Charles M. Whipple, Jr., Ph.D., Ed.D., Litt.D.,
1 November 2002
The debate as to the identities of two Rhode Island William Whipple cousins has been ongoing for over a century. This treatise is a response to submissions to the Whipple website in 1997 and 1999 in which the researcher briefly summarized the issues involved and encouraged others to contribute to the debate. The intent herein is to clarify the identity of these two Williams. In the following analysis the author shows that on at least one documented occasion the title Junior was used by William Whipple, proving that he was the son of William. It likewise shows that William, the son of William, was born c1691 and died in 1776.
Captain John Whipple, parents unknown, was born about 1617 in England and died 16 March 1685 in Providence, Rhode Island. He married Sarah about 1639. She was born about 1624 and died about 1666. John and Sarah had the following children.
William Whipple, the fourth son of Captain John, was christened 16 May 1652 in Dorchester, Massachusetts and died 9 March 1711/12 in Rhode Island. He married Mary (unknown date). Her birth and death dates are unknown. He lived on a farm in Smithfield Township, took the Oath of Allegiance in 1671, and was taxed in 1687. His last Will and Testament included the names of three children.
William Whipple Junior was born about 1691 in Rhode Island and died in Smithfield, Rhode Island 16 November 1776. He married Elizabeth Sprague about 1713. Elizabeth was born 26 May 1694 and died after 1735. William and Elizabeth had the following children.
The date of birth of William Junior is not recorded and the date(s) presented here are conclusions from a review of known information. William Senior's youngest son, Seth, a minor at the time of his father's death, died intestate in the year 1724 without known issue. On 24 June 1734, William Whipple Junior of Smithfield, brother of Seth, sold to Philip Smith of Providence, a plot of land in Providence on the east side of the Mill River.[ 1 ] His wife Elizabeth signed the deed with an "X". The town proprietors had formerly granted this property to Seth Whipple, 24 January 1717, property that he used as a blacksmith shop and as his home. He likely received this property when he became 21 years of age, and concurrent with receiving an inheritance of "thirty pounds" provided for him in his father's will. This would fix his date of birth close to 1696.
This 1734 deed is compelling evidence that William was the son of William, not David. He would not have appeared on the document as Junior, or signed his name William Whipple Junior were he David's son. The fact that his wife Elizabeth's name and mark appeared on the document, and that he clearly was stated to be the brother of Seth, plus other facts considered herein, is evidential to his identity.
Rhode Island birth/death records and cemetery inscriptions for the years 1685 through 1699 record the births of only two individuals named William Whipple. With births that early, they have to be among the 26 Whipple grandsons of Captain John. William, the son of David, was born in 1685 and died in 1743. William Junior was born about 1691 and died in1776.
William Junior was buried in the "Whipple Burial Lot, on the Whipple farm on Lime Rock Road"[ 2 ] along with his sons John and Benjamin. Their grave markers, in addition to those of Jerusha and Sarah, wives of Benjamin, plus Hopestill Brown, daughter of Hopestill Whipple who married Nicholas Brown in 1744, and Emily and Minnie Aldridge, granddaughters of Sarah Whipple who married Solomon Aldridge in 1751, were moved to the Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls--by Phebe Whipple, wife of Arnold of Providence. George Hawkins, died as a child "by falling on the ice at Lime Rock," in 1831; accordingly, if the markers were moved immediately thereafter, William Junior would have already been deceased for 55 years. The uncertain birth date of c1697 could indicate that those responsible for the removal, one of more generations later, were even less aware of the facts than those who had the marker inscribed sometime after 1776. The inscription on his headstone read, "Captain William Whipple, Died 16 November 1776, aged 79 years."[ 3 ] The headstones of his wife Elizabeth and sons Anthony and Joseph, who died young, had disappeared before the removal. It seems logical that William Senior, his wife Mary, and others of their children and grandchildren would have been buried in this family plot, but this question will not likely be answered because the plot was "plowed up" after removal of the stones. The markers removed to Moshassuck Cemetery no longer stand and have been replaced by a communal headstone.[ 4 ]
William Junior had to be at least 21 years of age to serve as executor of his father's will.[ 5 ] This fixes his birth in1691 at the latest, not 1697. William's brother Seth was born about 1696, and it is possible that Seth's date was attributed to William Junior. William's wife Elizabeth was born in 1694 and they were married in 1713. This would make Elizabeth 19 years old and William Junior 16 (using the 1697 date) when married, an unlikely scenario.
Only one other William Whipple was born in the 1680s or 1690s in the New England Colonies. He was Captain William Whipple, born in Ipswich, Massachusetts 28 February 1696, and died in Kittery, Maine, 17 August 1751. His eldest son was General William Whipple, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. No proven relationship exists between the early Ipswich, Maine, and New Hampshire Whipples and the Rhode Island Whipples. The only other known Rhode Island William Whipple to be born before the year 1710 was William (1704) son of William, and grandson of David.
William Junior lived and died on the estate handed down to him in his father's will. This property was located in "Smithfield Township (now the town of Lincoln) on the road that leads from Providence to Worcester, Massachusetts. William lived in a small house that stood a little east of the road not far from a place called Lime Rock. He had the largest family of any of the Whipples on record."[ 6 ] This house was near Lime Rock, adjacent to the Moshassuck River, approximately eight miles north of the town of Providence, and a mile west of the Blackstone River. "Even today, Rhode Island is full of tiny villages and hamlets, some consisting of only a few houses. Lime Rock is one of those places. The Lime Rock School is now a private residence. There is a Baptist Church and a volunteer fire station, and there are some beautifully restored homes on a few rural roads in a lovely rural setting. A hundred years ago, there was a general store and a post office in Lime Rock. For generations, the lives of the people of Lime Rock have revolved around the church, the Mt. Moriah Lodge of Masons, and the Lime Rock Grange."[ 7 ]
As noted, Elizabeth Sprague married William Whipple Junior about the year 1713. She was the daughter of Anthony and Mary (Tilden) Sprague of Attleboro (now Cumberland). "They (the Spragues) lived in the west central part of Cumberland on the Blackstone River. Smithfield was just on the other side of the river. Apparently when Elizabeth married William Whipple Junior she moved to Smithfield, but obviously maintained close ties with Cumberland. Two other daughters of Anthony and Mary married Whipples. Mary Sprague was married at Providence (probably Smithfield) to Eleazer Whipple, son of Eleazer Whipple (Captain John's third son). Phebe Sprague married Peter Whipple, son of William, who was the son of David (Captain John's sixth son). Peter and Phebe lived in Cumberland."[ 8 ] Also, William's sister was named Mary Sprague.
William and three of his oldest sons were listed in the Smithfield records of 1748. The town had earlier passed a "Highway Act." This act provided for "surveyors to inspect the roads within the limits of their respective districts and enough to care for the highways. Specific provisions were made, and every male inhabitant of the town, twenty-one years of age or older and able bodied, was required to work on the highways six days per year." In 1748, the population of Smithfield was 450 persons. The town was divided up into 16 highway districts to be worked by the persons listed, the first person in the list being the surveyor. William Whipple and sons Anthony, William Jr., and John, were assigned to District 4, with William Jr. serving as surveyor.[ 9 ] Jeremiah, William's second son, although then 26 years of age was not listed. It is thought that he had already left Smithfield by that time, his whereabouts remaining unknown. District 4 "began at Locusquesset Brook to Providence line, beginning at the old highway by the lime kiln, to end where said highway intersects with the highway that goes by Dr. Jenckes--also the Cross Road from Abraham Scott to Pawtucket River." Captain Job Whipple, William's nephew, son of Eleazer, as well as Job's son Stephen and nephew Ephraim (Job Jr's son) were listed in District 5.
It is thus seen that by the year 1748, 63 years after the death of Captain John, only seven adult Whipple men resided in Smithfield Township, each a descendant of either Eleazer or William, Captain John's third and fourth sons. By the Smithfield census of 1774, the Whipple population had decreased to five male heads-of-household: Benjamin, John, William, Joseph, and Stephen. The first three were sons of William Junior, and he, at an age in the mid to late 80s, was apparently living with one of them. Joseph was William's grandson. Stephen was the second son of Eleazer.
Smithfield records evidence the deaths of three of William's sons in the 18th century, Anthony (1751), Joseph (1760), and William (1796). Anthony and Joseph were discussed previously. William Junior's oldest son, William, was the father of only one child, a daughter. Consequently, on 4 June 1791, he deeded his homestead to his nephew Jesse Whipple, the youngest son of his deceased brother Eleazer, who had moved to Cumberland Township 22 years earlier. In return, Jesse, who had just turned 21 years of age, signed an affidavit affirming that, "both my honored uncle and aunt William and Mary Whipple may live on the land for the rest of their natural lives." William died 16 November 1796 and was buried at the Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls. Within a few years the headstones of his father and two brothers, in addition to other relatives, were moved to the same cemetery.
David Whipple was christened 28 September 1656 in Dorchester, Massachusetts and died in Rhode Island 18 December 1710. He married Hannah Tower 11 November 1677. David and Hannah had seven children.
William Whipple, the youngest son of David, was born 13 March 1685 in Rhode Island and died in Cumberland, Rhode Island about 1743. He married Elizabeth Wilmarth before 1704 and Mary before 1709. He and his wives had ten children.
David Whipple, sixth son of Captain John, moved his family to Valley Falls, Cumberland Township (part of Attleboro, Massachusetts before 1746) when William was about age seven. Some of his descendants lived in Cumberland Township for several generations. Valley Falls is at the southern edge of Cumberland Township about five miles north of Providence. William, who was a farmer and cooper by trade, was named in his father's will, and was made executor of his mother's estate in 1722. His own will, in 1743, probated in Cumberland, listed nine of his 10 children.
In addition to David, other Whipples to settle in Cumberland included his nephew Daniel Whipple, son of Eleazer in about 1716. His nephews Moses and Eleazer, sons of William of Smithfield, entered the township in the mid 1750s, as did Ephraim, grandson of Eleazer. "All merged together and intermarried (the Daniel Whipples in the north, the David Whipples in the south, with the William Whipples interspersed in the middle)--which makes for a lot of genealogical confusion." By the end of the 18th century, Cumberland Township had 22 Whipple heads-of-householders and was home to more Whipples than any other township in Rhode Island. Only five Whipple heads-of-households were living in Smithfield.
The misunderstood identity of the two William Whipples was first published in A Brief Genealogy of the Whipple Families who Settled in Rhode Island, published by Henry E. Whipple in 1873. The author credited William, son of David, with fathering 17 children, all born in Smithfield. He was unaware that David's brother, William, who lived in Smithfield, also had a son William. The error apparently was not contested based on the fact that William Junior's birth date was not known until recently. A second source to repeat the error was Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island. The 1908 compilers routinely used existing genealogies to trace family lines, hence the inclusion of the 1873 error. Respected genealogies by David Jillson and Clara McGuigan have since concluded that William and his 17 children were not descended from David. Logic suggests that it would be improbable that William of Valley Falls would move to Smithfield and raise a family, and that William Junior of Smithfield would live and die in Valley Falls.
A Lydia Whipple, in 1881, also misidentified the cousins. She addressed her Whipple ancestry in a letter, and then by way of a postscript added that, "There was a man in this evening who says he is a descendant of William Whipple of Lime Rock, brother of Jeremiah. The said William had seventeen children, and when the youngest was twenty-one, he had them all home to dinner. The dinner alluded to would have had to have taken place in 1756, 125 years earlier. (At least one child, Anthony, would not have been present in that he died in 1751). This "William Whipple brother to Jeremiah" was actually the son of William Whipple Junior of Smithfield (Lime Rock), the father of 17 children. William Junior's second son was named Jeremiah. The Jeremiah that Lydia referred to was erroneously understood to be related to Job Whipple of Cumberland, a descendant of David.
It is the opinion of this author that the above evidence should erase the confusion about the two contemporary Rhode Island William Whipples, both grandsons of Captain John.
The contents of this monograph was condensed from a soon to be released book by the author that chronicles 13 generations of his family through the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Indiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. In that most names, dates, and events alluded to in this narrative are well documented in numerous sources, only those specifically relating to the author's purposes are cited. For general information, or further resources on the Rhode Island Whipples, it is recommended that the reader consult the Whipple Website. Appreciation is extended to Blaine Whipple, Weldon Whipple, and Barbara Carroll for their invaluable assistance. The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.