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Who Was the Rhoda Smith
Who Married Samuel Thompson?

It is clear from Smithfield, Rhode Island vital records that on 16 July 1761 Samuel Thompson married "Rhoddy" Smith in Smithfield. There seems to be no question that this is the Samuel Thompson, son of Benjamin and Martha Darling Thompson, who was born 20 July 1733 in Bellingham, Suffolk Co., MA. Beginning in 1753 Samuel and Rhoda had children born in Uxbridge, Worcester Co., MA, Smithfield, Providence Co., RI and Swanzey, Cheshire Co., NH. (They seem to have had too many children born over too long a period of time, but that is a different problem. Unless Samuel had TWO wives, each named Rhoda!)

But who was Rhoda Smith? Was she the Rhoda Smith, daughter of Daniel and Mary Mason Smith who was born 20 April 1739 at Walpole, Suffolk Co., MA? Her father died at Walpole, 15 November 1749 when Rhoda was ten years old. She had two older sisters, Mary and Deborah. Daniel's estate was inventoried in 1750 but it was not divided until 1760. Who "used" it between 1750 and 1760?

Mary Mason Smith married as her second husband, Nathaniel Hawes of Wrentham, MA. in March 1750/51 (Intention recorded Walpole, marriage recorded Wrentham). Nathaniel had 3 or 4 young children. One might assume that Mary and Nathaniel lived with their combined family in Wrentham. Nathaniel's children were later all married at Wrentham as were Rhoda's two sisters.

Rhoda's Grandfather Smith was deceased in 1750 but her mother's parents were living until 1754 and 1757. She also had a number of aunts and uncles with whom she might have resided. The Mason family seemed to stay in Medfield. None of Rhoda's family left probate records that mentioned her after she had married.

In 1760 when her father's estate was divided, it seems to have shrunk since the inventory of 1750. By surrendering her dower rights, Mary Hawes permitted the remainder to be divided equally among her three daughters. Mary Smith had already married Nathan Pond who was given the proceeds with the understanding that he would share it with his wife's two unmarried sisters. The timing of this distribution may have been prompted by the fact that these daughters were now of marriageable age.

Mary Mason Smith Hawes was living in 1760 when her husband's estate was distributed as well as in 1775 when her father's estate was divided. But she is not mentioned as a widow when Nathaniel Hawes' estate was probated in 1776 so perhaps she was deceased by then.

Reasons for thinking this is the Rhoda Smith who married Samuel Thompson:

  1. Rhoda was alive and living in the area in 1760. There is no other recorded marriage or death for her.
  2. There seems to be no other Rhoda Smith of a likely age living in the locality. Place is a critical factor in thinking about this question. Samuel and Rhoda both belonged to families which for two or three generations had settled and expanded into the towns that grew south and west from Dedham, MA--Medfield, Walpole, Wrentham, Bellingham. They seem to have been all part of the same community. This sense of community extended west into Worcester Co., MA including Uxbridge as well as south into Rhode Island to include Smithfield and Glocester. (E.g. in 1770 the Smithfield Monthly Meeting of Quakers included members in Uxbridge.)
  3. Although Benjamin and Martha Thompson apparently lived in Smithfield, their deaths are recorded in Bellingham as "of Glocester, RI". When Samuel's brother Timothy married in 1760 in Bellingham, he was "of Smithfield".
  4. Two of Nathaniel Hawes' children married into the Partridge family of Bellingham. When he died, he owned property in Bellingham.
  5. How many miles apart were these places from each other? What was the traveling time for courting between Samuel and Rhoda?
  6. It is difficult to tell just where these people lived. Where they owned land, where vital records were recorded, where probate was filed--all varied widely. Perhaps they moved a lot. Perhaps the town lines moved or were disputed. Even the state borders varied until they were finally established. Perhaps a couple went to another place to be married for personal reasons, even as they do today.
  7. There are many questions further research might answer. Did any of Rhoda's family move on to Smithfield or Swanzey when she and Samuel did? Where was the land that Rhoda and her sisters inherited (or would have inherited) from their father? Where did Samuel live in 1760? How far from each other did Rhoda and her sisters and step-siblings live from each other and from the Thompson family? Why did Samuel and his three brothers move to Swanzey? When did they move?
  8. An examination of land records and/or town meeting records might reveal answers to some of these questions.
  9. So many persons had the same name, that in reading vital records and town histories it is difficult to know which person was resident in a town at any given time or as listed in a petition or church membership list.

Conclusion

Rhoda Smith of Walpole seems a likely candidate to be the wife of Samuel Thompson but there is no proof of it. There may have been a Rhoda Smith whose birth was never recorded, especially in Smithfield where there were many Smith families. Or there may have been a Rhoda who married first a man named Smith who died before 1761 and thus she was a Smith when she married Samuel. This needs more research!

Betty Lou Morris
29 May 1998

morris@libcoop.net


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Updated: 16 Jan 2017 12:51 PM