Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Benajah Whipple House, Glocester, RI

Oliver Winslow house built 1751. Home of Capt. Benajah Whipple, 1759–1786.
Recently Charlotte Gibbs Barsh posted two photos to the Whipple Website Facebook group. The photos were of a house in Glocester, Rhode Island. She also posted an email from Louis Doucett, the current owner of the house. Much of the remainder of this blog entry is quoted verbatim from Charlotte's Facebook post.


Captain Benajah Whipple obtained the house shown in the above photo from the builder, Oliver Winslow, in 1759—when the building was about eight years old.

The current owner, Louis Doucett, has been restoring the home for over 30 years. He describes the restoration process:
The place was murdered. That is, people of the past made sure it didn't fall down, but the house was covered with ... ugly old cement tiles and they tore out everything on the first floor. Doors, door frames, 3 fireplace mantles, chair rails, you name it and I had to figure out what was there, and reproduce it, Rube Goldburg style.

Inscribed on the cellar walls are the initials "BW":

Part of the basement wall of the Benajah Whipple house. The "BW" initials are likely the initials of Benajah Whipple Jr.
Regarding the basement wall, Mr. Doucett writes:
In my cellar, I long ago discovered some writing, written in wet mortar. Some of the mortar has fallen out, but enough is there. One is the initials BW and the other is TABITHA and she wrote the year 1780. At first I thought it was the father and mother, Benajah and wife Tabitha Barnet. Lately I've changed my mind. I think it was Benajah Jr and his twin sister Tabitha, both born in November of 1768. Near the BW are some child's fingerprints. Probably the father was tightening up the walls and he let them do some  graffiti. Funny that today as it was 240 years ago, people, especially children, can't resist writing in wet cement. It was Benajah Jr that married Naomi Winsor. His twin married a Price becoming Tabitha Price. All I know is that she was still alive in 1817.  The first born, Esek joined the army at age 15 in time for the siege against the British at Boston. He eventually went into the Continental navy, probably as a marine and was captured by the British in the Carolinas in 1780. As you probably know, almost the whole bunch moved to Cooperstown, NY around 1793.

Mr. Doucett closes his email by noting that:
Capt. Benajah was Captain of the 1st of 4 infantry companies from my town of Glocester in the Rhode Island militia. I suspect he was at the Battle of Rhode Island, August 29, 1778.

No, my house isn't on any registers. I worked hard restoring the house 30 or so years ago. It's been in my family since 1950 and I think I'm the 13th or so owner. The Whipples were the 3rd. Evidence I have seen indicates it was built in 1751. I suspect a massive renovation around 1818. There were lots of Whipples in this area. It's a classic Yankee Rhode Island name.

Long ago I lived in the next town east and there was a bunch of old Winsor houses there. One was built c. 1710 and was in the Winsor family until 1972. The folks that bought it did a great all out restoration and it's a gem today. Look up Waterman Winsor farm on Wikipedia.

In other fun facts about my house, an elderly blind widow burned to death here on May 1, 1908. She was putting wood in a stove and caught her dress on fire. A man boarding across the street saw flames through a window and came over and wrapped a rug around her to snuff out the flames but she died anyway. He later boarded in my house. It's a bad combination. Blindness, 19th century dress styles, and a wood stove.


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