History of Coxet

HISTORY OF COXET, AND
THE RICHMOND FAMILY

By Henry Worth

In the southwest corner of Westport, Mass. is a triangular tract of land bounded west by Little Compton, R.I., east by the Westport River, and extending from Adamsville, R.I., to the sea. Originally it was part of Seconet which became Little Compton, R.I., but in 1741 when the Imperial Decree changed the boundary between Mass. and R.I. this triangle was annexed to Dartmouth, Mass.

Davoll’s Pond was first called Cockeset, then Cockeast, and finally from the Indian name of the pond the region designated Coxet.

While the English inhabitants were increasing in the adjoining towns this remote section, before 1700, was the home of a remnant of the tribe of Indians that helped the white men in the war with King Philip. In fact, there is evidence that the Indian that shot Philip lived in this region, a short distance north of the Abraham Manchester Farm. His name was “Alderman”, and he was a Seconet Indian. (Seaconet Neck include Coxet). After the war, an Indian in Seconet named Isaac who had been of great service to the English, and had shown considerable interest in religion, received the privilege of using a gun. In 1683 in the deed to Daniel Wilcox of land on the West Arm of the River about one mile, and a half north of the sea, the west boundary was land of Alderman. Later he is called Isaac the Indian Preacher. He died about 1700. Unless there is shown some positive fact to the contrary, it seems reasonable sure all these records relate to the same man. Well known in all the country round before 1700 was a restless Yankee Trader named Daniel Wilcox who exhibited all those qualities that characterized that class of New England population.

His land possessions in Dartmouth, Seconet, Pocasset, and Freetown were extensive, and so were his family. He understood the language of the Indians, and no doubt had increased his riches by his intercourse with the red men. It was a law of the colony, and Province that no Englishman should purchase land from the Indians without first having received permission from the Government. This was intended no only to prevent unconscionable bargains with the Aborigines, but to avoid that conflict that might result if there were rival claimants to the land, some under title from the Indians, and the others from the King. In Rhode Island the only title recognized came direct from sachem (Indian Chief), but in Mass., the title from the English Government or (England) was held to be necessary, and primary, although deeds from the Indians were also desirable. Soon after the King Philip War longing eyes were turned direct toward Coxet. About 1680 the officials of Plymouth granted to Thomas Hinckley two hundred acres to be assigned to him on the east side of Seconet Neck. But for some years, no steps were taken to have the same laid out, and surveyed. In the meantime appeared the Yankee Trader. Whether he sought a grant from Plymouth, and was refused is not certain, but Wilcox decided to buy some of this territory direct from the Indian occupants. In 1686 he obtained a deed of one hundred acres, from Chief Mananuet on the west side of the Westport River about a mile north from the sea, bounded north, and west by land of Isaac Alderman an Indian Preacher. The purchase became known, and Wilcox was arrested, but for some reason not apparent, his case was not pressed for trial, possibly because he did not for several years record his deed. But in 1690, Hinckley undertook to have his two hundred acres measured out for him and when his agents went to Coxet, Wilcox succeeded in stirring the Indians, and a tumult was aroused against Hinckley, and such an uncomfortable experience did they have, that they were forced to withdraw. For this performance, Wilcox was arrested, taken to Plymouth, and placed under a bond.

In 1693, Wilcox procured a second deed of land between Quicksand Pond and Cockeast, now Devoll’s Pond, and from the sea to the Indian fence across the Neck. The deed was drawn with all the skill of some pleader under the shrewd and ingenious supervision of Daniel Wilcox. The Grantor, the son of the former Chief, recited that in times past he, and his ancestors had been in great distress, and need, and there was none to help. In such dire necessity Wilcox had been a friend, and helper, and had rendered great and valuable services, and had placed the Indians under great obligations, and they then became indebted to him in large amounts, and were anxious to repay the debt. But all the commodity of value which they could transfer to him was land, and so to discharge the debt, and to pay the obligation the Indian accordingly conveyed the land, it being his only course. So the deed was executed, and delivered, and with the former deed was placed on record. The pathetic argument in the deal had no effect on the Puritans, and Wilcox was promptly arrested, convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of 150 pounds, and as he could and would not comply with the order, he was incarcerated in the county jail at Bristol. There was evidently among the people some dissatisfaction in relation to the sentence, and threats appeared that the jail would be forced open, and Wilcox taken out.

The sheriff, Capt. Gallup, was ordered to transport the prisoner to Boston and in the attempt, Wilcox escaped into Rhode Island, and remained there nearly ten years as the authorities refused to surrender him to the officers from Mass. The affair was finally adjusted by Wilcox transferring to the Mass. province some land in Tiverton along Stafford Road. In his will, Daniel Wilcox gave the Coxet land to his son, John, but there is no evidence that any further claim was made under the Wilcox title until about 1879. Edward Howland of Little Compton, a descendant of Wilcox, became possessed with the idea that the title of Daniel was valid, and as an heir, he proceeded to enforce the claim against the residents of Coxet, by destroying their buildings. This, however, was met by determined resistance, and Howland’s death quieted the strange demand. It seems beyond explanation that Howland should attempt to revive a claim that had remained dormant for over two centuries.

It was inevitable in 1700 that the title from Plymouth Colony would be sustained, and hence the immediate descendant of Wilcox asserted no claim to Coxet. But Hinckley, and John Rogers, John Bradford, and William Southworth, to whom the title passed, together with William Paybody, Joseph Church, and Edward Richmond, who purchased the lands along the Westport River proceeded to enjoy their property. Having established their grants from Plymouth, these men then followed the universal custom, and next obtained deeds from the Indians in occupation. The strip along the river called Curaest, and later Barker’s Neck, laying east of Devoll’s Pond, and the brook that flows into it, in 1694 was conveyed by Mamenewa, the Indian, to William Paybodie, Joseph Church and Edward Richmond, all residents of Little Compton. They divided the same into lots and sold them to various persons.

In 1700, three Indians, Jonotus, and Sue Codimonk his sister, and Sam Pachahus, for 120 pounds sold Stephen’s Neck of 300 acres to John Rogers and William Southworth. This included the land between Quicksand Pond, and Devoll Pond and from sea north to the lands of Isaac Alderman, Indian Preacher.

In 1697, John Bradford conveyed to Sylvester Richmond for 146 pounds silver money one half of Nowtinuick Neck, bounded westerly by Richmond Pond, south by the sea, and east by a little pond, and the brook that runs into it. This is the section in later years called Stephen’s Neck. Richmond there built the house west of Simon’s Brook, owned by Peleg Manchester, and taken down in 1866.

The Richmond family was wealthy, and prominent. They engaged in the political and military affairs of the day, and achieved distinction. Sylvester Richmond was a Colonel, and was called “Gentlemen”, Perez Richmond was a Captain, and Sylvester, Jr. was Colonel.

In 1747, Perez Richmond purchased from Isaac Crocker, and wife, an Indian, 40 acres which was probably the north part of the Abraham Manchester Farm. The next year, Perez purchased of Roger Richmond land south of the Crocker place. For this he paid 400 pounds, and this price leads to the inference that the place included buildings, although none are mentioned. From indications in later conveyances, it seems certain that Perez had a house on this land at this date, built by himself, and his brother Roger. It may have bee the old-part of the Abraham Manchester house.

The Will of Sylvester Richmond contains some items of interest. It was probated in 1752.

To grandson, Joshua, he gave his “brace of pistols.”
To grandson, Sylvester, he gave his “silver-hilted sword”.
To grandson, Sylvester, he gave his “fire lock gun, and three halberds (medieval weapon).
To his negro, Nat, and Kate “their freedom”.
The land which he obtained form James Dyer passed to his son, Sylvester. His homestead he gave to his son, Perez. So as will hereafter appear, the territory west of the road that passes Asa Howland’s house as far west as Quicksand Pond, in 1752 belonged to Capt. Perez Richmond. It is not certain how soon he changed his dwelling, but when he did, his house was west of Stephens or Simons Brook. He died in 1770, and left an interesting will. He bequested ” a great looking class; Japanned table; bannister back chair; riding chair with harness, and tackling belonging to it, and two slaves.”

In tracing the ownership of the larger tracts in Coxet, it will be convenient to consider it in four strips:

1. Barker’s Neck between Devoll Pond, and it’s Brook, and the Westport River.
2. Between this Pond and Brook, and the road by Asa Howland’s.
3. Between this Road, and Simon Brook.
4. West to Quicksand Pond.

BARKER’S NECK

It has already been explained that in 1694 Mamanewa, Indian, conveyed to William Paybodie, Joseph Church and Edward Richmond, the south part of Curaest (Coxet) Neck, adjoining the West arm called the Harbor’s Mouth, and extending north to an old ditch that runs across the neck, and bounded by a small pond. These men were the leading citizens, and proprietors of Little Compton. Having already procured the England title in 1692, they divided Barker’s Neck into upland lots of ten acres each, and meadows lots of three acres, and same were sold to different individuals. Those in the south end of the Neck were owned in the Palmer family, and their lands in 1831 were purchased by Philip Grinnell, and comprised 60 acres. Westport Harbor Village is within this tract of land which extended to the Westward between Devoll’s Pond, and the Ocean.

That part of Barker’s Neck north of the Grinnell farm about 1800 was purchased from various owners by Major Sylvester Brownell, and in 1852 his grandson, Richard Brownell, sold the same to Gideon B. Peckham.

SECTION BETWEEN DEVOLL POND AND ROAD BY ASA HOWLAND’S

This is on the east edge of Stephen’s Neck, and belonged to the Richmond family. In 1786, it was sold to Benjamin Devoll, and in 1825 to Job Davis.

In the deed dated 1771 from Sylvester to Nathaniel Richmond is mentioned a house and this is probably the dwelling now standing on the portion of the farm owned after 1847 by Robert Potter.

Next north of the Davis farm is a tract which Perez Richmond in 1770 devised to his son, Joshua. Benjamin Sowle purchased it in 1795, and Benjamin Devoll in 1804. The south part of this farm was owned by Patience Devoll, and went to her brother Holder Potter, who is 1847 sold it to Robert Potter.

The north half of the Devoll farm passed to Sylvester Brownell, and it was included in his grandson’s deed to Gideon Peckham in 1852.

BETWEEN THE ROAD BY ASA HOWLAND’S HOUSE AND RICHMOND’S POND

The south end of this section is the Howland Farm, and was owned by the Richmond’s until 1792. Thomas B. Richmond sold to Sylvester Brownell. In 1817, Edward Manchester owned it, and in 1837, it was purchased by William Howland, and is still owned in that family.

The farm north of the Howland’s is known as the Abraham Manchester Farm. This is part of the west half of the neck which is 1700 was conveyed to John Rogers by William Southworth. Sylvester Richmond married the daughter of Rogers, and so a great part if not the whole, passed into the Richmond family. In 1748, Roger Richmond conveyed to Perez Richmond for 400 pounds, the south part of this farm. Then in 1747, Isaac Crocker, and wife, an Indian, sold to Perez Richmond to 40 acres north. The inference is quite sound that in the Roger Richmond section was a house which had been built a few years before. In 1770, Perez Richmond died, as already mentioned, leaving his homestead farm to his two sons, Edward and Perez Richmond.

In August, 1773, the two sons joined in a deed to Pardon Brownell for 359 pounds of 95 acres, bounded north by land of Jonathan Brownell, and Joshua Richmond, south and west by land of Icabod Richmond, and Sylvester Richmond. The price indicates the presence of a house, and it was not the house where Perez Richmond lived at his death, because a year later when Edward, and Perez divided the rest of the homestead farm, they specifically divided the house also, and it was west of Simon Brook. In 1792, Pardon Brownell for 615 pounds sold the same farm to Joseph Brownell. In 1829, it was conveyed by Joseph Brownell’s grand-children to Abraham Manchester.

In the deed from the Richmond Brothers to Pardon Brownell in 1773, there were two exceptions:

1. The Indian Burial Place
2. A small piece of land walled in for a watering place on the west side of the Farm.
In the later deeds, neither is mentioned.

The house on this farm is an interesting study. It faces south, and was built at three periods. The west end was built by Captain Forbes W. Manchester, the present occupant, not for many years ago. This addition covered the west half of the part, west of the front door, and the main chimney was built about one hundred years ago, or before the time when the farm was sold by Pardon Brownell to Joseph. There are mostly modern size standard brick in the chimney, and in that part of the house next west of the chimney is an absence of ancient framework. The arrangement of the great north kitchen, nearly spanning both front rooms, is a style in vogue after the Revolution, and before 1800. It is safe to infer that from 1784 to 1792, Pardon Brownell added a west end to the house, and built a new chimney. The east end presents an interesting problem. Here was an ancient structure. This part was originally two full stories in height as shown by the corner posts with bracketed tops. The corner framework seems to be before 1750. The summers downstairs, and the chamber run from chimney to the house according to the Rhode Island Method. Originally summers, and girts were in sight, but probably when the house was built, they were encased. The walls, and ceilings are plastered. Downstairs the outer end of the summer which is on the east end and has decayed to such an extent that the timber has settled nearly an inch. The cellar is under the each end of the house. Upstairs are some old doors trimmed in ancient style. The rafters are of hewed oak and sound. They were probably placed there when the house was rebuilt.Across the attic floor is a section two feeT wide, where the boards have been cut. The object was to take out this section to repair a girt, which was accomplished by putting in a new cross timber, as appeared by a recent examination. It follows from this, that the frame of this east end, not including the roof, is older than the date when the house was rebuilt.

In my opinion in the present state of information, the chimney roof, and part of the house west of the front door were built by Pardon Brownell just before 1792. There is some record evidence concerning the east end, which though slight, may guide to the right conclusion.

Captain Perez Richmond in his will in 1770 speaks of his “now” dwelling house, showing that he had lived in another house which was then standing. It also appears that his “now” dwelling house stood west of Simons Brook, and had an old, and new part according to the division made in 1774. His father, Sylvester Richmond, in his will gave his homestead farm, and “now” dwelling house to his son Perez; so in 1752 Sylvester on his farm had two houses, and in 1770, Perez sold two. Here is presented a question to decide which was on the Abraham Manchester Farm. The best theory seems to be that Sylvester or Roger Richmond between 1730 and 1740, built the Manchester House, and Sylvester erected one west of the Brook. At his death both were owned by Perez, his own son, and the latter added the new part of the house west of the Brook.

The descriptions given in the early deeds do not furnish clearly defined bounds, and it is not certain exactly where the different farm lines ran. But the evidence points to the conclusion that the east end of the Manchester house was built by Roger Richmond, or Sylvester before 1740; but the records do not enable one to judge more definitely. BETWEEN SIMON’S BROOK AND RICHMOND POND (QUICKSAND POND) At his death in 1770, this was owned by Captain Perez Richmond, and was devised to his sons, Edward, and Perez. In 1774, they divided the same, the north part being received by Edward, and the rest by Perez. The south end was taken by Perez comprised 150 acres, and in 1825 was divided into small parcels, and allotted to his heirs. This 1774 division line began at a point in Simon Brook 120 feet north of Richmond’s Pond, and extended westerly to Quicksand Pond. The homestead buildings were divided independently of the land. The house had a new, and old part, and the line of division gave the east end to one, and the west end to the other.

In 1831, the south half of this farm of 150 acres came into possession of William Manchester, and was then sold in smaller parcels, the principal portion being owned as follows:

1853 James Chase, and Edmond S. Sisson
1855 Richard Borden
1857 Cornelius H. Spriner
1865 Charles Jenkins
1870 Elihu C. Hathaway
1886 Annjanette Manchester, wife of Albert D. Manchester
Since this date, the farm has been somewhat subdivided.

In 1777, Edward Richmond conveyed his interest, which was the north half to Dr. William Whitridge, who in 1825 sold the most of the farm to Gideon Tompkins. In 1830 on the east side of the tract to Peleg Manchester, and in 1855, the latter to Zephaniah Borden, 75 acres. A part passed to Thomas T. Thompkins. The house originally on this farm was probably built by Sylvester Richmond, possible before 1700 when he first settled in this section. Additions were made to it, and it was taken down in 1866.