1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Ezra Ramsdel Records

 Store and textile mill, of Coventry, R.I.

 Records, 1819-1826

 Size: 0.25 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 1092

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, March 2002

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Ezra Ramsdel (1770-1853) was born in Scituate, R.I. to Zephaniah and Phebe (Baker) Ramsdel, who had just moved to Rhode Island from Lynn, Mass. In 1793, Ezra married Susannah Colvin, and they had nine children. He served as a major in the War of 1812. In 1818, Ezra built a cotton yarn mill at Spring Lake in the southeastern part of Coventry, R.I. Ezra's son Nathan Ramsdel (c1803-1831), while studying to be a physician, helped tend to some of mill's business affairs in 1826.

            Spring Lake developed into a small mill village. The mill burned in 1830, and was later redeveloped by other parties. The former village of Spring Lake is currently the site of Coventry's only McDonald's.

            The name is spelled "Ramsdel" in these account books, but the family name is consistently "Ramsdell" in most sources.


D'Amato, Donald A. Coventry Celebration: A Pictorial History, 68. Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning Co., 1991.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

Sheldon, Eliza A. (Patterson). "Abijah Ramsdell and His Descendants." typescript at the R.I. Historical Society, 1934.

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Scope and content:

            These ledgers detail the usual variety of general store sales, with products including tobacco, rum, flour, and sugar. Many of the customers paid either by daily labor or by piecework weaving. In the rear of volume 1 are listed three family heads (Phillip Matteson, John Y. Johnson and Holden Potter) who moved to the factory village, along with the names of their children and their daily wage. Ledger 2 contains several accounts for family labor, but without listing individual children.

            The relationship between these two ledgers is unclear, although each contains several accounts signed by Ezra Ramsdel or on his behalf. Both ledgers include accounts opened straight through from 1821 to 1825. Only some of the customers overlap, and those usually have distinct dates. Two volumes are referred to frequently, but are not part of this collection. "Ledger 2" refers to a "Ledger 1" which apparently predates 1819. Also, both volumes refer frequently to a weaving book. One entry has been found linking the two volumes together. Page 129 of Ledger 2 has an entry for $1.59 as John Y. Johnson's "ballance brot from weaving book." Page 6 of the other volume has the same amount under the same date as Johnson's "amt of balance carid ledger." The last pages of Ledger 2 consist of accounts kept by Nathan Ramsdel with assignees of Ezra Ramsdel, presumably after Nathan took over the affairs of the business for some reason.

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            These volumes were found among the Albert C. and Richard W. Greene Family Papers which were donated circa 1948. There appears to be no genealogical connection between Ramsdell and the Greenes. Richard W. Greene did apparently defend Nathan Ramsdel in a paternity suit in 1827, and may have come into possession of his business records at that time. See Mss 144, box 19, folder 16.

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Processing note:

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Volume 1. Ledger, 1821-1825

Volume 2. "Ledger 2,"1819-1826, includes accounts with weavers

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Children - Employment - Rhode Island - Coventry

Company stores - Rhode Island - Coventry

General stores - Rhode Island - Coventry

Johnson, John Y.

Matteson, Phillip

Potter, Holden

Ramsdel, Nathan, c1803-1831

Spring Lake Mill (Coventry, R.I.)

Textile industry - Rhode Island - Coventry

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