Gaspee Raider who attacked the English Navy ship in 1772.">


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Gaspee Raiders
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Ephraim Bowen
Aaron Briggs
Abial Brown
John Brown
Joseph Brown
Joseph Bucklin
Abel Easterbrooks
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Capt. Samuel Dunn
Capt. Rufus Greene
Capt. Greenwood
Benjamin Hammond
Joseph Harris
Capt. John Hopkins
Justin Jacobs
Joseph Jencks
Hezekiah Kinnicut
John Kilton
Abner Luther
John Mawney
Simeon Olney
Ezra Ormsbee
Benjamin Page
Capt. S. Potter
Barzilla Richmond
Nath. Salisbury
Capt. Chris. Sheldon
Capt. Shepard
James Smith
Turpin Smith
Capt Swan
Robert Sutton
Capt. Jos.Tillinghast
Capt. Abr.Whipple
Qualification for List
Boat Captains
Raider Connections

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Mawney described the longboat in which he traveled to the Gaspee attack as being captained by "Captain Joseph Tillinghast".  

Mawney also had this to say, which gives us some clue about the residence of the Capt. Tillinghast involved.

'When I came on deck I saw Capt. Tillinghast, and some others. We got into the boat and rowed up the river a certain distance and went by land to town, when Capt. Tillinghast, who was then living with me, after taking breakfast, went on the hill to view the smoking ruins of the vessel, which was all in flames soon after we left it." 

The Tillinghasts were a prominent family in Rhode Island and Providence at the time preceding the Revolutionary War.  Pardon Tillinghast, the first American of this line, born in Seven Cliffs near Beachy Head, now Eastborn, Sussex, England, in 1622, served in the English army under Cromwell, and fought in the battle of Marston Moor.  The Tillinghasts were an example of the American families that had immigrated at the era of the Civil War in England in which the argument was that the King was constrained by an unwritten constitution and could not act in matters of such items as taxation without the consent of the governed.

Pardon later came to New England, and in 1645 settled in Providence, R.I., where he bought a quarter interest in the original Providence purchase. He became a merchant in Providence, and was exceedingly active in public affairs.  He built the first substantial wharf in Providence for ships to use, and was successful as a merchant importing and exporting goods.  He was widely known as a man of great religious zeal. With his own money he built in 1700, the First Baptist Church at Providence, R.I., the oldest church of this denomination in America, and for over forty years (1678-1718) without any remuneration acted as pastor of that society. For over twenty-five years he held various posts of honor in the town and he also served the colony many times as deputy to the General Court.  So to be a Tillinghast in Providence marked the person as a person of status.

For examples, Thomas Tillinghast was a Colonial Deputy (State Representative) from West Greenwich, and Nicholas Tillinghast helped Governor Stephen Hopkins redress grievances to the King against the Stamp Act in 1764. 

In 18th century England, status was all-important in governing the population.  Hence the pre-Revolutionary War status of the Tillinghast was important to the English in thinking about the importance of those resisting the customs collections.  Had the royal commission investigating the Gaspee attack known that it was people of status like the merchants Tillinghasts, Browns, and Greenes, they would have been shocked.  To them it was almost unthinkable that men of such family status could be involved.  In fact, the simple act of having the English navy crewmen look at these reputable colonial merchants would have been repugnant to English nobility and gentry thinking.

Let us now discuss which Tillinghast it was that was on the raid.  We do know that there was a the ship captain Tillinghast that was a ship captain of John Brown, and a prominent ship captain after the Revolution.  [Off Soundings]  This is probably the Captain Joseph Tillinghast that was on the raid. The John Brown ship captain and investor in many ships is the one most likely to have been the person to be in charge of a longboat in a John Brown matter. References in square[ ] or curly{} brackets] on any page in this website are to books, or other materials, listed in the Joseph Bucklin Society Library Catalog.]

There was only one Capt. Joseph Tillinghast listed in Providence in the pre-revolutionary war period, on the land ownership tax assessments before 1770.  He was one of the persons assessed for fire protection in the "compact part of Providence" in 1759.  He was assessed 12 pounds. [Cf. Capt. Joseph Bucklin's (born 1720). assessment of 20 pounds.]  No Joseph Tillinghast shows up as a property owner in the 1770 tax assessment.  But in 1772, three Joseph Tillinghasts show up as being taxed in one way or another in Providence.  [Courtesy Wayne G. Tillinghast, see infra.]  All three were ship captains.

There is only one Joseph Tillinghast listed in the 1777 Rhode Island Military Census, which shows a man able to bear arms in the age range of 16 to 50 years old. But there are four Joseph Tillinghasts listed in the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Database with dates corresponding to being possibly present in 1772. All four are listed as Captains.  All we have to do is determine which was the one of the four that was living in Providence in 1772.   The choices are.

  1. TILLINGHAST, JOSEPH E, CAPT 1739c - 18 DEC 1781 (who would have been about 32 years old at the time of the Gaspee raid), buried at the Tillinghast family lot in Providence on Benefit street  at Transit street.
  2. TILLINGHAST, JOSEPH, CAPT 1720c - 14 FEB 1797 EG018 (who would have been about 52 years old at the time of the Gaspee raid), buried in the Tillinghast family lot in East Greenwich. 
  3. TILLINGHAST, JOSEPH, CAPT 1728c - 6 SEP 1789, buried in Providence's Old North Burial Ground where many Gaspee raiders have been buried. 
  4. TILLINGHAST, JOSEPH, CAPT 1734 - 14 NOV 1816, buried in Providence's Old North Burial Ground where many Gaspee raiders have been buried. This Joseph was the brother of Thomas Tillinghast (noted above as a Colonial Deputy in the state assembly.) Joseph and Thomas' parents were John Tillinghast (born 1690, died Oct. 21, 1777) and Anne Allin (born July 2, 1699, died March 5, 1739)) This Joseph married Mary Earle, daughter. of John and Mary (Watts) Earle, in 1776.  After he became married, he shows up as having an ownership interest in ship registries regarding the ships: Polly, Brig. Reg. 1776 ;  Sloop Reg. 1783 ;  Polly, Lic 1793 ;   Polly and Betsey, Reg. 1794  to Wm E. and Joseph Tillinghast (in this list hereafter as "Wm and Jos");  Argus, Brig Reg. 1804 Wm and Jos;   Commerce, Reg. 1796 Wm and Jos;   Hunter, Brig. Reg. 1796 Wm.and Jos;    Planter, Brig Lic. 1802 Wm. and Jos;  Joseph, Schooner Lic. 1815 Heirs of Joseph part owners . [Ship Registers 1941].  

Todd Lawrence,  Genealogist of the Tillinghast Family Society, tells us the following.

Capt. Joseph Tillinghast, [# 4 above] born Jan 09, 1735 in East Greenwich (Source = Arnold Vital records of RI), died Nov. 14, 1816 in Providence (Source = Charles Tillinghast Straight genealogy in RI Historical Society library). Rose Tillinghast, in her 1972 "Tillinghast Family" genealogy, lists a lot of information on the ships that this Joseph Captained - she also guessed that he was the Gaspee raider - no concrete proof however."

Gaspee history researcher John Concannon, with a different line of substantial reasoning, also picks the Joseph Tillinghast  # 4 above. See   Concannon works on the theory that if Mawney says " Capt. Tillinghast, who was then living with me,"  Tillinghast must have been unmarried at the time. Liberally paraphrased (not exactly quoted),  Concannon says:

Joseph Tillinghast [# 4 above] born in 1734 in East Greenwich, married a Mary Earle from Providence in 1776. Joseph and Mary  who had a child named William Earle Tillinghast (c1777/8 - 25 APR 1817) who married an Amey Mawney, daughter of Pardon Mawney, John Mawney's brother. Since the Tillinghast-Earle marriage did not take place until 1776, this Joseph Tillinghast would've been free to room  with John Mawney in 1772 at the time of the Gaspee attack.  All are referenced by our old friend Weldon Whipple at and by his source, Stanley W. Arnold, Jr., "A Mawney Line of Descent," Rhode Island Genealogical Register, v. 11 (1988), p. 206

Wayne G Tillinghast, in his well researched article The Three Captains Joseph Tillinghast of Providence, Rhode Island Roots, June 2004, 30:57-86 has accurately determined which was the Captain Tillinghast was the Gaspee raider, to wit 1734 - 14 NOV 1816, the son of John Tillinghast.  Part of what he says is paraphrased below.

In 1772 John Mawney was living in Providence with his widowed mother Amey (Gibbs) Mawney, and although there is no specific entry for June of 1772, the account books of Joseph Tillinghast, son of John Tillinghast, reflect that he occasionally paid rent to Mrs. Amey Mawney.   A letter that Joseph, son of John, wrote to his father-in-law, William Earle, a few days after his marriage in 1776, confirmed that he still had some furniture at Mrs. Mawney’s house.  Additionally, this Joseph Tillinghast John Mawney were related, being grandson and great-grandson, respectively, of Pardon Tillinghast of East Greenwich.

Joseph was a charter member of the Charitable Baptist Society, an organization formed in 1774 for the purpose of acquiring the land and constructing the new meetinghouse for the First Baptist Church of Providence.

On 19 July 1776,  Joseph Tillinghast,  Nicholas Brown, William Wall, Richard Salter, Elijah Shepardson, and John B. Hopkins, as owners of the sloop Yankee Ranger,  and John Warner, commander, on 19 July 1776, applied for and received a “Letter of Marque,” (essentially a commission as a privateer). Thereafter, On 13 Aug. 1776 Joseph as commander of John Brown’s sloop Polly,  and under written orders from John Brown, “burthened about Seventy Tons, … Six Carriage Guns Four Pounders and Swivel Guns, with Twenty Men and fitted with a suitable Quantity of Small Arms, Pistols, Cutlasses, Powder Ball and other Military Stores,” received a Letter of Marque.  Thereafter, until 1777, Captain Joseph Tillinghast was at sea as a privateer attacking British ships.

The Charitable Baptist Society records in Providence as of  The July 1777 note that he was “at Smithfield,” and indeed his Bible records reflect that his oldest son William Earle Tillinghast was born at Smithfield 5 Sept. 1777. Several Providence residents, fearing an attack from the enemy, left Providence during the British occupation of Newport. Commodore Esek Hopkins reported to the Continental Marine Committee on 8 Apr. 1777 that he was seriously concerned with the safety of the Rhode Island coast, and particularly Providence, because of the reluctance of the militia to tolerate the high price of goods and the low wages, and “the princable men that have maid fortens by Priviteren have bought estates back in the Cuntrey & have and are now moving away which must leave the town in a Defencless Condition.”[ ]

We conclude that Concannon, Rose Tillinghast and Wayne Tillinghast are right in picking the Gaspee raider longboat captain. So we list this Tillinghast,  Joseph, Capt 1734 -1816 as the Gaspee raider.