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

 Gabriel Bernon Papers

 French Huguenot merchant of Providence, Newport, and Kingston.

 Papers, 1652-1946. Bulk dates 1687-1885.

 Size: 1.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 294

 Processed by: Robin P. Flynn

 USE MICROFILM    HF3163 N5 B4 1702 NEG (part)


©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Gabriel Bernon (1644-1736), a Huguenot and prominent merchant of an ancient family in La Rochelle, France, fled that country in 1686, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes led to his religious persecution. He arrived in Boston (via Amsterdam and London) in June, 1688, with the intention of establishing a settlement at Oxford, Massachusetts; a plan that had evolved through his meetings with other refugees when in London. Bernon's financial support made the settlement a reality for other French Huguenot families who sailed to America with him, but he chose to settle in Boston. The Oxford settlement was abandoned in 1696 after an Indian attack in which four of its members were killed. Attempts were made to re-establish Oxford in 1699, but it was abandoned permanently due to Indian threat in 1704.

            After the first break-up of the settlement, Bernon relocated permanently to Rhode Island (in 1697). He stayed in Newport until about 1706, when he moved to Providence. He left Providence for Kingston in 1712 and lived there until 1718, then returned to Providence, where he stayed until his death in 1736.

            He had re-established himself in trade soon after his arrival in the American colonies, becoming interested in shipbuilding, and the manufacture of such items as nails, salt, and pine rosin. His business successes attracted the attention of prominent persons in the colonies and in England, who attempted to assist him in establishing contracts with the English government for naval supplies. He also made use of some of the Oxford property by setting up a wash-leather manufactory there, and supplying glovers and hatters in Boston and Newport with that product.

            Bernon's lasting mark on the history of Rhode Island, however, is in the area of religion. Charles W. Baird observes, "Bernon had been a member of the French Church, until his departure from Massachusetts...But in Rhode Island...he became a fervent and zealous member of the Church of England." He was active in establishing churches in each of the Rhode Island towns in which he lived at different times during his nearly forty years of residency: Trinity Church in Newport, St. Paul's Church in Kingston, and St. John's Church in Providence. These were Rhode Island's earliest Episcopal churches.

            Bernon also is the ancestor to many of Rhode Island's oldest families, including Allens, Crawfords, Dorrs, Coddingtons, and Whipples. He was twice married, first to Esther Le Roy, whom he married in France in 1673, and who died in Newport in 1710; then to Mary Harris, whom he married in 1712. Each marriage produced one son in addition to several daughters; however, neither son survived to have children, so all of Bernon's descendants are through his female children. Bernon died in 1736 at the age of 92, and is buried beneath St. John's Church in Providence.


Baird, Charles W.,The Huguenot Emigration to America (New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co.,


Scope and content:

The collection is divided among three categories: Gabriel Bernon's personal papers, including correspondence, family documents, contracts, memoranda, and the like; the papers of his descendants and of author Charles W. Baird, consisting of correspondence and research on Bernon genealogy; and papers concerning excavation of the fort at the Oxford settlement and a monument to the original Oxford inhabitants.


The bulk of the original Bernon papers, including the large scrapbook, and the genealogical correspondence and research by his descendants, were donated by several parties between the years 1894 and 1911, namely by Laura H. and Mary Carpenter (the scrapbook), the bequest of Mrs. Henry G. Russell, and by William D. Ely, son-in-law of Zachariah Allen. The Russell bequest probably also included the Charles W. Baird copybooks. The letter from J. Dudley to Bernon dated April 6, 1715, was purchased in 1958 from the Carnegie Book Shop. The provenance of the papers concerning the Oxford excavation and monument, and the correspondence concerning same, is unknown.

Processing note:

Note regarding the Charles Baird notebooks in this collection:

            These notebooks are invaluable guides to understanding many of the papers in this collection. It does not appear that they provide English interpretations of all the French documents among the papers; however, Baird transcribed many of the documents and at the least, he clarifies the handwriting. The notebooks also indicate, in many cases, in whose private collections these papers were before they were accessioned by the Rhode Island Historical Society. In the inventory below, there are references to which of the three notebooks can be used as guides when researching this collection.


An asterisk (*) next to any item in this inventory indicates the document is written in French.

Series 1. Gabriel Bernon papers.

Oversize collection.

            "Delineation of the town of Oxford", a map of the settlement

            Letter of citizenship granted to Bernon in London, England, April 27, 1687

            *Letter to GB (at Boston) from his son, Dec. 29, 1696

            Letter to GB from James Honeyman, Dec. 8, 1714, re: Bernon's gift of a black woman to his daughter Sarah; with *notes by Bernon

Account book, 1702-1706.


Box 1. (Baird copybook pp. 21-28, 135-198)


            GB to French Church of New York, March 25, 1699

            Copy of above letter with notation by Bernon, "copied from the original by one of my friends" and additional notes by Bernon

            Copy of letter from French Church of New York to GB, May 22, 1699 with same notation as above and additional notes by Bernon

            To GB from [Chavet?] Courtemarche, June [2?], 1699

            To GB from J. Dudley re: captain's commission at Oxford, Mass., July 7, 1702

            To GB, "my very dear friend", from Pierre Daille, August 5, 1706

            To GB from Daille, Leblond [?], Baker, and Guionneau, 1706/7

            To GB from his family at Rochelle, France, September 16, 1714

            To GB from J. Dudley re: building the grist mill at Oxford, April 6, 1715

            GB to Paul Dudley re: title of Oxford, Mass. lands, Oct. 21, 1720

            Copies of letters from GB to James Honeyman, Sept. 21, 1721; and Minister MacSparran, September 29, 1721

            To GB from James Honeyman re: appointment of a minister to the Providence church, Sept. 1, 1722

            Copy of letter from GB to Francis Nicholson of South Carolina, soliciting funds to build church at Providence, October 4, 1722

            To GB from Thomas Phillips of North Kingstown, re: Reverend MacSparran, August 5, 1723

            To Eve Bernon from Ann Francis (at Warwick), 1747-8

            To William D. Ely from Florence E. Carr of Somerville, Mass., re: genealogy of one of the "elders" of the French church at Oxford, Mass., 1898-9 


            Marriage contract of GB and Esther le Roy, 1673

            Sale and lease (of?) by Fauvre and wife to GB and wife, Sept. 5, 1682 (Despite note in folder re: a translation by Rapallo, no translation has been found in the collection.)

            Contract between GB and Jacques Hipaud for work at Oxford farm, April 28, 1687

            Contract between GB and Jean Mourgue de Languedoc, April 22, 1688

            Contract between GB and Pierre Cornilly for three years' service, April 26, 1688

            Contract between GB and John Barre concerning Barre's "warfaring" voyage in ship Porcupine, April, 1690

            Contract between GB and Peter Canton for manufacture of rosin, May 9, 1692

            Contract for sale of rosin between GB and John Taylor, May 21, 1694

            GB's lease to Jonah Owen of 500 acres of land at Oxford, Mass., Oct. 27, 1718

Letters of attorney

            Letter from John Barre granting GB power of attorney, April, 1690

            Letter from Peter Canton granting GB power of attorney to manage rosin and turpentine works, Dec. 23, 1693


            Petition of GB to Lord Commissioners of Trade, London, re: sales of naval stores, circa 1693-96?

            Petition of GB to King of England re: sales of naval stores, circa 1693-96?(Date on document is almost certainly erroneous; GB traveled to London on this business twice between 1693

               and 1696. See Miscellaneous Series, folder __, note by GB re: this document and the date of his note, which is most likely the source of confusion. Per Charles Baird's copybook.)    


            Will of Gabriel Bernon, February 16, 1727/8 and proven copy, 1735/6

            Copy of will of Joseph Whipple [relation to Bernons??], 1743/4

            Will of Anne Power, dated July 2, 1770

            Will of Eve Bernon (GB's daughter by Mary Harris), February 7, 1776 (Baird notates Eve Bernon died 1775.)


            Deed of division among Gideon Crawford, Joseph Whipple, and Robert Gibbs, July 17, 1832

            Deed for land purchased of Eve Bernon by Amos Allen, to his brothers Zachariah and Phillip, Oct. 28, 1777

            Deed of Susanna Crawford to her daughter, Anna Allen, April 18, 1793


Miscellaneous (series)

            Baptismal certificate of GB's wife Esther le Roy, 1652

            *Unidentified document, 1675

            Account by Amsterdam banker of GB's funds, 1689

            Statement, by GB, of the concerns of the Oxford, Mass. purchase, undated but after 1693

            Memoir to Lord Belamon, governor of Boston and New York, regarding rosin, undated [but after 1696?]

            Account by GB concerning Indian massacre at Oxford, dated Jan. 14, 1721

            Inventory of articles received by Gideon Crawford of John Whipple, dated April 10, 1764

            Acknowledgment of monies received of Eve Bernon's will by Sarah Cook, Abigail Matthewson, Mary Crawford, and Freelove Greene, October 12, 1776

            Poetry by Ann Francis (?), undated

            Miscellaneous items in single folder which are:

                        Sample of sealing wax stamped with "ivory-handled silver-headed seal of Gabriel Bernon"; sample is dated [January?] 1965

                        Order for John Faneuil to pay one hundred pounds to GB, dated at Rotterdam Sept. 9, 1686 

                        Order for payment (?) from a Daniel Hays to "Gabriel Bernon french merchant at London" for seventy (pounds?) sterling, at Dublin, Oct. 15, 1687

                        Promissory note for four (pounds?) sterling New England money, from undetermined person, to GB, dated July 29, 1690

                        Note from GB: "Papers which regard my two voyages to London for the business of making rosin, (examined?) the first of October, 1719"

Scrapbook: "Bernon Papers." (Baird copybook pp. 55-86)

            Page 1. *Copy of original photo of "old St. Paul's Church", Narragansett, RI Baptism certificate of Gabriel Bernon, 1644

            Page 2. Agreement between GB and Caleb Church, millwright, to build a "corn or grist mill" at Oxford, Massachusetts, 1688/9

            Page 3. *Testimonial regarding GB's actions at Oxford and the deaths of John Johnson and his three children by Indian attack, dated 1696

            Page 4-5. Blank.

            Page 6-7. *To GB(at London) from his brother S. (Samuel?) Bernon, March 16, 1697, with verse written by GB on reverse side

            Page 8-9. Invoice to GB from Anthony & Southey?, July 29, 1697

            Page 10-11. *Copy of letter to GB from Lord Bellamont, November 23, 1698

            Page 12-13. *To GB from Monsieur Piere (at La Rochelle), Jan. 2, 1699, with postscript by GB's brother, S. Bernon

            Page 14-15. *To GB from P. Chasseloup, April 4, 1699

            Page 16-17. *To GB from Prevost at Quebec, May 2, 1699

            Page 18-19. *To GB from laValiere, October 1699

            Page 20-21. *To GB from Bouhereau, July 20, 1700

            Page 22-23. *To GB from Sanceau, February 1701 

                                 Letter to William D. Ely from Charles Baird, August 26, 1878

            Page 24-25. *To GB from Elias Neau, June 5, 1701

            Page 26-27. *To GB from Elias Neau, Sept. 30, 1701

            Page 28-29. To GB from J. Dudley, May 20, 1707

                                 Reverse side of letter: lease from GB to Oliver and Nathaniel Coller for Bernon's farm at Oxford, undated 

            Page 30-31. *To GB from Pierre Daille, April 11, 1707

            Page 32-33. *From GB to Gov. Dudley, March 1, 1710

                                 Also, a reference to GB in a published diary entry of Samuel Sewall (see August 11 entry)

            Page 34-35. *Letter copies?? to Joseph Dudley from GB?, March 28 and April 19, 1710

            Page 36-37. Copy of letter to GB from his brother S. Bernon, dated Dec. 16, 1714, with notation "translated by Zachariah Allen"

            Page 38-39. "Plot of land owned by G. Bernon in Oxford, 1716/7"

            Page 40-41. Petition by GB to Samuel Shute, Esq., governor of Massachusetts Bay, for land at the Oxford plantation, November, 1720

            Page 42-43. To Zachariah Allen from Henry Turner, Feb. 26, 1875

            Page 44-45. Order of services for unveiling of monument to Reverend James McSparran, June 24, 1869

            Page 46-47. Miscellaneous concerning Rev. James McSparran and his wife, Hannah McSparran; also, document certifying that "his Majesty's order in Council of the 29th of January

                                 1740" was read at St. Paul's Church, Narragansett, July 19, 1741

            Page 48-49. Miscellaneous concerning restoration of Narragansett Church at Wickford, RI, dated Nov. 5, 1872

            Page 50-51. To GB from Reverend James McSparran, July 2, 1721

            Page 52-53. To GB from James Honyman, Sept. 25 (?), 1721

            Page 54-55. To GB from James Honyman, June 1, 1722

            Page 56-57. To GB from Rev. James McSparran, June 11, 1722; with GB's response on reverse, undated

            Page 58-59. To GB from James McSparran, June 15, 1722; with copy of letter from GB to James Honyman, July 5, 1722, and on reverse, another copy of letter from GB to James

                                  McSparran (see page 56-57), with date: "4 Jully, 1722"

            Page 60-61. To GB from James McSparran, July 12, 1722, with notations in French by GB

            Page 62-63. To GB from James Honyman, July 10, 1722

            Page 64-65. To GB from James Honyman, Sept. 6, 1722

            Page 66-67. To GB from James Honyman, Sept. 28, 1722

            Page 68-69. Letter to GB from James McSparran, Oct. 9, 1721; with a list by GB on the reverse

            Page 70-71. *To GB from P. Bour, December (?) 15, 1722, with note by GB: "this is Major Bour of St. Christophe one of my old friends [unclear word] of DuBlesson gentleman and of

                                  one of the best families of Portton"

            Page 72-73. Letter "To the members of the Church of England at Providence in the colony of Rhode Island" from David Humphreys, Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign

                                  Parts, re: appt. of Rev. Mr. Pigot as missionary at Providence, July 20, 1723

            Page 74-75.  *"Copy of a letter written by Mr. Daniel Ayrault, merchant of Rhode Island, to Gabriel Bernon, French Protestant refugee in the town of Providence, July 2, 1723" and, on

                                  same page(s), GB's response to Ayrault (see Baird's comments, pp. 69-71 of copybook)

            Page 76-77. Letter from GB to Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, April 7, 1724

            Page 78-79. *Letter by GB?; notation on reverse of letter indicates, "Mr. Dummer at the Temple Exchange Coffee House at the Temple"

            Page 80-81. From GB to the Reverend Mr. Wissle, "member of the old town in Marthervigner [Martha's Vineyard]", July 17, 1725, asking to whom GB should address his letter of

                                 attorney "to help me defend my land..." on Martha's Vineyard

            Page 82-83. To GB from Joseph Morse, "minister of Dorchester village", July 29, 1721

            Page 84. Miscellaneous prints, Trinity Church and Whitehall in Newport, RI; copy of engraving of Dr. George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, with note "obtained in London for William D.


            Page 85. Miscellaneous church photographs, unknown church

            Page 86-87. *To GB from George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, April 9, 1729

            Page 88-89. *To GB?, from George Berkeley, May 30, 1729

            Page 90-91. Miscellaneous concerning George Berkeley and Whitehall, Newport, RI

            Page 92-93. To GB from John Boydell, April 28, 1735, concerning money owedby GB?

            Page 94-99. Pamphlet: discourse on Gabriel Bernon delivered at St. John's Church,  Providence, by Rev. Thomas M. Clark, June 11, 1872; with handwritten                                     chronology of events after GB's flight from France. Also on p. 99: letter to Zachariah Allen from Frederick Paine, Secretary of the Corporation [?]

            Page 100-101. Miscellaneous re: King's Church, Providence

            Page 102-105. Miscellaneous re: St. John's Church, Providence

            Page 106-107. Letter to Ann Allen from John Innes Clark and Jeremiah F. Jenkins, wardens of St. John's Church, August 2, 1802, re: her gift to the church

            Page 108-109. Blank.

            Page 110-111. Miscellaneous loose items concerning Oxford monument.

            Page 112-113. Photograph and notes concerning the "Bernon sword" and its ownership

            Page 114-115. Plan of fort at Oxford, Mass., drawn by William D. Ely, Sept. 1884

            Page 116-117. *Letter to Mr. Victor Rigueur, Baltimore?, from E. Delmas, La Rochelle, France, June 1884

            Page 118-119. *Document of unknown nature (obituary??) concerning a member of the Bernon family

            Page 120-121. *Letter of unknown nature from le Baron de Bernon to Mr. Steven Bernon at Providence, RI, April 1, 1845 (concerning death of family members?)

            Page 122-123. *Copy of letter from Monsieur Bredif of la Rochelle, 25 May, 1884, concerning genealogy of Bernon family; addressee unknown

            Page 124-125. *Copy of letter from Monsieur Bredif of la Rochelle, 2 June 1884, addressee unknown

            Page 126-127. Notes, writer unknown, concerning "Pastors of the Reformed Church of La Rochelle" and Andre Bernon (father of Gabriel)

            Page 128-129. Letter to Mrs. William D. Ely from Charles W. Baird, Dec. 10, 1878

            Page 130-131. Letter to Mrs. Ely from Charles W. Baird, Dec. 14, 1883

            Page132. Letter to William D. Ely from Henry M. Baird re: the late Charles Baird's research, Nov. 5, 1891

            Page 133. Letter to William D. Ely from Henry M. Baird, January 2, 1892

            Page 134-135. Notes by Charles W. Baird re: Gabriel Bernon, undated

            Page 136-137. Newspaper clipping from Rhode Island American, containing biographical notes about GB and about his purchase of a land lot from Roger Williams,                                     dated July 16, 1819

            Page 138-139. Newspaper clipping from Worcester Daily Spy re: monument at Oxford fort, dated June 30, 1881

            Page 140-141. Newspaper clipping from Worcester Evening Gazette re: monument at Oxford fort, dated June 30, 1881

            Page 142. Notes by William D. Ely re: Bishop Seabury (b. 1796), undated

            Page 143. "Note in reply to a request by Judge E. R. Potter", by ??Ely, June 1, 1879

            Page 144-145. Blank.

            Page 146-147. Photographs of Huegonot settlement at Oxford, Mass,undated; and fragment of plan: "Upper Face of Draft for Sackett and Davis Engine" (relevancy unknown)

            Page 148-149. Blank.

            Page 150-151. Agreement between Thomas W. Loring and Zachariah Allen for production of brass memorial tablet at St. John's Church in Providence, August 12, 1864

            Page 152. List of names for Bernon armorial tablet/medallion, dated Feb. 1871

            Page 153. List of financial accountability of Bernon descendants for St. John's Church memorial tablet, dated August, 1870

                                    - Also unattached item, letter from William D. Ely to his father re: Bernon memorial, Dec. 13, 1870

            Page 154. Memorandum, memorial tablet, undated

            Page 156-157. Newspaper clipping from Providence Journal re: funeral of Gov. William Gregory, Dec. 21, 1901


Series 3. Oxford fort excavation/monument project.             

Oversize folder.   Plan of land of Huguenot Memorial Society for monument, circa late 1930s

Box 2, folder 35. Correspondence to Zachariah Allen from Mary de Witt Freeland, 1881

Box 2, folder 36. Correspondence to Zachariah Allen, various writers, c. 1881-2

Box 2, folder 37. Correspondence to William D. Ely, 1883-4 (bulk 1884)

Box 2, folder 38. William D. Ely correspondence, c. 1883-1892

Box 2, folder 39. Correspondence: William D. Ely/Charles Baird, Anne Ives, 1884-5

Box 2, folder 40. Genealogical notes re: Gabriel Bernon and Oxford settlers

Box 2, folder 41. Costs and subscriptions

Box 2, folder 42. Newspaper clippings, c. 1884-7

Box 2, folder 43. Miscellaneous (non-correspondence)


Allen, Zachariah (1795-1882)

Allen Family

Baird, Charles Washington (1828-1887)

Berkeley, Bishop George (1685-1753)

Bernon, Gabriel (1644-1736)

Bernon Family

Carrington Family

Crawford Family

Dorr, Sullivan Jr. (1813-1884)

Dorr Family

Ely, William D. (1815-1908)

French Americans - Rhode Island

Honyman, James (c. 1675-1750)

Huguenots - Rhode Island

Ives, Anne Allen (Dorr) (1810-1884)

MacSparran, Reverend James (1693-1757)

Oxford, Mass. - History

Peloquin Family

St. John's (King's) Church - Providence

St. Paul's Church - Narragansett

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

Trinity Church - Newport

Whipple Family

Whitehall - Newport