Monday, March 21, 2011

Col. William Richmond And Primus Collins Whom He Freed

 #346.  (COL.) WILLIAM RICHMOND 5 (William 4, Silvester 3, Edward 2, John 1) was born in Little Compton, R.I., August 20, 1727.  He married Hannah*, daughter of Samuel Gray, who was born in 1738 [1728 per this source], and died January 5, 1812.  He died September 23, 1807.

*Hannah Gray, daughter of Samuel & Hannah (Kent) Gray; Samuel was the son of Samuel (Sr.) & Deborah (Church) Gray.  Samuel (Sr) was the son of Edward & Dorothy (Lettice) Gray.

He (William Richmond 5) had no children, and gave his property to his nephew, William Richmond 6, second son of Sylvester Richmond 5.

At the convention of the Governor's Council, as supreme ordinary of the English colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at Newport, May, 1760, William Richmond, Esq., was one of ten Assistants of Gov. Stephen Hopkins.  He was one of the Representatives of the town in 1779; was first Deputy in 1780, '81, '88, '90, '93; Moderator of Town Meeting in 1777, '82, '83, '86, 87, '88 and '91; and on the Committee of Safety for the County of Newport.  He served in one or two campaigns in the Canada War, as Lieutenant under his brother, Col. Barzillai; was Lieutenant of a company sent against Crown Point in 1755, and Captain in Col. [Christopher] Champlin's regiment in 1756.  He had a command as Colonel in the Revolutionary War, and was Colonel of the State Brigade in 1776; was Military Governor of Newport at one time during the War.  He went on a military expedition to Long Island.  The British had penetrated to the east part o the Island, and he went, with a detachment of soldiers, from the Connecticut shore, and dispersed them.  Col. William Richmond and Gen. Barton, who surprised and took Prescott prisoner, were on terms of closest intimacy.  The General was accustomed to spend a part of the summer with Col. Richmond.

The Richmonds freed their slaves before the Revolution, and settled them in Dartmouth Woods.  The Richmond Farm, owned and occupied by Col. William Richmond, lies north of the farm now owned by Frederick Brownell, Esq. (which was formerly the property of Judge Perez Richmond), and extends from the road to the Seaconnet River.  Here Capt. Edward Richmond (first of the name) settled, died, and was buried.  His tombstone is still visible in the old family burying-ground.  This farm was in the possession of the family continuously until within a few years.  Rev. William Richmond of New York bought two and a half acres of land of Primus Collins, given to him by Col. Richmond, tore the old house down, and made the Richmond Farm complete as it was in the beginning before the Colonel's gift to Collins.

There is a noted and historical place on the farm called Awashonks' Rock, or Treaty Rock (named after Awashonks, the Queen Sachem of the Seaconnet Indians), where Col. Benjamin Church made his treaty with Awashonks in King Philip's War.  It was through his means and negotiations that the Indians of Seaconnet were induced to break off their alliance with the Sachem of Mount Hope*.  *The History of King Philip's War, by Col. Church's son, has this passage: "Col. Benj. Church made a treaty at a rock on the farm of Edward Richmond, with Awashonks, the Squaw Sachem of the Seconnets, which broke the power and heart of Melacomet."

The following is the inscription upon the tombstone in the old family burial place, located near the house:

"Col. Wm. Richmond, who having served his
country in several public stations for many
years, departed this life Sept. 23, 1807,
81 years of age."

Col. Richmond was a large man, with very white hair in his old age.  He was a gentleman of the old school, but jocose, liberal, and greatly beloved by his family and kindred.  He was wealthy, for the times, and one of the first men in the town, very active and public-spirited in all its affairs.  Many anecdotes are told of him and his slaves, of which the following may be interesting:

Once, in high party times, Col. Richmond was told by the presiding officer that his vote would be taken out of the ballot-box (though well known since boyhood to every man in the town), because he had not registered his name; the Colonel replied, "If you touch my vote, I shall come down with this cane on your head," at the same time holding the vote in his left hand and the rebellious cane in the right hand.  The officer attempted to extract the vote, and the cane came down and hindered the operation.  A row ensued, in the midst of which an unexpected combatant appeared.  Primus Collins, who had been honored with election to the negro governship of Rhode Island (an ancient custom in that State), and who was always called Governor Collins, was in the gallery.  The white of his eyes and of his teeth were soon visible, and exclaiming, "It is about time for this darkey to drop," he leaped from the gallery into the midst of the combatants, and by means of his black face, sudden appearance, and vigorous blows, scattered the opponents of "Old Master" right and left, and the vote remained undisturbed.

Primus Collins had been a slave of the Colonel, and was subject to twenty-five years' service, but he liberated him and afterwards gave him a farm.  Then he became a free voter, by the ownership of the land.  col. Richmond took him to the polls and told him to put in his vote.  The moderator forbade it, and said he had no right.  Col. Richmond drew up his cane, and with a loud voice declared, "That man shall vote"; and he became a voter until his death.  Afterwards, however, Isaac Wilbour (who was Chief-Justice and Member of Congress) of Little Compton, got the word "white" inserted in the statute respecting voting.  Col. Richmond had another slave named Saul, who had the entire supervision and control of his farm.  He found a negro woman and bought her, and had Saul marry her.  They had children, one of whom he gave to Rev. Mace Shepard, his minister, and others to some of his friends.  One was named Jeffries, in derision of the Chief-Justice of England.  Saul was complete master of ceremonies and affairs about the farm.  An ox could not be bought without his presence and counsel.  Mr. Shaw, a member of the Senate of Rhode Island from Little Compton, said of the Richmonds in Little Compton, "D__d proud family; they esteem their negroes better than common folks."

The Colonel was an ardent patriot and Revolutionist.  He resided at one time, about the commencement of the Revolutionary struggle, at the house of his brother Barzillai in Providence, who was a good Deacon, but timid and peace-loving, if he did not in his heart sympathize with the Tories.  The good man had family worship regularly every morning.  Three days passed.  The following morning the Deacon, as usual, had read the Scripture and was rising in order to pay, when the colonel caught up his famous and trusty cane, and raising it above his head, exclaimed, "Stop!" and added, "I have been her now three days, and every morning you have prayed and haven't mentioned the American Congress, nor prayed for the success of the American arms.  Now, by G_d, if you don't this morning, I'll knock you down with the cane when you say 'Amen'."  It is said the Colonel was not religious,--but he certainly believed in the efficacy of prayer, and his patriotism was beyond a doubt.

Primus Collins lived in Little Compton many years, and died February 7, 1858, aged eighty-one years.  He was highly esteemed, and was a worthy and pious man.  His daughter married Charles Simmons (in 1855, 1860), and lived at one time at the head of Middle Street, New Bedford, Mass. [Note: Primus Collins married Elizabeth Thomas 29 September 1799 in Little Compton, RI]

William Richmond was a Mayflower descendant (John Alden & Priscilla Mullins).

United States Census, 1850
Residence: Little Compton, Newport, Rhode Island
Birthplace: Rhode Island
Gender: Male
Race (expanded): Black

  Primus Collins M 73y
Betsey Collins F 72y
Lucy Collins F 48y

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