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Obadiah Brown I (1712-1762) Papers

Historical note

Obadiah Brown I (1712-1762) was born in Providence. His father was Elder James Brown (1666-1716), a pastor on the First Baptist Church; his mother was Mary (Harris) Brown. Upon reaching adulthood, Obadiah joined his older brother James Brown II (1698-1739) in the mercantile trade, which included traffic in cocoa, rum, molasses and slaves. His initial role was as master of his brother's vessels in the West Indies trade. In 1736, he shipped out to the African coast as the supercargo of the family's sloop Mary, which thus became the first known Providence slave ship. However, this trip does not seem to have been very profitable, and the Browns apparently had no further direct involvement in the slave trade for over twenty years. After the death of James in 1739, Obadiah retired from the sea himself, but continued the business. During the 1750s, he became the first Providence merchant to trade directly with England, bypassing the traditional mercantile cities of Boston and Newport. He also opened a spermaceti candle factory as early as 1751. He also helped to raise James' young children, later forming a partnership with James' four surviving sons as Obadiah Brown & Co. This firm made another attempt at the slave trade in 1759, when their slave ship Wheel of Fortune was captured by French privateers. Obadiah died in Glocester, R.I. in 1762, probably at the home of his daughter Phebe Fenner.

In 1737, he married his first cousin, Mary Harris (1718-1805), daughter of Toleration and Sarah Harris. They had eight children. All four of the sons died in early childhood. The four daughters were Phebe (b.1738), Sarah (1742-1800), Anna (1744-1773) and Mary (b.1753). Phebe married John Fenner of Glocester, R.I., brother of Gov. Arthur Fenner. Sarah married Lt. Gov. Jabez Bowen (1739-1815). Anna married her first cousin Moses Brown (1738-1836). Mary married Thomas Arnold (1751-1826). March 22, 1698- Birth of Captain James Browne son of Elder James Browne (1666-1732) and Mary (Harris) Browne (1671-1736)

January 4, 1702- Birth of Hope (Power) Browne (1702-1792), daughter of Nicholas and Mercy (Tillinghast) Power

October 2, 1712- Birth of Obadiah Brown, brother of Captain James Browne

December 21, 1722- Marriage of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne

February 12, 1724- Birth of James Browne, eldest son of Captain James Browne (1698-1739) and Hope (Power) Browne (1702-1792)

July 28, 1729- Birth of Nicholas Brown, second son of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne

1731- Birth of Mary (Brown) Vanderlight, the only daughter of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne.

1733- Obadiah Brown begins his mercantile career

Dec. 3, 1733- Birth of Joseph Brown, third son of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne

January 27, 1736- Birth of John Brown, fourth son of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne

June 5, 1737- Marriage of Obadiah Brown and his first cousin, Mary (Harris) Brown (1718-1805)

September 12, 1738- Birth of Moses Brown, youngest son of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne

April 27, 1739-Death of Captain James Browne (b.1698)

1750- Nicholas Brown (b. 1729) reaches his majority; his elder brother James dies at sea

1751- Moses Brown begins to clerk for his uncle, Obadiah Brown

1754- Nicholas and John Brown begin business activities together

September 30, 1759 Joseph Brown marries cousin Elizabeth Power (1736-1806), daughter of Nicholas and Anne (Tillinghast) Power.

1760- Moses Brown and Obadiah Brown enter into partnership.

November 27, 1760 John Brown marries Sarah Smith (1738-1825), daughter of Daniel and Dorcas (Harris) Smith

May 2, 1762- Nicholas Brown weds Rhode Jenckes (1741-1783), daughter of Daniel and Joanna (Scott) Jenckes of Providence

June 17, 1762- Death of Obadiah Brown (b.1712)

August 1762- Formation of Nicholas Brown and Company

1763- United Company of Spermaceti Manufacturers, Plan of Union

January 1, 1764- Marriage of Moses Brown and his first cousin Anna Brown (1744-1773), daughter of Obadiah and Mary (Harris) Brown

1765- Formation of Hope Furnace

July 30, 1767- Hope Brown, daughter of Nicholas (b.1729) and Rhoda (Jenckes) Brown, drowns two days before her fourth birthday

1767/1768- George Benson clerks for Nicholas Brown and Company

June 1768- United Company of Spermaceti Manufacturers incorporates

April 4, 1769- Birth of Nicholas Brown (1769-1841), son of Nicholas (b.1729) and Rhoda (Jenckes) Brown

1772- John Brown withdraws from maritime activities of Nicholas Brown and Company

February 5, 1773- Death of Anna (Brown) Brown, wife of Moses Brown

1774- Moses and Joseph Brown withdraw from maritime activities of Nicholas Brown and Company

1775- George Benson a commission agent in Newport, RI

1776-1782- Nicholas and John Brown supply Continental Congress; Hope Furnace manufactures cannon

1782- Thomas Poynton Ives becomes a clerk for Nicholas Brown (b.1729)

1783- Nicholas Brown (b. 1729) enters into partnership with former clerk George Benson

December 16, 1783- Death of Rhoda (Jenckes) Brown, wife of Nicholas Brown (b.1729)

January 8, 1785- Death of Joanna Brown, daughter of Nicholas and Rhoda (Jenckes) Brown

September 9, 1785- Nicholas Brown weds second wife Avis Binney, daughter of Captain Barnabus Binney of Boston

December 3, 1785- Death of Joseph Brown (b.1733)

May 29, 1791- Death of Nicholas Brown (b.1729)

June 8, 1792- Death of Hope (Power) Browne, widow of Captain James Browne

May 26, 1795- Death of Mary (Brown) Vanderlight, daughter of Captain James Browne and Hope (Power) Browne

September 20, 1803- Death of John Brown (b. 1736)

August 16, 1807- Death of Avis (Binney) Brown, widow of Nicholas

September 6, 1836- Death of Moses Brown (b.1738)