Thomas Olney
Thomas Olney

Thomas Olney, born in England before 1605 and died Providence, RI between 16 June 1682 when his son is called "Jr." and 9 October 1682 when his inventory was taken. He was a shoemaker by trade. This is borne out by his inventory, which included considerable numbers of shoemaking materials. He was married at St. Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, England 16 September 1629 (parish register) to Marie Ashton, the daughter of James and Alice (____) Ashton. She was baptized in St. Albans on 25 August 1605 and died probably between 1645 (birth of last known child) and 15th of the 7th month 1659 when Thomas refers to persons who might claim thirds in a piece of land he was selling.

Thomas Olney, his wife, Marie and their small sons, Thomas and Epenetus, immigrated to the New World on the ship Planter in April, 1635. His age then was called thirty-five, wife Mary thirty, son Thomas, three, and son Epenetus, one. He had a certificate from the minister of St. Albans to show before taking his departure.

They settled in Salem, MA where their third son, Nebabiah, was baptized in 1637. In that year there were five persons in Thomas Olney's family and he received three acres in the Salem land grant. He was also made Freeman that year. Thomas' ability and competence were soon recognized, for by 27 4mo 1637, he was selected as a member of the jury to hear cases in the Essex Quarterly Courts.

The family's sojourn in Salem was short; they were among those invited to leave the MA Bay Colony, and they moved to Providence, RI in 1638, where Thomas rose to a position of importance in the tiny colony. His clear, concise hand is seen on countless deeds and other official documents. From the Rhode Island Colony Records, we find a substantial record of his considerable service to the community, frequently under the title of respect, "Mr."

Thomas Olney was a signer of the first compact (undated, but probably between 13 July 1638 and 27 July 1640) and received a homelot in Providence. He was one of the twelve persons to whom Roger Williams deeded land that he had bought of Canonicus and Miantonomi on 8 October 1638. That year Thomas Olney was also the first Treasurer for the town of Providence.

However, Olney is much better known in his role as Court Assistant, Town Councilman and Clerk. Thomas was one of the original members of the Baptist church in Providence, but in 1653/4 he and some others withdrew from the Six-Principle group under Wickenden's leadership to found a second church. Olney became lay pastor for this small congregation until his death in 1682. Thomas Olney was made a member of a sub-committee to consider a way of preventing the sale of ammunition to the Indians. He was named assistant to the General Court of Tryalls many times between 12th 3rd month of 1652 and 1670. Several times he was chosen to be next in line as Assistant or actually Assistant to the Governor in Providence. He was Commissioner for Providence 6 March 1655/6, 22 May 1662 and 4 October 1662. In addition to his duties as Assistant and Commissioner, he was several times named a Justice of the Peace and tax collector for Providence.

Thomas Olney was a major player in the controversy over the boundaries between Rhode Island and her sister colonies, Connecticut and Massachusetts. He was chose, with others, to run the northern line of the colony and labored long on these questions. On 31 May 1666, Thomas Olney, Sr. was fourth on the list of Providence men who swore allegiance to King Charles II. Thomas Olney was added to the Town Council to make up the number in 1667.

As he entered his late sixties, Thomas provided small parcelts for his children, but reserved the bulk of their portions for bequests in his will. Thomas wrote his will about three years before his death.


Be it knowne unto all people by these presents That I Thomas Olney Senior of Providence in the Colloney of Rhode Island & providence plantations in New England, being weake of Body, but yet of sound & perfect memory, Doe make, ordaine & appoynt this my last will and Testament.

Item. I doe give & bequeath unto my Son Epenetus Olney my sixty acrs of land which was to me from ye towne of Providence upon my owne Right. I doe also give unto my son Epenetus Olney a percell of low swampie land lieing on ye north side of Wanasquatucket River, begining at ye Swampe formerly Called Wallers Swampe, & so reaching Westward to a deepe place in ye said River called ye deepe hole, together with all ye peeces of Marsh, or meadow to ye said land adjoyneing. As also unto said son Epenetus Olney I doe give my fifteene acrs of land on the south side of the said Wanasquatuckett River, together with all my peeces, or percells of meadow or marsh on ye same side ofye River. The which said fifteene acres of land, is three five acre shares, one in my owne Right, one in the Right of William Field, & on in ye Right of Thomas James. Also unto my said son Epenetus Olney, I doe give & bequeath all the Right of land & Comoning which I bought of John Joanes. All which aforementioned lands & meadowes & Every aprt & percell thereof shall be to my said son Epenetus Olney his owne true proper Right & lawfull inhiritance for Ever, for him & his heirs to use, possesse, Rent out, bargaine, sell, give away or any otherwise despose as he at any time shall see cause.

I doe also give unto my son Epenetus Olney one of my Cowes, & my Smiths vice, & my Bible.

Item. I Doe give & bequeath unto my son in law John Whipple to posesse dureing his Naturall life, my Right in the house lott, or home share of land whereon he now dwelleth, the which formerly belonged to John Clawson; The which said two acres, & five acrs of land shall after the decease of my said son in law John whipple, Revert and belong unto John whipple the son of my said son in law & my Daughter Mary; But in Case my said Cousin John Whipple doe dye before he come to ye age of twenty one years, or without Issue, Then shall ye said land belong to ye Eldest sirviveing Daughter borne of ye body of my aforsaid Daughter Mary formerly the wife of my said son in loaw John whipple.

Item. I Doe Give, & bequeath unto my son Thomas Olney my dwelling house, with all other my out houseing what Ever, together with my house lot or home share of land where on it standeth with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging, together with all my other lands of what sort so Ever, both upland, meadowes, & marshes, or lands of any other sort not befor desposed of unto my son Epenetus Olney, & unto my son in law John Whipple; I say, all sorts of landes & meadow, salt, or fresh lieing upont he aforsaid Wanasquatuckett River, or upon Moshausuck River, or leiing & being in any other place within ye libertyes of the Towne of Providence aforsaid. As also all landes, Rights, claimes, Intrests, Titles or Heriditaments in any other parts, or palce to me belonging together with all the aformentioned landes, & houseing & meadowes & Every part, & percell thereof to beunto my aforsaid son Thomas Olney To have & to hold both hinselfe, his Heirs, Exsecutors, Administrators & Assignes as his, or Either of theire true, proper & lawfull Right and Inhiritance for Ever. And that it shall be lawfull for my said son Thomas Olney to posesse, improove, sett to lease, bargaine, Sell, Give away, or otherwise despose of, from time to time, or at any time all the said lands, houseing & meadowes & Every part & percell thereof as he shall see Cause.

I doe also Give unto my son Thomas Olney all my Bookes & writeings of what sort so Ever, saveing only one bible before desposed of unto my son Epenetus.

Item. I doe Give & bequeath unto my son in law Joseph Williams all my part in the yoake of oxen which is now betweene us. Item. All my Cattell which are not before desposed of, together with all my mooveable goods after ye Cost of my buriall is discharged, shall Equally be devided into three parts. One part whereof I doe give unto my son Thomas Olney. Another part thereof I doe giveunto my so Epenetus Olney. And the other part I doe give unto my daughter Liddea Williams. And I Doe hereby make, Ordaine & appoynt my son thoams Olney to be my true & lawfull Exsecutor who shall have all my debts, & see to pay all my debts, And to see my Body Descently Buried, And to Execute & performe this my will according to ye true meaneing & intent thereof. And I doe desire, & appoynt my loveing friends & neighbours Thomas Harris senior, & Joseph Juinkes Senior the overseers of this my last Will. And that I doe hereby, all & any former will, or wills at any time by me made the same make Null and Voyd & this only to stand in force. In wittnesse of the premises I doe hereunto sett my hand & seale the twenty one day of March in the yeare one Thousand Six hundred Seventy nine.

Thomas Olney, senior.

Thomas Field and Nathaniel Waterman appeared before the Council 17 October 1682 and proved the will.


The Inventarey of ye Estate of Thomas Olney senr: of Providence in ye Colloney of Road Island & Providence plantations, Deceased, Taken & Made ye 9th day of October in the yeare 1682.

Imprimis, In ye Parlor

In ye hall chamber

In ye old bed Roome in ye dwelling house

In ye shopp

In ye orchard

In ye Cellar

In ye Parlor

At ye Kittchen

Att Tho: Olneys house

This Inventory was made ye yeare & day aforsd by us

Tho: Olney

Thomas harris senr

Thomas Field

Severall things, which were afterwards thought on,

Tho: Olney

Thomas Harris senr:

Thomas Field:

The sum totall of this Inventory amounts to 78 pounds, 9s., 5d. If no mistake be in Casting up.



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