Our Gavel

The following article was originally printed in the Hinterlander Vol. 2 No. 3, September 1958

By Lawrence E. Wagner

There is a house standing overlooking the Pawtuxet River in Anthony, R.I., which is sometimes called the Mount Vernon of the North. This is the house that young Nathaneal Green, Jr. built at the behest of his father, Nathanael Greene, Sr. a landed proprietor, who owned, among other enterprises, an expanding iron foundry business. Because of the availability of water supply for power and a good source of wood for fuel, Nathanael Sr., decided to build a branch of the foundry in Anthony and Nathanael Jr., was chosen from among his brothers to manage this venture. As the family homestead in Potowomet was far away, in those days, from the new foundry, Nathanael Jr., decided to build a house overlooking the new foundry. This he did, completing it in 1770. In 1774 he married Catherine Littlefield of Block Island and brought her to Anthony to preside over his home.

Young Nathanael early became interested in military affairs, so much so that he was voted out of the Quaker Church. He joined the Kentish Guards in East Greenwich and was a member of the guards when they attempted to join the fighting at Lexington but were called back by Tory Governor Wanton. Mrs. Greene maintained the house after her husband went to join the army of General Washington and remained here when she could not be with her husband in the field. For a time during the war the house was used as a sort of hospital for French Officers fighting with the Continental Army in Rhode Island.

After the war had ended Greene was in straitened circumstances due to the fact that he had used his personal fortune to largely finance the final fighting in his Southern campaign, and did not return to his house. He lived in Newport, R.I. for a while and finally moved to a plantation in Georgia given him by the State of Georgia in recognition of his services in the war.

His brother lived in the house for while, but it finally passed out of the hands of the family. Over the years it deteriorated quite badly and was in bad shape when a number of years ago a group of interested people together with theĀ  Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution bought and restored the house as a shrine dedicated to the memory of Major General Nathanael Greene, Jr., second only to General Washington in the Revolutionary War.

In 1950 the custodian of the Homestead discovered that a main beam in the cellar was beginning to sag quite badly. Repairs were made and a section of the original beam of native oak was removed and replaced with a new timber. After examination of the piece of the old beam it was determined that the damage had been due to termites, but the entomologist of the State of Rhode Island said the damage had been done at a considerable time before and that there was no evidence of recent action. It was from a piece of the original beam of the house built in 1770, that our gavel was made.

Note – Mr. Wagner, past President of the Society, lived in the Homestead nine years and knew about the replacement of the termite eaten beam.

Working in wood is one of his hobbies and our gavel is the product of his skill in that art.

Around the head of the gavel he placed a band of pure silver one and one half inches wide, on which is to be engraved the name of the society and the names of its presidents. It is one of our choice possessions. Editor.