It is time to honor Samuel John Potter (1753-1804), the only U.S. senator (1803-04) from South Kingstown. He was a Revolutionary War hero who participated in the Nov. 6, 1777 capture of the HMS Syren off the coast of Point Judith. He was a lieutenant, captain, and major in the Rhode Island Militia and was in charge of recruiting for South Kingstown. He was also a member of the South Kingstown Town Council from 1785-1788 and represented the town in the long struggle to win Rhode Island’s ratification of the 1787 US Constitution.

He was instrumental in the political machinations to have Rhode Island join the Union. The Federalists and Anti Federalists ran the same ticket for governor — the Anti-Federalist Arthur Fenner with S.J. Potter, the Federalist, as deputy governor—in the April, 1790 election. This victory was capped by the May 29, 1790 vote to become the 13th state.

S.J. Potter served as deputy governor from 1790-1799 and 1800-1802. He died in 1804 in South Kingstown (Matunuck) and is likely buried without a marker in the Quaker Cemetery in South Kingstown. Let there be at least a place marker for Sen. Potter, just off the Old Post Road next to his 1804 home. Also, let there be a committee to plan for the 250th celebration of the capture of the HMS Syren. If Warwick can have its Gaspee Day why can’t SK and Narragansett have a HMS Syren day?

Richard Vangermeersch


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