Two Fine Wickford homes with Their Roots Firmly Planted in The Revolution

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Tim Cranston

34 Pleasant Street-Major Samuel Phillips House (1773)
34 Pleasant Street - Major Samuel Phillips House (1773)

This early center-chimney colonial was constructed for Samuel Phillips in 1773 on land he purchased from his relation Richard Phillips the year before. Samuel Phillips was commissioned as a Captain in the First Rhode Island Regiment in 1776 after service initially in the Kentish Guard. He was later transferred to Col. Stanton’s regiment in the Rhode Island Infantry where he also served as a captain.

On the night of July 9, 1777, Phillips and the regiment’s second-in-command, Colonel Barton, led a volunteer expedition of 40 men across the Narragansett Bay to Portsmouth in five whaleboats and commando-style, successfully captured General Prescott, the commander of all British forces operating in the area. Barton and Phillips’ mission was a success in part due to their knowledge that the British troops had seized a cargo of wine and spirits the night before. The capture of Prescott was a moral victory for the Americans and a blow to the British and their sense of superiority. After Phillips completed two years in the American Army, he amazingly then served four years in the fledgling US Navy on the warships Tartar, Mifflin, and Assurance. He completed his service to the country in 1783 and returned to Wickford.

146 Main Street - Thomas Cole House built in 1786
146 Main Street - Thomas Cole House (1786)

This fine home was built in 1786 by house carpenter Thomas Cole on a parcel of land he purchased from Robert Sherman. This parcel, although sub-divided several times in the ensuing two decades, originally ran all the way from Pleasant Street to Wickford Harbor. Just a few years earlier Cole had completed a nearly eight-year military career during the Revolution that had seen him rise to the rank of Captain and take part in action at the Siege of Boston and the Battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, and Red Bank. Capt. Cole suffered alongside General Washington through the long harsh winter at Valley Forge and along with Col. Christopher Greene, raised, trained, and commanded a battalion of enslaved men, known as Rhode Island’s First (aka Black) Regiment, who were offered freedom if they served throughout the War. This battalion served with honor at the Battle of Rhode Island and later the Siege at Yorktown. In short, when Captain Thomas Cole resigned his commission in 1782, he returned to Wickford a hero. He and his wife Nancy (Bradfield) raised five children in this home and sold it in November 1805 to his nephew, a prominent local mariner, Capt. Hutchinson Cole.

About the Author

Tim Cranston can trace his Rhode Island roots back to 1637. It was then that his ancestor John Cranston, a young boy of 12, left Scotland as a ward of Jeremy Clarke, traveling aboard a sailing vessel bound eventually for Rhode Island. He was sent to the “colonies” by his father, a chaplain to King Charles, as he feared retribution would be rained down upon the boy by Cromwell during the long period of turmoil in England. Upon arrival he walked down the gangway to the young streets of Portsmouth and Newport and would later become colonial Governor. His son Samuel would marry the granddaughter of Roger Williamsand would become the longest standing governor in RI history. The Cranston family eventually settled in the villages of Wickford and Swamptown in North Kingstown.

Tim is the self-proclaimed arbiter of all things “Swamp Yankee” and local historian of Ye Old North Kingstown and South County. His popular local history newspaper column has run in the South County Independent for more than twenty years and has won two RI Press Association “Spirit of RI” and three Preserve RI Education Awards. The Town Council of North Kingstown honored Tim by naming him the Town’s very first official town historian. Tim is now working with the history department at the North Kingstown High School, aiding them in the development of a 12th-grade level RI history course.

The culmination of Tim’s efforts to learn about the details of the history of the village of Wickford, once RI Colony’s second most important seaport, is the “Walking in Olde Wickford” guidebook series, a four- volume set of handbooks on the history of this important South County village. Tim has partnered with Historic Wickford Inc. (HistWick) to create signage that is a self-guided walking tour and focuses not only on the history of the village itself but of all its inhabitants, beginning with the Narragansett people and including the contributions of women and people of color. Swamptown Enterprises and HistWick are now jointly engaged in a project to move all four of the Walking in Olde Wickford books into the virtual world on the HistWick website. Other recent research is his groundbreaking book, “”, as well as a historical fiction book for young readers, “The Day the Bay Froze”. Arcadia Publishing Company published his “North Kingstown 1880-1920” featuring the photo postcards of 19th century Wickford pharmacist Elwin E. “doc” Young. Tim is now wrapping up work on “We Were Here Too, Vol. 2 – Stories of Women’s History in North Kingstown”. 

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