The Greenes in Apponaug
Most historians mark the beginning of the village of Apponaug with
the building of the fulling mill by John Micarter on Kekamewit Brook,
near Apponaug Cove, in 1696. This was a well-taken point for after
that the area began to attract the attention of many of the younger
sons of the early settlers. In 1697, Micarter sold the mill to Jeremiah
Westcott who in turn sold it to Samuel Greene in 1702.
John Greene, Surgeon
The acquisition of the property by Samuel Greene was a significant event in the village's history as it was through the leadership of the Greene family that Apponaug developed during the 18th and early 19th centuries. This family was that of John Greene, Surgeon, who along with Samuel Gorton and Randall Holden founded Warwick in 1642. In many ways, the history of Warwick, and that of Rhode Island, mirrors the history of the Greene family. As there were many sons and grandsons of John the Surgeon, the names John, James, Samuel, and Thomas Greene appear often in generation after generation.
Major John Greene
The Samuel Greene who purchased the mill in 1702 was the son of Major John Greene and Ann Almy. Major Greene, one of the most powerful and important figures in early Rhode Island history, was the son of Surgeon John Greene and Joanne Tatersall.
Oliver Payson Fuller, in his 1875 History of Warwick, notes that Major John Greene "held at different times the offices of General Recorder, General Attorney, and General Solicitor." Fuller goes on to list Major John's accomplishments and says, "In company with the Rev. John Clarke, he was appointed an agent to England to attend...to the interests of the Colony." Fuller, like many other historians, writes the most about Greene's tenure as Deputy Governor. Fuller tells us, "He (Major John Greene) is perhaps best known for his service as Deputy Governor. He was annually elected to that office from 1690 until 1700. He was 80 years old in 1700 when he finally retired."
It is interesting to note that Major Greene received no salary as Deputy Governor, but was exempted from paying taxes. It is also often noted that Major John Greene actually wielded more power than the governors he served with and left a much greater impact on the state's history than almost any early politician.
The Post Office established
During his tenure in that office, the town of Warwick was nearly destroyed by a smallpox epidemic in 1690 91, witnessed the introduction of paper money as bills of credit, and welcomed the beginnings of a post office. Greene journeyed to Boston in 1692 to inquire about establishing a post office and helped bring about the development of a Post Road, which ran from Boston, through Apponaug, and eventually to Virginia.
Major Greene is also regarded as a champion for Rhode Island rights and especially as the man who introduced Rhode Island to the controversial practice of privateering. As England was at war for over 30 years in the 1690 1763 period, there was a demand that merchant ships arm themselves to make war on the mother country's enemies. As an incentive, ships receiving privateering commissions were allowed to keep 9/10ths of the spoils of war. Because of slow communications and the desire for profit, it often became difficult to distinguish between a privateer and a pirate. Governor John Easton, fearing that pirates would gain from this practice, hesitated to grant commissions. Deputy Governor Greene had no such reservations and allowed privateering, thereby paving the way for a dramatic increase in Rhode Island's commerce.
Historians in both the 19th and 20th centuries have argued that this type of activity helped Rhode Island tremendously. As Rhode Island had no staple crop or large fishing area for trading purposes, it turned to the coastal trade for much of its prosperity. At a time when wooden sailing ships could become military vessels with the addition of cannon, it was natural for many young Rhode Islanders to seek out enemy vessels. When the colonists captured a vessel, they were allowed to keep most of the value of the ship and the cargo. This gave the Rhode Islanders a profit that would be impossible to obtain in any other way. Many Rhode Islander's fortunes were made in this manner.
Samuel Greene---Apponaug's leading citizen
Samuel Greene, who became very important in Apponaug's history, was the youngest of Major John and Ann Almy Greene's eleven children. Samuel married Mary Gorton, daughter of Benjamin and granddaughter of Samuel Gorton, Warwick's founder. The marriage proved to be a fortunate one as their descendants prospered and became important in the history of Warwick and of Rhode Island.
John Greene, Surgeon and Major John Greene had acquired a great deal of property in Warwick and the family, often through marriage with other descendants of early settlers, became the most powerful in the town. Samuel, as his uncles, brothers and cousins before him, had the ability to take advantage of the natural resources the region offered and was able to accumulate some wealth while still at a young age. He and his descendants made Apponaug one of the most prosperous villages in Rhode Island.
The Cowesett Homestead
In addition to the property Samuel owned in Apponaug, he purchased land and a house in Cowesett from his brother in law, Samuel Gorton, Jr. According to Oliver Payson Fuller's classic 1875 History of Warwick, this house was built by Samuel Gorton, Jr. It became very famous later as the residence of Governor William Greene, who was in office for a number of terms between 1743 and 1758. Of great significance to Rhode Island in Revolutionary times, it was also the home of William Greene, Jr., who, like his father, was Governor of Rhode Island. It was a meeting place for many of the Revolutionary leaders in the colony and Governor William Greene (1778 86) was a strong leader in the latter part of the Revolutionary War. Governor Greene married beautiful Catharine Littlefield of Block Island, a close friend of Benjamin Franklin. On a number of occasions, Franklin was a guest at this house. Mrs. Greene's niece, Catharine Littlefield and Major General Nathanael Greene, Rhode Island's most significant Revolutionary War hero, were married in that house in 1774.
The Old Apponaug Homestead?
While Samuel Greene's descendants in Cowesett made Revolutionary War history, he and his sons in Apponaug were significant in developing the textile industry in Warwick. While some of the early records are obscure or have been lost, fortunately, historians have been able to piece together the story of this enterprise.
Over the years there has been a great deal of speculation concerning the home of Samuel Greene, as all historians have not been in agreement. Oliver Payson Fuller, one of our best sources for Apponaug's early history, writing in his 1875 History of Warwick, says that Samuel Greene lived "at Apponaug, in a house torn down within the memory of persons now living." He places this house on the southwest corner of Centerville and Post Roads.
The late Dorothy Mayor's extensive research on Apponaug indicates Fuller may have been slightly confused on this location. She found that Samuel Greene purchased a "dwelling house and 63 acres of land from Othniel Gorton," (son of John Gorton) "that was north of the fulling mill road." The fulling mill road later became known as Centerville Road. Mayor notes that Samuel Greene died intestate and the town made a will for him. She says, "It gave to his son Samuel the dwelling house where his father last lived which was bought from Othniel Gorton." In addition, we are told, Samuel Greene, Jr. received lumber with which to build a house and a lot south of the fulling mill. This house, built by Samuel Greene, Jr., and not the one lived in by his father, was on the southeast corner of the crossroads. The house was moved to face Post Road and in the first half of the 20th century it was the home and office of one of Apponaug's most beloved physicians, Dr. Long, before being demolished for the present Gulf station.
Samuel Greene, Jr.
Samuel Greene, Jr. played an important role in the fulling mill and in the development of the village. Samuel Greene Jr, in 1722, petitioned the town to remove earlier restrictions on the fulling mill and asked for "4 acres and 23 rods adjoining Cowesett Pond lying on both sides of the brook that comes out of said pond....” The pond is today known as Gorton's Pond.
This modern Gulf Gas station now occupies the site where the house built by Samuel Greene, Jr. and later occupied by Dr. Long, once stood.
Photo by Don D’Amato 2004
Samuel Greene, Jr. died in 1780 and in his will he leaves the fulling mill to his son, Caleb. Samuel Greene's will, dated Sept 5, 1780, indicates that he gave to his son, Caleb Greene "one iron bar to use at the Grist Mill, I also give him one draft chain...." Caleb died in 1813, leaving the mill to his son Caleb, Jr. By this time, Dot Mayor concludes, "the old Fulling Mill was run by Caleb, son of Samuel, as some sort of Mill, but when his son Caleb, Jr. acquired it he, with others, built a cotton mill. At this time it is surmised that the Fulling Mill went out of existence. That probably is when the name Apponaug was used before that the village was usually referred to as Fulling Mill."
The story of Apponaug in the 18th century will be continued.