @ 1190.  They had one child, a son, the first John Jenckes Kilton, born at Providence, March 1, 1749.  Ibid.  John Jenckes Kilton was forced to become self-reliant at an early age, for his father, Captain Thomas Kilton, was killed in 1753 when a vessel under his command was wrecked during a gale off the shore of Cape Breton [Nova Scotia], and all aboard save his mate were massacred as they struggled ashore only to be set upon by hostile indigenous inhabitants, and his widowed mother Sarah subsequently remarried a man who sired four daughters with her only to wind up squandering her money and property.  Ibid.
The first John Jenckes Kilton married Sarah Brayton, born in 1751, on October 4, 1771.  Ibid.
This John Jenckes Kilton was one of those patriots who, in 1772, under John Brown of Providence, boarded the British revenue sloop HMS Gaspee and set her ablaze.  Ibid.
Afterwards, in 1772, John Jenckes Kilton and Sarah Kilton removed from Providence to Scituate, and later removed to Coventry.  Ibid.  Among their twelve children, the second John Jenckes Kilton was born on January 24, 1788.  Ibid.
The first John Jenckes Kilton died on February 28, 1824 at Coventry, where his widow, Sarah Kilton, died on December 1, 1832, and where they were and remain buried together.  Ibid.
The patriot John Jenckes Kilton had been given the Governor's surname as part of his own, but he was neither the Governor's direct descendant nor his collateral blood relation. New England Families Genealogical and Memorial, and Genealogy of the Jenks Family of America.
The Gaspee Days Committee considers John Jenckes Kilton (c1749-1824) to be a true American patriot for his role in attacking the HMS Gaspee in 1772.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 8/2002    Last Revised 01/2018    JohnKilton.htm