John Proud, Jr., 1714–1794


Occupation

chairmaker

Location

Newport, Rhode Island, East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Biography

John Proud, Jr., was born in Newport on July 22, 1714.(1) His parents, John Proud (died 1757) and Rebecca Fothergill (died 1732), were from Yorkshire, England, and lived near the town of Gisburn.(2) The family immigrated to Newport in 1713 or 1714, where the elder John Proud worked as a watch- and clockmaker.(3) John Jr. probably apprenticed in Newport, and most likely completed his training in or around 1735. On September 22, 1738, he married Ann Greene (born 1718–unknown) of the Potowomut area of Warwick, Rhode Island.(4) The Prouds were Quakers, and John Jr. would no doubt have been well acquainted with other Friends in the woodworking trades. Beginning in 1754, his name appears frequently in the monthly meeting minutes of the religious Society of Friends.(5)

John Proud, Jr.’s brother Joseph Proud (1711–1769) and his brother-in-law Timothy Waterhouse (ca.1715–1792) were also Newport chairmakers, but it is not known whether the three men ever worked together. It is possible that Waterhouse met his wife, Hannah Proud (1712–1802), through a business connection with one or both of her brothers. There was also a family of Providence chairmakers by the name of Proud – William Proud (ca. 1723–1779) and his sons Samuel Proud (1762–1833) and Daniel Proud (1762–1833) – but it is unclear whether they were related to the Newport Prouds. John and Joseph Proud did have a brother named William, but his birthday is recorded in Arnold’s Vital Records of Rhode Island as 1720 rather than 1723.(6)

It is evident from Newport court cases that John Proud, Jr., was both a chairmaker and a shopkeeper, and that he also engaged in mercantile pursuits. The first known reference to Proud as a Newport chairmaker is a 1747 lawsuit against mariner John Morriss of Maryland.(7) The case concerned a ship co-owned by Proud, Newport cooper James Lyon, and Newport cordwainer Oliver Paddock. In what was almost certainly part of a mercantile venture, the men had engaged Morriss in "the conversion and disposition of a certain Sloop called the Humingbird of the Burthen of forty five Tonns with her Mast, Bowsprit, Yards, Sails, Rigging, Cable, Anchors, & Boat." Morriss did not deliver, and was ordered by the court to either return the ship or pay 960. Several years later, in 1753, Proud was identified as a shopkeeper when he sued John Burr, Jr., a Newport pail maker.(8) It may have been in his capacity as shopkeeper that Proud ran a 1762 advertisement announcing "Cash given for old Pewter" in The Newport Mercury.(9) Despite his other ventures, Proud continued to make chairs. He was once more referred to as a chairmaker in 1767, when sued for money due by note by Newport tinplate worker Joseph Burrill, and again in 1770, when sued over an unpaid account by Samuel Hall, a printer from Salem, Massachusetts.(10) The account from Hall, which dates from June 1763 to April 1765, provides further evidence that Proud was involved in some sort of mercantile activity. It includes an "Almanack for 1764," "Money Tables," "Portage Bills," "Bonds," "Bills Laden," "Powers [of] attorney," and "Bills [of] Sale."(11) Portage bills are shipping document used to keep track of crew members’ wages, and "Bills Laden," or bills of lading, are documents acknowledging the receipt of shipped goods. Unfortunately there is no record of the contents of the cargo that Proud was involved in shipping. The account also contains a charge of 24 for "the Mercury from July 16, 1763 to July 16, 1766." This probably refers to The Newport Mercury, suggesting that Proud may have spent at least part of this time in Salem, where he would have wanted to stay abreast of events in his home town.

In 1770, Proud evidently began having problems with alcohol. In the Friends’ May meeting minutes, it recorded that he was "frequently overtaken with strong drink." Proud was apparently made ill by his over-indulgence and began to miss meetings. In July, he was prevented from coming by "some indisposition of body," in August he was "not of ability of body to attend," and in September he "gave encouragement" that he would attend, but did not. In October, Proud still had not appeared, but expressed his contrition by sending a written statement to the meeting "condemning his misconduct in making use of too much spirituous liquor." The statement was read publicly by William Lake at the November meeting, which Proud did attend.(12)

Proud had moved to East Greenwich by 1786, when it was mentioned at the February Friends’ meeting that he had "some time past removed within the verge of Greenwich monthly meeting without a certificate."(13) Proud died in East Greenwich in January 1794 at the age of seventy-nine. In his obituary, which appeared in The United States Chronicle, he was praised as "A Man who feared God and eschewed Evil."(14)

DAC, JNJ, and PEK


1. James N. Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636–1850, 21 vols. (Providence, 1891–1912), vol. 7, p. 70.

2. Will of John Proud, dated [August?] 22, 1757, proved November 7, 1757, Newport Town Council and Probate, vol. 12, pp. 127–129, microfilm 0945000, Family History Library, Salt Lake City. For Rebecca Fothergill Proud’s death date, see Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission website, http://rihistoriccemeteries.org/webdatabase.aspx.

3. In his will, John Proud left his watch- and clockmakers’ tools to his grandson Timothy Waterhouse.

4. Their marriage is recorded in Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, vol. 7, p. 138.

5. See, for example, Society of Friends, Newport, R.I., Monthly Meetings 1739–1773, microfilm 0022417, pp. 127, 132, 148, 152, Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

6. Arnold, Vital Records of Rhode Island, vol. 7, p. 70.

7. James Lyon, cooper, John Proud, chairmaker, and Oliver Paddock, cordwainer, all of Newport, v. John Morriss, Mariner, Cympuxon in the County of Worchester in the Province of Maryland, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, King’s County, Record Book B, p. 551, August 1747 term, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

8. John Proud, Jr., Newport, shopkeeper, v. John Burr, Jr., Newport, pailmaker, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. D, p. 279, May 1753 term, Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

9. The Newport Mercury, March 30, 1762, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/.

10. Proud lost the case and was ordered to pay 23.12 legal money plus court costs. See Joseph Burrill, Newport, tinplate worker, v. John Proud, Newport, chairmaker, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. G, p. 800, May 1767 term, case 234; Samuel Hall, Salem, Essex County, Mass., printer v. John Proud, Newport, chairmaker, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. H, p. 521, May 1770 term, case 163, both Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

11. Statement of Account, June 22, 1763 to April 13, 1765, in Hall v. Proud.

12. Society of Friends, Newport, R.I., Monthly Meetings 1739–1773, microfilm 0022417, pp. 330–334, 336, 339, 341–342, Family History Library, Salt Lake City; Society of Friends, Newport, R.I., Monthly Meetings 1773–1799, microfilm 0022417, p. 41, Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

13. The certificate was granted in May 1787, after discussion at several subsequent meetings. See Society of Friends, Newport, R.I., Monthly Meetings 1773–1799, microfilm 0022417, pp.