Joseph Rawson, Sr., 1760–1835




Providence, Rhode Island

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Joseph Rawson was born in 1760 to Providence cabinetmaker Grindal Rawson (1719–1803) and Elizabeth (Boyd) Rawson of Newport. His paternal grandparents were Wilson Rawson (1692–1726) of Mendon, Massachusetts and Margaret (Arthur) Rawson (died 1757) originally of Nantucket. He joined the Revolutionary Army in 1776, eventually earning the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1785, he married Elizabeth Rhodes (1760–1843), daughter of Samuel Rhodes. Together they had ten children; Samuel (1786–1852), Joseph (1788–1870), William Rhodes (born 1790), Abby (died young), Abby Rhodes (1794-1872), Grindal (born 1796), Edward D. (1800-1822), Hannah Reuden, Grindal (born 1803), and George Burrill (born 1805).(1)

Rawson was identified as a Providence cabinetmaker in 1789 when he purchased land from Joseph Hoyle, a merchant in Providence. For twenty one, he purchased "one certain lot of parcel of land on the West Side of the river in said Providence."(2)

Sometime during or before 1788, Rawson formed a cabinetmaking partnership with Providence cabinetmaker Jonathan Wallen. In 1791 they advertised "FIFES, made and sold by Wallen and Rawson." They noted that "Said Wallen and Rawson, having supplied several Brigades with Fifes in the late Continental Army, are induced to warrant them to be equal to any imported from Holland."(3) In June, 1792, Wallen and Rawson dissolved their partnership. In the published dissolution notice, they note that, Said Rawson informs the Public, that he still continues the Cabinet and Chair-making Business in all its Branches, at the Shop lately occupied by said Wallen and Rawson.-FIFES of the best Kind, made and Sold by him as usual.(4)

In 1793, Rawson advertised that he sought, "As an Apprentice to the Chair and Cabinet making business, An active LAD, about 14 or 15 Years of Age. One from the Country would be preferred."(5) Such advertisements appeared throughout Rawson's career, appearing again in 1813, 1815, and 1817. In November, 1814, he announced a, ONE CENT REWARD, but no charges paid. RAN away from the subscriber on the 24th inst. An indented Apprentice, by the name of Thomas H. Allen. This is to forbid all Captains or Privateers, Recruiting Officers, and all other persons whomsoever, from harbouring or trusting said boy on my account, as I will pay no debts of his contracting after this date.(6)

In 1808, he entered the cabinet business with his son, forming the partnership of Joseph Rawson & Son, advertising that this business, "will be pursued in all its branches on the most reasonable terms, with all convenient dispatch, at the Old Stand on the west side of the bridge" in Providence.(7) The partnership survived until November 1826, when the pair again advertised the dissolution of the business "by mutual consent," and that "All unsettled accounts must be left with Samuel Rawson, for settlement."(8)

He died July 19, 1835.(9) His widow remarried to John Humphrey, but was again widowed before her death in December, 1843.(10)

Benjamin W. Colman and Patricia E. Kane

1. Rawson family history taken from E. B. Crane, The Rawson Family: A Revised Memoir of Edward Rawson, (Worcester, Mass.: Published by the family, 1875). 17-18, 37-38, 74.

2. Joseph Hoyle to Joseph Rawson, deed, November 14, 1789, Providence Deeds, vol. 21, p. 654, Providence City Hall, R.I.

3. The United States Chronicle: Political, Commercial, and Historical,, "FIFES," October 20, 1791,

4. The United States Chronicle: Political, Commercial, and Historical,, "All Concerned will Please to Take Notice," June 21, 1792,

5. The United States Chronicle: Political, Commercial, and Historical,, "Wanted," February 7, 1793,

6. The Providence Gazette,, "One Cent Reward," November 12, 1814,

7. The Phenix, "Co-Partnership Formed," January 9, 1808,

8. Providence Patriot & Columbian Phenix, "Notice," November 29, 1826,

9. The Newport Mercury, "Died," July 25, 1835,

10. The Newport Mercury, "Died," December 23, 1843,