Fisher Potter, 1706–1789


Occupation

yeoman; house carpenter; carpenter; joiner

Location

Providence, Rhode Island, Scituate, Rhode Island

Biography

Fisher Potter was born in Providence on September 29, 1706, to John Potter (1668–1711) and Jane (Burlingame) Potter. His paternal grandparents were John Potter (died 1694) and Ruth (Fisher) Potter, daughter of Edward Fisher of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. His paternal

great-grandfather Robert Potter emigrated from England to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1628, removed to Aquidneck Island by 1638, and was of Warwick, Rhode Island, by 1642.(1)

In 1727, the year that he would have completed his apprenticeship, he was identified as a Providence house carpenter when he sold land in Warwick to yeoman John Low.(2)

He married Mary (Winsor) Potter of Providence (born 1707) in 1728. She was the daughter of Samuel Winsor, Jr., and Mercy Winsor.(3) They would have nine children; Philip (born 1729), Samuel (born 1731), Mary (born 1733), Fisher (born 1735), Jeremiah (born 1737),

Phebe (born 1742), Christopher (born 1744), John (born 1747), Winsor (born 1749).(4)

In 1735, he was called a Providence "joyner" when he successfully sued the Town Council and recovered twelve pounds.(5) By 1742, he had removed to Scituate, Rhode Island, where he was called a house carpenter of that town when successfully sued by Providence shop keeper John Angell, Jr.(6) He was identified as a yeoman, joiner, or carpenter of Scituate throughout the next sixteen years.

His eldest son Philip became his legal guardian in June, 1756, when Fisher was judged non compos mentis(7) by the Town Council of Scituate.(8) The appointment was not lasting, as in May, 1757, Philip was judged incapable of managing his father's affairs. Jonathan Cole was chosen to take his place.(9)

He had evidently regained control of his faculties with old age, selling land to his son Christopher in February, 1780.(10)

Fisher Potter died in 1789.

Benjamin W. Colman and Patricia E. Kane

1. Albert Potter and Isaac M. Potter, Genealogy of the Family of John and Wait Potter (Providence, R.I.: Rhode Island Printing Company, 1885), 3-5.

2. Fisher Potter to John Low, deed, November 11, 1727, Warwick Deeds, vol. 4, p. 71, Warwick Town Hall, R.I..

3. Alphabetical Index of the Births, Marriages and Deaths Recorded in Providence, Rhode Island, http://www.NewEnglandAncestors.org.

4. Potter and Potter, 4.

5. Fisher Potter v. S. Dexter, Slope Angel, John Thornton, et al., December 1735. Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Providence County, , Record Book, vol. 1, p. 139, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

6. John Angell, Jr. v Fisher Potter, June 1742, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Providence County, Record Book, vol. 1, p. 556, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

7. The eighteenth-century legal definition of an unsound mind leaves much room for interpretation. According to the sixth edition of Giles Jacob's New Law Dictionary (London: Henry Lintot, Law Printer, 1750), there were four legal categories of a non compos mentis; "An Ideot or natural fool," "A Madman, or one who was of Sane Memory, but hath lost his Understanding by Sickness, Accident, or Misfortune," "A Lunatick, sometimes of Sane memory, and at other Times not so," and "A Drunkard that deprives himself of his Memory and Understanding." Fisher Potter's condition remains unclear.

8. Scituate Town Council Meeting, June 7, 1756; Scituate Probate, vol. 1, p. 261 both North Scituate Town Hall, R.I.

9. Scituate Town Council Meeting, May 14, 1757, Scituate Probate, vol. 1, p. 277, North Scituate Town Hall, R.I.

10. Fisher Potter to Christopher Potter, deed, February 7, 1780, Scituate Deeds, vol. 4, pp. 192-93, North Scituate Town Hall, R.I.