1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Preserved Pearce Papers

 Innkeeper and tailor of East Greenwich, Rhode Island

 Papers, 1744-1798

 Size: 3 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 72

 Processed by: Lori Salotto, February 2000

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Major Preserved Pearce (ca. 1723-1799) was born in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He was married three times and had several children. His first marriage to Sarah (d. 1744) ended with her death two months after the birth of their daughter Sarah (1744-1808). He then married Alice Spencer on March 9, 1745 and they had four children: Susanna (ca. 1746-1795), Hannah (ca. 1750-1815), Mary (1753-1835), and John (b. 1756). His third marriage was to Sarah Dexter on December 5, 1790.

            Pearce was very much involved with his community. He was an ensign in the First Company of the East Greenwich Militia in 1752, was promoted to captain in 1753 and served in that capacity until he was appointed major of the Kent County Regiment in 1761. He was also appointed as a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, a justice of the peace, collector of rates, overseer of the poor, and a deputy sherrif. He was also a tailor, ran a store, and operated an inn in East Greenwich.

            Upon Pearce's death in 1799, Thomas Arnold and Hannah Pearce became the executors of his estate. His will left Arnold (husband of his daughter Sarah) the northern part of his house and property and gave to Hannah the southern part. Hannah also received all household goods and Arnold received other properties. Pearce bequeathed fifty dollars to his daughter Mary and left his grandchildren five dollars each. His wife, Sarah (Dexter) Pearce received fifty dollars and all goods she had brought to the marriage.


Arnold, Elisha Stephen. The Arnold Memorial: William Arnold of Providence and Pawtuxet, 1587-1675: And a Genealogy of His Descendants, 144. Hartford, Conn.: The Tuttle Publishing Company, 1935.

Arnold, James. Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, East Greenwich. Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, 1891.

Beaman, Alden G., ed. Rhode Island Genealogical Register 2:1, 26, 32. Rhode Island Genealogical Research Institute, 1979.

Beaman, Alden G., ed. Rhode Island Vital Records: East and West Greenwich Marriages from Marriage, Probate and Death Records, Vol. 7, 273-274. Alden G. Beaman, 1980.

East Greenwich Probate Records, 1784-1819, on microfilm at Rhode Island Historical Society Library.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

Smith, Joseph Jenks. Civil and Military Lists of Rhode Island, 1647-1800. Preston and Rounds Co., 1900.

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Scope and content:

            This collection, covering the years 1744 to 1798, is arranged into three series: correspondence, business accounts, and miscellaneous. The correspondence series is arranged chronologically and contains mostly business letters. Included in the correspondence series are two depositions concerning Pearce's daughters, Susanna and Hannah. Susanna (1768) and Hannah (1771) admitted under oath that they were pregnant "with a bastard child." Susanna claimed Daniel Coggeshall and Hannah claimed Peleg Coggeshall fathers of their children. (box 1, folders 1 and 2).

            The business accounts include both account books and loose accounts which deal with work Pearce did as a tailor and an innkeeper, as well as his personal accounts. The ledgers are of an unusual format in that they are kept alphabetically like a ledger, but the entries are more like daybook entries. Two interesting entries appear within this series. Contained within the inn and tailor accounts, 1778-1781, there is a written cure for consumption. It says "take the bark of the small black wild cherry tree and of the low land beech tree, not buttonwood, equal quantities of which make a strong decoction. Give a pint there of per day in several portions or more if the stomach will bear it and to render it more palatable it may be mixed into a weak toddy or tea as may be most agreeable to the patient and altho a few days use of it may occasion sensible alterations yet the course of drinking it must be used at least three months to render the cure effectual" (box 2, folder 7).

            The other interesting item was an undated four-page entry in a memoranda book detailing a bizarre argument between Pearce and his wife over quinces. He got mad at her for picking the best quinces out of the barrel. This argument continued into the next day, after which she "declared that she would not have any...she swore right out and damned the quinces and declared she would not eat any of them..." (box 2, folder 12).

            The miscellaneous series contains arrest warrants, appointments, auction notices and extracts, indentures, land leases, liquor licenses, power of attorneys, and a will. The interesting item of note in this series is a diary Pearce kept from approximately 1793-1792. This diary is not a detailed day-to-day accounting, but rather sporadic entries. The diary details the relationship between his third wife, Sarah Dexter, and himself and her and his daughter, Hannah. According to Pearce she was a very disaggreable woman who was extremely jealous. She never believed him when he told her he had been somewhere. She always believed he had been with other women. She was also very jealous of Hannah. During one argument she called Hannah a "black bitch."(box 3, folder 9).

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            These records are believed to have arrived as part of the "Albert C. and Richard W. Greene Collection." The actual date of the accession is not known for sure, but the collection was in hand by the late 1940s. Therefore, the date of 1948 was assigned to the collection.

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Processing note:

            This collection was originally processed circa 1987 by Harold Kemble. It was reprocessed in 2000 by Lori Salotto. At that time, financial and non-financial documents were separated from one another and put in separate folders and account books were foldered and boxed.

            Loose William Arnold accounts dated 1769, 1774-1793, and 1789, and two inn account books dated 1772 and 1774-1775, were transferred to the William Arnold Papers (Mss 71, box 3, folder 12.) Also, transferred a plat map on land sold by Abraham &Moses Lippit to Zebulon Utter in 1771 to the Richard W. Greene Family Papers (Mss 1043).

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Series 1: Correspondence

Box 1, folder 1. 1761-1769

Box 1, folder 2. 1770-1778

Box 1, folder 3. 1781-1785

Box 1, folder 4. 1790-1798

Series 2: Accounts

Account books:

Box 1, folder 5. Daybook, 1771

Box 1, folder 6. Ledger: inn accounts, 1757-1759

Box 1, folder 7. Ledger: inn accounts, 1758-1766

Box 1, folder 8. Ledger: inn accounts, 1759-1765

Oversized vol. 1. Ledger inn accounts, 1760-1773

Box 1, folder 9. Ledger: inn accounts, 1761-1763

Box 1, folder 10. Ledger: inn accounts, 1763

Box 1, folder 11. Ledger: inn accounts, 1763-1764

Box 1, folder 12. Ledger: inn accounts, 1764-1765

Box 1, folder 13. Ledger: inn accounts, 1764-1768

Box 1, folder 14. Ledger: inn accounts, 1767

Box 1, folder 15. Ledger: inn accounts, 1767-1768

Box 2, folder 1. Ledger: inn accounts, 1773-1786, also contains many other items

            Account of work done on the highway, 1783 (pp. 538-541)

            Estimate of souls in several provinces, 1744 (11th page between pp. 256-257)

            Executions of writs, 1775 (8th page between pp. 256-257) and 1784 (p. 553)

Expenses incurred driving cattle and sheep to Boston for the poor of Boston and Charlestown, 1744 (5th through 10th pages between pages 256-257)

            Writs, 1775 (3rd and 4th pages between pp. 256-257) and 1782 (p. 552)

Box 2, folder 2. Ledger: inn accounts, 1797-1798

Box 2, folder 3. Ledger: inn and tailor accounts, 1755-1760 (unusual format) and ledger: inn and tailor accounts, bulk 1773-1778, with a few dates as early as 1766 and as late as 1794

Box 2, folder 4. Ledger: inn and tailor accounts, 1778-1781

Box 2, folder 5. Ledger: inn and tailor accounts, 1791-1794, includes buying of lottery tickets for street and bridge work

Box 2, folder 6. Ledger: inn and tailor accounts, 1791-1796, includes making a jacket

and britches for Pomp Negro, 1792 and the buying of lottery tickets

Oversized vol. 2. Ledger: store, 1771-1773 (with separate index)

Oversized vol. 3. Ledger: store, 1772-1774

Box 2, folder 7. Memoranda books, 1759-1794; 1761-1769

            Accounts, 1759-1768; 1761-1768

            Listing of individual names, 1779

            Notes payable, 1784-1794

            Notes receivable, 1767-1768

            Writs, 1766-1769 

Box 2, folder 8. Memoranda book, 1778 and undated

            Accounts, 1778

            Diary entry, undated


Loose accounts: 

Box 2, folder 9. 1744-1749

Box 2, folder 10. 1750-1759

Box 2, folder 11. 1760-1764

Box 2, folder 12. 1765-1769

Box 2, folder 13. 1770-1774

Box 2, folder 14. 1775-1779

Box 2, folder 15. 1780-1789

Box 2, folder 16. 1790-1798, and undated

Box 2, folder 17. As collector of rates, 1763-1770

Box 2, folder 18. Writs and executions, 1763-1773

Series 3: Miscellaneous

Box 2, folder 19. Arrest warrants, 1764-1791

Box 2, folder 20. Appointments, 1752-1793

Military, 1752 and 1761

            Deputy Sheriff, 1787

            Justice of the Peace, 1777

            Justice of the Common Court of Pleas, 1778-1779 and 1793

Box 2, folder 21. Auction notices and extracts, 1761-1774

Box 2, folder 22. Diary, 1791793-1795

Box 2, folder 23. Indentures, 1752, 1769

Box 2, folder 24. Land leases, 1797-1798

Box 2, folder 25. Liquor licenses, 1758-1797

Box 2, folder 26. Power of attorney, 1761-1767 and undated

Box 2, folder 27. Will, 1795

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Arnold, Thomas (1740-1821)

African Americans - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Diaries, 1793-1795

Coggeshall, Daniel

Coggeshall, Peleg

East Greenwich - Social Life & Customs

General Stores - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Pearce, Hannah (ca. 1750-1815)

Pearce, Susanna (ca. 1746-1795)


Tailors - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Taverns (Inns) - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

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