Benjamin Belcher, 1681–1716


Occupation

shipwright

Place of work

Newport, Rhode Island

Place of birth

Boston, Massachusetts

Place of death

Newport, Rhode Island

Biography

In her compilation of Newport furniture makers, Mabel M. Swan lists Benjamin Belcher as a joiner working in 1706.(1) Belcher was born on 20 March 1680/1, the youngest child of Josias Belcher (1631–1683), a wheelwright of Boston, and Ranis Rainsford (1638–1691), the daughter of Edward (1609–1682) and Elizabeth Rainsford (1607–1688). His paternal grandparents were Gregory (abt 1606–1674) and Catherine Belcher.(2) He was admitted a freeman in Newport on 6 May 1707.(3) He died on 19 April 1716 and is buried in Newport in the Governor Benedict Arnold graveyard.(4)

Belcher married first Phebe, who had three children: Benjamin (b. 1704), a shipwright and mariner, Phebe (b. 1708), and Edward (b. 1711), a shipwright, all of Newport. After his wife’s death in 1713, he married second Sarah Collins (b. 1690), the daughter of Arnold (abt. 1665–1735) and Sarah Collins. She had Arnold (b. abt 1715) and possibly Sarah (bap. 1717). In his will, dated 14 April 1716, in which he identifies himself as a shipwright of Newport, Belcher names as his executors he father-in-law Arnold Collins and brother-in-law John Beers.(5) The Newport Town Council Records indicate Beers became the guardian to Belcher’s son Benjamin on 1 December 1718.(6) The will bequeaths household goods, including “a Japan Looking Glass and a Chest of Drawers standing under the same,” to his daughter Phebe, a pair of pistols, a looking glass, and silver plate to his son Benjamin, and three lots of land to his wife Sarah. He described the lots as being bought of Jeremiah Bull, Robert Taylor, and Benjamin Bull, respectively. Belcher also gives his son Edward certain rights to these lots and likewise to another son if “the Child my wife now is with Should prove to be a Boy.”

The inventory of Belcher’s estate, taken by Nathaniel Coddington, William Coddington, and Newport joiner Daniel Gould (q.v), lists his household goods, which included a chest of drawers, looking glass, and two stands, all “Jappand,” as well as three slaves: “I Negro man,” “1 Negro woman,” and “1 Negro girl.” In his inventory of tools and shop supplies were: “Timber Plank boards and spurs and other Stuff in ye Yard 30-00-0” and “4 axes 5 Mauls 3 ads 3 Saws 2 Drawing Knifes augers and other Tolls with the Grind Stone 09-12-0.”(7)

1 Mabel M. Swan, “The Goddard and Townsend Joiners, Part I,” The Magazine Antiques 49, no. 4 (April 1946): 231; see also, Ralph E. Carpenter, Jr., The Arts and Crafts of Newport, Rhode Island, 1640-1820 (Newport: The Preservation Society of Newport County, 1954), 25; Wendell D. Garrett, “The Newport Cabinetmakers: A Corrected Check List,” The Magazine Antiques 73, no. 6 (June 1958): 559.

2 Joseph Gardner Bartlett, “The Belcher Families in New England,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 60 (April 1906): 128–30; and James Rasmussen, “Edward Raynsford of Boston: English Ancestry and American Descendants,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 139 (October 1985): 296–300.

3 Bartlett, 133.

4 The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project, http://www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/cemetery/index.html.

5 Will of Benjamin Belcher, Newport, shipwright, 14 April 1716, Newport Town Council and Probate, vol. 3, p. 65–7.

6 Newport Town Council and Probate, vol. 3, p. 237.

7 Inventory of Benjamin Belcher, taken 26 April 1716, Newport Town Council and Probate, vol. 3, p. 68–71.