Lawrence, one of my 9th great grandfathers, was born about 1620 in Lanchester, Durham, England. The Wilkinson family had been associated with Harpley House there for generations. They were staunch supporters of the throne, which support had garnered them large landholdings in the area.
|All Saints Parish Church, Lanchester, England|
Google Earth Street View Image
Lawrence (sometimes spelled Laurence or Lawrance) got caught up in the Siege of Newcastle in 1644 when the Scottish Covenanters, unhappy with the strictures put on their Protestant religion by King Charles 1, joined forces with the Parliamentarians. This was part of an ongoing battle for power generally referred to as the English Civil Wars. True to his family's allegiances, Lawrence took up arms and joined the Royalist forces in defense of King Charles. He has been said to have served as a lieutenant and as a captain in the Royalist forces. Tragically finding himself on the losing side in this battle, Lawrence was taken captive but eventually freed. Like many other Royalists, Lawrence Wilkinson had his properties sequestered. Strong support for his King had equally powerful repercussions; it became obvious to Lawrence that he might be well-advised to take his leave of the country.
Lawrence arrived in Providence, Rhode Island in 1645. On the 19th of the 11th month of that year his name was added to the original civil compact agreed by the original founders. Providence was less than 10 years old at the time, having been established by Roger Williams in 1636 after being banished from Massachusetts for his religious beliefs. Rhode Island was known as a welcoming location for newcomers of many political and religious stripes. Although most of my other early immigrant ancestors were Puritans who were largely supportive of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil Wars, even Royalists like Lawrence Wilkinson found a welcoming home in Rhode Island. By signing the compact, he received a free grant of 25 acres of land.
Before long, he married Susannah Smith and settled down to raise his family in Providence. (It should be noted that there is some thought that their marriage and birth of eldest son Samuel had occurred in England.)
Even the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean could not insulate Lawrence and other newcomers from the ongoing power struggles in England between King and Parliament. The original civil compact for Providence signed by Lawrence in 1645 had acknowledged the struggle by hedging its bets with the phrase ". . . and hereby do promise to yield active, or passive obedience to the authoritys (sic) of King and Parliament." After the death of Oliver Cromwell and the return of King Charles II, the Providence records for 6 May 1673 include a remonstrance against the oath of allegiance required by the King of England.
Lawrence took part in the affairs of the community throughout his lifetime. Some examples can be found in the town records. On 27 January 1659 he was chosen one of the jury men and on 15 August of that year he was chosen Commissioner of the Court of Commissioners to be held at Portsmouth later that month. In 1667 he was chosen as one of the Commissioners or Deputies to the General Assembly. The 28 April 1673 minutes of the town meeting indicate that Lawrence Wilkinson was chosen to serve as Deputy to the General Assembly at Newport. He was obviously a leading figure in the early Providence community.
His name frequently arises in town documents recording the descriptions of various parcels of land acquired by him over the years. It is interesting to note the descriptions refer to specific trees on the land as markers - walnut, pine, white oak, red oak and black oak - as well as topography including swamps and the Moshasuck River. Reference is also made to the "World's End Meadow" and scenery being "sacredly romantic". All in all, the records would indicate that Lawrence took up about 1000 acres of land in the Providence area. Having lost his family land in England by sequestration for his role during the power struggle there between King and Parliament, he more than made up for it in the new world.
|Moshasuck River, Providence, R.I.|
Lawrence had lands somewhere along its 8.9 mile length
Public Domain Image by Marcbela
- Wilkinson, Israel; Memoirs of the Wilkinson family in America : comprising genealogical and biographical sketches of Lawrance Wilkinson of Providence, R.I., Edward Wilkinson of New Milford, Conn., John Wilkinson of Attleborough, Mass., Daniel Wilkinson of Columbia Co., N.Y.; Jacksonville, Ill., Davis & Penniman, Printers, 1869.