John Greene (settler)

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John Greene
Born c.1594
Gillingham, Dorset, England
Died 1658
Warwick, Rhode Island
Resting place John Greene Cemetery, Warwick
Occupation Surgeon, deputy
Spouse(s) Joan Tattersall
Alice Daniels Beggerley
Phillipa _______
Children John, Peter, Richard, James, Thomas, Joan, Mary

John Greene (c.1594–1658)[1] was an early settler of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, one of the 12 original proprietors of Providence, and a co-founder of the town of Warwick in the colony. Sailing from England with his family in 1635, he first settled in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but had difficulty with the Puritan authority, and soon followed Roger Williams to Providence, becoming one of the original proprietors of that town. In 1643 he joined Samuel Gorton and ten others in purchasing land that would become the town of Warwick. Difficulties with Massachusetts ensued, until he accompanied Gorton on a trip to England where they secured royal recognition of their town.

Once Warwick became safe from external threats, Greene became active in its government, serving on the town council, being Deputy to the General Court of the colony, and serving as magistrate of the General Court of Trials. He died in the last days of 1658, being survived by his wife and six grown children, and becoming the ancestor of many prominent citizens.

Early life[edit]

John Greene was likely born at Boweridge Hall in Gillingham, Dorset, England, and was the son of Richard Greene, whose father was also named Richard.[2] He became a surgeon and moved to Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, where he was married at St. Thomas in 1619 to Joane Tattersall/Tatarsole, and where all of his children were baptized.[1] On 6 April 1635 he and his family boarded the ship James at Southampton, England and sailed to New England, arriving in Boston on 3 June, and then going to Salem for a short while.[2]


Town layout of Providence with Greene's lot fifth from the top

Greene was consistently resistant to the Puritan authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and within a year or two of his arrival in New England he moved to Providence with Roger Williams.[3] He used this sanctuary to write haranguing letters to Massachusetts, speaking contemptuously of the magistrates, and in September 1637 he was fined 20 pounds and ordered not to come into the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts colony.[2] In 1638 he was one of the 12 persons to whom land was deeded by Roger Williams, he becoming one of the original proprietors of that town. He was also one of the 12 original members of the First Baptist Church there.[2]


In October 1642 Greene bought a neck of land with a little island from the Indian sachem Miantonomi and named the property Occupassuatuxet.[4] This land remained in his family for the following 140 years.[2] He became a close friend of Samuel Gorton, and in January 1643 these two men and ten others purchased another tract of land from Miantonomi and named it Shawomet, later to become Warwick, Rhode Island.[2] The following September, many of these Shawomet settlers were summoned to appear in court in Massachusetts, based on supposed charges brought against them from two minor Indian sachems. The settlers refused the summons, telling Massachusetts that they did not have jurisdiction over their land, in response to which soldiers were sent and several of the settlers were taken to Boston.[2][5] Greene and his son John Jr. both escaped to Conanicut Island and were never captured.[6] Those who were taken to Massachusetts were tried, and several of them were convicted of blasphemy and for their beliefs, and then incarcerated. While the captives were released a few months later, they were banished from Massachusetts, and also from their homes in Shawomet.[2] Seeking redress for the wrongs against them, Greene, Gorton, and Randall Holden sailed to England, but had to board a ship in New Amsterdam, being banned from going to Boston.[2] While in England, Gorton was able to get a royal decree for his settlement of Shawomet from the Earl of Warwick. Greene and Holden returned to New England with this important document in 1646, while Gorton remained in England for another two years. When Gorton returned in 1648, he had his town renamed to Warwick, in honor of the earl who helped him get the protection he needed for the settlement.

Later life and family[edit]

Greene's grave marker, John Greene Cemetery, Warwick

Greene served on the Warwick town council in 1647 and 1648, was the Warwick Deputy to the Rhode Island General Court from 1649 to 1657, and was named one of the Warwick freeman on a 1655 list of freemen.[4] He was the magistrate for the Rhode Island General Court of Trials in March 1656.[4] He died sometime between 28 December 1658 when he wrote his will, and 7 January 1659 when it was proved.[2] Greene, his wife, and many descendants are buried in the Surgeon John Greene Cemetery, now located behind the Narraganset Bay Baptist Church on West Shore Road in Warwick.[7] Greene had seven children, six of whom grew to maturity, and all with his first wife, Joan Tattershall (or Tatarsole). The oldest child, John, lived a long life which was almost entirely devoted to public service, including ten one-year terms as Deputy Governor of the colony.[2] The second son, Peter, married Mary Gorton, a daughter of colonial President Samuel Gorton.[2] A great grandson, William Greene served as Governor of the colony for 11 one-year terms during the middle of the 18th century, and his son, William Greene, Jr. served as the second governor of the State of Rhode Island during the American Revolutionary War. Greene is also the ancestor of former United States President Warren G. Harding, and of General Nathanael Greene, the only American general in the American Revolutionary War, besides George Washington, to serve for the entire war.[8] Other descendants of note are General George S. Greene (Civil War General and Civil Engineer) inventor Thomas A. Edison, Canadian politician and religious leader Nathan Eldon Tanner, cowboy artist and inventor Earl W. Bascom and Hollywood actor John Wayne.

See also[edit]



Online sources

  • Rogers, James (30 January 2007). "Sgt John Greene". Find-a-grave. Retrieved 24 July 2012.  The title of the website should read "Surgeon John Greene"

External links[edit]