James Townsend, 1782 or 1783–1827

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James Townsend, born in 1782 or 1783, was possibly the son of Edmund Townsend.(1)

Little is known about his personal or professional life. In 1809, he purchased the house at 30 Walnut Street in Newport from his father who purchased it in 1795.(2) In the years following, he was active making coffins. In 1812 he was paid ten dollars for a coffin made for Samuel Gibbs.(3) In 1814, the estate of John M. Mansfield paid him twenty dollars for making a coffin.(4) In 1815, he was paid fourteen dollars for making a Spanish cedar coffin for Samuel Downs.(5)

Following his 1827 death, the limited inventory of James' estate contained a number of woodworking tools. These included, "4 Chissells," "2 Smooth Planes," "1 Pannel Saw," "1 Compass Saw," and "38 Planes" among others.(6)


1. Birthdate calculated in Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Database Index, http://NewEnglandAncestors.org. Parentage as recorded in Morrison Hecksher, John Townsend: Newport Cabinetmaker (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005), 198.

2. Antoinette F.Downing and Vincent J. Scully, Jr. The Architectural Heritage of Newport, Rhode Island 1640-1915. 2nd ed. (New York: American Legacy Press, 1962), 486.

3. Samuel Gibbs estate account, 1812. Newport Probate vol. 5, 141. Newport City Hall, Newport, Rhode Island.

4. John N. Mansfield estate account, 1814. Newport Probate vol. 5, 248. Newport City Hall.

5. Samuel Downs estate account, 1815. Newport Probate vol. 5, 284. Newport City Hall.

6. James Townsend inventory, September 29, 1827. Newport Probate vol. 5, 376-377. Newport City Hall.