GaspeeVirtual Archives
William Mumford, Esq.

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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 William Mumford, Esq.

From: <> p. 98
The Admiral also delivered to the commissioners, a list of persons who reside in Providence as material witnesses relative to the assembling of the people prior to the attacking the Gaspee, in consequence of which they ordered a summons to be issued for John Andrews, Esq., John Cole, Esq., Daniel Hitchcock, Esq., and George Brown, Attorneys at Law, and Arthur Fenner and James Sabin, to attend on Wednesday next at 11 o'clock, which was issued accordingly. The summonses were delivered to Samuel Dark, who was sent as express by the commissioners at 20 minutes after 3 o'clock.
From <> p.69.  Arthur Fenner to Governor Wanton, relative to the Gaspee

PROVIDENCE, Jan. 19, 1773.
HONORABLE SIR:—I received a citation, signed by you and a number of other gentlemen, commanding my attendance at the Colony House in Newport, on the twentieth day of January instant, to give in evidence to what I know relative to the attacking, taking and plundering his Majesty's schooner called the Gaspee, &c.; in consequence of which I now inform you, that I am a man of seventy-four years of age, and very infirm, and at the time said schooner was taken and plundered, I was in my bed, and I knew nothing of it until next day; and as for my not attending as commanded, I must plead my age and infirmity in excuse.
                        From your most obedient friend and humble servant,
To the Honorable JOSEPH WANTON, Esq.

Aha!  For this above to be true the subpoena intended for Arthur Fenner, the Clerk in the Supreme Court of Providence, must have been given instead to his father, Arthur Fenner [Sr]. (1699-1788). It's likely that the Commissioners did not know there was more than one Arthur Fenner of Providnce when the subpoena was issued. Arthur Fenner was given his subpoena by William Mumford, Esq. Jr.  Mumford being a lawyer (and John Cole's business partner, and later Col. Daniel Hitchcock's law partner), surely must've known that there was more than one Arthur Fenner in Providence.  By intentionally misdirecting the subpoena to the wrong man, Mumford was taking advantage of an old trick mastered by the Irish to frustrate the British bureaucracy by giving many family members the same name.  William Mumford was deposed by the Commision on June 5th, 1773, ascertaining that he did, indeed, deliver the summons to Arthur Fenner, (and charged for his services).  But he apparently did not relate to the Commissioners that there was more than one gentleman by that name....Mumford kept mum [ick].  Mumford's deposition is the only item of record held by the RI State Archives that was not published in either Staples' or Barlett's collection of Gaspee papers.  We dutifully inquired about this with the RI State Archives, but they reported that it was merely a case of Mumford's deposition being unglorifully glued into a spot were the previous compilers could not access it. We can only guess as to why the subpoena was delivered by William Mumford rather than by Samuel Dark, who had delivered subpoenaes to the other men mentioned  And just who Samuel Dark was, we have no idea.
Biographical Information:

We glean from the Early American Newspapers collection through NEHGS that a William Mumford, Jr. was selling currants and Barcelona neckerchiefs out of his shop in Newport in January 1764. Capt. William Mumford's 17 year old son, Elisha, was drowned in a shipping accident in August 1764.  In 1764-1767 Captain William Mumford, Esq of Newport was part owner (along with business partner, and fellow Gaspee co-conspiritor John Cole,  Esq.) of a rope-walk used in rope making somewhere in Providence, and they were selling also, as part of the deal, two negro slaves experienced in rope making.  In Oct. 1771 a house in Newport was being sold by a Samuel Chace that was occupied by a William Mumford..  In the 27April1772 ed of the Newport Mercury, there is laid out a pissing match between Gaspee raider Simeon Potter of Bristol with a William Mumford, who had apparently advertised Potter's brig Africa as up for auction over seaman's back wages.  In 1776 William Mumford was secretary of a bankruptcy hearing panel, and in 1778 through 1780 he was clerk for the RI Council of War.  In September 1780 a notice was published related to the confiscation of Tory property, one such property adjoining the land in South Kingstown of a William Mumford, deceased. In June 1824 we note that a William Mumford was appointed within Providence as a Justice of the Peace, and in 1828 a William Mumford, age 89 was noted to have visited the polls in Providence

John Cole's estate administration notice was published in January1778 by William Mumford, Esq, and advertized for sale Cole's extensive library of law books.

One interesting vignette is captured by author Charles Rappleye in his new book Sons of Providence:  The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the Revolution (Simon & Schuster, 2006) p51 in a letter from Nicholas Brown to Moses Brown of 26December1763 in which Brown acusses Mumford of complaining about the legitamacy of cargo manifests used by the Browns in illegally smuggling shipments of molasses into Rhode Island,
Doubtless you'll have heard that Bucklin got entered without any objection (except what made by that pussy William Mumford who said the paperes was the same sort as C. Sheldon's). The captain of the Man of War was present with all the other officers--pray talk with old with old Mr. Mumford about this and some others as your prudence will direct. He (youg Mumford) ain't out of reach of wanting the favors of this town.  Captain Cooke and others here resent it very much and say he must be taught better by some means or other...

In the 20May1775 Providence Gazette fellow Gaspee co-conspritor Daniel Hitchcock, Esq. advertised that he would be taking a leave of absence, and that his law practice would be assumed by his new partner, William Mumford, Esq

According to the 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers, a John Mumford was listed as "See John Wilson, VI-B-5"  Although not placed on the map, this location corresponds to the North end of town, somewhere near the Old North Burial Ground.

From, we note that a William Mumford was among the first officers elected by the Artillery Company of Newport in 1744, and that there were several Mumford families in Newport in the early 18th century.  A John Mumford was owner of the privateer General Gates in 1780 according to Edward Field in State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century:  A History.  Boston, Mason Publishing Co. 1902, Vol II, pp424-430 List of Privateersmen from Providence.  We also note that for Kent County in 1776 a Gideon Mumford, Esq. was Justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, and that a Stephen Mumford, Esq. was clerk of the Superior Court.  In 1780 a Paul Mumford was elected State Assistant (equivalent to State Senator), and was also appointed Justice of the Superior Court, and in 1785 was appointed RI representative to the US Congress but did not serve, and in 1803-1805 was Lieutenant Governor under Arthur Fenner.  He died in office in 1805 (as did Governor Fenner).

Genealogical notes:

There is only one William Mumford listed with the possible correct dates in the RI Historical Cemeteries database:
MUMFORD, WILLIAM 1738c - 15 JUL 1830 CY109

Hmmm...He lived to be 92 and was buried in Coventry, RI.. There was an Ann Mumford of Westminster Street in Providence, "Relict of the late William Mumford" who died c20October1811 at age 37, making her dates (c1774-1811).

We note that the son of Gaspee raider Benjaim Lindsey, Ralph, married a Joanna Mumford in 1799 in Ashford, CT.

We know nothing else.
We present William Mumford, Esq. as an unindicted co-conspiritor in the Gaspee Affair, guilty of obstruction by intentionally misdirecting a subpoena. In doing this, we acknowledge him as a patriot to the cause of American independence.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 5/2006    Last Revised 07/2009    WilliamMumfordEsq.htm