Brown, Newport Historical Society team up to research school’s founding
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
NEWPORT – Brown University has awarded the Newport Historical Society a $10,000 grant to support work to document the university’s founding.
Brown’s support will allow the historical society to work with the university and the Rhode Island Historical Society to create an exhibit, a Newport walking tour and other interpretive materials relating to the school’s beginnings.
Brown is underwriting these activities in celebration of its 250th anniversary in 2015.
Brown, originally called the College of Rhode Island, first opened its doors in Warren in 1765, and has had a presence in Providence since 1770. But the City by the Sea can also lay claim to the Ivy League institution. Its earliest days have been the focus of a season of research at the historical society.
“Some of the documents which record the conversations leading up to the university’s establishment, and several drafts of the petition to the General Assembly and the Charter for the new institution, reside in our collections,” explained the society’s Executive Director Ruth Taylor. “These documents reveal that the first of such conversations occurred at the Newport Colony House and at the Newport home of Deputy Governor John Gardner, which is now Citizen’s Bank.”
While the university was ultimately founded as a Baptist institution, the meetings involved Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Jews and Quakers. Though geographic diversity was present among the group, the majority were men who lived, worked, worshipped and/or were buried in Newport. Homes and gravesites of many of them still exist. Their names include William Vernon, Ezra Stiles, William Ellery, William Redwood, Gideon Cornell, James Honeyman, Thomas Robinson, Joseph Wanton and Martin Howard.
Founded in 1854, the Newport Historical Society collects and preserves artifacts and records relating to the history of Newport County, and makes them available for research and enjoyment.