Author: Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry
Christopher Rhodes as the third son of Robert Rhodes, (born April 5th, 1743) and Phebe Smith, (born Feb. 14th, 1744). He was born at Pawtuxet, in the town of Warwick, on the 16th of August, 1776. He received only such an education as was afforded by the common village schools. At the age of sixteen, he went to sea, and was engaged in coasting, • at the same time carrying on a trade at the towns on Long Island Sound, and the adjacent ports of Massachusetts. After being five or six years in this business, during which time he saved some money, he commenced business, in company with his father, at Pawtuxet. His store was in the old homestead, adjoining the house where he lived most of his life, and where he died. He dealt in all kinds of merchandise, (as was customary fifty or sixty years ago,) dry goods, groceries, liquors, hardware, crockery, boots and shoes, &e., and so extensive was his establishment, that purchasers came from Warren, Bristol and other parts of Narragansett Bay. After several years business, he took his younger brother William into company, under the firm of Christopher and William Rhodes.
Under this firm, they early commenced the manufacturing business at a place known as Bellefonte mill, about a mile above Pawtuxet; and meeting with success, extended their business to Natick, where they erected a cotton mill. The latter establishment they greatly extended, and improved their large landed estate adjoining. This estate they sold to Messrs. A. & W. Sprague about ten years since, who had before that erected several large cotton mills there. At a later day, the Messrs. Rhodes became the owners of manufacturing establishments in Wickford, and Albion villages. The mills at the former place were burnt a few years since ; the latter remained in the family until a few months since, when it was sold to Messrs. H. and S. b: Chace.
General Rhodes never changed his residence, but spent his long life where he was born, and where his ancestors, during several generations, had dwelt before him. His earliest ancestor in this country was Zachariah Rhodes, who was among the first settlers of the colony. In what year he came to the colony, it does not appear. The earliest date when his name is mentioned in the Colonial Records, is 1655. In a letter from Roger Williams to the General Court of Magistrates and Deputies of Massachusetts Bay, dated 15th, ninth month, (November) 1655, he thus speaks of him : " Concerning four English fanilies in Pawtuxet, may it please you to remember, that two controversies they have long (under your name) maintained with us, to a constant obstructing of all order and authority amongst us. To our complaint about our lands, they lately have professed a willingness to arbitrate, but to obey his Ilighness's authority in this charter, they say they dare not for your sakes, though they live not by your laws, nor bear your common charges, nor ours but evade both under cover of your authority.''
After speaking of the obstructions which other families at Pawtuxet l.ave put in the way of the Colony, Williams says, " there are but two families which are so obstructive and destructive to an equal proceeding of civil order amongst us; for one of these four families, Stephen Arnold desires to be uniform with us; a second, ZacJiary Rhodes, being in the way of dipping, is (potentially) banished by you. The others, William Arnold and William Carpenter plead that all the obstacle is their offending of yourselves."
Zachary Rhodes, as appears by his will, recorded in the book of transcribed deeds, p. 314 in the City Records of Providence, dated April 28, 1662, left a wife, (Jane) and seven children. Four of these were sons, named Zachariah, Malachi, John and Peleg, (Peleg was the youngest). Three daughters, Elizabeth, Marey and Rebecca.
Malachi had a son Malachi, who had a son James, born in 1710, who was the father of Robert, the father of Christopher the subject of this memoir.
Mr. Rhodes married Betsey Allen, daughter of Allen, of
South Kingstown. She was born June 29th, 1776, and died March 2d, 1804. The children of this marriage were George A., Christopher S., Eliza A., and Sarah A. Eliza married John R. liartlett, now Secretary of State of this State; Sarah married Henry b: Anthony, now one of the Senators from this State in the Congress of the United States. .
Mr. Rhodes died at Pawtuxet, on the 24th of May, 1861. All his children died before him.
The first Zachariah Rhodes and his wife are buried in the village of Pawtuxet, in what has ever since been the burial place of the family. Their graves are marked by square piles of flat stones, without any inscription. In this burial ground were the remains of Mr. Rhodes deposited.
In May, 1809, Mr. Rhodes was elected Brigadier General of the fourth brigade of Rhode Island militia ; he held this office, by subsequent annual elections, during the war with Great Britain, until May 1817, when he was succeeded by Albert C. Greene. He is said to have been one of the most energetic and active officers during the war.
General Rhodes was elected one of the Representatives of the town of Warwick, in May, 1828. This office he continued to bold, by semiannual elections, until October, 1831. He was an able and efficient representative of the people of his native town. His influence in the House of Representatives was always exerted for the best interests of the State. He interested himself, at an early period, in the substitution of penitentiary punishments in place of the whipping post and pillory. In October, 1835. he was appointed by the General Assembly one of the building committee, for the erection of the State Prison. After its completion he was appointed one of the inspectors of the prison, which office he held until May, 1847.
General Rhodes was one of the founders of this Society. His name stands recorded as one of the standing committee, elected at the second meeting of the Society on the 25th day of February, 1820. The Society received its charter of incorporation from the General Assembly, at the October session, the same year. His name is in the preamble of the charter. Only five of the persons there named survive him. He was subsequently, at the annual elections of officers, reelected as a member of the standing committee until 1843, when he was elected third-vice president, which office he held until promoted to second vice-president in 1845. He was elected to this last named office in the years 1845-6 and 7.
Besides holding office in the Society, Mr. R., manifested a great interest in its success. Probably the Society owes its very existence as much to him and to his brother James, as to any other two individuals. They also contributed largely to its increase and success. Mr. James Rhodes was its first president and held that office until his death.