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Gaspee Raiders
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The Joseph Bucklin Society Gaspee Raider Relationship Project.
Investigating: what connections existed among the Gaspee Raiders?

The raiders of the Gaspee were Rhode Island men with various relationships among them.  This helped keep their identities secret when it was decided that England should not be allowed to discover who were the persons who attacked the Gaspee.  The Joseph Bucklin Society is now undertaking coordinated research to discover and publish those connections among the raiders.

It is fascinating to plot the genealogical, financial, business, and social relationships and connections among the persons in the Gaspee attacking party and those involved in the cover-up of the names of the attackers.   First of all, consider the geography and demographics of Rhode Island when the Gaspee was attacked.

The town of Providence, in 1772:

  • was approximately only six square miles, 
  • with 4,000 inhabitants 
  • in about with 650 families 
  • residing in approximately 370 dwellings, 
  • and only about 700 men were over the age of 16 and capable of bearing arms. 

In short, the townspersons would have been well acquainted with one another. 

Business and family relationships built bonds among the townspersons. For example you will find:

  • Joseph Bucklin 5th (who fired the shot) was a second cousin of Amy Whipple, who in turn was married to another Joseph Bucklin, b. 1742.
  • Joseph Bucklin 4th, the father of Joseph Bucklin 5th, was a prominent merchant of the Providence area.  The brigantine Providence was a link to others who figured in Gaspee raid.  The brigantine Providence was commissioned in 1757 by Stephen Hopkins, as governor of Rhode Island, as a privateer to seize goods of France.  Esek Hopkins was the captain of the privateer ship. The first prize captured by Esek was the ship desire, and 20 year old John Brown was appointed the sales agent to sell the ship. [Brown1988].  Later, Esek served as a ship captain for Joseph Brown on many voyages after the Brown brothers began their merchant business. The ship continued in use for at least a dozen years, and, in 1768, the Providence  was partly owned  by Joseph Bucklin the 4th, together with Nicholas Cooke and  Benjamin Cushing.
  • John B. Hopkins (captain of one of the boats) was a second cousin, once removed, of Amy Whipple. He was a ship captain of John Brown.   John B. Hopkins  was a nephew of Stephen Hopkins.
  • Esek Hopkins, an experienced merchant captain of the Browns,  may have been in the attacking party. He was the father of John B. Hopkins and a brother of Stephen Hopkins.
  • Stephen Hopkins was associated with John Brown in various business ventures
  • Abraham Whipple (who was the captain in charge of maneuvers of the attackers) was a 3rd cousin of Amy Whipple. Whipple was married to Sarah Hopkins, the daughter of John Hopkins.

What is truly remarkable is that even though some Rhode Islanders were loyal to the English, they never publicly came forward with much information. For example, the first cousin of Joseph Bucklin 5th, one Susanna Bucklin, was married to a brave man (Solomon Johns) who joined the English and was a excellent and daring spy for them in the Revolutionary War.

In Providence in 1772 there were six distilleries, two spermaceti candle works, two tanneries, two gristmills, a slaughterhouse, a potash works, and a paper mill.  Economic activity was dominated by merchants engaged in shipping, and especially by three mercantile firms: Nicholas Brown and Company, Joseph and William Russell, and Clark and Nightingale.

What follows is a sampling of some of the connections that contributed to the ability of the Gaspee Raiders being able to keep their identity concealed until after the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

John Brown, the grand planner of the affair was a grandchild of Lydia Bucklin; and Lydia was the sister of Joseph Bucklin's grandfather. To put it otherwise, Joseph Bucklin's grandfather and John Brown's grandmother were brother and sister.

Abraham Whipple was the ship captain in command of the longboats that rowed out to attack the Gaspee. The Whipple's genealogy lists 13 Bucklins as Whipple relatives in the Providence area at or before the time of Joseph Bucklin.

James Sabin was the owner of the tavern where the burning of the Gaspee was organized. Joseph's grandfather had married into the Sabin family; and Joseph himself was married to a Sabin.

Arthur Fenner owned the wharf in Providence from which longboats left to attack the Gaspee. Fenner must have been known well by merchant Joseph Bucklin, for Fenner acted as a witness to the will of Joseph.

Stephen Hopkins was Chief Justice in Rhode Island in 1772. Stephen's brother William had a daughter, Sarah Hopkins, who was the wife of Abraham Whipple, a ship captain of one of the longboats attacking the Gaspee. Stephen's brother John was in the attacking party, and possibly his brother Esek also was in the Gaspee attacking party.

Esek Hopkins was a ship captain for John Brown. When both Esek and Joseph Bucklin 4th were younger, Esek Hopkins had rented a sloop to Joseph Bucklin for his merchant business.

Later the brigantine Providence was a connecting point among Esek, Joseph Bucklin 4th, and probably John Brown.  The brigantine Providence was commissioned in 1757 (probably to John Brown) by Stephen Hopkins, as governor of Rhode Island, as a privateer to seize goods of France. Esek Hopkins was the captain of the privateer ship. After the Seven Years War, the brigantine Providence continued in use as a merchant ship. In 1768 it was partly owned by Joseph Bucklin the 4th., together with Nicholas Cooke and Benjamin Cushing. We know that because in 1768 his ship the brigantine Providence was seized for  being involved in rum smuggling. The flimsiest of excuses was used to defend the case. Joseph won the case, and costs were assessed against the customs collector. After the Revolutionary War, the brigantine Providence was owned by John Brown.  [Hawes, Off Soundings p 220]

John Andrews was the judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court in Rhode Island, and he rarely found for the English in the customs cases before him. He was with Lt. Gov. Sessions in some of Sessions attempt to frustrate English attempts to find the culprits of the affair. Andrews himself was the subject of inquiry into his knowledge of what happened the night of the Gaspee attack. Andrews had been the judge who had found for Joseph Bucklin 4th in a customs seizure of a ship owned by Joseph, and ordered return of the ship to Joseph.

Many of the raiders came from the oldest and most respected members of Providence. See, e.g.,  the record of the Providence town meeting of January 1695-6: " Where as, there hath ben a Request made unto ye Town by Jon Dexter, William Hopkins, Enenetus Olney, William Turpin, Joseph Whipple, John Smith, Philip Tillinghast, and Joseph Smith, that the Town would accommodate them with a Small spot of land to set a School House upon in some place in this Town about ye Highway called Dexter Lane or about ye Stampers hill, The Town has Considered of the mater and Do by these presents freely Grant unto ye aforesaid persons…a Spot of Land of Forty foot square…about the place where it may be most convenient." [ Towne Meeting Jan. 27, 1695-6, ERP, XX:22. ]  (Except for Turpin and Tillinghast, all the above petitioners were part of the extended Whipple family at that time.)



References in brackets [ ] or { } on any page in this website are to books, or other materials, listed in the Joseph Bucklin Society Library Catalog.]