190725ind history

The last of the Grandersons lived in a Post Road home, near this former fast food building, which was demolished in the 20th century.

This is a very typical story of an early 19th century South County black family. They lived quiet productive lives in their community and their stories are largely lost to history. The Grandersons left just enough of a footprint in the historic record to allow me to get to know them a bit. They deserve to be remembered.

Edward Laforest Granderson, who went by his middle name, was born in 1823 to Abraham and Mary (Hall) Granderson. Mary, his mother, was probably a descendant of the slaves of the Hall family, one of the region’s earliest settlers, and Abraham was purported to have been born in Trinidad. After Abraham’s death, Mary married a Robinson. They lived in a small house on the south side of Stony Lane near its intersection with the Boston Post Road on land that once been owned by the same Hall family that had owned Mary’s ancestors. Laforest worked with his father in his youth as a farm laborer, but by the time of the 1850 census, the 27-year-old was calling himself a fisherman. Sometime during the 1850s he met and married Betsey Watson, who was originally from Newport, and they had three sons together Daniel Watson, George Lincoln, and Charles Edward. Betsey was most likely of mixed race ancestry as a diary entry from the late 1880s describes her as “whiter than some white folks…I couldn’t have told her from a white person, a tanned hard working white person.” By 1860, Laforest was calling himself a farmhand and during that decade entered into the long term employ of Avis Ann Spink, who, as a widow woman, was running her family farm in Wickford. Betsey, throughout their marriage, worked as either a washerwoman or a housekeeper. One of the benefits of working on the Spink farm was that Avis Ann provided a home for the Grandersons to live in; the small house, which was located on the farm property near the top of Bush Hill just north of Wickford village proper, was eventually deeded over to the Grandersons by Avis Ann Spink, sometime around 1870. Laforest Granderson, worked for the remainder of his days on the Spink farm and died in the small house there in January of 1885.The house and property was left in equal shares to his three sons with a caveat that Betsey could live out her life there. Youngest son Charles bought out his two brothers’ shares and lived there with his wife Mary and mother Betsey. After the death of both of them, he sold the house in 1916. Charles died half a decade later and all three are buried without gravestones in Elm Grove Cemetery. Eldest son Daniel moved to Providence, where he owned a home some time prior to his father’s death and lived there for the rest of his life. He evidently was married for a time as in the 1920 US Census he is listed as a 70-year-old widower living with 59-year-old widow Eliza Thomas. Daniel died sometime in the 1920s. Middle son George lived near the intersection of Oak Hill Road and Tower Hill Road and worked as a laborer and bricklayer for most of his life. He was married to Nellie (Robinson) and had a son, George Edward in July 1916 and a daughter Louse. George, who worked with his father, was a World War II veteran. George Lincoln Granderson died in February of 1942 and is buried in the Potters Field section of Elm Grove Cemetery with no gravestone. George Edward Granderson, who was married to Essie (Phillips), owned a home on Post Road on a lot that now contains a fast food restaurant. His death in May of 1969 spelled the end of more than 120 years of Grandersons residing in North Kingstown. He is buried next to his father in Elm Grove Cemetery.

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

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