GaspeeVirtual Archives
Simeon H. Olney (1754-1808)

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
Evidence implicating Simeon Olney:

The source of the name of Simeon Olney comes from the account of the 1772 attack given by John Mawney sometime in 1826 in the American and Gazette (formed by a merger of the previous  Rhode Island American and the Providence Gazette):
I was then sitting with Capt. Tillinghast, in the stern of the barge, and sprang immediately forward; and seeing a rope hang down her bow, seized it, to help myself in. The rope slipping, I fell almost to my waist in the water; but, being active and nimble, I recovered, and was the first of our crew on deck; when Simeon H. Olney handed me a stave, with which, seeing one that I took to be of the crew of the schooner, floundering below the windlass, I was in the attitude of leveling a stroke, when he cried out, 'John, don't strike." Being very intimately acquainted with Capt. Samuel Dunn, I knew his voice, left him, and sprang back of the windlass, where there was commotion and noise, but which soon subsided; the crew jumping down the hold, I immediately following, when I ordered them to bring cords to tie their hands, [and told them] they should not be hurt, but would be sent on shore. They brought some tarred strings, with which I tied the hands of two behind, when John Brown, Esq., called to me, saying I was wanted immediately on deck, where I was instantly helped; when I asked Mr. Brown what is the matter, he replied, 'Don't call names, but [go] immediately into the cabin, there is one wounded, and will bleed to death.

Biographical Notes:

There is only one Simeon Olney listed in the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Database with dates corresponding to being possibly present in 1772.
OLNEY, SIMEON HUNT  1750c - 25 APR 1804    PV001:
He is buried at Providence's Old North Burial Ground (as were many other known Gaspee raiders). We find through NEHGS in Index to Providence, Rhode Island Probate 1646-1899 that his will was administered in 1808.  From the files of Early American Newspapers available through the NEHGS portal, we find that Simeon H. Olney was advertiing in the Providence Phoenix real estate  for sale or lease as late as 12Dec1807, along with plugging his Tavern.  From all this, we conclude that the grave date for this man is NOT accurate, and that he actually died in 1808.  Cautionary note; while Simeon H. Olney is the only Simeon Olney we have found of the time, the fact that he was usually referred to as Simeon H. Olney indicates that there may be another Simeon Olney around, since it was not customary in the time to use one's middle name or initial unless it was to avoid confusion.

A relative, Barton Olney, was a hero of the American Revolution (well, at least his biographer thought he was) in Williams, Catherine, Biography of Revolutionary Heroes: Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton and also of Captain Stephen Olney. Providence, Published by the author, 1839. Curiously, although Williams gave the names of many of the Gaspee raiders in her book about Stephen Olney, she did not mention the name of Simeon Olney.

There was a sea Captain Joseph Olney, with whom another known Gaspee raider, Benjamin Page sailed. Olneyville is a prominent neighborhood in the West side of Providence, and is named after one of Simeon Olney's ancestors.  It used to be a premier industrial plant location, full of ethnicity; it is now considered a run-down part of the city.

We also note from the GEDCOM files that an S. Olney was a Captain during the Revolutionary War in Colonel Israel Angell's 2nd Regiment.  Also in this regiment were people of the Gaspee-familiar surnames; Potter and Allen, and Angells and Tews are intermixed in the lineage of Gaspee raid leader, Abraham Whipple.  Unfortunately, he is not listed in the Revolutionary War files available in HeritageQuest available through the NEHGS. Simeon Olney's name does appear in the 1782 Census with seven members in his household. Through the USGenWeb source, we also know that a Simeon Olney was alive and during the 1790 census in Providence, and that his household consisted of 1 male over 16 (presumably himself); two males (sons) under 16 years old; 2 females (wife and 1 daughter?).

We also note that Simeon Olney operated, after his father Thomas, at a tavern on North Main Street in Providence, well situated to attract customers approaching the town from the north. Among the landowners in the 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers appears the names of Charles, James, Joseph, Richard, Samuel, and Thomas Olney all located in the area of North Main Street and Olney Street.  Olney Street currently exists as a main access street to the upper East Side in Providence. According to "The Sabin Family in North America" as presented on, the Olney Tavern was the origin point of a stagecoach run between Providence and Boston operated by Thomas Sabin, brother of Sabin Tavern owner, James Sabin.  In 1806 an A. Draper was advertizing his own shop, described as being "three doors north of the State House, in the Main-Street, and directly opposite the noted Tavern of Simeon Olney..."  Hmmm, a GPS unit couldn't give us better mapping locations.  We note that in July of 1813, Benjamin B. Olney began advertizing the continuation of operation of his late father's tavern at the same location.  This would place the tavern at the intersection of North Main and Cady Streets in what is now the Roger Williams National Monument Park.  It was NOT located, as some have surmised, at the intersection of Olney Street with North Main Street, which is a quarter mile further to the north.
Genealogical Notes:

In pinging GEDCOM, there is only one Simeon H. Olney remotely corresponding to time and place, that is Simeon Olney born 30 May 1754 in Providence, RI and who died 25 April 1804 in Providence. This person would've been about 18 years old at the time of the Gaspee attack. He was the fifth of nine children of Richard Olney and Hannah Hunt, who were married in 1742 in Rehoboth, MA, a (sort of) suburb to the East of Providence. Many other Gaspee raiders also trace their time to Rehoboth. His older sister Cynthia married an Esek Brown, and another older sister Mary married THE Moses Brown, one of the famous Brown brothers of the time, one of which was John Brown, the leader of the Gaspee raid. But, alas, this was Moses Brown's second marriage, and did not occur until 1799, well after the Gaspee attack.

Simeon H. Olney married a woman named Sarah Brown (b1752) in 1772. From NEHGS The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1847-1994, 1926-"Chad Brown and His Descendants" p170-171 indicates that Sarah Brown was the daughter of Obadiah Brown, and was the second cousin of the leader of the Gaspee raid, John Brown. According to they had eight children:
  1.  Benjamin B. OLNEY b: 14 AUG 1774 in Providence, RI
  2.  Obadiah OLNEY b: 30 DEC 1775 in Providence, RI  by convention, prob died bef 1784
  3.  Richard OLNEY b: 8 DEC 1777 in Providence, RI
  4.  Cynthia W. OLNEY b: 24 DEC 1780 in Providence, RI
  5.  Samuel OLNEY b: 1781
  6.  Lemuel OLNEY b: 7 FEB 1782 in Providence, RI
  7.  Obadiah OLNEY b: 3 MAR 1784 in Providence, RI
  8.  Anstis OLNEY b: 22 SEP 1786 in Providence, RI
For his role in the attack on the HMS Gaspee in June of 1772, the Gaspee Days Committee considers Simeon H. Olney a true American patriot.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 7/2002    Last Revised 07/2009    SimeonOlney.html