Thomas Melvil, worked 1739 - 1781; died 1781


joiner; house carpenter


Newport, Rhode Island

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Thomas Melvill first appeared in Newport in May, 1741, when he was admitted as a freeman of Rhode Island.(1) Around this time, Melvill was engaged as a carpenter for the construction of the new Colony House in Newport. Designed in 1739 by Newport architect Richard Munday (died 1739), construction on the Colony House probably did not begin in earnest until 1740 when bricks were shipped from Boston for use on that building.(2) He worked with other Newport craftsmen, such as Christopher Townsend.

His work on the Colony House, the most prominent civic structure in colonial Newport, presumably brought him a certain degree of renown among Newport's house carpenters. Perhaps it was for that reason he was brought in by the Newport Inferior Court of Common Pleas in May, 1746 to evaluate the work of house carpenter Job Caswell when John Clark sued for work "deceiptfully & badly performed."(3)

In February, 1748, Melvill signed an agreement alongside Wing Spooner, Samuel Green, and Israel Chapman to build the Redwood Library in Newport, designed by Peter Harrison (1716-1775).(4)

Throughout the 1750's and 1760's, Melvill was identified as a Newport house carpenter and house joiner when brought to the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in Newport and South Kingstown.

Melvill died in 1781 in Newport.(5)

Benjamin W. Colman and Patricia E. Kane

1. John Russell Bartlett, ed., Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, in New England vol. 5 (Providence, R.I. : Knowles, Anthony and Co. 1860), 19.

2. Antoinette F. Downing and Vincent J. Scully, Jr., The Architectural Heritage of Newport, Rhode Island 2nd edition (New York: American Legacy Press. 1982), 63.

3. Job Caswell v John Clark, May 27, 1746, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book B, p. 798, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

4. Downing and Scully, Architectural Heritage of Newport, 82.

5. Thomas Melvill, will, June 16, 1774, Newport Probate, vol. 1, pp. 12-13, Newport City Hall, R.I.