190808ind history

The Gideon Carr house, located at 47 Fowler St. in Wickford, was built in 1774 and sold two years later.

Contrary to the information gleaned by Col. Hunter White and published in his book “Wickford & its Old Houses,” the Gideon Carr House on Fowler Street was constructed in 1774 and then sold two years later in 1776 to goldsmith Thomas Bissell Jr. This house is a great vehicle to examine what was going on, not only in Wickford at that timeframe, but all over the colonies.  You see both Gideon Carr and Thomas Bissell Jr. vanish from the local historic record at this juncture, and the why of that has to do with the conflict at hand. Both of these gentlemen were most likely Loyalists and left for either England or Canada. Indeed Thomas Bissell Jr. was the head of the British commissioned North Kingstown militia and his second in command was housewright Robert Potter who presumably relocated to Canada as well. By the time the Revolutionary War was over and the dust had settled, somehow local lad Lodowick Cooper had ownership of the house itself with much of the land along Fowler Street in limbo and still being referred to as the Thomas Bissell Jr. property. Cooper, named after his maternal grandfather Lodowick Updike, sold the house to another young Jamestowner named Capt. Benjamin Baker, the founding father of the large and prominent Baker clan of Wickford. Baker lived out his life here in the house and left it to his sons, William and Benjamin Jr., who sold it in June of 1839 to the widow Nancy Ann Peckham. Even in 1839 portions of the adjoining vacant land nearby along Fowler Street was still in ownership limbo and being identified as the former land of Thomas Bissell Jr.  One year later Nancy Peckham turned around and resold the house to Gen. James Updike of the Saugo Farm at Cocumscussoc, who later gifted it to his nephew, the cabinetmaker and carpenter, Thomas D. Updike and his wife Elizabeth; the daughter of local sea captain John C. Gould.  Thomas lived out the remainder of his days in the house, and died of complications due to his asthma in 1864. Twenty-five years after they sold it out of the family, the Bakers, headed then by Capt. David S. Baker, repurchased the house for use by his widowed sister-in-law Dorcas Baker and her son John Vaughn Baker and his family.  John V. Baker spent his early years at sea like many of his relations, but after time stayed ashore to help manage the Baker family’s growing business as a major coal importer/distributor in southern Rhode Island.  John lived out his life in this fine home and, after his death, the Baker family sold the house to James, Charles B., and Charles S. Reynolds who folded it into their vast rental empire. The Reynolds family owned the house through much of the early 20th century.

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

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