Chepachet Baptist Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eye-Witness Account of Ara Hawkins
Proprietor of the Chepachet Meeting House

Ara Hawkins was one of the original Proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House. His pew was located immediately on the left (against the wall), as you enter the sanctuary from the rear through the right hand door.

Beginning on the following page is a deposition of Ara Hawkins taken two years after the Rebellion and appearing in a Report # 546 of the U.S. House of Representatives, dated June 7, 1844, entitled Rhode Island—Interference of the Executive in the Affairs Of, at page 350.

Ara Hawkins, it is believed, lived on a farm on what is now the Victory Highway just on the village side of the cattle pound.  Although the Mr. Phetteplace, his neighbor mentioned in the deposition, is not identified by his first name, several Phetteplaces were Proprietors of the Meeting House at various times, an Eber Phetteplace owning the pew two down from Ara Hawkins on the same side of the aisle, and Arnold Phetteplace (and later Jesse Phetteplace, his
son) owning the seventh pew down from the right hand door on the east wall, a pew he eventually sold to
Clovis Bowen.

Jesse Tourtellot, who took the deposition, was also an original Proprietor of the Meeting House, owning at first the fourth pew from the back on the right side of the aisle as you enter the sanctuary from the left-hand door, and later the third pew down on the left of the same aisle (which he sold one month before the Dorr Rebellion to a Smith Peckham).

Ara Hawkins and Jesse Phetteplace are recorded as having voted in the election on the People's Constitution, and can therefore be considered supporters of Dorr's constitutional reforms.

The troops mentioned in this affidavit may well have been from the Warren Infantry, Warren Artillery, and Newport Artillery Companies.

Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church


DEPOSITION OF ARA HAWKINS

I, Ara Hawkins, of Glocester, in the county of Providence, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, aged fifty-two years, do depose and say: That on the morning of Tuesday, June 28, 1842, I, with two of my sons, were engaged in hoeing opposite my house, which is about one mile southerly of the village of Chepachet, in a lot adjoining the highway, when a detachment of the charter troops came up on said road, on their march to Chepachet, from a place commonly known as Scituate Four Corners.

Location of farmsite of Ara Hawkins mentioned in his affidavit.

 

Click on photo to enlarge.

When said troops had arrived within about thirty rods of my house aforesaid, they made a halt, and sent two or three armed men to see me. Easterly of my house, and in plain sight of the place where the troops halted as aforesaid, one of my neighbors had recently been engaged in making charcoal; and there was on the lot a cabin, such as is commonly built for the quarters of the person who tends the pits, and a number of bins of coal. Coal-bins are generally made of common fencing rails, in the form of the body of a log house, twelve feet square.

The men who had been sent to see me inquired whether Dorr's party had got any cabins built out there? I replied, "Not as I know of." One of them then said, if there was any, I ought to know it. One of my sons then suggested that they probably referred to the cabins where Mr. Phetteplace had been making coal. One of the armed men then inquired how many cabins would be built for that purpose? I replied, "Not but one, probably, as the pits were all near together." His reply was, "There is more than (or as much as) a dozen of them," and desired me to go with them and see. I went with these men to the place where the main body had halted, and in the mean time other men were sent down to question my sons upon the subject. When I came up to the main body as aforesaid, I explained to them that the objects which had apparently filled their minds with so much consternation were mere bins built as aforesaid, and contained the very simple and common article "charcoal." The men who had been sent to question my sons as aforesaid, were then called back; and the troops marched down and halted opposite the house, in the highway.

After arriving at my house as aforesaid, they wished to know if there were any men in the barn, which is across the road, and nearly opposite the house aforesaid. My answer was, "I presume not; there was no one there this morning when I went in to fodder, and I have been at work all the morning near by, and have seen no one go in." My answer did not seem to satisfy them: they desired to see for themselves; and, accordingly, I went in, at their request, with one of the men. This man proceeded to make a close search for something buried in the hay, by thrusting his bayonet into the mow in various places.  He, however, succeeded in stabbing nothing but one beam, which he did very spitefully--thinking, as I supposed, that he had found a Dorrite. The mow was a little higher in this place, on account of said beam, which was entirely covered up with hay. At the east end of the barn, which is the end next to the road, there was an open window, through which I was seen by the soldiers in the road, as I stood there awaiting the operations of the man inside. One of the soldiers seeing me as aforesaid, brought his musket to bear upon me, and ordered me to come out of "there." I desired the man inside to speak to the soldier, and request him to take his gun down; but he paid no attention to my request. By this time, two more of the soldiers were taking deliberate aim at my person, through said window; and the cry from others was, "fire." Believing myself to be in too much danger, and without any protection, I dropped down upon the hay; thus covering my body by the side of the barn under said window, where I sat with my legs hanging off of the scaffold over the stalls, where I could be seen as soon as they entered the barn. I made no attempt to get away. One of the men immediately came into the barn, and endeavored to haul me off the scaffold; but not succeeding, he clasped my legs with one arm, and with the other presented a pistol, and commanded me to come down; which I did accordingly. He then seized me by the collar, and led me out doors, saying, "Here he is, you can have him now."

1851 invoice bearing the signature of Ara Hawkins, together with an 1852 writ bearing his name filing suit against one Thomas Mague.

 

Click on photo to enlarge.

The person who appeared to be in command said he wished to ask me a few questions. I told him I would answer them as far as I could. I had done nothing that I was ashamed of or regretted. He questioned me in regard to the amount and number of Dorr's forces. I answered according to the best of my information. He also wished to know if I had been troubled by them (Dorr's men.) I told him I had not; that I had not been molested by any one, until his company came up; that I had been in the village every day, and had been well treated at all times. I further say that I had taken no part in the matters at that time agitating said State, excepting to cast my vote according to my own pleasure.

ARA HAWKINS.

STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS,
    Providence, ss:
GLOCESTER, May 18, 1844.

Then personally appeared the above-named Ara Hawkins, and declared that the aforegoing statement, which was by me in his presence reduced to writing, and by him subscribed in my presence, is true in all its parts; and also declared his willingness and readiness to make oath to the same. But there being some doubt as to the authority of a magistrate in this State of administer an oath in like cases, I have taken said Hawkins' declaration as above; and I certify that said Hawkins, who is well known to me, is a credible person, and that his statements are entitled to full credit and belief.

JESSE S. TOURTELLOT,
Justice of the Peace.

Attestation bearing signature of Jesse Tourtellot, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, who also attested to the validity of the affidavit of Ara Hawkins.

 

Click on photo to enlarge.

The Website of the Chepachet Baptist Church
(Historically the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church)
-and-
The Proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House

© Copyright 2004-2018 The Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church Society. All rights reserved.
1213 Putnam Pike - PO Box 148 Chepachet, RI 02814 (401) 568-3771
The church logo was produced by Zachary Andrews.
All photographs, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Marilyn J. Brownell. All rights reserved.

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