Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Brown Family: First Baptist Minister, Slave Traders, Founders of Brown University

                It has been so long since I have written a blogpost, I feel the need to summarize where this next family fits into my family story.  So here is a quick recap:  My grandmother, Ada Hartley Goldsberry, was the daughter of Phoebe Sprague Hartley, who was the great-great-granddaughter of Revolutionary War soldier Joshua Sprague.  Joshua Sprague was one of the earliest settlers of Ohio, and built part of the blockade known as Campus Martius to protect the Ohio Company, which later became the town of Marietta.  Joshua was born in 1729 to William Sprague and his wife, Ellis (or Alice) Brown.  It is that Brown Family of which we learn today.

                Ellis Brown was born May 31, 1691 in Providence, Rhode Island.  She married William Sprague on September 16, 1714.  Her parents were Daniel Brown and Alice Hearndon.  Daniel was the son of Chaddus Brown.  Daniel was born in England about 1634.  The first record of Daniel in America is of him serving on a jury investigating the drowning death of two settlers who fell through an icy river.  He married a neighbor’s daughter, Alice, and had at least nine children.  I love the names of their children:  Alice, Ann, Daniel, Hallelujah, Hosanna, Jabez, Jeremiah, Jonathan, Judah and Sarah.  The strong Biblical influence of their names is a testimony to their grandfather’s heritage.  You see, Daniel's father, Chaddus Brown was the first Baptist minister ordained in the United States.  Chaddus Brown was born in 1600 in Buckinghamsire, England and married Elizabeth Sharparowe in 1626.  They arrived in the Massachusetts Colony in July of 1638 on the ship “Martin.” 

                Chaddus was disappointed to find the Massachusetts colony to be as rigid in their religious rules as the Church of England which he had escaped.  He moved very quickly to a new colony called Providence, which had been started by Roger Williams.  Chad and 12 other of the original proprietors signed the “Providence Plantation Compact,” guaranteeing religious freedom and separation of church and state.

                 In 1642, Chad Brown was ordained as the first official pastor of the Baptist Church of Providence.  The church was organized by Roger Williams and  originally met in the woods or orchards. The First Baptist Church of America is the name of the church in Providence which traces its history to this group. It is affiliated with the American Baptist Association and is located at 75 North Main Street in Providence. 

First Baptist Church of America in Providence

 Chad was known to be an excellent arbitrator of differences.  It is said he was often described by the phrase, “blessed are the peacemakers.”  His first property in Providence was on “Towne Street,” which is now land upon which Brown University is located.

Chad Brown’s plot in the original layout of Providence is 18th from the top.

                Chad’s nephews James and Obadiah Brown entered the slave trade and became very wealthy.  James died and Obadiah raised James’ four sons, who became known as the “Four Brothers of Providence.” A fascinating book about the Four Brothers is available on Google Books:  Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye.  One of the brothers, Moses, later became a Quaker and abolitionist, putting him at odds with his brothers.

                The College of Rhode Island was chartered in 1764.  The Brown Family convinced the college to move to Providence by donating land (Chad Brown’s original property) and large sums of money.  Members of the family served as professors and treasurer.  The college was renamed Brown University in 1804.



Rhode Island Historical Society Postal History Collection,



The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. p. 84


Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye.  Available on Google Books.

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