GaspeeVirtual Archives
Welcome Arnold (1745-1798)

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 Welcome Arnold:

Old Providence: A Collection of Facts and Traditions relating to Various Buildings and Sites of Interest in Providence.
  Merchants National Bank of Providence: Providence, 1918, Page 12:
The Gaspee went aground off Namquid Point; and, as the tide was ebbing, Captain Lindsey know that she could not get under way again until early the next morning.  Lindsey hastened to Providence, and there told the story, which brought about the meeting in Sabin Tavern.  Welcome Arnold and John Brown were among the leading men of the gathering.
During the early twentieth century many banking and commercial institutions commissioned history books that were largely paid advertising for the firm, and which included long biographies of the founders and board members of the company, in additional to local historical vignettes. Old Stone Bank published a noted six volume set of Rhode Island history.  These books were typically given out as free gifts to depositors, something akin to the later popular trend of giving away toasters for opening a new account.  History would be more an item of interest to the older population that had presumably more accumulated wealth, and of which the banks hoped to access.  Note here, that the retelling of the Gaspee Affair presented here in the Merchants Bank history, perpetuates some of the errors of the original story as told by Ephraim Bowen.  We do not know the source of the writer's attestation about Welcome Arnold being at the Sabin Tavern meeting (he was not named by Bowen), but there is an extensive bibliography at the end.  The unnamed writer appears to have been a hired historical writer for Walton Advertising & Printing Company.of Boston.

On the historical marker erected nearby the original location of Fenner's Wharf, along Water Street in Providence is the following inscription:
    In the decade before the Revolutionary War, the British were enforcing revenue laws by stationing maritime law enforcement vessels in Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. In 1769, Newport citizens burned the British sloop Liberty in protest of violations of their rights. Meanwhile, the particularly aggressive British schooner Gaspee forced every vessel to strike its flag and allow boarding for customs inspections.
    On June 9, 1772,  Captain Benjamin Lindsay of the packet Hannah refused to strike the flag and be boarded.  The HMS Gaspee fired upon the Hannah then pursued her towards Providence.  Captain Lindsay, with extensive knowledge of the bay sailed close to Namquid Point (since renamed Gaspee Point).  The Gaspee, while trying to cut her off, ran aground. The Hannah continued on to the town wharf in Providence.
    Once the Hannah reached Providence, Captain Lindsay informed John Brown, Welcome Arnold and others of the confrontation. "A drum was beaten through the streets accompanied by a crier, calling on all Sons of Liberty to join in this meeting" at James Sabin's Tavern, South Main and Planet Streets.  The angry crowd consisted mostly of the merchants and sea captains harassed by the Gaspee.
    In the dark of night, eight longboats embarked from Fenner's Wharf across the street, and sailed to the grounded Gaspee. The British were surprised, they did not even have time to get their guns. The colonists fired shots and quickly boarded the schooner.  The British were transferred to land and the Gaspee was burnt.
    "They set her men upon the land. And burnt her up we understand."
    The colonists returned to Providence before daybreak, and by the next day "nobody knew who did it."  This act of defiance outraged the British.  King George III issued a reward to persecute the perpetrators and established a commission to investigate. However, no colonist would cooperate; possible witnesses were either supposedly too ill to testify or the weather conditions were too poor to travel to court.  Even though up to 60-100 men participated, not one of Providence's 4,300 people could identify them.
Welcome Arnold would've been 27 years old at the time of the attack on the Gaspee. All of this, of course, does not prove that he was an actual participant in the raid, but considering that the vast majority of known raiders were prominent Providence merchants or sea captains, it seems more than likely that he was along for the ride.
Biographical Information:
Welcome ArnoldLeft: Signature of Welcome Arnold on 1776 RI Assembly script note.

Welcome Arnold was a well known merchant and ship owner from Providence during the 18th century, and he frequently advertised his shop in each of the local newspapers.  Much of the following is painstakingly gleaned from the Early American Newspapers Collection available through the NEHGS websites. 

According to map research conducted by Leonard Bucklin (see 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers), Welcome Arnold and his eight siblings, all children of Jonathan and Abigail Arnold, were living most probably on South Main Street in Providence prior to the time of the Gaspee attack in 1772.  This was a short four streets North of the intersection of Planets Street with South Main Street, the location of the Sabin Tavern, in which was planned the Gaspee raid.

An ad appears in the Providence Gazette 22May1773 for the firm of Caleb Greene and Welcome Arnold selling at their store near the Great Bridge an assortment of English goods, India goods, and lime by the hogshead. A latter ad in April 1775 announced the desolution of that firm. By June 1775 Welcome Arnold had moved out into his own shop across from the Baptist Church on Main Street and sold English goods, West-India goods, fabrics, lumber, snuff, flour, molasses, sugar, coffee, wine, iron goods, and pig iron.  By 1781 his store goods had evolved into an ecclectic mix most reminiscent of a Woolworth's 5 & 10 cent store popular in the 1930s, except his store also sold a variety of liquor, wine, and tobacco. In December 1782 his store was broken into and he offered a reward for the return of the fabrics, and  the capture of the thieves.  In 1783 he advertized for lumber to be delivered to his farm at Conanicut (Jamestown, RI).  He frequently advertized to purchase barrel staves and hoops, shipping horses, and lumber for warehouses, so he quite likely was involved in the inland shipping business. In January 1786 he moved his store down the street and was selling mostly liquors, and (it figures) turpentine.  He was also in the business of selling supplies to commercial fishermen and of buying up flax-seed. He purchased large shipments from Russia of iron, hemp, netting, and sailcloth.  In late 1787 Welcome Arnold apparently sold his flax-seed business to Joseph Lawrence. This flax seed business might've been related to the production of linen cloth, fishing nets, paint solvents, or perhaps medicine. In 1789 he won a suit judgment of $71 from a client that apparently had paid him in devalued paper money.

According to Ships and Shipmasters of Old Providence (Providence Institute for Savings, 1919, p36) Welcome Arnold was heavily involved in owning privateering vessels during the Revolutioary War, and lost over 30 of them.  He subsequently made sure not to own any vessel outright, but to spread his ownership interest over many boats so as to lessen the risk.

 In 1788 Nicholas Brown and Welcome Arnold spent $25,000 to construct a rum distillery at Providence's Fox Point neighborhood. Apparently Welcome Arnold, like fellow Gaspee raider John Brown, dabbled in the triangle trade of rum for slaves for molasses for rum.  From: Papers of the American Slave Trade, Series A: Selections from the Rhode Island Historical Society <>

Rum produced for the African slave trade had fueled Rhode Island’s economic expansion before the Revolution. Though it gradually declined in importance after the war, it was still the exclusive domain of the state's leading merchants. When the U.S. Congress declared an excise tax on distilled spirits in 1791, this had the dramatic result of inspiring the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania, but the reaction was more peaceful in Rhode Island. While western distilleries were often small operations run by backwoods farmers to supplement their meager incomes, the Rhode Island rum distilleries were a major industry, and the excise tax was just another business expense.
The distilleries taxed in this volume were almost all in Providence or Newport, with the major exception of Bourn & Wardwell in Bristol. The distillers were among the state's merchant elite, and they include John Brown (1736–1803), Welcome Arnold (1745–1798), and the Clark & Nightingale firm. Distilling made sense for merchants involved in the slave trade, who had easy access to molasses and needed rum to ship to Africa. Distilling their own rum cut out a middleman. Some distillers, including John Brown, also expanded beyond rum into gin production.
Welcome Arnold's name also appears in a list of clients for spermaceti oil, along with his son-in-law Zachariah Allen, and pre-eminent spermaceti trader and leaders of the Gaspee Raid, John Brown and Joseph Brown (of the firm Brown & Benson). <> (Prince Gardner Ledger, 1788-1798). Spermaceti oil was used in making candles, and was at the time a hot commodity traded in Rhode Island during the pre-Revolutionary days.

 He's also noted in Catherine Williams' Biography of Revolutionary Heroes: Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton and also of Captain Stephen Olney. Providence, Published by the author, 1839, (p95) that Welcome Arnold was known to have been running privateer ships along the East Coast during the Revolution, and loosing at least two such vessels to British interception. Specifically, we find him on a list of owners of privateers in 1782 as owner of the Yorick (Field, Edward, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century:  A History.  Boston, Mason Publishing Co. 1902, Vol II, pp424-430).  He does not appear in a list of RevWar pension applicants, but, in either event, would've died before such applications were taken. 

Left: Four Shillings note produced by the Rhode Island general Assembly, 1776.

In 1772 he was a Deputy (RI Assembly) from Smithfield at which time he was also appointed as a Justice of the Peace.  In 1777, 1786, and 1788 he helped crew the fire engine near the Great Bridge, and in 1790 was appointed a Fireward[en]..  In 1778 he was elected representative to the Assembly from Providence along with known Gaspee raiders Paul Allen and John Brown, and fellow suspect Theodore Foster.  He was biennially reelected up until his death in 1798.  He had also been elected a Deputy Assistant to the Assembly to represent Providence in 1782, akin to the more modern-day State Representative.  He was also a Speaker of the Rhode Island Assembly five times.  In 1778 he actively encouraged the adoption of the Federal consititution by Rhode Island.  In 1778 Welcome Arnold was appointed to the City Audit commission, and was elected to the Providence Town Auditor in 1779. In 1787 he was appointed by the Providence Town Council one of the overseers of the new hospital, and in 1788 was appointed to the Committee to Superintending and Regulating the Market.  We also see his signature applied to monetary instruments used in Rhode Island at the time.  He helped John Brown, Christopher Sheldon and others mark out the channel for the Providence River in 1788, and in 1790 he was appointed a Surveyor of the Highways, and appointed onto the original Providence Public School Committee and helped purchase the lands and buildings for its first schools. 

He achieved national prominence as a Commissioner of High Court in dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania over land in northeastern Pennsylvania. From: <>  (stale link 2009)

In the summer and fall of 1778 a series of Tory and Indian massacres in the Wyoming Valley had decimated the population, and three years later, seeking to forestall survivors' attempts to resettle and thus re-establish Connecticut claims, Pennsylvania petitioned Congress to adjudicate the matter. The following year in Trenton a five man tribunal was sworn in by Justice Isaac Smith of the New Jersey Supreme Court; this ad hoc body consisted of Welcome Arnold of Rhode Island, David Brearly and William C. Houston of New Jersey, William Whipple of New Hampshire and Cyrus Griffin of Virginia, already serving as a member of the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture. After forty-two days of elaborate testimony, the court returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Pennsylvania. An effort to convene a new court in 1784, to hear claims of individual tenants, was dismissed, the Continental jurisdiction over individual claimants being in doubt. In 1799 Pennsylvania passed legislation to compensate holders of provable titles from the original settlement, and the matter was finally closed.
Several copies of letters to Welcome Arnold from David Howell exist at the University of Virginia Library, <Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789> discoursing on the Connecticut-Pennsylvania disputes as well as the national debt. Like David Howell, a cousin, Jonathan Arnold, was also a RI delegate to the Continental Congress, 1782-1783.

In September 1784, he was appointed a trustee of Rhode Island College (later renamed Brown University), and was on a committee to run a lottery to raise funds for the College in 1798. In 1785 he owned a cargo ship, Rebecca.  We also note that in October 1791 Welcome Arnold, Esq. was elected Chairman of the Providence Bank, of which John Brown was President.  Welcome Arnold appears in a 1796 list of investors in the Ohio Company as published in Hulbert, Archer Butler, ed., The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company (Ohio Company Series, Volume 2) (Marietta, Ohio: Marietta Historical Commission, 1917) pp. 235-242. <  Stale link 2010>.  His name appears along with many other men known to have been associated with the Gaspee Affair, including: Abraham Whipple, Samuel Adams, John Brown, Theodore Foster, Joseph Jenks, and John Mawney, and many familiar family names of Gaspee raiders as well.

Left: The Welcome Arnold House of 1780 still stands on Planet Street in Providence, just up the street from the site of the Sabin Tavern.. Click image to enlarge.

From Shortly after the attack on the Gaspee, Ephraim Bowen confirms that the Sabin's Inn was sold in 1785 to Welcome Arnold, whose 1780 house still stands further up on Planet Street, and lived in it until his death in 1798.  Welcome Arnold then passed the ex-tavern onto his eldest son, Samuel Greene Arnold, who then passed it on to Samuel's younger brother Colonel Richard James Arnold, for which it was used as his personal residence in the 1830s.

Per the 1790 Federal Census for Providence:

Arnold, Welcome                              5    2    6     2       *
This indicates that in his household he had five males >16, 2 males <16, 6 females, two free persons (probably servants), and no slaves. We know from the offspring below (see genealogy) that he would in 1790 have been 1-2-5, so we can't explain the four other males over 16 years that were in his household at the time, but they were probably his parents (his father being 82 at the time) and three other men.

According to the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, Welcome Arnold is buried with his wife in the Old North Burial Ground in Providence, the site of internment for many other Gaspee raiders.

ARNOLD, WELCOME                           1745c - 30 SEP 1798    PV001
ARNOLD, PATIENCE  (GREENE)        1754c -  2 NOV 1809    PV001
His estate claims notice was published in October 1799 by his son, Samuel Greene Arnold. Among the honors bestowed on Welcome Arnold is the naming of the Urban League of RI's Welcome Arnold Shelter, providing temporary quarters for 107 men, women, and children in the Cranston and Providence area. We also note the 1972 History PhD thesis for Brown University by Franklin Stuart Cole entitled: Welcome Arnold (1754-1798), Merchant of Providence: The founding of an enterprise
Genealogical Information

The following information is culled from searches on,, RI Historical Cemeteries Database, etc.
Welcome ARNOLD
Birth: 25 Jan 1745 in Smithfield, RI
Death: 29 Sep 1798 in Providence, RI
Father: Jonathan ARNOLD b: 18 NOV 1708 in Providence, RI lived later in Smithfield
Father: Thomas ARNOLD b: 24 MAR 1675/76 in Providence, RI, husbandman, yeoman
Mother: Elizabeth BURLINGAME b: 9 JAN 1683/84
Mother: Abigail SMITH b: 10 Jun 1714 in Smithfield, Providence, RI
Father: Benjamin Smith b: ABT. 1672 in Providence, RI
Mother: Mercy Angell b: 1675 in Providence, RI
  1. Mercy Arnold (7 JAN 1739 - ____)
  2. Elizabeth Arnold (22 APR 1740 - 11 MAR 1815) prob m a cousin named Arnold as married name is also Arnold
  3. Richard Arnold (1 AUG 1741 - 19 OCT 1759) age 18
  4. Benjamin Arnold (4 DEC 1742 - ____)
  5. Welcome Arnold (25 JAN 1745 - 30 SEP 1798)
  6. Jonathan Arnold (28 AUG 1746 - NOV 1806)
  7. Asa Arnold (14 APR 1748 - 19 DEC 1833)
  8. Thomas Arnold (10 OCT 1751 - 8 NOV 1826)
  9. Abigail Arnold (7 MAY 1754 - ____)
Marriage 1 Patience GREENE b: 13 MAY 1754 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island
d: 2 Nov 1809 in Providence, RI
Married: 11 Feb 1773 in Warwick, RI by Elder John Gorton
Father: Samuel GREENE b: 28 Apr 1727 in Of Warwick, RI
Mother: Patience COOKE b: 18 Jan 1728 in Jamestown, Rhode Island
Children of Welcome Arnold and Patience Greene:
  1. Mary A. (Polly) ARNOLD b: 19 Apr 1774 in Providence, RI d 18 FEB 1851
  2. m Hon. Tristam BURGESS b: 26 FEB 1770
  3. Eliza ARNOLD b: Abt 1775 in Providence, RI Prob d. 3 OCT 1794 age 19
  4. Samuel G. ARNOLD b: 24 Apr 1776 in Providence, RI d 5 Sep 1778 age 2
  5. Samuel Greene ARNOLD b: 20 Jan 1778 in Providence, RI d 19 FEB 1826
  6. m Frances ROGERS b: 14 FEB 1786
  7. Welcome Jr. ARNOLD b: 1780 in Providence, RI d 15 JUL 1785 age 5
  8. Thomas ARNOLD b: 1782 in Providence, RI d 1783 age 1
  9. Harriet ARNOLD b: 1784 in Providence, RI d 1792 age 8
  10. Cornelia ARNOLD b: 1785 in Providence, RI d 23 MAY 1801 age 16 "after a lingering illness"
  11. Welcome Jr. ARNOLD b: Abt 1787 in Providence, RI
  12. George (Washington?) ARNOLD b: 1790 in Prov., RI prob d 16 SEP 1790 age 0
  13. Eliza Harriet ARNOLD bTWIN: 5 Oct 1796 in Providence, RI d 30 AUG 1873 m Zachariah Allen.  This Zachariah Allen was a famous inventor and industrialist in RI, and was long a president of the RI Historical Society.
  14. Richard James ARNOLD bTWIN: 5 Oct 1796 in Providence, RI d 7 MAR 1873 in GA m Louisa Caroline GINDRAT b: 8 APR 1804
Note that the custom of the time was to reuse names of deceased prior children (Eliza, Samuel, and Welcome Jr.)
We conclude that Welcome Arnold was involved in at least planning the raid on the Gaspee, and in all logical conclusion participated in the attack itself. We therefore acknowledge him as an American patriot.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 7/2003    Last Revised 07/2009      WelcomeArnold.htm