1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Brown & Turner Records

 Merchants, of East Greenwich, R.I.

 Records, 1815-1817

 Size: 0.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 1091

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, March 2002

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Brown & Turner was a mercantile partnership of William Brown and James Varnum Turner (1789-1863), formed in 1815 after the conclusion of the War of 1812 made shipping safe and profitable. The partnership owned shares in at least three merchant vessels that were registered in Newport but sailed out of East Greenwich: the schooner Sally, the sloop Elamsville, and the sloop Resolution. Brown & Turner had their own wharf, located two buildings north of the County Jail, and just north of King Street and Benjamin Davis' home. The store was located on the wharf, and according to a legend passed on to Turner's son, it was lifted up and moved by a wave during the Great Gale of 1815. After that point, the store was always laid out approximately ten degrees out of line with the wharf.

            Nothing further is known about Brown beyond his name; there were many William Browns who were active in Rhode Island at that time. Turner, however, was the son of respected local physician Dr. Peter Turner, attended the Greenwich Academy, and then studied medicine under his father until about 1808. He lived briefly in Warren, R.I., and then returned to East Greenwich to make his fortune as a merchant. After another period investing in Ohio and Tennessee land, he returned again to East Greenwich to form Brown & Turner in 1815. Shortly afterward, he married Catherine Ray Greene (1799-1875), daughter of Ray Greene and grad-daughter of Gov. William Greene. In 1821, he left the firm to live at his wife's family estate, and then in 1828 he removed to Portsmouth to resume the practice of medicine. In 1833 he settled in Newport and resided there until his death.


Bayles, Richard M. History of Newport County, 128-130. New York: L.E. Preston, 1888.

Clarke, Louise Brownell. The Greenes of Rhode Island with Historical Records of English              Ancestry, 465-467. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1903.

Turner, Henry E. Reminiscences of East Greenwich. East Greenwich, R.I.: East Greenwich Public Library, 1934. Reprint of 1891 address. Pages are not numbered, but Brown & Turner discussed in last three pages.

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Scope and content:

            This collection consists solely of two daybooks kept by the firm from May 15 1815 to May 23, 1817. It lists all transactions chronologically. Daybook B has a rough index of selected accounts. Most entries give the page number of the corresponding ledger account, but the ledgers were unfortunately not included with the collection.

            Most transactions are retail sales of general store goods. However, both debits and credits are shown, so payments are recorded, as well as the accounts of Brown & Turner's various shipping enterprises. Both Brown and Turner appear often as individuals, recording their transactions with the firm.

            The store transacted light business on September 23, 1815, presumably before the Great Gale lifted their store in the air. They were closed for the Sabbath on the 24th, and opened for business again on the 25th.

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            These records were apparently donated circa 1948 as part of the Albert C. and Richard W. Greene Family Papers.

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Processing note:

            These two volumes resisted identification for many years. They were originally given book-tags reading "K-Gr," identical to the tags on the other Greene papers. In 1995, they were found among eight unidentified account books, all bearing K-Gr tags. All eight volumes have subsequently been identified and integrated back into the various Greene family groups.

            After the bulk of the Greene Family Papers were processed, the daybooks were compared with the receipts in frequent customer Albert Collins Greene's papers. In daybook #1, page 146, on November 14 1815 is an entry crediting A.C. Greene for a $15 cash payment. In Greene's loose papers is a receipt of the same date reading "Rec'd of A.C. Greene fifteen dollars on account, Brown & Turner." Brown & Turner appeared regularly in court with A.C. Greene as either a justice or their attorney. Some of these documents give their full names.

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Volume 1. Daybook A, 5/15/1815 - 7/10/1816

Volume 2. Daybook B, 7/10/1816 - 5/23/1817

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Brown, William

East Greenwich, R.I. - Commerce

General stores - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Merchants - Rhode Island - East Greenwich

Turner, James V., 1789-1863

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