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

 Dr. Isaac Senter Papers

 Doctor of Newport, Rhode Island


 Papers, 1773-1807

 Size: 3.75 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 165

 Processed by: Lori Salotto, March 2000

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Dr. Isaac Senter (1753-1799) was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire and came to Rhode Island in his youth. He studied under Dr. Thomas Moffat, then began his practice in Cranston. After the battle of Lexington he joined Rhode Island volunteers marching for Boston.

He was appointed surgeon on the secret 1775 expedition to Quebec under Col. Benedict Arnold. The expedition turned out to be disastrous for the regiment. All the troops were either killed or taken prisoner. While Senter was a prisoner he cared for the sick and wounded. He was released after several months and returned to Cranston. He was choses Surgeon-General of Rhode Island in 1776 and from 1778-1780 he was the Cranston representative to the Rhode Island General Assembly. He resigned from continental service in 1779.

            Dr. Senter married Elizabeth (Eliza) Arnold, daughter of Capt. Rhodes Arnold of Pawtuxet on November 8, 1778. They moved to Newport in 1780 where they occupied the Rodman house. This house was home to two generations of doctors before and after Senter. Isaac and Eliza had four sons and two daughters: Horace Gates (c. 1779-1804), Nathaniel Greene (born c. 1780), Edward (c. 1779-1810), Charles Churchill (c. 1782-1797), Eliza Antoinette (1792-1859), and Sarah Ann (born c. 1793). Sarah Ann married Clement Hunt of the U.S. Navy and Eliza Antoinette married Reverend Nathan Bourne Crocker, rector of St. Johns Church in Providence for many years. Charles Churchill died in Havana, Cuba, reason unknown. Edward attended Rhode Island College and was a student of medicine under Dr. William Turner, but he died soon after starting his apprenticeship. Nathaniel studied law in New York under a Mr. Harrison, but left his studies in 1802 and joined the British Army with the East India Service. Horace followed in his father's footsteps and became a doctor after attending Rhode Island College. He practiced in Newport and London. He died in 1804 in a duel with John Rutledge, a congressman from South Carolina. Rutledge had found out that Horace was having a improper relationship with his wife. (see the Elisha Potter, Sr. Papers (Mss 629, sg 2).

            Dr. Senter was one of Rhode Island's most eminent physicians, holding honorary memberships in several American and European medical societies and writing for several medical journals in both America and Europe. He had an extensive library of medical, scientific, and literary lore. He was the physician/surgeon in the State Officers of Milita from 1779-1799 and was director of military hospital from 1794-1799.

            Dr. Senter treated General Nathaniel Greene and his family briefly and named his second son after the General. In a 1776 letter to his wife Catherine, Gen. Greene writes "tell Dr. Senter to write me how recruiting goes on, and the temper of the people. The success of privateers, and everything of an interesting nature."

            Dr. Senter had his portrait painted in 1793 by Samuel King, a well known Rhode Island artist. King also was hired by Senter to paint his chaise and sulkey and gild his chaise and picture frames. King also painted a posthumous miniature of Senter. Senter died at the age of 46 and left an estate worth over $15,000.



Arnold, James. Cranston Vital Records, 23. Providence: Narragansett Historical Publishing Co., 1892.

The Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island, 147. Providence: National Biographical Publishing Co., 1881.

Goodyear, Frank, Jr. American Paintings in the Rhode Island Historical Society, 24-25. Providence: Rhode Island Historical Society, 1974.

"The Journal of Isaac Senter on a Secret Expedition Against Quebec," Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1846.

Ott, Joseph. "Carriages and Their Problems." The Bulb Horn 30:2 (March-April 1969), 30-31.

Parsons, Usher. "Physicians and Medical Society in Rhode Island." American Quarterly xii:3 (February 1840), 256.

Senter, Nathaniel. "Vindication of the Character of Nathaniel G. M. Senter Against the Charge of Being a Spy and Traitor (1802-1805)," Ezekiel Goodale, 1815.

Showman, Richard, Ed. The Papers of General Nathaniel Greene, vol. 1, 250, 365. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976.

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

Updike, Daniel Beckley. History of the Church in Narragansett, 474. Boston: Merrymount Press, 1907.

Return to top

Scope and content:

            This collection, covering the years 1773-1803, and containing the papers of Dr. Isaac Senter and other family members, is arranged into several series. The correspondence series contains both personal and business letters from 1780 and 1796-1799. There is also a folder of undated fragments.

            Series two through four contain loose accounts and bound volumes dealing with personal, medical, and estate transactions. The personal accounts deal with the purchasing of food and other staples, furniture, chaises, sulkey, silver, gold, and pewter items, fabrics, upholstery, jewelry, and electrical machines. There are also bills for schooling, book binding, home, furniture, and chaise repairs and maintenance. As part of Senter's accounts there is a receipt book which makes note of payment to Joseph Martin in 1789 and 1790 for dance lessons for two of his sons (box 1, folder 14).

            The medical accounts series contain many daybooks and ledgers. There is a listing of medical fees on the front page of the ledgers dated 1780-1782 and 1787-1788. On the first page of the 1781-1782 ledger there is a notation about a "storm extraordinary" on April 18, 1782 with heavy wind and rain. There is daybook which records the treatment of General Greene's widow, Catherine, on several occasions in the autumn of 1786 (box 1, folder 23).

            The estate series contains mostly loose accounts. There is a account record in 1800 making reference to buying shoes for "Negro Boy," "Peter Black Boy," "Negro man," and "Negro Gal" (box 2, folder 1). There is also a inventory of Senter's personal estate including his medical and surgical equipment. At his death, Senter's estate was worth $15,504.70 in furniture, clothing, horses, carriages, insurance stock, cash, notes, books, medical supplies and equipment, and other miscellaneous items (box 2, folder 5).

            The miscellaneous series contains a loose 1787 receipt indicating that Dr. Senter purchased two shares in the Ohio Company for two thousand dollars in consolidated Securities of the United States and twenty dollars in Specie (box 2, folder 7). This series also contains an 1782 order from Dr. Coste, first physician to the French Army, ordering that all bedding used by the Small Pox Hospital at Coasters Harbour be burned. ( box 2, folder 8). An important item in this series is a 1775 journal that Dr. Senter kept as the surgeon to the troops sent on a secret expedition against Quebec, under the command of Colonel Benedict Arnold. (box 2, folder 6). This journal is very difficult to read, however, there is a published version that is more readable (see bibliography).

            The Senter Family Papers series contains papers of Dr. Senter's wife Elizabeth (Eliza), and his three sons: Edward, Horace, and Nathaniel. Eliza Senter's papers consist of loose accounts and correspondence, 1800-1803. Edward Senter's papers consist of loose accounts, 1801-1803.

Horace Senter's papers consists of loose accounts and a daybook, 1800-1803. There is also a

fragment of a probate notice regarding Horace's guardianship of his siblings after their mother's

death in 1802.


Return to top


            All of these records, except for Senter's 1775 journal, 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.

            Senter's journal detailing a secret expedition to Quebec under Colonel Benedict Arnold was donated to the Rhode Island Historical Society on April 30, 1878, by Mrs. Crawford Allen, granddaughter of Senter.

Return to top

Processing note:

            This collection was originally processed by J.K. Ott in 1968. It was reprocessed in March 2000 by Lori Salotto. At this time correspondence and the papers of other family members were separated from the financial documents and then were arranged chronologically into several series. Many items have been transferred to other collections. A detailed transfer list can be found in the collection file.

Return to top


Series 1: Correspondence

Box 1, folder 1. 1780, 1796-1799

Box 1, folder 2. undated, fragments

Series 2: Personal Accounts

Box 1, folder 3. 1773-1779

Box 1, folder 4. 1780-1784

Box 1, folder 5. 1780-1802, furniture

Box 1, folder 6. 1785-1789

Box 1, folder 7. 1785-1802, house and furniture repairs and general maintenance

Box 1, folder 8. 1785-1802, several selected items: fabrics, upholstery, jewelry, schooling, electrical machines, book binding

Box 1, folder 9. 1787-1802, chaise, sulkey, and maintenance

Box 1, folder 10. 1790-1794

Box 1, folder 11. 1795-1797

Box 1, folder 12. 1798-1799

Box 1, folder 13. undated

Box 1, folder 14. Receipt book, 1775-1790

Series 3: Medical Accounts

Loose papers:

Box 1, folder 15. 1779-1884

Box 1, folder 16. 1785-1789

Box 1, folder 17. 1790-1792

Box 1, folder 18. 1793-1795

Box 1, folder 19. 1796-1797

Box 1, folder 20. 1798

Box 1, folder 21. 1799

Box 1, folder 22. undated


Oversized vol. 1. 1780-1781 ("Newport Diary")

Oversized vol. 2. 1782-1783

Oversized vol. 3. 1783-1784

Oversized vol. 4. 1784-1785

Oversized vol. 5. 1785

Oversized vol. 6. 1785-1786

Box 1, folder 23. 1786

Oversized vol. 7. 1788-1790

Oversized vol. 8. 1790-1792

Oversized vol. 9. 1792-1794

Box 1, folder 24. 1793-1802

Oversized vol. 10. 1795-1796

Box 3.  1797-1798

Oversized vol. 11. 1799-1800

Oversized vol. 15. 1787-1788


Oversized vol. 12. 1780-1802 (with index volume)

Oversized vol. 13. 1780-1783

Oversized vol. 14. 1778-1779 (also daybook, 1781-1782)

Oversized vol. 16. 1788-1799

Series 4: Estate Accounts

Box 2, folder 1. 1800

Box 2, folder 2. 1801

Box 2, folder 3. 1802

Box 2, folder 4. 1800-1802, medical

Box 2, folder 5. Inventory of personal estate, including a list of medicines and surgical equipment, 1800

Series 5: Miscellaneous


Box 2, folder 6. Journal, 1775, experience as a surgeon on a secret expedition to Quebec under Colonel Benedict Arnold

Box 2, folder 7. Ohio Company receipts, 1787

Box 2, folder 8. Smallpox Hospital order, 1782

Series 6: Senter Family Papers

Box 2, folder 9. Edward Senter: loose accounts 1801-1803

Box 2, folder 10. Elizabeth (Eliza) Senter: correspondence, 1800-1802

Box 2, folder 11. Elizabeth (Eliza) Senter: loose accounts, 1800

Box 2, folder 12. Elizabeth (Eliza) Senter: loose accounts, 1801-1802

Box 2, folder 13. Elizabeth (Eliza) Senter: loose accounts, undated

Box 2, folder 14. Elizabeth (Eliza) Senter: loose estate accounts, 1803

Box 2, folder 15. Horace Senter: loose accounts, 1800-1803 and undated

Oversized vol. 17. Horace Senter: daybook, 1800-1803

Oversized vol. 18. Horace Senter: ledger, list of all accounts alphabetically, 1801-1807

Box 2, folder 16. Horace Senter: probate notice (fragment), 1803,

Box 2, folder 17. Nathaniel Senter: loose accounts, 1800-1802

Box 2, folder 18. Nathaniel Senter: index to a ledger, undated

Return to top


African Americans - R.I. - Newport


Dancing - Rhode Island - Newport

Diaries - 1775

Furniture - Rhode Island - Newport

Greene, Catharine (Littlefield) (1755-1814)

Medical fees

Newport, Rhode Island - Social Life and Customs

Ohio Company

Physicians - Rhode Island - Newport

Senter, Edward (c. 1779-1811)

Senter, Elizabeth (Arnold) (c. 1761-1802)

Senter, Horace (1776-1804)

Senter, Nathaniel (b. circa 1778)

Small Pox - Hospitals - Rhode Island - Newport (Coasters Harbour)

United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1883

End of finding aid - return to top