Samuel Casey, American, 1723–1773


goldsmith; silversmith; merchant


Little Rest, Rhode Island

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Samuel Casey was born in Newport in 1723 or 1724. His father was Samuel Casey of Newport and Kingston (1686–1752), and his mother was Dorcas (Ellis) Casey. He was one of six known children, with siblings Thomas (born 1716), Elizabeth (born 1720), John (born 1723), Gideon (born 1726), and an unnamed sister who probably died in infancy. His paternal grandfather was Thomas Casey (c. 1637–1711), a Scotch-Irish emigre who was of Newport by 1658.(1)

He is said to have been apprenticed with Boston silversmith Jacob Hurd, although there is no evidence of that. He was admitted as a freeman in Exeter, Rhode Island in 1745. By 1750, he had moved to Kingston, Rhode Island to a village then called Little Rest. It was around this period, 1745-1750, that Casey made the escutcheon plates and bird-shaped loper pulls that Christopher Townsend would use on a desk-and-bookcase that descended in the Appleton family.(2)

Though Casey apprenticed to a silversmith and is intermittently identified as a silver or goldsmith in official documents, he was also often identified as a merchant.(3) He presumably operated a shop or storeroom in his home, explaining the magnitude of the disaster when in late September, 1764, the House of Samuel Casey, Esq; of South Kingstown, was reduced to Ashes. A large Variety of Furniture, a considerable Quantity of European Goods, with Drugs, Medicines, &c. makes Mr. Casey's Loss, as we are informed, amount to near Two Thousand Pounds Sterling. The most of his Books, and a small Part of his Furniture, were the principal of what was saved.

The fire was started "by a large Fire being kept the Day preceding in the Goldsmith's Forge, which was so intense as to set fire to a Post at the back part of the Chimney."(4) The extent of this loss, both of shop goods and the entirety of his smithing equipment, presumably catalyzed the major events of his life over the next seven years.

Throughout 1765-1768, Casey was repeatedly brought before the Inferior Courts of Common Pleas in both Newport and Providence Counties for failure to pay debts.

In September 1770, Samuel and his younger brother Gideon were both imprisoned, awaiting the trial that would be reported widely throughout the colonies in October.(5) On October 18, Samuel Casey, was indicted for Felony, in making and uttering counterfeit Dollars. The Trial lasted till 8 o'Clock in the Evening, when the Jury went out, who did not agree till near 4 in the Morning. They brought in their Verdict Not Guilty: Upon which they Court told them that their Verdict was so contrary to Law and Evidence that it could not be accepted, and they were sent out again; and between Two and Three o'Clock in the Afternoon returned a special Verdict, which was accepted by the Court.(6)

One week later, he was sentenced to death by hanging, though he immediately appealed the initial sentence.(7)

By the first week of November, the case against him became much stronger when, in a Field in Little-Rest, a Sett of Instruments has been found, belonging to Samuel Casey, for counterfeiting Josephus's of 1756, 1760 and 1763; and for Dollars of 1766 and 1767.-At Tower-Hill a Sett was found concealed in a Stone Wall, belonging to Samuel Wilson, for counterfeiting Dollars of 1748, 1763, 1764, and 1769; likewise for Pistareens of 1755.(8)

The story takes an unexpected turn several days later, when Saturday last a considerable Number of People riotously assembled in King's County, and which their Faces black'd proceeded to his Majesty's Goal there, the outer Door of which they broke open with Iron Bars and Pick-Axes; they then violently entered the Goal, broke every Lock therein, and set at Liberty sundry Criminals, viz. William Reynolds, Thomas Clarke, Elisha Reynolds, and Samuel Casey, lately convicted of Money-making, one of whom (Samuel Casey) was under Sentence of Death.(9)

Casey fled the colony. He is thought to have died around 1773, though that date is unsubstantiated at this time.

Benjamin W. Colman and PEKPatricia E. Kane

1. The Settlers of the Beekman Patent,

2. Luke Beckerdite, "The Early Furniture of Christopher and Job Townsend," American Furniture (2000): 19.

3. Samuel Casey v. Stephen Tefft, November, 1762, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. F, p. 700; Samuel Casey v Phineas Minor and Asa Minor, May, 1764, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. G, p. 208. Samuel Casey v Solomon Townsend, May, 1764, Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Newport County, Record Book, vol. G, p. 257, all Judicial Archives, Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, Pawtucket, R.I.

4. The Newport Mercury, "Newport, October 1," October 1, 1764,

5. George Lawton account, September, 1770. General Treasurer- Accounts Allowed. Rhode Island State Archives, Providence, Rhode Island.

6. The New-London Gazette, "The Trial of Samuel Casey," October 19, 1770,

7. The Boston News-Letter, "At the Superior Court for King's County," October 25, 1770,

8. The Pennsylvania Gazette, "We Are Told," November 8, 1770,

9. Essex Gazette, "Saturday Last a Considerable Number of People Riotously Assembled in King's County," November 13-20, 1770,