Richard Smith of England, New Amsterdam, NY and Narragansett, RI, 1600s

Yesterday, I shared the family of Gysbert Opdyck (Updike) and his wife, Katherine Smith. As with the Updike ancestry, I have come across undocumented items, supposedly detailing Richard Smith’s origins in London, England.

However, I have not found any sources that connect Richard Smith of New Amsterdam and Rhode Island with a man by that (really uncommon?!?!?!) name in England. Thus, I can’t say whether or not he was born and grew up in London or not.

Let’s begin his story with his will, written on 14 July 1664 and recorded on 22 August 1666. Richard Smith likely died earlier in the summer of 1666.

In the Name of God, Amen. The fourteenth day of July, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand, six hundred, sixty and four, in the Sixteenth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord, Charles the Second, by the Grace of God of England and Scotland, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith &c. I, Richard Smith, of Wickford, in the Narragansett Countrey, in New England, yeoman, being in health of Body, and of good and perfect memory, (Thanks be unto God) Do make this my last Will and Testament, and I do hereby revoak and renounce all former and other Wills and Testaments whatsoever heretofore by me made, by Word, Writing or otherwise And make and ordain this to be my very true, last Will and Testament, and no other Concerning my Lands, Chattels, Debts, and every part and parcel thereof, in manner and form as followeth. First, I Commend my soul to Almighty God, and to his Son Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer, by whom I hope to obtain full pardon, and remission of all my Sins, and to Inherit Everlasting Life. And I will that my Body be decently buryed by the Discretion of my Executors hereunto names. Item. I will that my debts which I shall owe unto any Person or Persons at the time of my decease either by Law or Conscience be well and truly Contented and paid, within Convenient time, out of my Goods and Chattels. Item. I give unto my son Richard Smith all my Right, Title and interest of, in and to, my Dwelling house, and Lands thereto belonging, Situate, being and lying in Wickford aforesaid, and is bounded on the Southwest by Annoquatucket river, and by the lands of Capt. William Hudson, Northeasterly and on the East by a fresh river or brook and Creek and Cove. Item, I give unto my Son the s’d Richard Smith, all my right title and interest of, in and to my propriety of Lands lying in Cunnanicot Island and Dutch Island, with the privileges and appurtenances to them or either of them belonging or in any way appertaining. Item, I give unto my daughter Elisabeth wife of John Vial of Boston, Vintner, all that my Share, which is a one Third part of Land lying on the Southerly side of my son, Richard Smith’s two thirds part of a tract of land lying on the Easterly side of the aforesaid ffresh river, or Brook, and Creek and Cove, Commonly Called by the name of Sagag. Item, I will that all my share and part in the Great Neck of Land beyond Capt. Edward Hutchinss house, Westward and Southward and all the rest of my share of Land belonging to that purchase And also all my share of Land of the last purchase and all my Cattle, Horses, Mares, Sheep, Goats, & Swine and all my Goods and Debts whatsoever to me appertaining be (after my decease) Divided into Four Equal parts and portions, the which after my Debts paid & funeral Charged thereout, I Give and bequeath as followeth. That is to say. To my son Richard Smith, and his heirs, the one fourth part or portion thereof, and to my Daughter, Elisabeth, wife of John Vial and her issue, I give one other Fourth part thereof, and to my Grand Children, the Children of my dece’d daughter Katharine, sometime wife to Gilbert Updike, one other fourth par thereof to be Equally Divided amongst them, And to my Grand Children, the Children of my deceased daughter, Joan, sometime wife to Thomas Newton, one other fourth part thereof to be Equally divided amongst them my S’d Grand Children, parts to be paid to each of them, Viz. to Each of my Grandsons as they Come to the age of Twenty one years; And to Each of my Grand Daughters as they Come to the age of Eighteen years, or on day of marriage which shall first happen, And in Case that any One of my Grand Children, the Children of my Daughters Katharine and Joan, do Dye before they come to be of the age aforesaid or Marr’yd, then such part or share, as should have been to such deceased, shall be to the Survivours of them, part and part alike to them to be divided. Item, I make and ordain my sons, Richard Smith, and John Vial, to be my full whole and only Executors of this my last will and Testament. And my Well beloved Friend Capt. Edward Hutchinson of Boston. (document is torn at this point.)

The will was recorded at the request of John Vial, 22 August 1666.

Where this will was recorded is a mystery. Although published in the Op Dyck Genealogy, it is also mentioned in The Early History of Narragansett by Elisha Potter and in Austin’s Rhode Island Genealogy. It appears that early court proceedings (in the 1650s and 160s, at least) were recorded in Boston, Massachusetts. That would fit with John Viall presenting the will to the court, as he lived in Boston.

Richard Smith obviously married and had a family and, while I have seen his wife attributed as Joan Barton, I have not seen any evidence in the colonies that she was his wife. There seems to be some question about which Richard Smith that Joan Barton married (in England, which again returns to the question of proof of Richard Smith’s English origins.)

Richard Smith and his unproven wife had the following children:

  1. Richard, had no children
  2. Katherine, married Gysbert Updike; predeceased her father
  3. Elizabeth, married John Viall of Boston, Massachusetts
  4. Joan, married Thomas Newton, predeceased her father

Richard Smith was a very wealthy and well-respected man, who continued to build his wealth through profits of his trade with the Indians and the real estate holdings that he amassed in Newtown, Long Island, New York, today’s Manhattan Island and property he owned as one of the first settlers of Narragansett, Rhode Island.

The mid 1600s were a dangerous time for colonists to be living out on the frontier, which aptly described southern Rhode Island. By 1641, Richard Smith “purchased” about 30,000 acres of land in Narragansett from the local sachems. (Native Americans didn’t have the same concept of land ownership that we have today, so it is uncertain whether the Indians actually agreed to “sell” Smith land.) However, he soon established a trading post there. While he came and went frequently through the years, this post was in the middle of nowhere and in dangerous country. An aside: The Great Swamp Fight of 1675 in King Phillip’s War took place in this area.

So, while Smith visited his business, he and his family mostly lived in Manhattan until he reached old age. By 1664, he was living in Wickford, in today’s Washington County, Rhode Island, where he wrote his will.

Although Richard Smith has many descendants today, because his son died without children, there are no male Smiths of his line.




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