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

 Benjamin R. Phelon Family Papers

 Book-keeper and soldier, of Providence, R.I.

 Family papers, 1853-1912

 Size: 0.25 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 618

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, October 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Benjamin Ray Phelon (1840-1923) was the son of Benjamin Phelon and Sarah W. Greene. During the Civil War he served in the three-month 9th R.I. Infantry, in the 78th New York Infantry, and as a clerk in the Quartermaster's office of the U.S. Military Railroad. After the war, he worked as the book-keeper for various firms. He married Mary Dana Robbins (1851-1931), daughter of Gen. Charles T. Robbins (1822-1868) and Caroline A. (Westcott) Robbins (1822-1898). They had two children: Alice G. (1878-1959), and Anna R. (1883-1965), who married Walter Daboll.

            Alice G. Phelon (1878-1959) attended the public Providence High School, later worked as a stenographer, and married Pawtucket textile craftsman James Poland (1875-1907), who soon died. She married again at age 40, to Hayward H. Prew (1892-1920) of Wrentham, Mass. who was only 27. Mr. Prew died the following year. Finally, in 1921, she married Earle R. Wilcox, an inspector in Providence. They lived together in Providence until her death in 1959.


Clarke, Louise B. The Greenes of Rhode Island... (New York: 1903)

Poland, Lloyd Orville. The Polands from Essex County, Massachusetts, 3rd edition, p. 429-430

1900 U.S. Census, Providence, E.D. 6, pages 1-6, showing Alice's neighborhood, including many of her friends.

1920 U.S. Census, Providence E.D. 188, page 13

Obituary, Providence Journal, April 22 1959, page 18

Providence city directories

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

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Scope and content:

            This collection consists of papers of Benjamin Ray Phelon, his wife, his father-in-law and mother-in-law and his daughter. Benjamin R. Phelon's correspondence relates to employment searches, including letters of recommendation and letters offering him interviews or positions. His diary was written mostly while serving in the Civil War in 1863.

            Noteworthy among the papers of Mary (Robbins) Phelon and Caroline (Westcott) Robbins are five letters, two poems and a newspaper clipping from pioneering feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a relative.

            Alice Greene Phelon's diary, written in 1896 at the age of seventeen, is also of particular interest.

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            These papers were apparently donated by Earle R. Wilcox in 1959. The accession book lists three gifts from him in the months following the death of his wife, Alice G. (Phelon) Wilcox, whose 1896 diary is the last item in the collection. Possible manuscripts included "Civil War diary," "Charlotte Perkins Gilman autobiographical material (autographed)," and "misc. material." The bulk of this small collection could have been donated as "misc. material", or arrived in another unrecorded gift from Mr. Wilcox, or possibly from another family member. It does include several Gilman letters, and a Civil War diary.

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Processing note:

            These papers were known as the Phelon-Robbins Papers until they were processed in 2001. One folder was transferred to Graphics in 2001.

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Benjamin Ray Phelon (1840-1923)

Folder 1. Correspondence, 1863-1867

Folder 2. Correspondence, 1876-1906

Folder 3. Diary page, May 27 1862, re first day in 9th R.I. Infantry

Folder 4. Diary, January 1 - December 31 1863, in unknown regiment and 78th N.Y. Infantry.

Folder 5. Military papers, 1862-1912

Folder 6. Miscellaneous:

            Book-keeping certificate from Scholfield's Commercial Academy, 1861

            Warwick teaching certificate, 1862

            Manuscript program titled "The Candle Light" for "Dike's Opera House", 1872

            Obituaries of Rev. Benjamin Phelon, 1882

            Postcard of Greene Memorial House, undated (photocopy - original in Graphics)

            Printed "Roll of Names," undated. Possibly church members.

Mary D. (Robbins) Phelon. Wife of Benjamin Ray Phelon.

Folder 7. Papers, 1862-1907

            1862/06/07 Letter from father C.T. Robbins

            1865/07/25 Letter from grandmother "B.R."

            1867/08/30 Letter from grandmother

            1869/07/21 Letter from C. T. Westcott of Providence.

            1872/08/11 Letter from friend Anna --- of Providence

            1873/11/13 Wedding announcement

            1876/08/28 Letter from cousin [Charlotte Perkins?]

            1883/07/18 Letter from mother

            1892/06/08 Letter from daughter Alice G. Phelon

            1896/09/28 Letter from uncle George S. Greene. Part cut out.

            1897/06/18 Letter from cousin Charlotte Perkins Stetson in San Francisco

            1898/03/31 Letter from Charles Colgate Abbe of Brooklyn, N.Y.

            1907/09/27 Two letters from husband B. Ray Phelon in Gettysburg, Penn.

            Undated letter fragment

            Undated memorandum, "Expenses of trip of Miss Mary Robbins"

Undated clipping of letter from Charles W. Stetson to editor of The Globe defending his ex-wife Charlotte Perkins Stetson.

Caroline A. (Westcott) Robbins (1822-1898). Mother-in-law of Benjamin Ray Phelon.

Folder 8. Papers, 1853-1880

            1853/12/24 Two copies of poem titled "Carry's Babies"

            1858/03/29 Will of mother Catherine Arnold Westcott of Warwick

            1867/07/31 Life insurance certificate

            1868/11/13 Letter from Royal C. Taft re life insurance

            1869/07/20 Letter from daughter Mary Phelon

            1880/07/25 Letter from niece Charlotte A. Perkins, illustrated

            1880/08/22 Letter from niece Charlotte A. Perkins, 4 pages, unillustrated

            1880/08/22 Letter from niece Charlotte A. Perkins, 8 pages, illustrated

            Undated poem by C.A.P. (Charlotte A. Perkins) titled "Farewell to the Latin Class"

            Undated poem by C.A.P. (Charlotte A. Perkins) titled "Angel of the Wood"

Charles T. Robbins. Father-in-law of Benjamin Ray Phelon.

Folder 9. Papers,

            1859/10/13 Title abstract for Summer Street land

            1865/08/22 Letter to father

            1866/05/13 Quote from poem beginning "Now in thy youth beseech of Him..."

            1868/04/30 Sale agreement with David and Mary Hunt

            1868/11/05 Memorial resolution from Providence Marine Corps of Artillery

            Ten commissions for various posts, 1855-1867

Alice G. (Phelon) Wilcox. Daughter of Benjamin Ray Phelon.

Folder 10. Diary, 1896, as Alice Greene Phelon. With memoranda through 1899.

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Armington, Mary B., 1879-1965

Brigham, Clarence S., 1877-1963

Cooke, Mary B. (Armington), 1879-1965

Diaries, 1862-1863

Diaries, 1896

Evans, George W., 1880-1963

Gilman, Charlotte A. (Perkins) (Stetson), 1860-1935

Greene, George Sears, 1801-1899

Ostby, Erling C., 1880-1973

Ostby, Harold W., 1877-1954

Phelon, Alice Greene, 1878-1959

Phelon, Mary D. (Robbins), 1851-1931

Poland, Alice G. (Phelon), 1878-1959

Prew, Alice G. (Phelon) (Poland), 1878-1959

Providence, R.I. - Social life and customs

Robbins, Caroline A. (Westcott), 1822-1898

Robbins, Charles T., 1822-1868

Robbins, Mary Dana, 1851-1931

Stetson, Charles W., 1858-1914

United States - History - Civil War, 1861-1865

Westcott, Caroline (Arnold)

Westcott, Caroline A., 1822-1898

Wilcox, Alice G. (Phelon) (Poland) (Prew), 1878-1959

Woodbury, Augustus

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