Providence, Rhode Island.

My college roommate was from Providence.  I drank an Awful Awful at the Newport Creamery on one visit, and worked for a day in a Brown University chemistry lab on another.  I have pleasant memories of visits with her family, and of driving there from Boston, years later, when my brother's job took him to Providence one day and we met at an Indian restaurant for dinner.  I've passed through T. F. Green airport countless times.

My allegiance to that New England city was cemented by the discovery that the founder of Providence, Roger Williams, is my tenth great-grandfather.  He's Porter's ninth great-grandfather as well.  So you might say Providence is in the family.

Thus I was thrilled to learn that the town charter of Providence, brought from England by Roger Williams himself in 1648, has been found, after some 140 years of "missing and presumed dead" status.

It was discovered by Paul R. Campbell, the city archivist, who "spends his days burrowing in the very attic of City Hall amid peeling paint, stacks of ponderous tomes and dusty boxes shielding secrets of the past, from the humdrum to the historic."

As he tells it, one recent Friday afternoon, a group came seeking certain records. As Campbell poked around material stored on a level above his office, he came across an open box. Inside sat a pocket folder from the 1960s, containing miscellaneous records of the now-defunct Providence Board of Aldermen.

But in the box there also reposed “a very old document, on vellum [animal skin],” he said. “I recognized right away the writing style of the 17th century — I did some research some years ago on 17th-century writing. It began to look like something more important than a deed. It was governmental in nature.”

The signature of “John Warner, Clerk of the Assembly,” caught his eye. It dawned on him that here might be something momentous.

“I figured this was the John Warner, one of the early arrivals. The document, in a nutshell, is from when Williams came back from England in 1643 after he had obtained a charter from the king for the Colony of Rhode Island. He needed to get a charter for the Town of Providence, so he went to the Colonial Legislature of 1647-48, and asked for a town charter. This document is the town charter issued in March 1648. This is the Town of Providence creation document.”

What's in your attic?

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Edit
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I'm glad to see that my hometown is in the news for something besides a political scandal!

Posted by Kathy Lewis on Friday, June 03, 2011 at 7:14 am
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