Family Legend Proves True!

In my last post, I noted that we would be coming back to Mercy (Williams) Randall’s line. As I researched the Randalls, I accidentally came across the confirmation of an old family story: that we were descended from Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. My paternal grandmother always bragged about it, but my mother distrusted the story. When I started my research, I assumed that the connection would be through my ancestor John Williams (makes sense, right?), but I couldn’t get past his parents, who lived in New York State. When I hit Mercy during my Randall research, I quickly found out it was she who was descended from Roger!

Most of what I present here is based on the genealogy presented on the Roger Williams Family Association‘s website, with some help from Find a Grave and Google books. We’ll start with the progenitor himself, Roger Williams.

Roger Williams statue at Roger Williams University (actually fashioned after baseball player Ted Williams!). Author's collection.

Roger Williams statue at Roger Williams University (actually fashioned after baseball player Ted Williams!). Author’s collection.

Roger was born around 1604 in England. He married Mary Barnard on December 15, 1629. (She was born September 24, 1609 in Nottinghamshire.) His theological disagreements with the Church of England led them to leave Bristol, England aboard the ship Lyon on December 1, 1630, arriving in Nantasket, Plymouth Colony (today’s Hull, MA) on February 2, 1631 (some sources say February 5). Roger’s reputation as a separatist and an anabaptist sympathizer did not sit well with the authorities over the churches he worked in (Salem, then Plymouth, and back to Salem again). Finally in 1635, the General Court in Boston convicted Roger of “sedition and heresy” and said he must be banished. This led Roger to a friendship with some natives and the respectful purchase of land from them in 1636. Roger’s family and other followers of his joined him in the new settlement called Providence.

Roger Williams and other settlers are credited with founding what is now known as the First Baptist Church in America. In true Roger Williams fashion, he did not remain long with this church, but did stay in the area, continuing to preach and promote religious freedom. (In fact, the current mission of the First Baptist Church ends with, “What Roger Williams established is still worth standing for.” I love that!)

First Baptist Church of America (current building). Courtesy Wikipedia.

First Baptist Church of America (current building). Courtesy Wikipedia.

Roger’s wife Mary died in 1676 and Roger died on April 1, 1683, and it seems that they are buried in the now historic Williams Family Cemetery in Providence, Providence County, RI. They had six children, the first two of whom were born in Salem and the remainder in Providence.

  • Mary, born August 1633; married John Sayles in 1650 in Providence; died 1681 in Newport (now Middletown), RI; buried at Easton Lot, Middletown, Newport County, RI (the Family Association shows her death as 1684, but her gravestone is clearly marked 1681).
  • Freeborn, born October 4, 1635; married Thomas Hart in 1662 and Walter Clarke on March 6, 1683 in Newport; died January 10, 1710; buried at Clifton Burying Ground, Newport, Newport County, RI.
  • Providence, born September 16, 1638; never married; died March 1686; buried Williams Family Cemetery (there is no gravestone).
  • Mercy, born July 15, 1640; married Resolved Waterman in 1659 in Providence, then Samuel Winsor on January 2, 1676; died September 19, 1705; buried Williams Family Cemetery (there is no gravestone).
  • Daniel, born February 15, 1641; married Rebecca Rhodes on December 7, 1676 in Providence; died May 14, 1712; buried Williams Family Cemetery (there is no gravestone).
  • Joseph, born December 12, 1643…

So far I only can find two interesting stories about Joseph. One is from a letter written by Roger to the governor of Connecticut while Joseph was still a teenager: Roger stated that Joseph was having bouts of epilepsy, which they had treated with tobacco! (Did he become a smoker after that?) The other story, based on his epitaph, was that he fought in King Philip’s War. I don’t know any details of his service, however. (It’s sad to see that the relations with the natives did not remain amicable.)

Joseph married Lydia Olney on December 17, 1669 in Providence. Lydia was the daughter of another original settler of Providence, Thomas Olney. Joseph died on August 17, 1724 and Lydia followed a few short weeks later on September 9. Their clear gravestones are in the Williams Family Cemetery.

  • Joseph and Lydia’s children were:
  • Joseph, born September 26, 1670; died before November 10, 1673.
  • Thomas, born February 16, 1671/72 in Providence; married Mary Blackmar circa 1700; married Hannah Sprague after 1717; died August 27, 1724 in Providence; buried Williams Family Cemetery (there is no gravestone).
  • Joseph, born November 10, 1673 in Providence (more on him below).
  • Mary, born June 1676; married Obediah Brown(e).
  • James, born September 24, 1680 in Providence; married Elizabeth Blackmar (Mary’s sister) circa 1703 in Providence; died June 25, 1757; buried Williams Family Cemetery.
  • Lydia, born April 26, 1683; died 1717 (and as far as I can tell, never married).

The younger Joseph (born 1673) also married a woman named Lydia – Lydia Hearnden (also called Herenden or Harrington). We will call her Lydia H. to avoid confusion with her mother-in-law. Joseph died August 15, 1752 in Providence and Lydia H. in March 1761 in Cranston (since Cranston was formed in 1754, I assume this was not a move). They are listed as buried in the Williams Family Cemetery.

Joseph and Lydia H. had a large family, and their children were:

  • Mercy, born circa 1700 in Providence; married William Randall on April 14, 1720 in Providence.
  • Jeremiah, born April 10, 1698; married Abigail Mathewson, December 24, 1735 in Providence; died April 30, 1789 in Cranston.
  • Mary, born 1702 in Providence; married Francis Atwood, circa 1722.
  • Lydia, born circa 1706 in Providence; married Joseph Randall on March 17, 1726 in Providence.
  • Martha, born circa 1708 in Providence; married John Randall circa 1725.
  • Barbara, born circa 1712 in Providence; married Benjamin Congdon, circa 1731/32; died 1786 in Cranston.
  • Patience, born 1714; married Samuel Dyer in Johnston; died 1774.
  • Freelove, born circa 1719 in Providence; married John Dyer, November 23, 1739 in Providence; died April 1775; buried at what is now St. Ann’s Cemetery in Cranston.
  • Jemima, born in Providence; married Benjamin Potter on December 25, 1735 in Providence; died November 1796.
  • Meribah, married Jabez Brown on October 5, 1730.

And so the Roger Williams connection has been made. I just wish I knew as much about his descendants in my line as I do about him, but that is for further research, I guess!

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The Randall Line: From Immigration to George

Now that I have less information on my Randalls, I thought I would give a quick fly-over of the generations between the first Randall in the new World up to George W. Randall, who I covered in my last post. I will just be covering my direct line, not the collaterals. Here we go!

The first Randall was William Randall born circa 1609 in England (thought to be in London, though that may be just where he sailed from). He was the son of Simon Randall and Jane Stephens. When William was 26, he immigrated aboard the ship Expectacon on April 24, 1635. The ship landed in Providence, RI, but William ended up settling in Scituate, MA.

It was in Scituate around 1640 where William married Elizabeth Barstow, daughter of Matthew Barstow and Isobel Hill. She was born around 1619 near Halifax, Yorkshire, England. (Some sources believe that William’s wife’s name was Elizabeth Carver; if anyone has proof arguments in this case, please let me know!) Elizabeth died on December 24, 1672 and William on October 13, 1693, both in Scituate.

William and Elizabeth had a son named William, who was born December 1647 in Scituate. This William moved to Rhode Island and settled in Providence, in the area that is now Cranston, RI (which did not become a town until 1754). He had a grist mill on the west bank of the Pocasset River. He married Rebecca Fowler circa December 1674 or 1675. Rebecca was the daughter of Henry Fowler and Rebecca Newell and was born 1656 in Providence. William died April 11, 1712 and Rebecca on March 23, 1730. It is interesting to note that on October 24, 1702, William freed ” his negro slave” named Peter Palmer for his good service, “to be his own man at his own disposing.” This is my first knowledge of any slave-holding ancestors in my family. I’m glad that William freed Peter, and I wonder whatever became of him.

William and Rebecca were the parents of a son named William, who was born on September 10, 1675 in Providence. It seems that he, like his father, was a miller. He married Abial Wight (who was born on October 8, 1675) on October 8, 1693 (what a birthday present!). William died on July 8, 1742 and Abial on September 2, 1753. Both are buried at St. Ann’s Cemetery, which is located in Cranston. St. Ann’s is obviously a Catholic Cemetery and it was established in the 1850’s. It is a very large cemetery and abuts, among other things, Randall Pond. Perhaps William owned this portion of land and it had become the family cemetery (several generations of their descendants are buried here).

William and Abial had their own son named William (the last one for this line – I promise!), born circa 1695. He married a woman named Mercy Williams (also born around 1695) on April 14, 1720. Her parents were Joseph Williams and Lydia Hearnden (or Herenden or Harrington), and we will be revisiting them in a later post!

I have no idea about William and Mercy’s deaths and burials, but they had a son named Joseph (I assume named after Mercy’s father) circa 1728 in Knightsville, which is a section of current-day Cranston. He married Abigail Westcott (or Westscott) (born circa 1732) in 1750. They eventually moved to Johnston, Providence County, RI where Joseph died on November 25, 1775 (I don’t have a death date for Abigail). As I stated in my post about their son George, their place of burial was moved to Woodlawn Cemetery in Johnston, where generations of Randalls now lie.

Fifth Great-Grandparents Gorton Bailey Randall and Mary Ann Gardiner: Daughtering Out

Gorton Bailey Randall was born on September 5, 1813 in Johnston, Providence County, RI, the fourth son and seventh child of George W. Randall and Betsey W. Keene. On December 15, 1836 he married Mary Ann Gardiner (or Gardner) in Providence, Providence County, RI. Mary Ann was the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth (“Betsey”) Gardiner and was born on March 18, 1814 in North Kingstown, Washington County, RI. Sadly, that is all I know about her family.

Gorton and Mary Ann lived in Johnston through about 1852 when they moved to Providence. I assume they must have done so to be closer to Gorton’s work at Peck’s Wharf on the Providence River, which flowed into Narragansett Bay. Gorton worked as a cooper, which is a barrel maker. For a period during the early 1860’s, Gorton also worked with his older brother James. From what I can see, Peck’s Wharf had a variety of businesses that must have had need of barrels for shipping out from the wharf.

Stereoscope of the Providence River with wharves.  Courtesy New York Public Library.

Stereoscope of the Providence River with wharves. Courtesy New York Public Library.

Gorton and Mary Ann ended up having a large family – a total of eight daughters! It seems that each one had faced their fair share of tragedy or difficulty:

  • Mary Elizabeth, born August 7, 1837, who I’ve written about here.
  • Catherine June (“Kate”), born March 2, 1839, married Harvey T. Cooley on June 10, 1860 in Providence. They had two children: Minnie Emma, born 1860, and Charles B., born 1863. Harvey passed away on August 20, 1874 and little Charles sometime before 1880. Kate and Minnie were able to live with Gorton and Mary Ann, but not for long: Kate died on February 20, 1883 and Minnie on June 11, 1887. Kate, Harvey and Minnie were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Johnston. (I don’t know where Charles is buried.)
  • Harriet, born May 6, 1840 and died February 20, 1842. Her grave is in Woodlawn Cemetery.
  • Abigail (“Abby”), born December 7, 1841; married Charles G. Hendrick (sometimes listed as Kendrick) on February 12, 1870 in Providence. For some reason, Abby lived separate from Charles with her parents that following June 20th. They were back together, however, by the 1885 Rhode Island Census in East Greenwich, Kent County, RI. (There is an entry in Find-a-Grave, stating that Abby was married to Robert T. Kenyon; however, based on various census data, that was a different Abby Randall.)
  • Harriet Sanford, born June 4, 1843; married May 27, 1863 to Benjamin F. Brown. They had five children, the two oldest of which died as young teenagers. Harriet died in 1924 and is buried with Benjamin in Woodlawn Cemetery.
  • Georgiana (“Anna”), born December 24, 1844; married Albert Eddy on May 7, 1864 in Providence. They appear to have separated by 1880 and were likely divorced at some point. Anna supported herself as a dressmaker and later lived with her single younger sister Nellie. She died on April 19, 1927 in Providence and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.
  • Emma E., born circa 1848 and died before 1860. The only evidence I have of her life is her presence on the 1850 Census.
  • Nellie Gorton, born February 1, 1861. [Yes, this was a long time after Emma was born, but as far as I can find, Nellie was Gorton and Mary Ann’s daughter.] According to Aunt Genie (whose sister-in-law Altie May (Williams) Atwell apparently boarded with Gorton’s family at one time), Nellie was “tall and pretty”, but an invalid later in life. Perhaps Georgiana helped care for Nellie. Nellie died on September 4, 1932, supposedly in Stamford, Fairfield County, CT. She, like the rest of the family, was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Mary Ann died on June 7, 1887 in Providence, just four days before her granddaughter Minnie Cooley; perhaps they had the same illness? Gorton died on August 25, 1891. Both he and Mary Ann were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. One of these days, I need to visit the cemetery and pay my respects to this big branch of my family.

Third Great-Grandparents John Wesley and Mary Elizabeth (Randall) Williams

Normally, I would go on to write about my great-great grandmother Altie May (Williams) Atwell, but much of her story is covered in my post about her husband. I can say that prior to marrying William Armstrong Atwell, she was employed as a boxmaker. She also has the distinction of being doubly enumerated in the 1880 Census: first boarding in Providence with the Denison Reynolds family, then later in June with her own family in Johnston, Providence County, RI. So I will move on to her parents, who may give a better background on Altie’s life.

The only source I have for the origins of John Wesley Williams is the book Randall and Allied Families, which states that he was born on April 25, 1837 in Cambridge, Washington County, NY to Jason and Lucy Williams. The 1840 Census does show a Jason Williams in Cambridge whose household does have a male under the age of six, so I have no reason to doubt this source.

Randall and Allied Families also states that John married Mary Elizabeth Randall on December 5, 1859. This fact, too, is supported by their presence in the 1860 Census, marked as having been married within the year. Mary was the oldest child of Gorton Bailey Randall and Mary Ann Gardiner. She was born on August 7, 1837 in Providence, Providence County, RI. Although the 1860 Census states that John was a painter, every other record I’ve found (directories, censuses) shows him to be a mason. This has made it easier to pick him out from other John Williams in the area.

The Williamses ended up having three children:

  • Altie May, born November 30, 1863 in Providence.
  • Charles Weston, born February 26, 1869; married Mary Elizabeth Pilou (or at least, that is the only spelling I’ve found) on June 19, 1890; occupied as a house painter; died April 21, 1926.
  • Harry Clinton, born January 13, 1874; married Catherine _____ in 1897; occupied as a sign painter.

Sometime between 1880 and 1885, John and Mary separated. The a885 Census seems to indicate that Mary had custody of Charles and Harry (although that census does not list family units – just individual names – Mary is listed as head of household). As I’ve written before, Mary lived for a time with her daughter’s family during the 1890s.

In the 1900 Census she lived with her son Harry and his wife, and her marital status is shown as widowed. At first I thought that John had died, but the 1903 and subsequent city directories show him as living with his son Charles and his family. In fact, the 1910 Census states that he was divorced! (The truth comes out!) I later found out that stating that one was widowed kind of avoided the social stigma as being known as divorced, so that explains Mary’s status.

Just these little bits of information raise so many questions for me: Why divorce after about twenty-five years of marriage (especially in the 1800s)? How did this impact Altie May and her later divorce from William? Since John and Mary each were living with different sons, how did that affect Charles’ and Harry’s relationship?

John passed away on October 14, 1918 (I assume in Providence). So far, I haven’t been able to tell where he is buried. Mary died on June 20, 1919 in Providence and is buried with her parents and other ancestors in Woodlawn Cemetery, Johnston County, RI.