Raymond Adams Rhode Island State Guard Discharge – 1946

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     To learn more about Raymond Adams, click here: https://smithapplebyhouse.org/senator-raymond-e-adams/

     To learn more about the Rhode Island State guard, click here: https://smithapplebyhouse.org/history-of-the-rhode-island-state-guard/

 

Benjamin Curtis Estate – 1814

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Elisha Mowry Estate Document – 1793

Elisha Mowry was born C. 1736, and served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 2nd Regiment of the Providence Co. Militia during the American Revolution.  He passed away on June 8, 1792, and is buried in the Whipple-Mowry Lot in Lincoln, R. I.  To see a photo of his grave, click here: https://rihistoriccemeteries.org/newgravedetails.aspx?ID=128548 

The executors of his estate were his sons, Ahab and Sylvester Mowry.  https://rihistoriccemeteries.org/newgravedetails.aspx?ID=128423

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New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Train Pass – 1906

     Walter Alston Mowry, Sr., (1865 – 1955), buried in Union Cemetery in North Smithfield, R. I.

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James Appleby Quit Claim Deed – 1814

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Caleb Aldrich to James Appleby Deed – 1784

     Caleb Aldrich, born circa 1726, died, November 8, 1809.  He’s buried in the Old Aldrich Burial Ground in North Smithfield, R. I.  He served in the Revolutionary War.  

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Smithfield, R. I., Indentured Servant Contract – 1761

Mary Daly to James Appleby.

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A Steamboat Called Rhode Island – 1836

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine – June, 2021

A Steamboat Called “Rhode Island” – another forgotten tale of New England

By Jim Ignasher

    The first successful steamboat was perfected by Robert Fulton in 1807, and by the 1830s commercial steamboats were navigating the waters of Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay on daily runs from New York to Providence. One of them was the Rhode Island, a “boat” with an interesting story which has all but been forgotten.

     The Rhode Island was built in 1836 for the Boston & New York Transportation Company. She was 211 feet long, 28 feet wide, with 170 berths, and was considered large and luxurious for the time. She was also considered fast, powered by a single 350 hp. engine that could take her from New York to Providence in a mere twelve-and-a-half hours. The cost of a one-way ticket was five dollars.

     The Rhode Island’s first captain was Seth W. Thayer, an experienced officer from Seekonk, Massachusetts, who’d previously commanded the steamboat Providence.

     Shortly after going into service, the Rhode Island gained widespread notoriety due to an onboard gold heist. On the night of September 19, 1836, the Rhode Island left Providence bound for New York with a keg full of gold coins valued at $39,000 – a huge fortune at the time. The gold belonged to a Boston bank, and had been locked in the captain’s office for safe keeping, but when the boat arrived in New York it was discovered that the keg was empty!

     Police speculated that someone had entered the office by climbing down the side of the boat and crawling through the outboard window. By the time the theft was discovered some passengers had already departed, and a search of the boat found nothing. Why a guard had not been employed to accompany the gold was not stated.

     Theories ranged form professional criminals to an “inside job”. Two weeks later, most of the gold was recovered by accident when the ship’s chief engineer went to oil the engine and discovered four bags of the missing gold at the bottom of a half-full oil drum. The rest was recovered after suspicion fell to two members of the crew.

     The following month the Rhode Island was heading to New York when she collided with the sloop Eliza Nichols. One woman was killed, and two passengers were seriously injured.

     It should be noted that in a time before modern navigational aids, collisions between ships on Long Island Sound were fairly common.

     In February of 1838 seven workers were severely scalded by a ruptured steam valve as they were cleaning the Rhode Island’s boilers while in port. It was uncertain if they would live.

     Later that year, the Rhode Island was involved in a collision with the ship John W. Richmond, but there was no loss of life.

     Two years later a passenger’s leg was crushed when he fell into an unguarded portion of the ship’s machinery.

     In 1842 a lawsuit was brought against Captain Thayer by millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt over damage caused to the steamboat Kosciuske during a collision with the Rhode Island on March 3rd. The two boats had been racing each other at the time, and the jury couldn’t decide who was at fault so the case was dismissed.

     In October of 1842 it was reported that a band of professional pick-pockets had relieved several passengers of their valuables. Three “suspicious” looking men were detained and searched, but nothing was found. However, the New York Police were well acquainted with the individuals and their “street names”; “Sheeney”, Jem Rose”, and “Dumpsy Diddledum”. The valuables were subsequently recovered.

     During a storm in November of 1846 the Rhode Island was driven aground in shallow water off Huntington, Long Island. Heavy seas breaking across her decks made it impossible to launch lifeboats. No lives were lost, but the danger of the ship breaking apart was real.

     It was also in 1846 that Captain Thayer left the Rhode Island to command the steamboat, Governor, but a short time later took command of the newly built Oregon. He died in 1848 of typhus.

     In September of 1849, with the California Gold Rush gaining momentum, the Rhode Island was purchased by a group of investors who intended to establish service to San Francisco. She began her first westbound voyage on January 25, 1850, but four days later broke apart in rough seas off Bermuda. Of the 44 passengers and crew aboard only 12 were saved.

     One unlikely survivor of the sinking was the 200 lb. ship’s bell. It was found months later floating at sea by the whaling ship Elizabeth, still attached to a crossbeam and section of decking which was apparently buoyant enough to keep it afloat. The bell was recovered and brought to Massachusetts. The maker was James Allaire of New York, who confirmed it was the one made for the Rhode Island. What became of the bell is unknown.

     In 1873, the Providence & Stonington Steamship Company christened a new steamship which they named Rhode Island, but that’s a story for another day.

Waity Appleby, Smithfield, R. I.

Waity S. Appleby Shaw, born May 18, 1814, died, March 20, 1853.  Buried at North Burial Ground in Providence, R. I. 

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/125333017/waity-s-shaw

Letter is dated June 26, 1836.

Abbie E. Sargeant Diploma – 1897

Abbie Sergeant lived at the Smith-Appleby House, and is buried on the grounds. 

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