181108ind History

The Franklin House Inn located at 1 Tower Hill Road in North Kingstown, pictured above, has had many owners throughout the years but its ties to a key point in American history have never been forgotten.

This double chimney-stacked two-and-one-half story Federal style inn, with extensive Victorian-era remodeling, was originally constructed around 1785 by John and Hannah (Boone) Franklin on the site of the home of Hannah’s parents, Samuel Boone Jr. and Mary (Wightman) Boone. The Boone family had been rent asunder by the consequences of the Revolutionary War, with Sam Boone Jr. and his adult son William refusing to join the rebels and his three adult daughters Hannah (married to Franklin), Anna (married to Nicholas Spink), and Mary (married to William Gardiner) following their husband’s lead in asserting their intentions to support the Revolution at all costs. Those costs included the breakup of this family; with Samuel, his wife Mary, and William leaving Wickford, considered as traitorous Tory Loyalists, and the daughters staying behind in Wickford with their families. Sam Jr. and his group ended up in British held territory on Long Island and settled at what was then known as George’s Manor and assisted in the construction of the British fortifications there, known as Fort St. George. In the fall of 1780, according to a British report of the incident, “A party of rebels, about eighty in number, headed, it is said, by a rebel, Major Talmadge, assisted by a certain Heatheast, Muirson, Benjah Strong, Thomas Jackson and Caleb Brewster, officers belonging to said party, all formerly of Long Island, came across in eight whale-boats, etc., just after daylight arrived at Smith’s Point, St. George’s Manor, south side Long Island, where they surprised a respectable body of refugees belonging to Rhode Island and the vicinity, who were establishing a post in order to get a subsistence for themselves and families, etc.” Samuel Boone Jr., and perhaps his wife Mary, were captured in this raid with William escaping and making his way to Canada. Samuel Boone Jr. was eventually transferred to a prisoner of war camp, Camp Security in Lancaster Pennsylvania, where he later perished sometime in 1781. Mary, who somehow made it back to Wickford, died in September of 1782 and was buried in the Boone graveyard, just south of the Phillips Street-Tower Hill Road intersection. Her gravestone not only notes the particulars of her death, but also mentions Samuel’s demise in Lancaster. In an interesting side note, William Boone, in July of 1800, in absentia, contested the ownership of this property. He himself, still considered a traitor to the United States of America, was not allowed entry into Rhode Island to attend the legal proceedings, and instead sent his Canadian born son and attorney Henry Boone to represent him in the legal proceedings. Out of “affection for their brother” the three sisters consented to pay William a sum of money for his share of their parent’s estate.

When the widower John Franklin, son of Abel Franklin of Jamestown, married Hannah she too was widowed, as her first husband, Joseph Clarke, who she had married in 1762 died in June of 1770. John and Hannah built this inn, on the site of her parent’s house, to take advantage of the traffic on the busy Boston Post Road, the main thoroughfare between Boston and New York City at that time. Its location at the entrance to Wickford also helped to keep this regular stagecoach stop busy on a year round basis. Records also indicate that the North Kingstown Town council met here frequently as well. John Franklin died in August of 1806, leaving Hannah a widow once again. To help her out with the inn, her aunt, Hannah (Boone) Coggeshall, widow of Daniel Coggeshall and sister of Wightman Boone, moved in permanently at the Franklin Inn. In 1829, these two widowed women, who were of similar age, legalize the arrangement in which they run the Inn, when Hannah Franklin sells one half share of the property to Hannah Coggeshall. In 1832, apparently in failing health, Hannah Franklin sells her half share to Hannah Coggeshall retaining a life estate in the property allowing her to live out her days there. In 1835, Hannah Franklin must have passed away, as at that time Hannah Coggeshall sold the Inn to Nicholas Fry, whose mother was a member of the Coggeshall family.

Nicholas and Esther Fry of East Greenwich ran the Franklin House as an Inn for a time and then leased the building to Jonathan Slocum who operated it as a boarding house. At the same time, the Fry’s sold the surrounding acreage to the Holloway family who established a peach and apple orchard on the 20 acre parcel. In 1846 the Frys sold the house itself to Mary Holloway, who reunited it with the farmlands the family had purchased earlier. In 1858, the Holloways sold the entire parcel, including “the dwelling house, barn, corn crib, and orchards to Anthony and Clarissa Turner.

Well known and successful farmer Anthony Turner, lived here with his family and worked the land from 1858 until 1866. At that time he sold this farm and moved south down the Post Road a short ways and purchased the larger farm parcel that is now the site of the new St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. The Franklin House’s new owner was merchant and farmer Thomas B. Vaughan. Sadly, Thomas and Almira Vaughan’s time here at the Franklin House was short. He suffered a massive stroke and died at the age of 56 in 1869. The house was purchased from his widow by his brother, prominent manufacturer Syria Vaughan shortly after his death. Syria, who lived on West Main Street, owned the house for only a short, most likely to allow his widowed sister-in-law time to get her affairs in order, and sold it in 1873 to wealthy Providence manufacturer William R. Talbot and his wife Mary Cornelia (Arnold) Talbot.

Now the Talbots were Providence folks. They lived on Williams Street in that city, in a home famous thereabouts for its “Gaspee Room”; a room removed intact from a family home on South Main Street in which the plan for the destruction of the British ship “Gaspee” was formulated. William Talbot traced his ancestry back to Major Silas Talbot, a hero of the Revolutionary War. His wife, Mary, could trace hers back to Welcome Arnold, one of the financiers of the Colonial Army as well as Captain Barnes McKay, an officer under General George Washington. Mr. Talbot owned and operated the Tockwotten Button Company in Providence where he manufactured buttons and upholstery nails for RI’s burgeoning fabric industry and was part owner of a number of other textile industry related concerns. He was quite successful at this enterprise and the family was very well off. Each summer they would move their household down from Providence and stay at the Franklin House, which they renamed Barberry Hill. It was the Talbot family who extensively remodeled the house adding numerous Victorian era embellishments including the charming widow’s walk, the large front parlor windows looking out upon the graceful sitting porch, and the detailed trim. The rubble stone foundation was also faced at this time in brick, and the federal period chimneys were rebuilt into the detailed Victorian replacements extant today. Eventually the entire area, which had for decades been known as Franklin’s Corner became identified by all as Talbot’s Corner to honor one of Wickford’s most popular and consistent summer families. The Talbot’s had four children; one son and three daughters. Eventually one daughter, Helen, married J. Benton Porter of Philadelphia, and the Porter’s, as well, would come along. I imagine those summers as being idyllic and consisting of teas and picnics by the seashore. As the 1800’s turned into the 1900’s, the elder Talbots joined their Revolutionary ancestors in heaven and the home passed down to the three daughters, known in Wickford simply as the Talbot Sisters. The Talbot sisters were quite religious and proud of their heritage. They were involved in the DAR both here and in Providence, and were known to have hand woven many vestments for local churches including St. Paul’s in Wickford where they attended. The Talbot sisters continued to summer in Wickford right to the bitter end when Helen, the last of them, passed away quietly in her sleep at her beloved Barberry Hill. Her widower, J. Benton Porter, in 1947 sold off the summer house and its 45 acres and returned to Philadelphia.

The next owner of the house was real estate agent Rosalind Wallace, who quickly sub-divided the extensive Talbot/Porter real estate holdings and sold the old inn, with only a minimal amount of land, to Clarence and Zella Signor who retooled the now ancient building into an apartment house. Since that time it has been owned by the Ashworth, Burum, Ferdinanelli, Quinn, Wescott, Dworman, Noonan, and DiSaia families; all of whom have operated it as an apartment house. It was purchased by Christopher Squillante in 2001. Chris did extensive restoration to the old Franklin House and then sold it last year, its new owner maintains it in a fashion that surely please even the Talbot clan.

The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.

(1) comment

Mark Thompson

"Rent asunder"--love it!

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