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 email@example.com.
The source of the name of Joseph Brown comes from
The Gaspee Incident, 1984, RI Committee for
The author is no longer reachable for us to get her
research notes, and
how she came across his name. It might be assumed
was named by John Howland,
director of the RI Historical
in 1839. Howland had been a boy of 11 or 12 years old
during the Gaspee
Affair, but claimed to have been there when the boats
put off from
for the attack in June 1772. Howland later gave the
he knew were in the raid, and he grew up among many of
Gathered from Staples, Documentary History of
the Destruction of
Joseph Brown seemed to be conscious of keeping control of who was in the cabin.
From: Saul Ramsdale
Friend of William Thayer, a Providence shoemaker recently moved from Mendon, Massachusetts. He claimed to have heard the preparations for the Gaspee and identified the "heads of the gang" as John and Joseph Brown, and someone named Potter. He told his friend Thayer what he had heard, but neither of them testified, before the Royal Commission.
The most recognized source book regarding Joseph Brown and his brothers is generally considered to be The Browns of Providence Plantations-Colonial Years, by James B. Hedges. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1952.
In the economic realm, the famous Brown family of Providence rose to new financial, commercial, and industrial heights, surpassing in stature even the celebrated merchants Aaron Lopez, Joseph Wanton, and Christopher Champlin in Newport and James D'Wolf of Bristol. The resourceful Brown brothers -- Nicholas (1729-91). Joseph(1733-85), John (1736-1803), and Moses (1738-1836)- guided by uncles Obadiah (1712-62) and Elisha (1717-1802), laid the groundwork in this turbulent age for the remarkable commercial and industrial advances of the early national period.From the Joseph Bucklin Society: The four Brown brothers were prominent merchants and ran several businesses in common. The initial key to the Browns' business success was a candle works. But in the same year, 1762, they also formed Nicholas Brown and Company for their shipping and commercial activities. That was the business that was large and complex and quickly became one of the most successful businesses in the English colonies. According to claims put forth by the Masonic Order, John, Joseph, and Moses were all active members of the St. John's Lodge Number 1 Providence Free and Accepted Masons, Joseph being the master of the lodge (Providence Evening Bulletin, Letter to the Editor, June 7, 1966). It should be pointed out that the Masons make many such claims of leaders of the American Revolution It is important to remember that younger brother, Moses Brown, the famous abolitionist and Quaker leader converted to Quakerism later in life. The Brown brothers were all born as Baptists. Joseph Brown was known to have held slaves; one of whom drowned in 1769 while bathing in the Providence River.
Joseph Brown House erected 1774, at 50 South Main
Street in Providence,
for the Providence Bank, then the firm of Brown
Of the Brown brothers, Joseph was the most active
In History of
Rhode Island, by Richard M. Bayles, New York, 1891, page
is found in a list of December 1773 appointees to the
Providence Committee of Inspection, and was actively
involved in the
manufacturing saltpeter for use in gunpowder, planning
at Fox Point, and procuring fire-ships for the defense
of the Colony.
Joseph Brown served as a Deputy (equivalent to a modern
Representative) from Providence to the RI General
Assembly, and is
found in a list published in the Providence
Gazette on May 8, 1784 as an Assistant (now
known as State
Senator) from Providence. He was also listed as being
represent the State of Rhode Island in newly-formed
apparently never served since he is known to have
suffered a stroke in
1784, and he is not listed in the files of the Political
First Baptist Church in America, design and
architecture by Joseph
According to First Baptist Church historian Dr. J. Stanley Lemons, Joseph Brown was an original member of the Charitable Baptist Society, organized c 1770 to fund and build the First Baptist Church meeting house which he designed and that still stands today as the largest wooden structure from the Colonial period in the United States. The meeting house spire and style have inspired church goers in Providence for three centuries. He was a pew owner, and later a baptized member of the Church as were his ancestors.
Left: The desk of Joseph
Brown, crafted by
Providence furniture artist John Carlisle in 1785.
Sadly, Joseph Brown
may never have used the desk he commissioned, since
he had a stroke in
1784, and died in December of 1785.
From the 1770
List of Providence Taxpayers we get the following
long list of
Brown Allin I A 1
Brown Chad III D 5
Brown Esec III A 2
Brown George I A 2
Brown George XI D 4
Brown Elisha’s Brick House VI C 4
Brown Elisha’s Home VI C 4
Brown Elisha’s Mill VI D 1
Brown Hope III B 3
Brown Isaac VI C 2
Brown James’ Widow Hope III B 5
Brown John III B 5 Known Gaspee Raider
Brown John III B 6 Known Gaspee Raider
Brown John VI B 4 Known Gaspee Raider
Brown John VI C 4 Known Gaspee Raider
Brown John VI C 4 Known Gaspee Raider
Brown Joseph III B 5 Known Gaspee Raider
Brown Molly III A 4
Brown Moses III A 3
Brown Moses III B 5
Brown Nathaniel House see William Brown III B 1
Brown Nicholas III B 5
Brown Obadiah, Widow III A 4
Brown Richard, Jr. VI C 5
Brown William III B 1
Brown Zephaniah XI B 5
The only property listed by Joseph Brown at that time was held in common with his brothers, Nicholas and John, on the West side of North Main Street in a choice location only two buildings South of the Town Parade
Parker Simister, in her book Streets of the City: An
History of Providence, p57 relates that it was
Joseph Brown who was
at the forefront of citywide excitement about the
transit of Venus
the sun in 1769. He purchased the observatory
equipment such as a
reflecting telescope (shown
at left) and measuring devices for the
observatory set up
Providence at the site of what is now known as "Transit
measurements of architecture would have been applied in
extracurricular interest in astronomy. The next
such showing of
the transit of Venus will be in 2112.
All of the knowledge of optics came in handy later on
Brown, Joseph Bucklin, and Benjamin Thurber were
assigned to build an
80 foot beacon tower on Prospect and Meeting Streets on
College Hill to
signal a British invasion.
According to Stewart Crump (in "Joseph Brown, Astronomer", Rhode Island History Vol. 27 January 1968) although he had lttle formal education, Joseph Brown was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, awarded an honorary Masters degree in 1769, and was the first Professor of Experimental Philosophy at Brown University. He had agreed to teach without salary, but unfortunately, a stroke in 1784 prevented him from serving his full professorship.
The RI Historical Cemetery Database finds Hon. Joseph Brown buried in the Old North Burial Ground in Providence as were many other Gaspee raiders. From the 1790 census available through USGenWeb, there is no Joseph Brown in Providence, but there is one in Cumberland at: 3-1-4-*-* (white adult/male child/females/other free/slaves). A Nicholas and a John Brown are listed there as well, so this is our most likely candidate. This would be about twenty miles distant from the Hope Furnace operation. There is also Joseph Brown in Gloucester: 1-1-2-*-*, which is 12 miles from Hope.
Founded by the Brown Brothers (Nicholas, Joseph, John and Moses) and copartners in the business, Stephen Hopkins, Israel Wilkinson, Job Hawkins, and Caleb Arnold. This was an iron furnace producing, initially tea kettles, hollowware, nails, hinges, and iron hoops; but in 1775-1783 produced guns and canons cast for the Revolutionary War. The furnace structure was hearth and stack made of stone and located on the Pawtuxet River south of Salmon Hole. The river provided power for bellows and the surrounding woodlands were used for charcoal. Local farmers provided the stone that was heated and melted with the ore that came from the Oaklawn Avenue area in Cranston. The ore, charcoal, and limestone were carted uphill in horse-drawn wagons.This mill was located in the village of Hope, at the southwestern corner of Cranston with Scituate to the west, and West Warwick to the south.
From the Brown Family Genealogical Society we can track the genealogical background of John Brown and his fellow Gaspee Raider and brother Joseph Brown. We have also supplemented the material here from Wayne G. Tillinghast's The Tillinghasts in America: The First Four Generations (2006).
THE BROWN FAMILY. Volume 1, Number I May 1972, "BROWN FAMILIES OF COLONIAL NEW ENGLAND" Compiled and Written by Eleanor Gates Crum(THE BROWN FAMILY, a genealogical quarterly on the surname BROWN is published by J-B PublishingCompany, 430 Ivy Avenue, Crete, Nebraska 68333)Chad BROWN [c1600-c1650], emmigrant ancestor, came from England in the ship "Martin". which arrived in Boston Mass., July 1638. He brought with him his wife Elizabeth [Sharparrowe (died c1672)], son John, then 8 years old, and perhaps younger ones. A fellow passenger died on the voyage and Chad Brown witnessed the will soon after his arrival. He did not long remain in Mass., probably because of his religious views, but soon removed to Providence, where he became at once a leader of that colony. That same year (1638) he and 12 others signed a compact relative to the government of the town. In the capacity of surveyor he was soon after appointed on a committee to compile a list of the home lots of the first settlers of the "Town Street" and the meadows allotted to them. His home lot fronted on the "towne streete" now South Main and Market Square, with the southern boundary to the southward of College and South Main Streets. The college grounds of Brown University now comprise a large portion of this lot. In 1640 he served on a committee with three others in regard to the disputed boundary between Providence and Pawtuxet. That same year he, with Robert Cole, William Harris and John Warner, was the committee of Providence Colony to report their first written form of government, which was adopted and continued in-force until 1644, in which year Roger Williams returned from England with the first charter. Chad Brown was the first of the 39 signers of this agreement. In 1642 he was ordained as the first settled pastor of the Baptist Church. In 1643 he was on a committee to make peace between the Warwick settlers and Massachusetts Bay, but their efforts were unavailing. He died September 2, 1650, on which date the name of his widow occurs in a tax list. Children: -John, James, and Jeremiah, both of whom removed to Newport, R.I.; Judah, or Chad, died May 10, 1663, unmarried; Daniel.II. John Brown, son of Chad Brown, was born 1630, and died about 1706. He married Mary, daughter of Rev. Obadiah and Catherine Holmes, of Newport, R.I. He lived in Providence, at the north end, in a house afterwards occupied by his son James. He served the town in various official capacities - juryman, commissioner on union of towns in 1654, surveyor of highways, 1659; was free man in 1655; moderator, member of the town council, deputy in legislation, assistant. He took the oath of allegiance May 31, 1666. In 1672 he sold the home lot of his father to his brother James, of Newport, who resold the same day to Daniel Abbott. Nearly 100 years later a part of it was purchased by his great grandsons, John and Moses Brown, and then presented to the College of Rhode Island at the time of its removal from Warren to Providence. The cornerstone of University Hall, for many years the only building, was laid by John Brown, May 31, 1770.
Historians of the First Baptist Church relate that Roger Williams himself was the first pastor of the First Baptist Church, Chad Brown was the second--or, perhaps as related above, the first 'settled' pastor. Chad Brown was not a founder of the First Baptist Church in 1638, he arrived in Rhode Island a year later.
Chad and Elizabeth's eldest son John Brown (1630-1706) was the great-grandfather of the Joseph Brown of our concern. He marrried Mary Holmes (c1632-c1690), who was a daughter of Obadiah Holmes, the second pastor of the Newport Baptist Church
Children of John and Mary (Holmes) Brown::
1. Sarah married Nov. 14, 1678 John Pray
Children of Rev. James Brown and Mary (Harris) Brown included:
Children born at Providence to Capt. James Brown and Hope (Power) Brown were;
The following children are listed as having been born to Joseph Brown and Elizabeth Brown in Rhode Island via Ancestry.com and LDS search:
Joseph Brown died on his 52nd birthday (what a bummer). Joseph Brown married Elizabeth Power (his 1st cousin) in 1759. Elizabeth (28Jun1736-6Sep1806) was the daughter of Nicholas Power and Anne Tillinghast Power. Though there seems to be some genealogical confusion here, it appears from the extensive research of Wayne G. Tillinghast in The Tillinghasts in America: The First Four Generations (2006) that Anne Tillinghast was not closely related to Gaspee raider Captain Joseph Tillinghast. According to Life, Times and Correspondence of James Manning (the First President of Brown University) by Reuben Aldridge Guild (1864), the Joseph Brown family line ceased with the death of his grandaughter, Eliza Brown Rogers, since she had no children.
The Tillinghast, Smith, and Harris family names are among other known Gaspee Raiders. John's wife, Sarah Smith was the sister of Job Smith who also owned a distillery.
We have not been able to establish any relationship between John Brown and the much less famous fellow Gaspee raider, Abial 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, in recognition of Joseph Brown's participation in the attack on the HMS Gaspee, recognizes him as a true American patriot.|
|Left: On June 6th, 2004, Brown descendant Nathanael Greene Herreshoff of New Jersey was ceremoniously 'indicted' for his crimes against King George III in ceremonies conducted by the Gaspee Days Committee.|
|Back to Top | Back to Gaspee Virtual Archives|