Twelve ancestor families settled this land virginal to Europeans, and started an American experiment of religious freedom and separation of church and state. By 1712, second and third generations had left the island for the mainland or relinquished their surnames by marriage into another family line.* They left behind a few from the elder generations who died in Portsmouth, including John Borden (died 1716), Mary Earle Corey (died 1717), George Brownell and Mary Walker Earle (died 1718), and the last remaining grandparent ancestor on the island, Susanna Pearce Brownell who died in 1743. From the time of the first colonists in 1638 until then, they had greatly multiplied, accumulated property and wealth, built farms, lived through Indian Wars, and experienced tragedies.
The last of our Aquidneck Island families to immigrate who came to roost in Rhode Island in the early 1650’s - the Bailey family.
The Bailey Family
William Bailey, Sr. is shrouded in mystery and misinformation, though he is mentioned by various sources as the head of the family that came to Rhode Island. Family tradition says he was a silk ribbon weaver in London. The 1894 Records of the Bailey family, descendants of William Bailey of Newport, RI, states William Bailey, Sr., bought land in Newport in 1655 “partly bounded by the sea” and sold 20 acres in 1656 to a man from Portsmouth. Otherwise, there are no records of this man. This same book, however, lists him as married to our Grace Parsons who is actually the wife of a younger William Bailey, our tenth great-grandfather. The confusion comes about as the records clearly state a William Bailey, Sr., bought the Newport land in 1655 implying there was a Jr. there at the same time.
It is more probable that the William Bailey Sr. who bought the land and our tenth GGF William Bailey - referred to in Ancestry as William Bailey, Jr. - are one and the same. There is no crumb trail of immigration ship, birth, marriage or death records telling us when this family may have arrived or where they were living before coming to Portsmouth/Newport. A number of English Bailey immigrants arrived in New England in the 1630’s and 40’s, but none have been tied with certainty to our William. Further, there are no other Baileys in early Portsmouth/Newport colonial history which would be expected if a Bailey family arrived in those early times.
William Bailey (abt 1631- abt 1670) arrived at the Colonies as a single young man about age 22, with or without a William Sr., and married our Grace Parsons in Portsmouth around 1653. He and Grace resided in the Middletown area of Aquidneck with property bounding on the Parsons and Thomas Lawton farms.
William died at about age 39 leaving five minor children and no will which might indicate his death was unexpected. His burial is unknown.
William and Grace had five sons:
- John Bailey (1653-1736) married a Miss Sutton and remained on the family land in Portsmouth.
- Hugh (1654-1724), sixteen years old when his father died in 1670, was taken into the custody of his grandfather, Hugh Parsons. The elder Parsons left Hugh all of his land, house, belongs, a bequest that left his mother Grace without means of support and likely led to her situation as a reluctant wife in her second marriage. Hugh married twice with 8 children from his first marriage and died soon after his second marriage in East Greenwich on land given to him by his grandfather Parsons. He is buried in the Hugh Bailey Lot on his land. Hugh also died without a will leaving young children who were appointed guardians by the town.
- Stephen Bailey (1665-1724) married Susanna, both buried in Newport Cemetery.
- Joseph Bailey, lived in Newport, no other information.
- Edward Bailey ( -1712), married, had 4 children and lived in Newport and Tiverton.
John Bailey (1653-1736) was born and raised in Portsmouth. At about 28, he married a woman with last name Sutton (1660-1709). The rest of her name and from which Sutton family are unknown. Indeed, her first name was possibly Sutton. Her grave stone is marked only with “Sutton.”
John owned lands in Newport, Middletown and Tiverton. Remember Middleton is the middle of Aquidneck Island, with Portsmouth town in the north and Newport the south side of the island. He moved to Middletown about 1682 when he purchased 50 acres and a building. His will indicates property that would be used on a dairy farm. John and wife Sutton had 12 children over a span of 20 years. He died at age 83, she at 69, and they are buried on his farm in the Old Bailey Cemetery, Berkeley Ave. in Middletown, RI.
John’s will in 1733 indicates he was considerably well-to-do with substantial agricultural land holdings in the Newport-Portsmouth area and Little Compton which he distributed to sons and grandsons, even those under age. His will left two 18 acres lots in Little Compton to each of his grandsons as well as his eldest son, William Sr. The remainder of the Little Compton lands went to his son Thomas who was already working the farms there, described as “uplands, salt meadows, and ledges.” The Newport farm went to the eldest son, John Jr. Son, Samuel, received half of his land in Portsmouth he had purchased from Thomas Cornell, another of our ancestor grandfathers. Reflective of the time, his two youngest daughters received only £5 each and some household goods.
The opening of his will was beyond the usual “being of sound mind and body”:
In The Name of God Amen, I John Bailey of Newport in ye Collony of Rhoad Island and Providence Plantations In New England yeoman Being in Good health of Body and of a Perfect Sound Diposing mind memory and understanding Praised Be the Lord Therefore Considering Ye Uncertainty of this my Naturall Life and the Necessity of Settling this my Temporal Estate In Order to my Great Change when It shall please the Lord to Call me hence Do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament (That is to Say) Principally and first of all I give and Recommend my Soul unto the Hands of My Creator hopeing for the Sake and upon the account of the Sole merits of Jesus Christ my only Saviour & Redeemer to Be Everlastingly Saved and my Body I Commit to the Earth therein to Be Decently Buried at the Discretion of My Executor Herein after nominated. And As to that Temporal Estate it Hath Pleased the Lord to Bless me with in this Life after all my Just Debts and funerall Expences are Honestly paid and Discharged I Give Devise and Dispose of the Same as followeth.
The will also reached beyond the grave anticipating squabbles among the children over his estate:
I Give all the Remaining Part of Personall Estate undisposed of unto my Son Thomas Bailey and for the Preventing all Differences which may happen to arise amongst my Children or Grand Children Concerning my Estate or ye Estate by my Daughter Ruth Late Deceased Do therefore further Declare my Mind and It Is my Will that If any of the Legatees Herein Before named, Children or Grand Children will not Conform to and Rest Satisfied with my manner of Disposeing, ordering or Giving the Same that then & In Such Case the Portion of Legacy of Him, Her or they that shall move any Suit In Law or Disturbance Shall Revert to my Executor to Enable Him the Better to Defend ye other Part of my Estate against Such Suit or Disturbance.
Being several sons down the line for inheritance, Lt. Thomas Bailey (1690-1740) went to his father’s land in Little Compton across the Sakonnet River and just south of Fall River and Tiverton. Little Compton belonged to Massachusetts until incorporated into Rhode Island in 1747. His older brother, William, had already settled onto farmland nearby. Thomas was living in Little Compton by 1712, age 22 - and perhaps earlier - when he married Mary Wood (1691-1745). Hers was the John and Mary Wood family who lost 6 children within 8 days in 1712. She is our Richard Warren Mayflower descendant link.
Mary and Thomas had ten children between 1713 and 1733, all born in Little Compton. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Little Compton was a modest, sparsely settled agricultural community with a population of just over 600. Little Compton Families says Thomas was the richest man in town at the time. The Thomas and Mary family lived in an early 1700’s home built in the center chimney style, still standing at 14 Grinnell Road.
|Thomas Bailey House in Little Compton|
Built about 1700, now in an exclusive neighborhood
Thomas died in 1740 at age 50 and Mary in 1745, age 54. Both are buried in the historic Little Compton Old Commons Ground behind the Congregational Church. In his will, he gave his wife and daughter, both named Mary, each half of the household goods and use of the best room in the house. The sons received various amounts of money, land, cows, horses. He had lands at Freetown with saw, grist, and fulling mills that he gave to a son, Oliver.
|Lt. Thomas Bailey Headstone|
Old Commons Burying Ground, Little Compton, RI
The Bailey Brook Farm in East Greenwich, RI was founded in 1677, likely by his his brother, Hugh. Listed on the National Historic Register, the property is still operated by the Bailey family as a dairy farm, 2068 South County Trail, East Greenwich, RI, 4 miles out of Providence.
Another Bailey Farm is located on the island at 373 Wyatt Road, Middletown, RI, owned by the Bailey family until the 19th century. The farm has been reduced from more than 100 acres to about 45 acres, and the Old Bailey Lot Cemetery is nearby, likely once on the original farm.
|The Historic Bailey Farm, Middletown, RI|
William Bailey is our tenth and Lt. Thomas Bailey our ninth great-grandfather.
Lt Thomas’ son, Thomas Bailey, Jr. is a Revolution patriot, held prisoner in 1776 on the English prison ship, “Lord Sandwich” in New York. Another generation down the line in Little Compton, an 8th great-grand mother married into the Hathaway family. More to come on these families when we look at our Little Compton families.
|Migration map: Portsmouth/Newport, Fall River, Tiverton, Little Compton, Freetown|
*Last death or immigration of the Aquidneck families
Lt. Thomas Bailey moved to Little Compton by 1712
Richard Borden moved to Fall River before 1694
John died in Portsmouth in 1716
Joseph moved to Freetown in 1712
George Brownell died in Portsmouth in 1718
Sarah Brownell Borden moved to Freetown between 1709 and 1712
Innocent Brownell Borden moved to Tiverton before 1694
Thomas Cooke moved to Tiverton by 1698
Mary Corey Cooke moved to Tiverton by 1698
Mary Earle Corey died in Portsmouth in 1717
Martha Earle Wood died in Portsmouth in 1696
Sarah Earle Cornell moved to Tiverton by 1681
Grace Parsons Bailey Lawton died in Newport in 1677
Susannah Pearce Brownell died in Portsmouth in 1743
Philipa Shearman Chase moved to Freetown in 1672
Mary Walker Earle died in Portsmouth in 1718
William Wood moved to Dartmouth in 1667
Lt. John Wood moved to Little Compton by 1681