Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church - Chepachet, RI

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church - Chepachet, RI

The Dorr Rebellion

The Chepachet Meeting House
and the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church
in the Dorr Rebellion

Part 1

(Prepared, 2004; Updated, June, 2007)

By Clifford W. Brown, Jr.

The Dorr Rebellion
Part 1

The Dorr Rebellion
Part 2

Log of the Newport
Artillery Company

Eye-Witness Account
of Ara Hawkins

Eye-Witness Account
of Clovis Bowen

Eye-Witness Account
of Jedediah Sprague

President Tyler and the Dorr Rebellion

The 1842 Dorr Rebellion, often referred to as the Dorr War, marked an important moment in both Rhode Island and American history. The basic issue in contention was suffrage — who had the right to vote in Rhode Island elections — but the events associated with it also raised questions at that time about the apportionment of the legislature, the proper sources of Constitutional authority or legitimacy, the structure of American federalism, and the extent to which the right to protest can be exercised against an incumbent government. Many of these questions are still relevant today, and the events surrounding the Dorr War remain instructive in modern times. Before things were fully over, this major Rhode Island event had focused the attention of many other states and had involved all three branches of the federal government: 1) President John Tyler, members of his cabinet (including Secretary of State Daniel Webster), and the United States Army; 2) Congress — which launched a major congressional investigation of the affair, and 3) the U.S . Supreme Court which heard and decided a still-famous case arising out of events associated with the rebellion.

Thomas Wilson Dorr, frontispiece of "Burke's Report," 1844.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Although Thomas Dorr came from Providence, and many events of the rebellion took place in different parts of the state, Chepachet was the culminating scene of the "war." It was not an accident that this was the case, since many of the principal Dorrites came from Glocester, and it is probable that he selected this site to take a stand because of strong local support. Since the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church was the only church in town at that time, and since the pew-holders of the Chepachet Meeting House included some of the leading figures in the town, it is not altogether surprising that the Church and the Meeting House both had members who were very active in the rebellion. They also had members who opposed Dorr, and it is safe to assume that these issues riveted the attention of the Church in the summer months of 1842.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


SETTING THE SCENE

It was indeed an important summer for the Church. The weekend of June 4-5, 1842, was an inspiring one in the life of the congregation. On Saturday, June 4, 1842, a "Conference Meeting" of the Church was held at the Chepachet Meeting House, with sixty to seventy persons in attendance. The records say that forty spoke. The main order of business was to hold a discussion with candidates for baptism, and at this conference six of these candidates were accepted.

These six were in addition to several others who had also been accepted at the previous conference, held on May 14. Job Armstrong, Church Clerk, (whose grain store on Main Street is now the headquarters of the Glocester Heritage Society), recorded of this meeting that "it was an excellent conference, and many hearts were made to rejoice in the Lord."

Job Armstrong, founding proprietor of the Chepachet Meeting House and founding member of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church Society, who was Clerk of both organizations at the time of the Dorr Rebellion. He opposed the Dorr insurgency.

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On the next day, Sunday, June 5, 1842, according to the records: "Elder Reuben Allen attended meeting at Chepachet Meeting House. A large number of people attended. At the intermission at noon, Elder Allen baptized ten persons, viz. Hiram S. Kelley, Lafayette Reynolds, Paulina Sweet, wife of Joseph, Emily Saunders, daughter of Silas, Polly Wellman, wife of Otis, Hannah West and Amey West (daughters of John West), Asinath Burlingame and Phebe Burlingame (daughters of Esek), and Sarah Ann Hawkins (daughter of John), and at the close of the afternoon meeting, preceding the communion, Elder Allen gave them the hand of fellowship." Reuben Allen, a former pastor at the time, had been the first pastor of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church and an early pastor of the Greenville Baptist Church. These baptisms almost certainly took place at Keech Pond.

One week later, June 12, 1842, two other new members joined the church: Enoch Mowry Steere, aged 17, and his brother Smith Asa Steere, aged 16. Enoch Steere left Chepachet some time after this, but Smith A. Steere remained a member of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church for over 70 years, serving as Clerk and Senior Deacon. He was also Clerk of the Proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House for over 40 years. His portrait hangs in the vestry today.

Smith A. Steere (who joined the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church about two weeks before the Dorr War in Chepachet, and who was later Senior Deacon and Clerk of the Proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House) and his wife Mary Phetteplace Steere.

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Two weeks later, the Dorr Rebellion reached its climax in Chepachet.

Helen Steere Brown, Smith A. Steere's grandniece, and President of the Church from 1956 until her death in 1993, used to ride with him and his wife to Sunday services in their carriage when she was a child. If the Deacon was late, and the bell rang before he had reached the church, Billy, his horse, would break into a trot to ensure that the carriage would arrive before the opening of the service. Upon depositing his passengers, Billy would, without prompting, draw the carriage into the Deacon's stall in the carriage shed behind the church — the first stall on the left (west) side.

Helen Brown did not remember him ever mentioning the events of the Dorr Rebellion which took place in Chepachet two weeks after he joined the Church. Nor did he ever mention that members of the Church had played a leading role in the agitation preceding the Dorr Rebellion, and that many pew holders supported Dorr's reforms. Nor did he ever mention that the next monthly conference of the church he had just joined was to be canceled, and the church's meetings interrupted by the "scene of war" that gripped the town. By the turn of the 20th century, Dorr's rebellion had faded from memory into distant history. But its legacy has never quite left Chepachet.

Proprietors of the Meeting House did, however, play a leading role in the Dorr Rebellion, and probably no other organized group in the state (aside from the organs of the Suffrage Movement itself) had as many leading Dorrites among its members. A careful search of the records of the Meeting House show that four Meeting House pew-holders were among Rhode Island's most active suffrage-extension activists and enthusiastic supporters of Thomas Wilson Dorr. It was probably their closeness to Dorr and their ardent support for his cause that led Chepachet to be the climactic scene of the Dorr War:

    — Samuel Young Atwell, Representative in the General Assembly from Glocester, who was the leading pro-suffrage advocate in the legislature, one of the most active Rhode Islanders on the pro-suffrage side in the events of 1841-42, Dorr's principal lawyer at his trial for treason against the State of Rhode Island in 1844, and counsel for the plaintiff in Luther v. Borden, a landmark case eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court after the rebellion was over. The pew he owned was the fourth  on the right as you enter the sanctuary from the rear (south) by the left (west) door.

    Record of Samuel Y. Atwell's appointment to a committee to arrange for the Meeting House bell to be rung. From the clerk's book of the Proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House.

    Click on photo to enlarge.

    — Amasa Eddy, Jr., Dorr's running mate, who was elected Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island on Dorr's ticket, who presided in this capacity as President of the Senate elected under the Dorrite People's Constitution, and served theoretically, as Acting Governor in Dorr's absence from the state. Later, in the 1850's, he was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island. The pew he owned was the second pew on the right as you enter the sanctuary from the rear (south) by the right (east) door.

    1843 Administrator's Bond bearing the signatures of Meeting House proprietor Amasa Eddy, Dorr's Lieutenant Governor; and Meeting House proprietors Jesse Tourtellot and Clovis Bowen, also supporters of Dorr.

    Click on photo to enlarge.

    —George Huntington Browne, elected Representative from Glocester (as a young man of 24) to the Rhode Island House of Representatives formed by the People's Constitution, and who played an active role during the brief session of the Dorrite legislature, urging direct action to take control of the state offices. His pew (which he owned half of at the time of the Dorr War, and which he eventually owned in full) was the third down on the left as you enter the sanctuary from the rear (south) by the left (west) door. He owned this together with Jesse Tourtellot, another Dorrite, and later with Smith Peckham, yet another supporter of Dorr. Browne read law with Atwell.

    — Jedediah Sprague, one of Dorr's principal military advisors, owner of Sprague's Hotel (commonly called Sprague's Tavern where Dorr made his headquarters during his stay in Chepachet), one of the chief public suffrage agitators in the town, named Brigadier General of the 2nd Brigade of Militia by the People's Legislature, probably responsible more than anyone else for the gathering of Dorr's troops in Chepachet, and quite possibly the one who selected Acote's Hill as the place for the Dorrites to encamp. The pew he owned was the fourth pew on the left as you enter the sanctuary from the rear (south) by the left (west) door — right in front of  Browne's and directly across the aisle from Samuel Y. Atwell's.

    1837 document bearing the signature of hotel owner Jedediah Sprague describing his action as sheriff in attaching the estate of Seth Hunt pursuant to a lawsuit by William Spencer.

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In addition, Clovis Bowen of Chepachet, who had owned a pew before the Dorr Rebellion took place, and who was to own a pew again afterwards, supported the Suffrage cause in Chepachet and was later indicted by the Charter forces for having moderated an "illegal" meeting in Chepachet during the Spring of 1842 — probably the meeting that organized the balloting for the People's Constitution under which Dorr was elected Governor.1

With four of the most prominent Dorrites in the state owning pews in the Meeting House, another once-and-future pew owner eventually indicted for Dorrite activities against the State, and an additional 13 pewholders at the time of the vote casting ballots for the People's Constitution in support of Dorr, it is hard to believe that the constitutional question failed to rivet the attention of those who gathered in this building during the months preceding the climactic events of June 1842. But to understand what was at stake, it is necessary to consider the background to the dispute.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


THE ISSUE

Before the American Revolution, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations operated under the Royal Charter of 1663, which set forth the authority of the legislature and other organs of government, and granted to the General Assembly the right to admit people to citizenship.2 After the Revolution, when most states adopted new constitutions, Rhode Island still continued to operate under this Charter, which therefore remained the organic law that determined the authority given to its various branches of government. In fact, there was a great deal of legal continuity at all levels before and after the revolution, and even very recently at the opening of the 21st century Rhode Island had a constitutional crisis of sorts arising from a Rhode Island Supreme court decision that held certain provisions of this Charter to be still in effect with legislative supremacy trumping separation of powers. Indeed, in a recent advisory referendum, Rhode Island voters were asked to take a stand for or against the Charter of King Charles II (whose name was actually on the referendum). The Stuarts have never been particularly popular in Rhode Island, and the King lost his recent referendum by a very wide margin.

King Charles' Royal Charter was very progressive and liberal for the seventeenth century (although less so than Roger Williams' original Charter granted by Charles I in 1643),3 but events, including the American Revolution, had overtaken it by the middle of the nineteenth century and many people argued that practices established under it were quite reactionary. At the time of the Dorr Rebellion (and during the years immediately preceding it) there were three major points of controversy which arose regarding the government operating under the Charter: 1) that the judiciary was subordinate to the legislature; 2) that the legislature was not equitably apportioned, with delegates to the General Assembly assigned according to the population distribution of the mid-1600's, not that of the mid-1800's; and 3) that the General Assembly, acting under the authority of the Charter, had set a very restrictive property requirement for voting which, at the time of the Dorr Rebellion, was $134 of real estate (a sizable amount for that time, and one that had not been changed since 1798).

Those who owned this property were called "Freemen," and it was they who assembled in Town Meetings to conduct a town's business and elect representatives to the legislature. By 1840, just over a third (36%) of the adult male population was eligible to vote in either statewide or local elections in Rhode Island — this at a time nationally when "Jacksonian Democracy" had led to a great liberalization of the right to vote in most northern states. Moreover, the percentage of adult males who could vote varied widely by town, from a low of 27% in Providence to a high of 65% in Charlestown.4 The accompanying MAP #1 shows the range of percentages across the state, with rural areas generally having higher percentages of eligible voters than did urban areas. Glocester was actually among the towns with the highest percentages of their adult males being freeholders and eligible to vote.

MAP #1. The estimated percentage of adult males (or "freemen") who could therefore vote in state and town elections before the reforms of 1841-42 (by town). Since qualification for being a freeman was based on the ownership of real property valued at over $134, landowners in rural areas were more likely to qualify, and these percentages generally show disproportionate size in the rural areas.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


EARLY ATTEMPTS AT REFORM

The issue of suffrage had been in the air for some time. For example, Colonel George Burrill (brother of the U.S. Senator for whom Burrillville was named) advocated suffrage extension in a famous Fourth of July speech in 1797.5

Serious (though unsuccessful) attempts were made in 1811 to extend the suffrage, and 1817 to call a constitutional convention for this purpose. In 1821, the year the Meeting House was built, the General Assembly called for a referendum on holding a constitutional convention. The proposal was defeated, with Providence and Bristol counties voting in favor, and the three southern counties (who had the most to lose if the legislature were reapportioned on equitable lines) voting strongly against.

A convention was actually held in 1824, elected under the old rules of suffrage, which drafted a proposed new constitution. This called for an independent judiciary, and made some steps in the direction of dealing with mal-apportionment, but did not address the suffrage issue at all.6 It was voted down by the Freemen, again on regional lines.

In 1834, an informal convention (held on the initiative of the towns of Cumberland and Smithfield) produced a lengthy report written by Thomas W. Dorr which was sent to the legislature. The latter responded by issuing a call for a convention.7 Delegates were chosen by town meetings and the convention met, but it failed to draw up a proposal, and expired in 1835.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


SAMUEL ATWELL AND THE SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT

The formation of the Rhode Island Suffrage Association in 1840 marked the resumption of serious activity on behalf of extending the vote, and that year saw the launching of a pro-suffrage newspaper called the New Age.

Avidly participating in all this activity was Meeting House Proprietor Samuel Young Atwell of Chepachet. Atwell was an 1814 graduate of Brown who moved to Chepachet in 1831 or 1832.8 He became a Proprietor of the Meeting House in 1833. He was one of the state's leading attorneys and was elected to represent Glocester in the General Assembly in 1836, 1837, 1840, and 1841. He served as Speaker of the Rhode Island General Assembly from October 1836 to October 1837. He owned an enormous house at the corner of Douglas Hook Road (then Spring Brook Road) and Main Street in the village. This was built for him in 1813, and after he died, it became Taft's hotel, and later the Chepachet Hotel. During Atwell's occupancy, part of this mansion was used as a law school where apprentices from all over the state read law. The building burned in 1913.

Home of Samuel Y. Atwell, Main Street, Chepachet, located on the south corner of the intersection of Douglas Hook Road. Atwell was one of the state's leading advocates of voting reform and later one of Dorr's attorneys at his trial for treason. Part of the building was used as a law school. This later became the Chepachet Hotel. Built for Atwell in 1813, it burned in 1913. Courtesy of Glocester Heritage Society.

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The Suffrage Association adopted a Declaration of Principles on February 7, 1841, reaffirmed them on April 13, and launched its public activities with a large parade and dinner on April 17, with Atwell being one of the principal speakers.9

In the meantime, the General Assembly in February voted to call for a constitutional convention to meet the following fall, but there was no liberalization of the rules regarding apportionment of delegates to this convention and the qualifications for voters electing delegates to it.10 During the spring, it liberalized the delegate apportionment provisions, but not sufficiently to be acceptable to the Suffrage Party.11

On May 5, 1841, supporters of extending the franchise held a large meeting in Newport which passed a resolution stating that the people of the state had the right to draw up their own constitution to deal with the problems of excessive legislative power, apportionment, and suffrage.12

On May 7, following this meeting, Atwell introduced a resolution in the General Assembly proposing to liberalize the suffrage rules for electing delegates to the fall convention the General Assembly had called for, but this was defeated on June 25th by a vote of 52 to 10.13

On July 5, the suffrage supporters met again, this time in Providence, and made specific plans to hold a constitutional convention, calling for delegates to be selected on the basis of universal male suffrage at meetings in each town to be held in August.14 These meetings were held, delegates were selected, and the convention met in October and November, publishing a proposed constitution on November 18, and directing it to be submitted to the people in late December. Thomas Dorr addressed the convention on the day of its adjournment, setting forth a series of reasoned arguments regarding the sources of constitutional authority, and asserting, in part, that since the Charter had no procedures in it for amendment and gave no such power to the legislature, such power remained with the people — and an appeal to the people in this regard was not only appropriate, but the only appropriate means of amending the instrument.15

This November 18 proposed constitution gave the vote to all adult white males who had lived in the state for a year and in their town for six months, while retaining a property qualification for those participating in financial decisions and running for office in Providence.16

The exclusion of non-white citizens was deliberate, and by vote. Dorr opposed this restriction,17 and it was enacted over the remonstrance of a committee of black citizens who petitioned the convention to allow the vote to all adult males.18 On the other hand, there was no discrimination in this proposed constitution against non-native-born citizens. The proposed constitution called for a Senate with 12 members and a House of Representatives with 80 members. Although geography and town boundaries were important considerations in determining apportionment, clearly the framers attempted to take population balance seriously into account in apportioning both Senators and Representatives. The Senate, especially, was much less mal-apportioned than under the existing Charter government, or, indeed, under subsequently-adopted arrangements that persisted into the mid-twentieth century.19 Please see MAP #2.

MAP #2. The State Senatorial Districts under the People's Constitution. Note that North Providence and Cumberland are in the same district and that Providence was divided into two districts. This was a more even allocation of representation than in previous or subsequent arrangements.

Click on photo to enlarge.

In the meantime, the convention called by the legislature was duly elected under the old rules of suffrage, and it met on November 1. It did not complete its deliberations at this session and it was not until February, 1842 that it was ready to submit a draft to the voters.20 Thus there were meeting roughly at the same time two separate constitutional conventions, one basing its authority on serious claims to represent the expression of the popular will, the other on the legal rights of the existing legislature, operating under the Charter of 1663.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


THE VOTE ON THE PEOPLE'S CONSTITUTION AND ITS AFTERMATH

The suffrage supporters invited all adult white males to vote on their proposed constitution (popularly called "The People's Constitution"), and polling places were opened for December 27, 28, and 29, 1841. Proxy votes were also received on the subsequent three days. Moderators and clerks were appointed to preside over this canvass, keep a record of all persons voting, and report the results back to the Constitutional Convention. A reported 14,001 people voted in this canvass, all but 46 in favor, with most supporters of the incumbent Charter government boycotting the election (10,193 voted in person and 3,762 voted by proxy). Of these, 4925 were from the 9,590 eligible voters under the existing laws of the state.21

This result meant that more than half of the 26,342 adult males in the state recorded in the census of 1840 (and more than half of the actual eligible voters under the existing rules) voted for the People's Constitution, so its supporters claimed that the People of the state, acting in their original capacity as sovereign (as recorded by fair and well-monitored canvassing procedures), had adopted the new constitution. The People's Constitutional Convention on January 13, 1842, therefore proclaimed to the State that the People's Constitution had been adopted.22

Support was not uniform throughout the State, and north-south geography seemed to be the most important predictor of that support. In almost all of the towns from Warwick and Coventry north, a majority of adults over 21 voted to support the People's Constitution; south of these towns, on the islands, and in the East Bay Region, with the exception of Block Island and Newport itself, less than half the adults over 21 voted to support it. Please see the accompanying MAP #3.23 Sixty-eight percent of the adult males in Glocester voted for the People's Constitution, the third highest percentage among all towns in the state, just behind Cumberland (74%) and North Providence (72%).

MAP #3. Percentage of adult males who voted for the People's Constitution in the referendum held in December, 1841, by town. The statewide percentage was just over 50%. Northern areas of the state, including the industrializing towns of the Blackstone Valleys, showed high levels of support. Warwick, in the Pawtuxet Valley, also industrializing, was disproportionately supportive of the People's Constitution.

Click on photo to enlarge.

On January 11, 1842, Samuel Y. Atwell introduced a bill in the Rhode Island (Charter) Legislature, amended on January 20, which (among other things) recognized that such a referendum had taken place, which urged the General Assembly to study the results (to see if a majority of adult voters had, in fact, supported the new constitution), and, should this be found to be the case, which urged the existing Legislature to take appropriate action in light of those results. The Legislature, after a three-day debate, rejected his motion on January 22 by a vote of 57 to 11, and passed a bill over his objections condemning the vote on the People's Constitution.24

Early in March, the three justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court (which was by provision of the old Charter under the influence of the Legislature) declared against the People's Constitution in an informal statement.25 In response, nine prominent lawyers, with Atwell leading the list, wrote a letter disagreeing with the opinion of the Supreme Court.26

In the meantime, the other constitutional convention (which had been called by the General Assembly operating under the Charter) completed its work and submitted what was called the "Freeman's Constitution" or the "Landowners' Constitution" to the voters on March 21, 22, and 23 (of 1842). Both Dorr and Atwell had been elected to this convention, both participated actively in its deliberations, and both failed to convince it to make major concessions to the suffragist program.27 This proposed constitution did liberalize the voting rules to include all native-born adult white males with two years state residence, but only taxpayers with property exceeding $150 in value could vote on financial matters.28 The property requirement was also kept for non-native-born citizens, and nativist arguments were used to try to convince voters to support this constitution (which would presumably in any case take precedence over the previously-adopted People's Constitution).29

The qualifications for voting on the adoption of the Freeman's (or Landowners) Constitution were themselves liberalized along the above lines. The Suffrage Party opposed it, and the voters rejected it by the narrow margin of 8689 to 8013, which left the old Charter in force, challenged by the People's Constitution. Again, this rejection was largely on regional lines, with the northern towns voting strongly against it. Only 13% of the voters in Glocester supported it — the lowest percentage of any town in the state. Please see MAP #4.

MAP #4. Percentage (of total vote cast) approving the Freeman's (or Landowners') Constitution in the referendum held in March, 1842 (by town). The statewide percentage was 48%. The Suffrage Movement opposed the adoption of this proposed constitution, which could have been viewed as superseding the People's Constitution, had it been adopted. Generally speaking, the same areas that supported the People's Constitution opposed the Freeman's Constitution.

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After this vote, at the end of March, Atwell moved that the People's Constitution be submitted by the General Assembly to the voters for an up-or-down vote authorized by the General Assembly, but the Assembly rejected his proposal by a margin of 59 to 3.30

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


SUPPORT FOR THE PEOPLE'S CONSTITUTION AMONG
CHURCH MEMBERS AND MEETING HOUSE PROPRIETORS

Lists were kept of those who voted in December, 1841, on the People's Constitution — and how they voted. The result, as noted, was nearly unanimous since supporters of the Charter government boycotted the election. In Glocester, all votes cast were in favor.

Comparing this list to the membership list of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church gives us an indication of the support for these principles among that membership.

The membership list of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church shows twenty-six men had joined church between 1822 and December 1841 (many more women than men had joined during this period). Of these male members, six are listed clearly as having died or having left the church for another church before December 1841. Therefore there were at a maximum 20 eligible to vote on the People's Constitution. This almost certainly overstates the actual number because the records are incomplete with respect to deaths and dismissions, and we have no way of knowing how many more were under age.

1851 warrant for the arrest of Oliver Green on a $10.50 complaint by Jeremiah Sheldon. Green, a Dorr supporter, was a member of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church who voted for the People's Constitution. Sheldon was the successful candidate for State Representative from Glocester running under that constitution.

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Six (or just under a third) of these twenty voted in support of the People's Constitution, and it is not unreasonable to assume that the actual percentage of members eligible to vote may have approached one half.

1854 writ served on complaint of Hiram Kelley, member of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church at the time of the Dorr Rebellion who voted for the People's Constitution. Kelley was later a proprietor of the Meeting House.

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Those voting for the People's Constitution were: Benedict Aldrich (later, a Proprietor), Alvin Cutler, Oliver Greene, Joseph Colwell Steere (a Proprietor), William Steere, and Orin Stephens. Hiram S. Kelley, who joined the church in June, also voted for the People's Constitution. He later became a Proprietor. If we take the figure of one-half as a working hypothesis, then this approximates the percentage of the total Rhode Island adult male population voting for the People's Constitution, which suggests that the church as a whole was neither more supportive nor less supportive than the state population as a whole. However, since 68% of the adult male population in Glocester voted for the People's Constitution, church support was almost certainly less than support in the town itself.

1844 Administration Bond signed by Meeting House proprietors Sayles Brown and Clovis Bowen, who voted for the People's Constitution. It is also signed by Samuel Steere, a Meeting House proprietor and a deacon in the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church, who voted for the People's Constitution.

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We can also calculate the support for the People's Constitution among the pew-owners (or Proprietors) of the Meeting House. Interestingly, the overlap between the pew-owners and the church members is far from one-to-one, although Job Armstrong was Clerk and a leading figure in both groups at that time.

On June 14, 1843, one year after the Dorr War, four proprietors of the Meeting House, who were Dorr supporters and voters for the People's Constitution called for a special meeting of the Proprietors of the Meeting House. This petition bears their signatures: Jesse Phetteplace, Amasa Eddy, Jr., Lawton Owen, and Horace Kimball.

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The records of pew ownership in the Meeting House show that between 1821, when the Church was built, and December 1841, 65 people at one time owned voting pews on the ground floor and 40 of these were owners at the end of this period; two were women; one was deceased . Of the 37 males known to be owners at the time, 17 voted on the People's Constitution: Samuel Y. Atwell, George H. Browne, Sayles Brown, Amasa Eddy, Jr., Nelson Eddy, Stephen Eddy, Ara Hawkins, Horace Kimball, Lawton Owen, Jesse Phetteplace, Samuel Potter, John Smith (voting in Burrillville), Lindon Smith, James Sprague, Jedediah Sprague, Joseph Steere, and Samuel Steere. This makes a minimum of 46% of the pew holders of record who voted on the People's Constitution.

The back of an 1836 Glocester summons to jury duty, bearing the signature of a "J. Sprague," Town Sergeant. This signature differs markedly from that of Jedediah Sprague shown above. It may, therefore be the signature of James Sprague, Meeting House proprietor who voted for the People's Constitution.

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The percentage of pewholders voting for the People's Constitution among those who were eligible to vote may have been substantially higher: some of the owners of record may have left the town (while still owning a pew); some may have been under age. Also, since the records do not clearly show when a pew descended from an owner to a spouse or a child, the owner of record may have been deceased at the time of the vote on the People's Constitution — and the pew was actually owned by a female spouse, not eligible to vote, or it may have already descended to a son who did vote on the constitution, but was not included in our calculation because we do not know when the transfer took place. For example, we include Horace Kimball as an owner of record because he was an officer in 1842, having inherited his pew from his father Amherst Kimball, but the deed book, which recognizes his pew ownership, does not specifically list the date when he inherited it. Others may be in the same situation.

Home of Horace Kimball, Meeting House proprietor who voted for the People's Constitution. This later was a hotel; it was located at the corner of Putnam Pike and the road to Pascoag (now the intersection of Route 44 and Route 102) at the north end of the business district of Chepachet. Courtesy of the Glocester Heritage Society.

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It should be noted in this connection that the following 13 men who voted for the People's Constitution (but who were not owners of record at the time of that vote) subsequently owned Meeting House pews on the ground floor, many of them inheriting them from parents: Benedict Aldrich, Clovis Bowen, Parris Davis, Thomas Evans, Benjamin Keach, Hiram Kelly, Smith Peckham, Lawton Rounds, Joseph B. Smith, Jeremiah Smith (living in Burrillville), Duty Place, Jesse Tourtellot, and Joseph Waldren. In addition, Sabin Owen, who voted for the People's Constitution, owned a Gallery Pew at this time, and later a voting ground-floor pew — for a total of 14 future voting Proprietors.

Home of Duty Place, who voted for the People's Constitution. Subsequently, he was a Proprietor of the Chepachet Meeting House. From Glocester: The Way Up Country, compiled by the Heritage Division of the Glocester Heritage Commission, page 186, with permission of Edna Kent, editor.

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Jesse Tourtellot purchased his pew in March, 1842 (making him an owner when the election of officials took place under the People's Constitution), and sold it to Smith Peckham in May (before the climactic events in Chepachet occurred in June). Clovis Bowen had sold his pew previously, but was to buy another subsequently.

1848 Glocester Town Audit Report bearing the signatures of Robert Steere and Smith Peckham, the latter a proprietor of the Meeting House and voter for the People's Constitution.

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The pews owned by the seventeen known pew holders in December, 1841, who voted on the People's Constitution were not randomly distributed around the sanctuary, but located mostly among the less expensive pews, as shown in the accompanying diagram. Pews were valued for purposes of taxation, with the more expensive pews being taxed at a higher rate when the Proprietors voted for a tax to raise money, typically to repair the Meeting House. The value ranged from $15 for pews in the Gallery (balcony) to $85 for pews in the center of the sanctuary near (but not at) the front.

Pew Chart, Chepachet Meeting House, showing pews of Dorrite supporters who voted for the People's Constitution. It is complied from the Clerk's Record and Deed Book of the Proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House. The pew numbering arrangement is that in effect in 1842. It was changed in 1847 when ten more pews were added to the sanctuary. Note that more than one person could own a pew. The dollar amounts are the original assessment values operative at that time. Even though the purchase prices did not always reflect the above assessment values for the pews (and the sale and auction prices of pews fluctuated considerably through the century), it was prudent for a pew holder of modest means to buy a pew assessed at a lower value, since pew taxes were levied on the basis of the above assessment, a circumstance probably not ignored in the Yankee culture of that time. Dorr supporters tended to own the less expensive pews.

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Note that only one of the most expensive pews ($75 and over) was owned by a person who voted for the People's Constitution (Samuel Y. Atwell). Only two owned a $60 pew outright. Eleven of the 17 owned the cheapest pews ($15 to $45). Three split a $60 pew (two of these were listed as "guardians").

This pattern of ownership seems to be a very strong indicator that the supporters of the People's Constitution, while affluent enough to own a pew, were men of more modest means than many other pewholders in the Meeting House.

It should also be noted in this regard that only one of the officers of the Meeting House at that time (Horace Kimball, Auditor) voted for the People's Constitution. Cyrus Cooke, President, Job Armstrong, Clerk, and Duty Evans, Treasurer, did not vote for the People's Constitution, and we have no evidence that any of them took part in the suffrage events of the day. Indeed, it is said that Job Armstrong opposed the People's Constitution and his business was seriously hurt by the events of the Dorr Rebellion.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


THE PEOPLE'S ELECTION OF APRIL 1842

The People's Constitution provided for election of a new legislature and statewide offices under the rule of universal adult white male suffrage . This was called for April 18, 1842.

The Legislature under the Charter promptly passed (over the strong objections of Samuel Atwell) a law outlawing this election and fixing substantial penalties for those who conducted the election (e.g., clerks, wardens, moderators), for those who ran for office in it, and for those who afterwards attempted to exercise the office to which they were elected.31 The incumbent governor, Samuel Ward King, issued a proclamation to that effect on April 4. Since the Bey of Algiers had recently been deposed, a newspaper friendly to the suffrage movement charged that Rhode Island was the last place in the world where the autocratic rule of someone like the Bey of Algiers could still be found, and this law was referred to as the "Algerine Law," with supporters of the Charter Government derisively called "Algerines" by their enemies. Supporters of the Charter government called themselves the "Law and Order Party."

1823 Lottery ticket for the "West Baptist Society" in Providence bearing the name of "Samuel W [Ward] King" who later was the incumbent Rhode Island Governor at the time of the Dorr Rebellion who ordered the militia units to Chepachet.

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The Algerine Law had a significant impact on potential candidates for office under the People's Constitution. Many who had agreed to run for office on the initial slate (selected by a committee of the People's Convention on which Dorr was very active) changed their minds and refused to run. It was as a result of their refusal that Dorr himself at the last hour was selected to run for Governor and Amasa Eddy, Jr., was named candidate for Lieutenant Governor.32 Even Atwell had temporary second thoughts about continuing his support for the matriculation of the new People's Constitution.33

Home of Meeting House proprietor Amasa Eddy, Jr., Main Street, Chepachet. The building is still standing. Eddy, Thomas Dorr's running mate, was elected Lieutenant Governor on his ticket under the People's Constitution. The house later was the Hotel Glocester. Photograph, probably late 19th century. Courtesy of the Glocester Heritage Society.

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Governor King's proclamation supporting the "Algerine Law" was not greeted with approval in many Chepachet quarters. On April 5, a meeting was held (probably at Sprague's Hotel, which seemed to be the most frequent location for such meetings) to protest the Governor's proclamation. Meeting House Proprietor Amasa Eddy, Jr., was elected chairman of that meeting. 34

1848 court judgment in favor of tanners Amasa Eddy and Lawton Owen doing business as Eddy & Owen against Edwin Smith of Burrillville. Their tannery gave name to Tanyard Lane. Both were Meeting House proprietors and strong Dorrites.

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Eddy, an original Proprietor of the Meeting House, was a tanner and harness maker by trade. He lived on Main Street next to Job Armstrong's Grain Store. He operated a tannery (called Eddy and Owen). His partner was Lawton Owen (another supporter of Dorr who voted for the People's Constitution), who was also an original Proprietor of the Meeting House (owner of Pew #15, a pew located on the East side of the Sanctuary in the front facing the pulpit from the side; it is no longer there). Tanyard Lane in Chepachet is named for Eddy and Owen's Tannery.35 Eddy has been described by one historian of the Dorr War as a "staunch and determined suffragist militant." 36 In later years, he was Representative from Glocester to the General Assembly and the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor in 1852.37

Tanyard Lane, late 19th century. The third house from the left was at one time owned by Lawton Owen. The ruins of the White Mill are in the back. According to some testimony, this house was also used to store powder for the Dorr forces. Courtesy of the Glocester Heritage Society.

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At this April 5th meeting the people assembled stated, "we pledge ourselves, our substance and our sacred honors to stand by the People's Constitution, and firmly to maintain it, until overpowered by a superior force."38

Shortly after this, caucuses were held around the state to name a slate of officers running under the People's Constitution. The Caucus for Glocester was held in Sprague's Hotel on April 16, 1842.

The Statewide ticket was headed by Thomas W. Dorr, with Chepachet's Amasa Eddy, Jr., named as his running mate. At the election held on April 18, 1842, this ticket (running largely unopposed) was elected, along with other statewide offices (Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General), county sheriffs, and a legislature. Jeremiah Sheldon (who owned the house, still standing, across the street from Acote's Hill to the west of the cemetery) and George H. Browne, whose house is now the Rectory of St. Eugene's Church in Chepachet, were elected as Representatives from Glocester. Browne was an 1840 graduate of Brown University and a very active participant in Dorr's legislature.39

1843 audit report signed by Robert Steere and Jeremiah Sheldon, the latter being one of the two successful People's Party candidates for Representative from Glocester under the People's constitution. Meeting House proprietor Jesse Tourtellot (who voted on the People's Constitution) was the Town Treasurer whose "books & papers" were being audited and found in "excellent order" in this document. Note the item for Seth Luther.

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Writ referring to Meeting House Proprietor George Browne, one of the two successful People's Party candidates for Representative from Glocester under the People's constitution.

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Now Rhode Island arguably had two constitutions with two governors, two sets of statewide officers, and two legislatures, each claiming to be the legitimate holder of authority.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


THE LEGISLATURES MEET: MAY 1842

   On May 3, 1842, after a large parade of Dorr supporters through the City of Providence,40 the People's Legislature met in Providence in a foundry building41 with most members in attendance.42 Dorr, Eddy, and the other office-holders under the People's Constitution were sworn into office. Chepachet's Eddy, the Lieutenant Governor (and Meeting House Proprietor), served as President of the Senate. Welcome B. Sayles was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.43 Dorr delivered his inaugural address in the presence of the two houses of his legislature,44 which then proceeded to transact a fair amount of business for a three-day session.45 It voted to ask the Governor to inform the people of the state, officials of other states, and the federal government that a new government was operating in Rhode Island; it repealed several recent acts of the Charter legislature attempting to suppress the People's Constitution; and it repealed emergency legislation designed to "prevent routs, riots, and tumultuous assemblies...."

Home of Meeting House Proprietor George Huntington Browne, Connecticut Road (now Putnam Pike), west of the Meeting House, now the Rectory of St. Eugene's Church. Browne voted for the People's Constitution, and at the age of 24 represented Glocester in the People's Legislature, urging direct action to seize State archives and the State House. Courtesy of Edna Whitaker Kent .

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It also passed legislation providing for voter registration; it enacted measures to collect money due the state; it authorized Governor Dorr to protect the property of the state and commission officers to fill vacancies in the militia. Upon the motion of George H. Browne of Chepachet (owner of Pew #30 in the Chepachet Meeting House), it re-chartered the Greene militia from Glocester and Burrillville. It voted to appoint Americus V. Potter to be head of the state's militia, and Jedediah Sprague (owner of Pew #28 in the Chepachet Meeting House) to be Brigadier General of the Second Brigade, but postponed action on all other brigade commanders; it named a number of regimental commanders; it enacted a resolution calling on the People's Secretary of State to take possession the official state documents from the "former" Secretary of State, and a resolution calling on the People's Treasurer to take possession of the state treasury from the "former" Treasurer; and it voted to pay itself compensation of $1 per day while in session and 10 cents a mile for travel! It then voted to adjourn to early July.

Meeting with resistance from incumbent state officials, Dorr apparently wanted the new government to take possession of the State House, the archives, and the State Seal by direct action,46 but an informal majority of his legislators refused to sanction force in this matter, and the legislature adjourned until July 4. George H. Browne of Chepachet was later singled out in testimony as having been a strong supporter of direct action.

Old State House. Dorrites were denied its use for the convening of their legislature, May, 1842.

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Upon the adjournment of his Legislature, Dorr departed for Washington, DC, to present his cause to President Tyler and other national political figures. Tyler received him (and also a delegation dispatched by Governor King which came to Washington at about the same time). Dorr then returned to Rhode Island by way of New York City, where he met with potential supporters.

Meanwhile, the other (traditional) legislature, operating under the Charter, met on May 4, 1842 in Newport, declaring that there was a state of insurrection in Rhode Island, and asking for federal help to put it down. The President and leading members of his administration, including Secretary of State Daniel Webster, Secretary of War Spencer, and Army General-in-Chief Major General Winfield Scott, monitored the situation carefully. Tyler himself, in a display of excellent common sense, actively worked behind the scenes both to urge a compromise solution and to keep the rebellion from reaching the level of armed conflict — despite charges of partisanship on the one side and of indifference on the other, which were hurled at him after events died down

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


THE ATTACK ON THE CRANSTON STREET ARSENAL

In the middle of May, Dorr, by now back in Rhode Island, attempted to take over the military force of the state, and his supporters launched an attack on the Cranston Street Arsenal in Providence on the night of May 17. Dorr was present at the attempt. Chepachet was represented in this action. At least eight men, including Jedediah Sprague, went from Chepachet to Providence on the night of May 17, either as participants or onlookers.47 The attempt failed, it was not well-received by the public at large, and Dorr once again left the state, seeking help for his cause from neighboring states. This was a major turning point in the Rebellion. The public, a majority of whom had supported Dorr's movement to that point, did not support an appeal to arms, and clearly wished to avoid the spilling of blood as a means of resolving the suffrage issue.

We are aware of no evidence that Chepachet's Amasa Eddy, Dorr's Lieutenant Governor, attempted to exercise the prerogatives of Governor in Dorr's absence, although under the People's Constitution he would officially be the acting governor. It was, however, rumored at the time that one purpose of sending troops to Chepachet in June was to arrest him.

Samuel Ward King, Governor of Rhode Island, 1839-43, from National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume IX; New York: James T. White & Company, 1899, p. 397.

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As these events were taking place, Governor King began to mobilize militia companies from all over the state, which converged on Providence in May at the time of the Arsenal attack, and then later in June while Dorr's forces began to assemble in Chepachet.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


JEDEDIAH SPRAGUE AND THE ENCAMPMENT ON ACOTE'S HILL:
JUNE 23 THROUGH JUNE 27, 1842

   It appears that almost immediately after Dorr's departure plans were made for his return, and these plans envisioned an assemblage of military force. One of the most active persons involved with the making of these plans was General Jedediah Sprague, owner of Sprague's Hotel in Chepachet, and an original Proprietor of the Meeting House (owner of Pew #28) — right across the aisle from Samuel Y. Atwell's Pew #8. Sprague had been active in the suffrage movement at least as early as January, 1841.48 When the People's legislature met in May, it had , as noted, named Sprague as Brigadier General of the Second Brigade of Militia — and had filled other positions in this brigade. It had not, however, named commanders to any of the other three brigades.49 It is unclear why only one brigade was given a commander, but George H. Browne of Glocester, a very active participant in the affairs of the People's legislature, had secured at the May session the re-chartering of the Greene militia company in Burrillville, and he may have been the person responsible for pushing through Sprague's appointment. Although Americus V. Potter had been named as Major General of Militia of the state, when the legislature adjourned,50 Sprague was left as the highest ranking officer in active charge of a unit, and it should not be surprising that he became, de-facto, one of Dorr's chief military advisors. 

Although not a lot is known about the military plans made by the supporters of Dorr, we do know that Sprague was at a meeting of officers loyal to Dorr in Woonsocket on June 1. Colonel D'Wolf chaired the meeting;51 According to Sprague there were in attendance [Silas A.] Comstock, [Isaac B.] Allen, [William H.] Potter, and [?] Dean.52 Military movements were discussed at this meeting; it was anticipated that Dorr would soon return to Rhode Island. According to a witness present, Sprague was "appointed a committee to select a piece of ground suitable for military exercise."53 This may well have been a euphemism for selecting a site which could be fortified. It would therefore seem from the passage of this resolution that it was probably Sprague who chose Acote's Hill as the place where Dorr's forces would assemble — and it was agreed at this meeting that the next meeting of officers would be in Chepachet.

It seems that Sprague was very active during the time between the June 1 meeting in Woonsocket and the climactic events of June 27 in Chepachet. It is highly probable that he played a central role in the assembling of forces in Chepachet during the month of June.

Late 19th century picture of Sprague's Hotel (or Tavern), owned by Meeting House proprietor "General" Jedediah Sprague one of Dorr's chief military advisors. This hotel was Dorr's headquarters during the climactic events of the Dorr Rebellion. Courtesy of the Glocester Heritage Society.

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On Wednesday, June 22, Dorr arrived in Norwich, Connecticut, from New York. He was greeted by the accomplished fact that forces loyal to him were assembling in Chepachet. On this day rumors circulated in Chepachet that forces might move out from Providence to arrest Lt. Governor Eddy, and Citizen Patrols of the Suffrage Party were therefore established to guard the village.54

In the wee hours [sic] of the morning on Thursday, June 23, four armed agents of Governor King's Charter Government arrived in the village and were arrested by Suffrage Party patrols; fearing the approach of other advanced forces of the Charter Government, cannon were discharged in an apparently successful attempt to deter further entries into the town that night.55 These four men were subsequently escorted by armed guard to Woonsocket out of harm's way, where they were released.56

Late in the day on Thursday, the Suffrage forces began to assemble in the village and build an encampment on Acote's Hill with cannon as part of the ordnance gathered there.

1840 Town Meeting warrant calling the freemen of the town to meet at the Inn of Jedediah Sprague, pictured above, which, two years later, was to be Dorr's headquarters.

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On June 25, the Charter General Assembly declared martial law throughout the state.

Dorr arrived at Chepachet at two o'clock on the morning of Saturday, June 25. It is not clear how much he knew in advance about the gathering of the troops or the extent of military preparations. He took a room at Sprague's Hotel, which became his headquarters during his three-day stay in Chepachet. It appears that his original intention was to call his adjourned legislature to meet in Chepachet ten days later on July 4, and he issued a proclamation to this effect.57 The reason given for gathering the troops in Chepachet was to protect the Legislature when it assembled there.58 Since the Chepachet Meeting House was the only building in town that would easily have accommodated a legislative body the size of Dorr's House of Representatives, it may have been envisioned as a site for this assemblage, although there were Proprietors who were strong opponents of Dorr. 59

Map of Chepachet showing the locations of key sites during the Dorr Rebellion, drawn with the help of Edna Kent. Charter troops were quartered at the Meeting House, at Sprague's Hotel, and at the homes of Pardon Hunt, Samuel Y. Atwell, and Jeremiah Sheldon. (Map prepared by Marilyn Brownell).

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Dorr found that forces loyal to him had fortified Acote's Hill, apparently beginning the previous Wednesday or Thursday,60 and he spent most of his time either at the Hotel with his officers or in the camp on the hill with his troops — a brace of pistols at his side according to more than one witness.61 At one time he addressed the troops who were drawn up in a hollow square,62 apparently telling them that they had been gathered to protect the Legislature which was to assemble in a few days, and to defend the rights of the people.

The fortification, according witnesses, consisted of embankments on the south and west sides of the hill63 about four feet high made of dirt and brush.64 There were large open spaces (embrasures) for the seven cannon present,65 which were placed facing the Providence Road.66 The fortifications, with cannon and rifles, thus commanded the approaches to the town from the east and the south. There were cannon balls and boxes and piles of scrap iron,67 although two witnesses said they had been told by the captain of artillery that not all the ammunition would fit the cannons, and that there was only enough to last for about twenty minutes of action.68 There were stacks of rifles placed around the grounds. One witness mentioned seeing musical instruments.69 There were tents on the hill,70 and a "marquee" (a large tent with open sides) which served as a form of headquarters.71 An American Flag flew over the encampment.72

The selection of Acote's Hill apparently was not to the satisfaction of Dorr, who pointed out that it "was commanded on one side [east?], at a short distance, by a superior elevation of land; exposed on another side [west?], and overlooked by an eminence [Tourtellot Hill to the south?] from which it could be swept by heavy artillery."73 In addition, Dorr apparently criticized the way the breastworks had been set up .74

The troops on Acote's Hill were organized informally at the start, but were more under discipline during the last two days.75 They were apparently under the command initially of Major Isaac Allen, and later under the command of General Henry D'Wolf.76 Many came in small groups, not in formal regiments; many were local.77 Jedediah Sprague testified that he know many personally.78 One witness testified that there were two companies from Woonsocket, one from Burrillville, one from Cumberland, one from Glocester, and one from Pawtucket; there was apparently only one full regiment.79 There were a dozen or two men from New York under the command of Mike Walsh.80 Dorr probably had no more than 300 armed men in Chepachet at any one time, although it seems that more men may have been available who lacked arms. Estimates by witnesses of the number of troops present in the encampment on Acote's Hill tend to range from 200-250.81

There were a lot of officers present at Chepachet in addition to Sprague, including Major Isaac B. Allen, initially in command, as noted;82 General Henry D'Wolf, later the overall commander;83 General Charles Newell;84 Colonel William H. Potter, serving as Acting Adjutant General;85 Colonel Charles W. Carter, in command of the artillery;86 [Title?] Benjamin M. Slade, in charge of the Commissary;87 Colonel Levi Aldrich (appointed by Dorr in Chepachet),88 Colonel Silas A. Comstock,89 Captain [?] Bradley,90 Captain [?] West,91 Captain [?] Landers.92 Apparently there was no chaplain.

A reenactment of Dorr's encampment on Acote's Hill, June 20, 1992, on the 150th Anniversary of the Dorr Rebellion. Dr. Patrick T. Conley is playing Governor Dorr; Lt. Colonel Dan Provost of the Glocester Light Infantry is leaning on the cannon. Reproduced by permission of Edna Whitaker Kent, author of Images of America: Glocester, Rhode Island.

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According to several witnesses, the troops drilled and comported themselves in good order, both on the Hill and in the town.93 All evidence is that they treated the lives and property of Chepachet residents with the utmost respect. There was a guard house, perhaps in the village, to hold those who did not obey Dorr's orders in this regard.94 Jedediah Sprague, at Dorr's request, closed the bar in his tavern from the 25th through the 28th, and no liquor was distributed to the men.95

A Commissary was established on Acote's Hill from which the men were fed. The food was obtained mostly by voluntary subscription, some in Providence, some in Woonsocket, some from citizens in Chepachet.96 Amasa Eddy, Jr. was involved in procuring food for the troops.97 The men were not paid;98 all were volunteers.99

There seemed to be much coming and going of troops and other people. Seth Luther,100 later a famous Rhode Island reformer, was present, serving as secretary to the assembled officers.101 Three African-Americans were in the camp who worked together with the soldiers in the Commissary.102

In addition to the troops, there were crowds in Chepachet's streets which were filled with many "civilian" Dorr supporters and curious onlookers. These milled around and at times visited the encampment. On one occasion there was a parade of civilians from the village up to the hill, apparently as a demonstration of support for the troops.103 Although the issue was serious and officials in Providence were panicked by the events in Chepachet, the happenings in the village and even on Acote's Hill at times had the festive quality of a country fair.

There is no doubt that Jedediah Sprague himself was exceedingly active during this three-day period. There were several councils of war held at his hotel, presumably with him present, although he denied being present when the final council of war agreed to disband the encampment.104 One assumes that Amasa Eddy, Jr. was also in attendance at some of these. Atwell, although in the area, apparently absented himself. Sprague's Hotel was surrounded by guards during Dorr's stay there, and witnesses confirm that it was continually frequented by Dorr's military subordinates and political supporters during the three-day period.

As noted, there was no chaplain in the encampment, but discipline was apparently sufficiently informal that troops could easily have attended Sunday services on June 26 at the Meeting House, assuming those services were not canceled due to the emergency. We have no evidence regarding whether Governor Dorr attended services during his stay in Chepachet. It was the only church in town at that time and his leading supporters in Chepachet were pew-holders, so if he did attend services it would certainly have been there, but we have found nothing in any church record suggesting that he did, nor does there seem to be any statement by a witness suggesting it either. It is also possible that services were canceled.

In this regard, the following appears in the records of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church:

    The Monthly Conference at the Chepachet Meeting House, holden on the Saturday before the first Sabbath in August 1842, was very thinly attended. Only eleven persons attended viz 3 brethren 7 sisters and 1 other person. Brother S. Davis opened and closed the meeting by prayer. The 10 brethren and sisters spoke in the meeting. But the troubles originating in the scene of war that we had just passed through in the state and especially in this village had broken up our meetings the previous month of July and the same blighting influence continued. Job Armstrong, Clerk.

    Page from the records of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church Society in Job Armstrong's handwriting decrying the "scene of war" which had just passed through the state and especially the village of Chepachet. This entry was for the first Sabbath in August (August 7) 1842.

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Armstrong, owner of pew #2 in the Meeting House, apparently remained loyal to the Charter Government; after the rebellion was over, he was hurt financially, it is said, as a result of his political persuasion in this regard.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church

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