Richard Smith

Smith's Castle
Smith's Castle - Pencil Drawing By Mrs. John Wickes Greene c. 1875

© 1997, Sam Behling

Richard Smith was born in 1596 in Gloucestershire, England. He came to New England and briefly spent time in Taunton, Massachusetts. Between 1637-1639, he came to the Narragansett country near present-day Wickford, Rhode Island and bought 30,000 acres of land on the west side of Narragansett Bay. Later he speculated in other large purchases or long term leases. One instance of how business was done in those days was his lease for 1,000 years of a certain tract of land, payment to be one red honeysuckle every midsummer's day, when lawfully demanded.

Richard Smith established a trading house in the midst of the Narragansett Indians, giving free entertainment to travelers passing through that section. Under the hospitable roof of Smith's Castle gathered famous people of the day such as Roger Williams, William Blackstone, Governor Winthrop, George Fox the Quaker, Dean Berkeley the philospher, Smibert the artist, and others like Benjamin Franklin, General Lafayette, General Nathanael Greene of Revolutionary fame. Richard Smith probably did not occupy this house with his family for any length of time, although he kept coming and going with his children and servants. It was a trading post, 50 miles from any settlement, and in a neighborhood abounding with dangerous savages.

As the Narragansett country was still too lonely and dangerous, Richard Smith came to New Amsterdam where he was gladly welcomed by the Dutch. He spent about 20 years among the Dutch on Manhatten Island. During all this time Richard Smith continued his Narragansett Indian trading house, making frequent visits there with some of his family, and occasionally appearing before the Dutch Council at New Amsterdam for protection of his rights or on questions connected with his trading. A close friend and neighbor, Roger Williams, built a trading house about one mile from Richard Smith around the year of 1644. He often preached to the Indians at Smith's block-house.

The most exciting days centered around December 1675 when Smith's Castle, as it came to be called, became the military headquarters of the whole New England army of 1,000 men from Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth and Connecticut both before and after the Great Swamp Fight of King Phillip's War. This battle, fought near Kingston in a freezing blizzard, resulted in victory for the white men and the beginning of the extermination of the Narragansetts. Forty of the colonists killed are buried in a common grave near the house. When troops were removed, Smith's Castle was attacked in 1676 by Indians after Richard's death and partially burned. Richard's son, Richard Smith, Jr., rebuilt it on the same site two years later. In 1664 Richard Smith died at his trading house and is buried on the farm about one-quarter mile from his house. Smith's Castle still stands today near Wickford.

Glowing testimony was given Richard Smith by his friend, Roger Williams years later (July 24 1679) as follows: "Being now near to four score years of age, yet (by God's mercy) of sound understanding and memory, do humbly and faithfull declare that Richard Smith, Sen. deceased, who for his conscience toward God left a fair possession in Gloucestershire and adventured with his relatives and estates to New England, and was a most acceptable and prime leading man in Taunton in Plymouth Colony, for his conscience sake (many differences arising) he left Taunton and came to the Nanhigansick country, where (by the mercy of God and the favor of the Nanhigansick sachems) he broke the ice (at his great charge and hazard) and put up, in the thickest of the barbarians, the first English house amongst them. I humbly testify that about forty-two years from this date he kept possession, coming and going, himself, children and servants; and he had quiet possession of his housing, land and meadows, and there in his own house, with much serenity of soul and comfort, he yielded up his spirit to God in peace. I do humbly and faithfully testify (as aforesaid) yet since his department his hon'rd Son Capt. Richard Smith hath kept Possession (with much acceptation with English and Pagans) of his Father's housing lands and meadows with grand improvemtn, also (by his great Cost and Industrie) And in the Late bloudie Pagan War I knowingly testifie and declare yet it pleased the most High to make use of himself in person, his howsing his goods corn Provisions and Cattell for a Garison and Supply to the whole Army of N. England under the Command of the Ever to be hon'rd Gen Winslow for the Service of his Ma'ties honor and countrey of N. England."

Richard Smith's will reads: "In the Name of God, Amen. The fourteenth day of July in the year of Our Lord, one thousand, six hundred, sixty and four, in the Sixteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, Charles the Second by the Grace of God of England and Scotland, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Father, etc. I, Richard Smith, of Wickford, in the Narragansett Countrey, in New England, Yeoman, being in health of Body, and of good and perfect memory, (Thanks be unto God) Do make this my last Will and Testament, and I do hereby revoak and renounce all former and other Wills and Testaments whatsoever heretofore by me made, by Word, Writing or otherwise And make and ordain this to be my very true, last Will and Testament, and no other Concerning my Lands, Chattels, debts, and every part and parcel thereof, in manner and form as followeth. First: I Commend my soul to Almighty God, and to his Son Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer, by whom I have to obtain full pardon, and remission of all my Sins, and to Inherit Everlasting Life. And I will that my Body be decently buryed by the Discretion of my Executors hereunto named. Item. I will that my debts which I shall owe unto any Person or Persons at the time of my decease either by Law or Conscience be well and truly Contented and paid, within Convenient time, out of my Goods and Chattels.

Item, I give unto my Son Richard Smith all my Right, Title and interest of, in and to my Dwelling house, and Lands thereto belonging, Situate, being and lying in Wickford aforesaid, and is bounded on the Southwest by Annoquatucket river, and by the Lands of Capt. William Hudson, Northeasterly and on the East by a fresh river or brook and Creek and Cove.

Item, I give unto my Son the s'd Richard Smith, all my right title and interest of, in, and to my propriety of Lands ying in Cunnanicot Island and Dutch Island, with the privileges and appurtenances to them or either of them belonging or in any way appertaining.

Item, I give unto my daughter Elisabeth, wife of John Vial of Boston, Vintner, all that my Share, which is a oe Third part of Land lying on the Southerly side of my son, Richard Smith's two thirds part of a tract of land lying on the Easterly side of the aforesaid fresh river, or Brook, and Creek and Cove, Commonly Called by the name of Sagag.

Item, I will that all my share and part in the Great Neck of Land beyond Capt. Edward Hutchinss house, Westward and Southward and all the rest of my share of Land belonging to that purchase And also my share of Land of the last purchase and all my Cattle, Horses, Mares, Sheep, Goats, & Swine and all my Goods and Debt whatsoever to me appertaining be (after my decease) Divided into Four Equal parts and portions, the which after my debts paid & funeral Charged thereout, I gie and bequeath as followeth. That is to say. To my son Richard Smith, and his heirs, the one fourth part or portion thereof, and to my Daughter, Elisabeth, wife of John Vial and her issue, I give one other Fourth part thereof, and to my Grand Children, the Children of my dec'd daughter Katharine, sometime wife to Gilbert Updike, one other forth part thereof to be Equally Divided amongst them. And to my Grand Children, the Children of my deceased daughter, Joan, sometime wife to Thomas Newton, one other fourth part thereof to be Equally divided amongst them my S'd Grand Children, parts to be paid to each of them, Viz. To Each of my Grandsons as they Come to the age of Twenty one years; And to Each of my Grand Daughters as they Come to the age of Eighteen years, or on day of marriage which shall first happen, And in Case that any One of my Grand Children, the Children of my daughters Katharine and Joan, do Dyue before they come to be of the age aforesaid or Marr'yd, then such part or share, as should have been to such deceased, shall be to the Survivours of them, part and part alike to them to be divided. Item, I make and ordain my sons, Richard Smith, and John Vial, to be my full whole and only Executors of this my last will and Testament. And my Well beloved Friend Capt. Edward Hutchinson of Boston." [Here the document is torn.]

"Before John Leverett Assistant, Entered and recorded at the request of the s'd Vial the 22d. of August, 1666. Robert Howard, Not. Pub., An attested Copy."

Email icon

I'd be happy to exchange family information.
Please send e-mail to Sam Behling.

See Smith Lineage.

Click here for more information on Rhode Island

Return to Story Page

Return to Obituaries & Wills

Return to Home Page

Dreamfires - Catch the Magic - Free
 Backgrounds and More!