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In the year 1643 Chad Brown, Thomas Olney, William Field, and William Wickenden were sent as representatives from Providence to act as witnesses in the way of mediation between the Warwick settlers and the Massachusetts government, when the latter had sent its soldiery to arrest Gorton, Holden, Waterman, and others. Wickenden united with his associates in addressing a letter to the governor of Massachusetts, interceding for the settlers, their wives, and children. The letter in closing thus appeals to the sympathies of the persecutors: "Some of their wives and children (if a mournful spectacle might move you) do beg for a serious consideration of their husbands' and fathers' propose- tions, which if not hearkened unto, were like in man's eye, to be left miserable. We would they were able to write their own grief, which now in pity we have respect unto. Oh, how grievous would it be (we hope to you) if one man should be slain, considering the greatest monarch in the world cannot make a man; especially grievous, seeing they offer terms of peace. Sir, we know not how to end, nor what to say. We must abruptly leave, desiring your wisdom to cover our defects with love, and answer for us, if any shall challenge us." *
Under the first charter Mr. Wickenden was one of the delegates to the Assembly at Portsmouth in 1647. As one of eight of the principal settlers of Providence he subscribed his name to a paper dated December, 1647, inculcating a spirit of love and forbearance, and deprecating " causeless fears and jealousies of one another, self seekings and strivings one against another." The next year he was one of the first commissioners chosen for Providence to the General Assembly. He also held the office from 1651 to 1655 inclusive. The year 1665 he is noted as being made freeman. In 1664 and 1666 he was deputy. The town deputies, " it is supposed, composed the Town Court. They also had the power of laying out land to individual proprietors or purchasers." t
June 28, 1660, at a town meeting whereof Thomas Harris, Sen., was moderator, it was "Ordred that Wm Wickenden, Mr Sayles, John Browne, James Ashton, Samuel Bennet and Thomas Olney Junr should take into consideration and debate the matter how many may be accommodated within the Limitts of this plantation aloweing it sufficient quantity of comoning and bring in there Result to the Towne the next quarter."
In 1660 Mr. Wickenden was one of a committee to confer with the Pawtuxett men as to disputed territory; also to set the bounds of the plantation twenty miles from Fox Hill westward up in the country. The next year the same duty was assigned him, although the settlement of the matter was not finally made till some years later. For this service they were to be paid out of the common charge four shillings apiece a day every day they were out. Thus, as evidences of the great confidence reposed in him by his townsfolk, he was from time to time called to fill various responsible offices, being appointed with others
* Simplicitys Defence, pp. 107, 108. t Staples's Annals of Providence, p. 30.
to perform duties within the town, or as a member of committees to represent the town abroad in affairs relating to the other towns or the neighboring colonies. That he may have expressed sentiments unfavorable to the great change in England's government, involved in the overthrow of the monarchy, and afterwards have adopted more progressive views, might be inferred from his signing a document dated at Providence the 7th of the 1st mo., '52: "I do declare and promise that I will be true and faithful to the Commonwealth of England, as it is established, without a King or House of Lords." Eleven other of the prominent residents signed this, including John Brown, Arthur Fenner, and Gregory Dexter.
Mr. Wickenden's qualifications, and, we may believe, his general learning, were such that he was thought to be eminently fitted for the preacher's vocation, and he was called to become the associate of the Rev. Chad«Brown, who ordained him (it is stated in 1647) to the sacred office of the ministry. Mr. Brown died in 1665, and Mr. Wickenden survived him about five years. Rev. J. Comer's diary refers to the latter's going to Newport in company with the Rev. Gregory Dexter to administer the rite of imposition of hands to several persons who in 1656 had withdrawn from the first church in that place.
About 1656 Mr. Wickenden seems to have felt that he had a special mission to spread abroad Baptist principles, unpopular as such views were in the other colonies. Following this impression, he left the State where liberty of conscience was fully guaranteed, and turned his steps toward the southwest, where it was sadly imperilled. Perhaps the information had reached him concerning the morally destitute condition of Flushing, L. I. It is not unlikely that some Rhode Island people had settled there. At any rate, he wended his way thither, and found that the preacher of the Presbyterian Church had left his charge and gone to Virginia, because his people would not pay his promised stipend* The Dutch dominies in a report on this field represented that many of the people "became endowed with divers opinions and it was with them quot homines tot sentential As they had been for some years without a minister, it is not strange that Mr. Wickenden thought that this was a field needing earnest effort. The Dutch ministers spoke of him as "a cobbler from Rhode Island," and characterized him as a "fomenterof error," while he stated "that he was commissioned by Christ." The ministers further reported: "He began to preach at Flushing, and then went with the people into the river and dipped them. This becoming known here [i. e., at New York), the Fiscaal [public prosecutor] proceeded thither and brought him along. He was banished the province." Let us here refer to the causes of this persecution. Brodhead, in his "History of New York," t shows that the cause of this intolerance in New Netherlands was "ecclesiastical jealousy and a too rigid construction of official duty." It is certain
• Documentary History of New York, vol. 3, p. 106. t Vol. 1, p. 617.
that the metropolitan clergymen were largely responsible for it, and the director-general, Stuyvesant, was extremely bigoted. The latter, under the inspiration of his clerical teachers and Council, issued a proclamation, early in the year 1656, assuming " to promote the glory of God, the increase of the Reformed religion, and the peace and harmony of the country," forbidding preachers "not having been called thereto by ecclesiastical or temporal authority " from holding conventicles not in harmony with the established religion as set forth by the Synod of Dort, and subjecting such to a heavy fine, and also every person who should attend the prohibited services, at the same time disclaiming any intention of lording over the conscience or interference with domestic worship. Under this proclamation the Lutherans were fined. They complained to the West India Company, which speedily rebuked Stuyvesant, commanding him to "allow to all the free exercise of their religion within their own houses." Yet the authorities persisted in the wrong, and resolved to ask the "further interpretation of the West India Company." Unfortunately for Wickenden, they resolved also, while waiting for their answer, to enforce the ordinance against conventicles. Our worthy Rhode Island representative was preaching with much effectiveness at the house of the sheriff of the county, Mr. William Hallett, a native of Dorsetshire, who, we may suppose, had just a little of the feeling an Englishman might entertain at the unwarrantable oppressiveness of a foreign tyranny, always more exasperating than home rule, however odious. We learn from the documents in the case * that whereas William Wickenden, "a cobbler," had the " audacity to call to and hold conventicles and gatherings and in disobedience of published and repeatedly renewed placets of the Director-General and Council . . . has usurped the office of minister," preaching, administering sacraments, etc., he is condemned to a fine of one hundred pounds Flemish, and to remain in prison until the fine and costs of law shall have been paid. The decree is dated the 8th of November, 1656. Hallett, also, for allowing conventicles to be held in his house, was removed from his office and fined fifty pounds, and in default of payment was to be banished. Mr. Wickenden's fine, however, was remitted on the 11 th of the same month, on the ground that he was a very poor man with a wife and several children, " so that nothing can be obtained from him," and he was allowed to remove on condition that " if he is caught here again he must pay it." Benedict says that he was imprisoned four months, but there is no evidence of imprisonment except for a few days. Hallett's fine was also remitted, in answer to a petition of his townsmen. Mr. Wickenden returned from his self-denying labors with all the glory of a martyr to the freer atmosphere of Rhode Island, where his influence was always great and always on the side of peace and harmony, even to the sacrificing of his own interests. Rev. T. Backus, the church historian, gives an extract from a letter of Mr. Wickenden to Thomas Olney,
* Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, vol. 14, p. 370.
Sen., on the occasion of a difficulty about certain lands and Olney's uneasiness expressed in a letter to the town of Providence, as follows:
But further, if your fifty acres which you have chosen and laid out do not please you, and my fifty acres will please you better, I am free and willing for peace sake and to put an end to contention that you should have it, and I will take up another some where else, provided that you tell me within ten days after the date hereof and whereas you have not your meadow laid out, although the fault be yours, yet if my meadow will satisfy you I will part with it too for your accommodation, if the contention about this land may cease, but if this will not do I have no more. I can but part with all I have to procure common peace with you. These let whose will see I will own and my name is to
The name of Mr. Wickenden's first wife is unknown, nor is the date of her death recorded. She is referred to in the sentence decreed in New York in 1656, and was then living. On the 23d of December, 1663, he declared his intention of marrying with Eleanor Sheringham of Newport. He is said by Benedict and Knight to have removed some time during his later years from his home on the Neck to a place called Solitary Hill,* the property on which he had resided possibly being occupied by his son-in-law, John Steere, to whom he afterwards bequeathed it.
The last year of his life was saddened by the tragic death by drowning of his daughter Ruth with her husband Thomas Smith, in the Pawtuxet River, which he was attempting to cross upon the ice on the night of January 16, 1670. In seeking his rescue, Mrs. Smith also lost her life. The testimony of their little son John Smith, at the coroner's inquest, on the 18th of January 16^, on the Warwick records, is very pathetic in its simple recital of the incident. That this event was a shock from which Mr. Wickenden never recovered, we may well believe, as in anticipation of his own decease he made his will (it would seem with his own hand) February 20, i6£, about a month after his daughter's death, and died on the 23d February following. He bequeathed certain property to his children, and made provision for his wife and also for the orphaned grandchildren. He expressed, in his will, the wish to be buried by his former wife, and closed with the words, " I cease from this world, and yet hope for a better." This
* Tradition says that this bill received its name rested and passed a very gloomy, lonely night, and
from Roger Williams. After he made his first en- because of the solitary situation amid the hills, in the
trance to the new settlement, he travelled westward morning gave it the name of "Solitary Hill," which
crossing the Moshassuck and Wanasquatucket rivers it bore for a long period among the older inhabitants
and came to a hill which was situated near the south of Olneyville. — From Wilkinson MSS. part of the present village of Olneyville. It was an This hill has since been dug away to the common
abrupt declivity covered with trees. Here Williams level.
will is not found upon the public records, although probably put upon some of the lost pages or volumes once existing in Providence, but what seems to be the original is found in a very dilapidated condition on file in the office of the town clerk of Warwick.
Thus passed away a singularly pure character and faithful Christian minister, who devoted many years to the promulgation of the principles of the gospel as he ardently and conscientiously understood them.
Mr. Wickenden's rights in the divisions of common property in Providence still remained after his death, and on the 6th of May, 1673, there was laid out to his heirs one lot not far from Lawrence Wilkinson's cellar on both sides of the Moshassuck River, in length easterly and westerly 160 poles, and in breadth northerly and southerly 60 poles. On the 18th of April, 1692, there was laid out, in the original right of William Wickenden, unto William Smith (a grandson), sixty acres of land upon exchange and nineteen acres as to the third part a fifty acre division and a six acre and a half division, all making 79 acres on both sides of the Wanasquatucket River between Nonplus Hill and Clemence Meadow.
I. Ruth, m., about 1660, Thomas Smith.
Children: John, Thomas, William, and Joseph.
Providence in New-England, this 20th of the 12th month '69 Cor 1670].
The Will & Testament of William Wickenden is as followeth, viz.
ffirst, my Will is. That my Wife Ellinor shal have all those goods which she brought with her unto me, wch are yet remayning.
Secondly, my will is, that my said Wife shall have this my house to dwell in while she liveth. Memorandum (in margin) that my . . . my wife's decease that my house and all . . . my house, being eight acres together . . . and panty shall be for the use of ... & motherless children, viz: John [Thomas, William, and Joseph] Smith.
Thirdly, my Will is, that my said wife shall have half the ffruit trees in my Orchard, whch side She pleaseth to take the fruit thereof . . . [dur]ing her life
ffourthly, my Will is that my said wife shal have also half the planting Land for her life.
ffifthly, my Will is that my said wife shall have the Cow & Heifer called old & young Bonner, for her prop . . . cattel.
Sixth, my Will is that my said Wife shal have my meddow at Masha[paug] ... as she pleaseth.