HomeBrowseAdvanced SearchAboutHelpContact

Collection of Redwood family papers

Biographical note

Abraham Redwood (1665-1728) was born in Bristol, England, in 1655. He worked as a merchant and was involved in the sugar trade between England, New England, Africa, and Antigua. In 1687, Redwood went to the island of Antigua, where he met his future business partner and father-in-law, Jonas Langford, who owned a prosperous sugar plantation called Cassada Garden. This plantation, and the slaves that worked on it, eventually became Abraham’s possession through his marriage to Mehetable Langford (d. 1715), daughter of Jonas Langford, sometime before 1697.

Abraham and Mehetable had the following children: William (1697-1712), Mary (1698-1763), Ann (1700-1742), Sarah (1702-1791), Jonas Langford (1706-1724), Abraham (1709-1788), and John (1710-1713). The family traveled frequently between Antigua and New England so that Abraham could manage his business, but by 1712, they moved to America and lived in Newport, Rhode Island. Mehetable Langford Redwood passed away on April 30, 1715, and was buried in Newport. Redwood remained in Newport until 1717, and then moved to Salem, Massachusetts.

Abraham Redwood married his second wife, Patience Howland Phillips (1687-1745), on June 14, 1716. The couple had the following five children: Patience (1717-1772), Rebecca (1719-1804), Mehetable (1722-1761), Lydia (b. 1724), and William (1726-1815). In 1720, Redwood purchased land and a house in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and the family lived there until his death in 1728. Following the death of Abraham Redwood, Patience and Joseph Whipple (1687-1750), the husband of Abraham’s daughter Sarah (1702-1791), administered Abraham’s estate. As a result, Patience was appointed the guardian of all of their minor children and disposed of the farm in Marblehead before moving back to Newport. She also signed a dower release, signing over all of her rights to the Cassada Garden plantation and its slaves in Antigua to her eldest step-son, Abraham Redwood (1709-1788). Patience Redwood died on December 11, 1740, in Newport.

Abraham and Mehetable Redwood’s son, Abraham (1709-1788), was born in Newport on February 15, 1709. On February 8, 1726 or 1727, Abraham Redwood married Martha Coggeshall (1709-1760) of Newport and they had the following children: Abraham (1728-1736), Jonas Langford (1730-1779), Mehetable (1731-1794), Martha (1733-1734), William (1734-1784), Elizabeth (1735-1735), Martha (1740-1740), Abraham (1742-1788), and Martha (1745-1746).

Prior to officially inheriting his father’s estate in 1730, Abraham Redwood was involved in the sugar trade from the plantation well before then. From the age of sixteen or seventeen, Abraham corresponded with the manager of the plantation and also acted as an agent in Newport to sell the sugar from the plantation to England and other local merchants. It was not until 1737 that he was able to travel to Cassada Gardens for the first time, staying there for three years. Through the course of his lifetime, Redwood was able to improve upon the already successful sugar plantation, making him one of the most respected and wealthiest merchants in Newport at the time. His wealth and reputation also led to one of his greatest achievements – the establishment of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in 1747.

In 1743, Redwood purchased 140 acres of land in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He also owned a house on Spring Street and one on Thames Street with a wharf that extended to the harbor, which helped facilitate his business activities. Later on, he also purchased a farm in Mendon, Massachusetts, where he also lived regularly until his death. Abraham Redwood died on March 7, 1788, and was buried in the Coggeshall family cemetery. His estate was passed on to his surviving children.

Abraham Redwood’s half-brother, William (1726-1815), was born on October 21, 1726, and was the son of Abraham Redwood (1665-1728) and his second wife, Patience. William Redwood worked closely with his brother Abraham in the sugar trade and later moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1772 to continue his mercantile pursuits. From 1782 to 1787, William lived at Cassada Garden to help take care of the plantation after his nephew, Jonas Langford Redwood (1730-1779), had died. He returned to Philadelphia in 1787, where he remained until his death on January 16, 1815. William Redwood married first to Hannah Holmes (1737-1767) of Newport on November 7, 1754, and had the following children: Sarah (1755-1847), Hannah (1759-1796), Samuel Holmes (1765-1790), and Elizabeth (1767-1767). He married his second wife, Sarah Saunders of Philadelphia, on January 18, 1776, and had the following children: Mary (1776-1777), and William (1778-1838). His daughter, Sarah, married Miers Fisher in Newport on December 18, 1755, and she was the sole inheritor of all of his property in Rhode Island.

The descendants of Abraham Redwood (1709-1788) thrived and lived throughout the United States and Europe, marrying into other notable families such as the Whipple, Ellery, Wanton, Hazard, and Fisher families.