1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Roger Williams Monument Association Records

 Providence, RI

 Records, 1850-1965

 Size: 1 linear foot

 Catalog number: MSS 692

 Processed by: Karen Eberhart, October 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            In the spring of 1860, a descendent of Roger Williams named Stephen Randall dug up remains from what he believed to be the grave of Roger Williams. The grave site of the founder of the Colony of Rhode Island had never had a marker or monument of any kind. Concerned citizens of Providence joined Randall and organized themselves into the Roger Williams Monument Association in April, 1860. The goal of the Association was to see a fitting monument erected to the memory of Roger Williams. The Association was active for several years but was unable to solicit enough subscriptions or support to meet their goals. By 1878, the Association had raised $1,156.02. Interest and membership in the Association waned as the founding members grew older and passed away. The last meeting of the Association was held in 1879 and the charter was revoked in 1928.

            Sensing that the Association would not be effective in meeting its goal, Stephen Randall deposited $1000 of his own money in the Peoples Savings Bank of Providence. He then drew up a deed specifying that the principal and interest was to accumulate until it was sufficient to erect a monument to the memory of Roger Williams. He included in the deed details of the ideal location and type of monument. The money deposited by Stephen Randall and the sum raised by the Association were left to accumulate in their respective bank accounts.

            Interest in the creation of a monument to Roger Williams bubbled to the surface several times during the next decades. The most serious attempt to erect a monument to Roger Williams was put forth by the Society of Colonial Dames in 1923. They applied to the courts to receive the money in the bank accounts but their proposal was denied in part because their plans were not consistent with the specifications laid out by Stephen Randall.

            Finally in 1934, the Rhode Island Roger Williams Memorial Association was incorporated. This second association had as its goal the erection of a monument to Roger Williams during the 300th anniversary of the State of Rhode Island in 1936. The Association drew up a plan for the monument and applied to the courts for the funds from Stephen Randall and the Roger Williams Monument Association which had at that time grown to approximately $40,000. The courts granted the request and with donations from the City of Providence, the

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Tercentenary Committee and private individuals, the Roger Williams Monument was built on Prospect Terrace and dedicated on June 29, 1939. The goal of Stephen Randall and the original Association was finally realized after seventy-nine years.

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Scope and content:

            The records in this collection are divided into three series.

            Roger Williams Monument Association (1860-1879) The records of the Association include correspondence, treasurer's records, minutes of meetings and membership lists. Of note are the subscription books showing who donated and the amount they gave. Stephen Randall appears to have been the most active in soliciting subscriptions. The "Memorial of Roger Williams" by Zachariah Allen is also of particular interest. His treatise, written circa 1860, explores the evidence for the location of the grave of Roger Williams in the burial plot near Benefit Street.

            Interim Period (1917-1923) The second group of materials covers the interim period during which several individuals and groups investigated the purpose of the money Stephen Randall deposited. The records here are particularly useful as they summarize the history of the Roger Williams Monument Association and its activities. The reasons given by the court to deny the petition by the Colonial Dames is also well documented here.

            Rhode Island Roger Williams Memorial Association (1934-1965) The records of the second Association include minutes of meetings, treasurer's accounts, correspondence and newspaper articles. Of note are the petitions made by the Association for the funds and for permission to place the monument within the city of Providence. The records also include the Program of Competition to select an architect for the monument and the contract with the architectural firm that won the competition.

See also:

The papers of John Robinson Waterman (MSS 790) for correspondence between Stephen Randall and Mr. Waterman regarding the progress of the Roger Williams Monument Association.

The papers of Zachariah Allen, 1795-1882 (MSS 254) for the Act of Incorporation, 1860 and other records regarding the work of the Roger Williams Monument Association and the printed version of his address "Memorial of Roger Williams" delivered in May, 1860 to the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Graphics Division of the RIHS for the "Plan of Site for Roger Williams Memorial showing elevations and properties adjacent to Prospect Terrace" by Waterman Engineering Co., July, 1936.

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The material in this collection arrived at the RIHS in several donations. The majority of material relating to the Roger Williams Monument Association, including the ledger books, was donated some time before 1917. The law firm of Jackson, Robertson & Adams donated a small amount of material in 1936 but it is not known exactly which documents came from them. The records of the Rhode Island Roger Williams Memorial Association were donated by Randall W. Bliss in 1968.

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Processing note:

Several groups of items that were not created by either of the Associations or had no relevance to them were removed from this collection in 2001. A manuscript on the life of Roger Williams written by Reuben Aldridge Guild is now in MSS 1080. Research notes on the life of Roger Williams compiled by Howard M. Chapin are now in MSS 344. Manuscripts and correspondence created by Llewelyn Evans on the question of whether Roger Williams was born in England or Wales are now located in MSS 9001-E.

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Box 1

Roger Williams Monument Association

Folder 1. Board of Managers - Expense book, 1867, 1878

Folder 2. Copy book - copies of documents and correspondence including Mechanics

                         Association, 1850-1867

Folder 3. Correspondence, 1864-1878

Folder 4. Correspondence - accepting positions in the Association, 1864-1878

Folder 5. Correspondence - declining positions in the Association, 1864-1879

Folder 6. Correspondence - John R. Waterman to Stephen Randall, 1867

Folder 7. Executive Committee reports, 1860,1864

Folder 8. Membership list, ca. 1874

Folder 9. "Memorial of Roger Williams" by Zachariah Allen - Address on the location of the

                         grave of Roger Williams, 1860

Folder 10. Names of members, ca. 1860's

Folder 11. Plan of proposed monument, 1865

Folder 12. Printed material, 1867, 1894, n.d.

Folder 13. Providence Institute for Savings - Account book, 1878-1894

Folder 14. Record book, 1860-1879

Folder 15. Secretary's records and notes, 1864-1879, n.d.

Folder 16. Subscription book - Stephen Randall, 1860-1862

Folder 17. Subscription book - Joseph Rogers, 1867

Folder 18. Subscription book - William G. Williams, 1867

Folder 19. Treasurer's account, 1860-1886

Folder 20. Treasurer - Letter book, 1860-1867

Folder 21. Treasurer - reports, receipts and correspondence, 1861-1879

Interim Period

Folder 22. Colonial Dames proposal, 1923-24

Folder 23. History of Roger Williams Monument Association, 1917, 1933

Rhode Island Roger Williams Memorial Association

Folder 24. Acquisition of land on Benefit and Wheaton Streets, 1940-41

Folder 25. Architectural firm - Vorhees, Gmelin and Walker, 1936, 1939

Folder 26. Board of Trustees Reports, 1937-40

Folder 27. Competition, program of, 1936

Folder 28. Correspondence, 1936-60

Folder 29. Dedication of Roger Williams Monument, June 29, 1939

Folder 30. Incorporation, 1934, 1936

Folder 31. Insurance policies, 1940, 1948

Folder 32. Meetings, 1939-48, 1965

Folder 33. Membership lists, 1930, 1940, 1948

Folder 34. Newspaper articles, 1930-39

Folder 35. Petitions and resolutions, 1936-37

Folder 36. President's reports, 1936-40, 1948

Folder 37. Record book, 1934-48

Folder 38. Tax returns, 1944-57

Folder 39. Treasurer reports, 1937-60

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Williams, Roger, 1604-1683

Rhode Island Roger Williams Memorial Association

Prospect Park (Providence, RI)

Public Sculpture - Rhode Island - Providence

Roger Williams Monument

Society of Colonial Dames

Allen, Zachariah, 1795-1882

Baker, Albert A., 1862-1959

Beckwith, Henry Truman, 1818-1893

Miller, Frederick

Munroe, Addison P.

Randall, Stephen, 1793-1874

Smith, James Y., 1809-1876

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