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who lived to be over eighty years of age were Job Steere, son of Jonah, a resident of Glocester and Scituate, who arrived at his eighty-ninth year. William Steere, son of William, died in 1881, aged eighty-nine. Smith Steere, son of Stephen, lived to be eighty-nine, and his sister Rizpah arrived at eighty-three. Mr. William Waterman Steere died on his farm in Johnston in 1886, in his eighty-ninth year. Mr. Harris Steere is now living (1886) with his son in Wisconsin in his eighty-ninth year. Samuel, who married Martha Colwell; Augustus, son of Robert; Samuel and Anna, children of Jonah and Lydia; Abel, Mary, Elisha, and Richard, children of Elisha; Zebedee Steere; Enoch and Daniel, sons of Zebedee; Hosea, son of Noah; Jeremiah 1st and Jeremiah 2d; Asahel, Abigail, and Anthony, children of Enoch 1st, and Riley, Samuel, Jonah, and Lucinda, children of Asa; also, William T., son of Jesse; Drusilla and Ada, daughters of Nehemiah.
Some of these aged ones have been remarkable for the enjoyment of good health, and especially for their wonderfully clear eyesight, not being obliged at all to use spectacles, although they were great readers.
The very hardships that were endured by the early settlers tended to the toughening of their sinews and to a fine muscular development. Frugal diet, open-air exercise, steady work, and habits of regularity strengthened their physical constitutions. They travelled on foot or horseback, and were obliged to ford most of the streams.' Carriages were a late invention in American civilization, and would have been useless in traversing the forest roads which existed when John Steere and his children settled in the new lands east or west of the seven mile line. Bridges were few and far between, and communication with relatives and friends was very uncertain and slow. Yet these pioneers had brave hearts and willing hands, and they "endured hardness as good soldiers." t Those whose lives were prolonged amid rural scenes and quiet, healthful associations have not lived in vain. Many of these aged pilgrims have left a strong and favorable impression upon society, both in church and state. Schools, institutions of learning, churches, libraries, etc., have been fostered by them. In the more wealthy colonies which enjoyed the advantages of direct communication
* "There was a ford across the Moshassuck five acres, on the east side of said river, joining to
River, nearly opposite Steeple Street." — Rev. E. M. the river at the west end of said land, then through
Stone, Thomas Harris' land and still westward through
t The first highway to Wayunkeath succeeding to the land of Edward Manton," crossing the "Ossathe muddy trails or bridle-paths of earlier date was pinsuck brooke" and running through Manton's laid out by William Hopkins and Thomas Olney, land westward or northwestward. The pioneers surveyors, who commenced to stake it out in the had planted themselves where they thought the soil beginning of April in the year 1703. This was in was most fertile, and advancing civilization pushed response to a request sent in to the town by the toward the remotest colonist the benefits of the corninhabitants of that section who wished to have a mon road, which, however like the Jordan of the song public way "to the Mill and to the Market." The "hard to travel," was vastly superior to the precedroad was laid out through the Wanesquetucket at ing Indian trail, the place commonly known as " Richard Clemence's
with England, larger provisions were made for schools, but Providence had from an early date private schools taught by men of some proficiency in learning, such as William Turpin and George Taylor, and the influence of Roger Williams, Gregory Dexter, and others must have been always sensibly felt in the direction of keeping up the means of education.'' On the lot of John Warner on Stampers' Hill was built the first Proprietors' school-house, probably as early as 1698.t The day of free schools and high grades of culture had not yet arrived, but the pedagogues of that early period were doubtless thorough, and made their power felt not only by severe discipline, but through the healthful moral influence they exerted in the forming periods of life over so many youth. Richard Steere, grandson of the Richard so long town clerk, was one of the incorporators of the Smithfield Academy in 1810, and was treasurer of the same. According to the common custom of that period, before the morality of the practice had been generally called in question or much discussed, the General Assembly gave that same year to certain parties the right to raise by lottery the sum of fifteen hundred dollars for the erection of a building for this academy. Such efforts were not, however, always successful, as in October, 1810, William Steere and others "made report to the Assembly that they had expended more money in building a meeting house, than they had received from a lottery." J Stephen Steere and Elisha Steere were among the number of those who were incorporated as the Smithfield Exchange Bank in June, 1822. About this date " Steere's Circulating Library " was in operation a quarter of a mile north of Smithfield Union Bank.
While not aiming to be leaders and not unwilling that others should occupy the fore-front, and
"Climb the steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar,"
not a few of the Steeres have been prominent in state and church, if not in official relations, yet as far as influence was concerned. Those who entered public political life carried with them their native spirit of independency and determination to follow what they conceived to be right principle and the best policy, and maintained these views, whether they found themselves in the majority or minority. In the Convention of Delegates held in South Kings
* A book in the possession of the Rhode Island Gregory Dexter), as appears by his autograph on
Historical Society, called "Record's Arithmctick or the pages. It is a volume also of great intrinsic
the Ground of Arts, teaching the perfect work and merit. Such a book may have furnished abundant
practice of Arithmetick, both in whole Numbers and material for the instruction of the youth in the family
Fractions, after a more easie & exact form than in or neighborhood schools of Providence. The New
former time, hath been set forth, by Dr Robert England Primer may also have found a place in the
Record, augmented by Mr John Dee," with a third schools of Rhode Island, as of the other colonies,
part by John Mellis, is a work of 629 pages, and f A. Holbrook. See " A map of the house Lotts
possesses a very curious interest, as printed (mostly In the Towne Street, Stampers' Hill," in chapter V.
in black letter) at the early date of 1654, and as hav- % Steere's History of Smithfield. ing belonged to John Dexter (probably son of Rev.
town in March, 1790, when the question of the adoption of the federal constitution was to be settled, Stephen Steere, Esq., and John Sayles, Esq., were the members for the county of Providence who voted in the negative. On the other hand, when the suffrage question was agitated, and the new constitution for the state was proposed, some of the important members of the family in Glocester and Smithfield were quite in advance of public sentiment, and advocated an extension of the suffrage. Stephen Steere, John Jenckes, and others were appointed as delegates to attend a convention at Providence held August 31, 1841, to frame a new constitution. The Steeres had an opinion of their own with reference to all these practical issues and public affairs, and because they were men of strong mind and "looked into things" their advice was sought and prized, and they insensibly exercised a wide influence. Though naturally reserved, on closer acquaintance this wore off, and their genial and generous qualities shone out.
Church privileges during the early colonial days of Rhode Island were of a very primitive character. So devout a man as Roger Williams must have felt it a duty to have held religious services on the weekly rest-day from the beginning of the settlement. Ordained in the Church of England, associated with Congregationalists in Massachusetts, he continued in the latter connection till the formation of the Baptist Church in Providence in 1639. Owing to his doubts as to the existence of any valid ministry on earth he, however, soon became "a seeker " of new light, yielding the ministerial office to other hands. The services of the Baptist Church were held for many years in summer in a grove and in stormy and cold weather at private houses. Tradition asserts that Roger Williams held many of his meetings in the Abbott house.t For some years, as far as can be gathered, various persons officiated in the preaching office, with considerable irregularity, as there was no house of worship built till 1700. It seems to have been from a very early period a Six-Principle Baptist Church, so called. There was a division about the question of the " laying on of hands," so that for a period there were two Baptist churches, one holding to the six principles and the other to the five principles. Rev. Thomas Olney was minister of the latter, which is said to have maintained its existence till 1715.I Rev. Chad Browne (ordained in 1642) held the relation of pastor for many years. The latter and his colleague, Rev. William Wickenden, were doubtless the accepted pastors of the oldest or six-principle church when John Steere made his first appearance in Providence, and it requires no stretch of imagination to believe that Mr. Steere attended the preaching services of his father-inlaw and took a deep interest in the church. No records of the early member
* Writes Mr. J. Wesley Steere, " Our family are t See illustration of this house in chapter X. all conservative, but very firm when their opinions % R. I. Hist. Soc. Coll., vol. 4, p. 115. are formed, and think well of their own."
ship of this church have come down beyond the names of the first twelve members. Rev. Gregory Dexter, a stationer and preacher from London, a man of some literary ability, succeeded Elder Wickenden in the pastoral office, dying in 1700 at the advanced age of ninety-one. Rev. Thomas Olney, Jr., who probably succeeded Mr. Dexter, died in 1722. Rev. Pardon Tillinghast, his successor, built, about the year 1700, at his own expense, the first meeting-house, which was situated on North Main Street, on the western side of the street, nearly opposite Star Street. This meeting-house and lot Elder Tillinghast deeded to the church in 1711. A new house was erected in 1726.* Rev. Ebenezer Jenckes, brother of Gov. Joseph Jenckes, was pastor of this six-principle church at the time of John Steere's death, but it is probable that the venerable patriarch, and his sons about him in Smithfield or Glocester, had become more particularly interested in the separate religious meetings which were established in the territory now known as Smithfield previous to 1706, and which originated in the desire for increased facilities for worship on the part of those members of the old Providence church and others who had removed into that quarter prior to the above dated Elder Jonathan Sprague % frequently preached to this branch, and the members increasing, an organization of a separate church was effected in 1706, and afterwards a house was erected, about one mile north of the Smithfield Academy. Probably this was the one erected in 1741 by subscription^ Elder Sprague died in 1741, aged 93. The creed of this church was signed by 51 males and 29 females. About 1756 this church built another meeting-house six miles west of the old edifice in Chepachet, Glocester. A subscription was made to build a Baptist church in Glocester in 1768.H Elder Peter Place, who followed Mr. Sprague as pastor, and who probably had been associated with him in preaching, as he was ordained in 1700, was a son-in-law of John Steere. Elder Joshua Winsor, a grandson of Roger Williams, ordained in 1718, doubtless often officiated in Smithfield before he succeeded Elder Place in his pastoral office.
Those of the Steeres who entered church relations became earnest workers, or at least have been regarded as faithful, consistent members. Their piety, however, was not of so sombre a cast as to lead them to neglect the social joys of life, or to despise pleasant intercourse with their neighbors, but rather of that
* Staples's Hist, of Providence, pp. 414, 415. our of God and their own conveniency to build there
t Knight's Hist, of the Six -Principle Baptists, a prayer house for that purpose; the which house is
p. 267. to be set on the lands now belonging to Capt. Elisha
% Author of the caustic letter to the Massachu- Hopkins adjoining to the country road: these are
setts Congregationalists, who, regarding Rhode Isl- therefore to desire all charitable and well disposed
and as missionary ground, offered to send some or- persons that are free and desirous to encourage or
thodox ministers to that colony. promote the building the Meeting house as is afore
§ "Whereas there is no convenient place for the said to subscribe their names and the sum they are
Baptized Church of Christ in the township of Gloces- free to allow." From Old MSS. Among the sub
ter to assemble themselves together to worship God scribers was Richard Steere for £5. in ; and they having concluded it is most for the hon- || Old MSS.
cheerful type that expressed itself in all appropriate ways in promoting the enjoyments of country life. In the olden time the inhabitants of Providence Plantations, being most of them united by family ties and close association, before any considerable immigration had entered from abroad, were very neighborly in their offices toward each other, and none more so than the Steere family. Amid the steady and grave pursuits which engrossed so much time, in the struggle with unconquered nature, rugged with rocks and rough with hillocks and wild with woods and tangled bushes, there were needed occasions of relaxation and merriment in which work (which was never to be entirely lost sight of) should be combined with amusement, when the pleasant anecdote and jovial joke might be followed by communications equally suggestive, and where the ample feast was spread for all the busy workers and talkers according to the fashion of the day. There was a heartiness about old-time pleasures not often connected with those in the more artificial state of society existing in modern times. House-raising bees attracted large companies of the strong-sinewed yeomanry, and great feats of strength were accomplished by the heroes of the occasion. A story is told of a certain John Steere, a man of few words but mighty deeds, ambitious to display his herculean power as well as to "steal a march" upon the rival party, — some neighbors who were also raising a building with the aid of many men, — that he rallied his few men while the others had gone away to enjoy the refreshment of the dinner hour, and almost raised his frame during their absence, and much to their surprise and chagrin.
Bush-cutting called together large gatherings. Corn-husking parties followed one after another during the autumnal season to enliven the dulness of work-life, when neighbors came together at each other's corn-yards, and when men vied with one another in accumulating the largest heap of husked corn and in telling the most wonderful stories of adventure. The youth had rare sport at such" time. Every red ear found was a prize to the fortunate finder, for it entitled him to the privilege of kissing a number of girls, or if found by a girl it involved her paying a forfeit. Sweet cider and other beverages of a stronger flavor and more stimulating nature and apples were served on such occasions, and a supper of pork and beans and other substantial viands, followed by pastimes, brought the gathering to a close.
The young people had also their apple-paring bees and kindred gatherings numerously attended by both sexes, which, after the needful labor lightened by agreeable companionship, and the serving of refreshments, were finished up with social entertainments, combining sports, dancing, etc., the elderly people who might be present, if not participating, looking on approvingly. As in the natural order of events, these frequent and pleasant gatherings of families were the occasions of bringing together in closer friendship those who were destined to be companions for years of after life, and, friendship ripened into love,