1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Stephen Arnold Papers

 Merchant of East Greenwich, Rhode Island

 Personal papers, 1785-1828

 Size: 2 linear foot

 Catalog number: MSS 75

 Processed by: Lori Salotto, January 2000

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Stephen Arnold (1765-1824) was one of ten children born in East Greenwich, Rhode Island to Colonel William Arnold and Alice (Wilcox) Arnold. He remained in close contact with his sisters and their husbands and helped them financially after their father's death.

            Upon reaching the age of majority he joined his father in the mercantile partnership of William Arnold & Son. They ran fishing vessels, such as the sloop Polly and the schooner Roby, and were engaged in trade mostly in the Caribbean and South America (Surinam and French Guiana). They also conducted some coastwise trading as well. Stephen's brother, Perry Greene Arnold (Mss 74), spent his life as a mariner in command of trading vessels co-owned or owned by the firm of William Arnold & Son and/or Stephen Arnold. Perry became the master of the Commodore Perry in 1818 and after his death in 1819 Stephen put the sloop up for sale. Stephen was also the owner of the brig Lydia & Margaret. There were several different masters of this brig, one being his nephew William A. Greene, who was the son of his sister Lydia and her husband Dr. Jeremiah Greene. William corresponded frequently with Stephen on his voyages to Surinam. These letters end in 1822 with William's death in Surinam.

            Arnold was a member of the 1st Company of Militia of East Greenwich and received several appointments, the last being that of Brigade Major. He also purchased land in both Ohio (through the Ohio Company), and in Rhode Island.

            Upon his father William Arnold's death in 1816, Stephen served as executor of his estate. He continued as the surviving member of the partnership until his own death. He also took over the inn his father had operated in East Greenwich since 1763. He served as the executor of his brother Perry's estate and became the guardian for Perry's children. There is no record that he was ever married or had children of his own. Arnold died on August 26, 1824 and his estate was settled by Albert C. Greene and Christopher. W. Greene.


Arnold, Elisha Stephen. The Arnold Memorial: William Arnold of Providence and Pawtuxet, 1587-1675: And a Genealogy of His Descendants, 147-148 and 191-192. The Tuttle Publishing Company, 1935.

Kemble, Harold. Guide to the Stephen Arnold Papers, Rhode Island Historical Society Library, 1987.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

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Scope and content:

            This collection, covering the years 1785 to 1828, is arranged into several series: correspondence, estate records, financial records, maritime documents, and miscellaneous. The correspondence series is arranged chronologically and contains mostly business letters with some personal letters from two of Arnold's sisters, his brother Perry, four of his brother-in-laws, and several of his nieces and nephews. This series also contains letters from the Ohio Company (box 1, folder 15), a land company he was involved with.

            There are many letters from Perry Greene Arnold to his brother Stephen discussing his various voyages, economic markets in the various ports, and business transactions. Other letters from Perry Greene Arnold can be found in the papers of his father, William Arnold (Mss 71). There are three other very interesting letters in the collection. One is from William Branch in 1816 discussing his sister Hannah Greenleaf's property rights in reference to financial claims against her husband (box 1, folder 5). Another letter from a Mr. Casey describes frontier life in Bellepre, Ohio in 1791. Casey writes "it always gave me pleasure to hear from my friends more especially in this secluded part of the world, but the feelings of people here are pretty much as they are elsewhere they love to be noticed, hope you will continue to write me and tell me how the world goes the other side of the mountains, here it has been a War since the affair at Big bottom...have no doubt but they will succeed in establishing a Chain of Posts round us which in my opinion will soon give us peace. I wish they may come to action with them, and give them a good drubbing, but have but little hopes of it & rather think it will produce a general treaty"(box 1, folder 1). The other interesting letter is from Stephen Arnold's niece Sarah. Her undated letter is about her conduct in regards to a gentleman caller. She writes "having heard that it was generally reported that I received the attentions of John Brown, I take this method of assuring you that it is not true...considering him as a near relation of ours, I did not think anything particular of it, if he had ever given me any reason to suppose he visited me with particular motives, I should immediately have requested him to discontinue his visits... my conduct shall never leave me friendless...I have always endeavored to merit the esteem and confidence of my Friends"(box 1, folder 12).

            The estate records series consists of the estates of Perry Greene Arnold, Stephen Arnold, William Arnold, and John Weeden. The financial records series contains account books (two oversized), loose accounts, records of William Arnold & Son (after his father's death in 1816). The miscellaneous series contains militia appointments, deeds and property records, inn license renewals, information regarding the Ohio Company, and power of attorney documents.

            The maritime documents relate to trade in the Caribbean and on the northern coast of South America (Surinam). This series consists of articles of agreement, bills of lading, bonds for duties, bills of sales, insurance policies, manifests, and permits to land cargo. There are documents pertaining to the various ships that Stephen Arnold owned or used in his trade. There is extensive documentation pertaining to the brig Lydia & Margaret and the ship Commodore Perry. One can also find information pertaining to the brig Lydia & Margaret in the papers sof Perry Greene Arnold (Mss 74), William A. Greene (Mss 1043), and William Arnold (Mss 71). Commodore Perry records can also be found in the Perry Greene Arnold Papers (Mss 74). Other maritime documents can be found in the records of William Arnold & Son (Mss 71). Arnold's collection also contains a deposition he signed regarding damage to the ship Betsy and its lading due to the vessel running aground in the Bahama Islands in 1806. The deposition was also signed by the master of the ship, Benjamin Greene. (box 1, folder 3)

            There are also other collections pertaining to Stephen Arnold. In the Shepley Collection (vol. 13, pp. 43 and 45) there is an 1820 purchase agreement and a letter from Thomas W. Williams inquiring about the price and condition of the Commodore Perry, a vessel owned by Stephen Arnold. In the William Arnold Papers (Mss 71) there are records of William Arnold & Son, a partnership of William and Stephen Arnold. Also, Stephen Arnold kept a journal while on board the Brig Betsy in 1806 on a voyage from Rhode Island to Barbados. That journal can be found in the Ship's Log Collection (Mss 828).

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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 certain, 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 January 2000 by Lori Salotto. At this time, the correspondence and maritime documents were separated from the financial accounts, and were put in separate folders. The collection was then divided into several series.

            Many items have been transferred to other collections. A detailed transfer list can be found in the collection file.

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Series 1: Correspondence

Box 1, folder 1. 1787-1800

Box 1, folder 2. 1801-1805

Box 1, folder 3. 1806-1809

Box 1, folder 4. 1810-1814

Box 1, folder 5. 1815-1816

Box 1, folder 6. 1817

Box 1, folder 7. 1818

Box 1, folder 8. 1819

Box 1, folder 9. 1820

Box 1, folder 10. 1821

Box 1, folder 11. 1822-1824

Box 1, folder 12. undated

Series 2: Estate records

Perry Greene Arnold Estate:

Box 1, folder 13. Loose records, 1819-1824

Stephen Arnold Estate:

Oversized volume 1. Account book, 1824-1825

Box 1, folder 14. Account book, 1824-1828

Box 1, folder 15. Loose records, 1824-1826

Box 1, folder 16. Loose records, 1827-1828

Box 1, folder 17. Bank book, 1824-1828

William Arnold Estate:

Oversized volume 2. Account book, 1817-1825

Box 1, folder 18. Loose records, 1816-1823

John Weeden Estate:

Box 1, folder 19. Loose accounts, 1793-1798

Series 3: Financial records

Loose accounts

Box 1, folder 20. 1785-1789

Box 1, folder 21. 1791-1792

Box 1, folder 22. 1793-1794

Box 1, folder 23. 1795-1799

Box 1, folder 24. 1800-1804

Box 2, folder 1. 1805-1809

Box 2, folder 2. 1810-1814

Box 2, folder 3. 1815-1816

Box 2, folder 4. 1817

Box 2, folder 5. 1818

Box 2, folder 6. 1819

Box 2, folder 7. 1820

Box 2, folder 8. 1821

Box 2, folder 9. 1822-1824

Box 2, folder 10. undated

Box 2, folder 11. William Arnold & Son, 1817-1822

Box 2, folder 12. Account book: schooner Lucretia, 1818

Box 2, folder 13. Account book: ships, 1801-1822; accounts of Stephen Arnold and William Arnold & Son

Box 2, folder 14. Bank account book, 1815-1824

Box 2, folder 15. Labor account book, 1805-1821

Box 2, folder 16. Labor account book, 1823

Box 2, folder 17. Labor account book: ship Commodore Perry and brig Lydia & Margaret, 1818-1821

Box 2, folder 18. Memoranda books, 1796-1822

            Account records, 1799-1817 and 1816-1822

            Labor account records, 1816-1817

            Journal entries, 1796-1818

Box 2, folder 19. Memoranda book, 1804-1817

            Accounts payable, 1800-1823

            Sales records of barrels, 1797-1798; horses, 1806; and tea, 1799

Series 4: Maritime documents

Box 2, folder 20. Articles of agreement, 1807, 1818-1822

Box 2, folder 21. Bills of lading, 1816-1821

Box 2, folder 22. Bonds of duties, 1794-1822

Box 2, folder 23. Bills of sale, 1813

Box 2, folder 24. Insurance policies for ships, 1809-1820

Box 2, folder 25. Manifests, 1796, 1819


Box 2, folder 26. Manifest of the sloop Abigail,1819, master Benjamin Baker, relation to Stephen Arnold unknown

Box 2, folder 27. Permit to land cargo, 1794

Series 5: Miscellaneous

Box 2, folder 28. Appointments in the first company of militia, East Greenwich, 1785 and undated

Box 2, folder 29. Deeds and personal property, 1812-1824

Box 2, folder 30. Inn license renewals, 1818-1820

Box 2, folder 31. Ohio Company, 1787-1815

Box 2, folder 32. Power of attorneys, 1800-1817 

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Abigail (schooner)

Abigail (sloop)

Angeronia (ship)

Arnold, Perry Greene (1772-1819)

Arnold, Sarah

Betsy (brig)

Commodore Perry (ship)

Cook, John (1779-1820)

Cook, Phebe (Arnold) (1780-1868)

Cuba - Commerce

Cynthia (sloop)

Fisheries - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Gonzales (schooner)

Greene, William A. (1795-1822)

Greene, Benjamin

Greenleaf, Hannah (Arnold) (b. 1775)

Greenleaf, Robert

Hampden (ship)

Holmes, Silas (1785-1860)

Leopard (sloop)

Lucretia (schooner)

Lydia (schooner)

Lydia & Margaret (brig)

Merchants - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Nancy (sloop)

Ohio Company

Orange (sloop)

Perseverance (ship)

Polly (sloop)

Providence (sloop)

Putnam, Benjamin (d. 1825)

Rising Son (sloop)

Roby (schooner)

Sarah (schooner)

Somerset (sloop)

South America - Commerce

Surinam - Commerce

Taverns (Inns) - R.I. - East Greenwich

Updike, Ardelisa (Arnold) (1767-1850)

Updike, Daniel (1761-1842)

Women - Rhode Island

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