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 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots in 1772 as America's 'First Blow for Freedom'®. 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 in, or being associated with, the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Evidence implicating Silas
In February of 2003, we received the following e-mail: from a Ben Wheeler:
Captain Silas Wheeler was a revolutionary war soldier who fought at Lexington, Bunker Hill and was captured by the British on the high seas and thrown into an Irish jail in Kinsdale Ireland. He later escaped with the help of the Irish Patriot, Henry Gratten, and settled in Steuben County, New York State after spending a year in the wilderness there...He became a wealthy land-owner and the town of Wheeler New York is named after him.. I inquired about Silas to the Steuben County Historical Society, who sent me historical excerpts noting that Silas was involved among other things in the burning of the British tax ship "Gaspee". My father was a columnist for the Providence Journal and he wrote extensively about Silas over the years and loved writing about the history of Rhode Island. I am surprised you didn't make reference to any of his pieces about the burning of the Gaspee
From: from LANDMARKS OF STEUBEN COUNTY by Hon. Harlo Hakes, 1896
The first settlement in the town of Wheeler was made by Captain Silas Wheeler in the year 1800, and the town is named after him. He was a descendent of Captain Timothy Wheeler, who was born in England in 1604, and was a nephew of Governor Brooks of Massachusetts.Be careful to avoid confusion; there were many other Silas Wheelers, including others born in the 18th century in MA, and one who lived in Wisconsin and married a Polly WHIPPLE. The Wheelers have traced their ancestry back to 1571.
From Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, by James N. Arnold: article entitled <Colwell's "Spirit of '76." An Analytical and Explanatory Index> , 1776:83
WHEELER Silas, private, Col. Topham's regiment, 1776 ; pay due £15 6 11. Pensioned
From The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1852 v6 p135: we see that Silas Wheeler is listed as one member of Capt. Thayer's Company that was taken prisoner by the British in the expedition against Quebec. Unfortunately, we can't find Silas Wheeler's pension application on-line through HeritageQuest, nor was able to be located in a search of the US National Archives in June 2006.
There are no Wheeler families listed in the 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers. We do find Silas Wheeler in the Federal 1790 census living in an Albany, NY suburb of Rensellaerville: 1 male more than 16, 1 male less than 16, and 3 females. This exactly matches what we expect of his known family as posted below. We can't discern him from the 1800 census, but does show in the 1810 census living in Steuben County in what was the hamlet of Pulteney, NY as 1-1-1; the twins married off and Grattan having moved out on his own but living nearby. Wheeler, NY is just south and west of the Finger Lakes area of Upstate, NY. Nothing is found for our Silas Wheeler in newspapers of NY or RI at the time.
Silas Wheeler, b. 1748, d. 25 Nov 1827The LDS site claims him with slightly different dates:
Silas WheelerAncestry.com searches indicate that Silas Wheeler was the sixth of ten children born in Concord, MA. We have one indication that Sarah Gardner was probably born in South Kingstown, RI. There were two possibilities according to RI birth records, one Sarah Gardner born too late in 1767 to an Oliver and Mercy Gardner, and another who died in 1807 that was born to a Zerias and Susanna Gardner. Per LDS there was one Sarah Gardner, daughter of a Nathaniel Gardner and Sarah Pierce, born in 1748 in South Kingstown and who did not marry a person other than Silas Wheeler, and although this one's spouse is unknown, she's listed as having died in South Kingstown.
Most of the following information is taken from the excellent
Genealogy website at: http://www.heywoods.info/w/SWheeler01.html
Born March 17, 1752 in Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
Parents were JONAS WHEELER and PERSIS BROOKS.
Married SARAH GARDNER. She was born November 23, 1760; and died in 1827.
Died November 25, 1828 in Wheeler, Steuben County, New York.
CHILDREN: 1. RUTH WHEELER (twin), born during the Revolutionary War. Married NATHAN ROSE.
2. SARAH WHEELER (twin), born during the Revolutionary War. Married WILLIAM HOLMES.
3. GRATTAN HENRY WHEELER, born August 25, 1783 in South Kingston, Washington County, Rhode Island; died March 11, 1852 in Wheeler, Steuben County, New York. Was a successful farmer, NY State Senator and Representative to US Congress. Married1 FRANCES BAKER. Married2 ELIZA AULLS in 1814.
|We have only here an indirect reference to Silas Wheeler reportedly having taken part in the raid on the Gaspee. While he was present in Rhode Island in 1772, and apparently had some maritime connections, his wife's family with which he was staying was probably in South Kingstown, some 30 or more miles South of Providence when the raiding party assembled. We await further confirmatory information from his descendants, particularly articles written for the Providence Journal.|
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