Introduction to the Rhode Island Founders
Rhode Island was founded on the idea that government did not have the authority to dictate man’s conscience, that no king could be head of the church, except the King of kings, Jesus Christ. The Englishmen who settled Rhode Island had came to America seeking the freedom to worship God and obey the scriptures as they understood them.
The Separatists (later called Pilgrims) came to America on the Mayflower in 1620 and founded Plymouth Colony. Ten years later the Puritans followed, a large wave of them arriving in 1630 and they established Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Pilgrims believed it necessary to separate from the Church of England, the Puritans believed the Church of England could be reformed or purified from within. They all had left England seeking freedom of religion and worship.
Around 1636, other Separatists began to arrive at Boston, determining to settle in Boston or Salem which were both of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Upon their arrival, they found the Puritan rulers had established over the colony, a new church government as strict and severe as the one they had left in England. Those who didn’t agree with the governing authorities lost all privileges as a citizen, to vote or own land. The freeman’s oath had been changed from the government of King Charles and was now to the government of Massachusetts. Magistrates were empowered to fine or imprison all persons that didn’t attend their church meetings, and not one could be admitted to the freedom of the commonwealth who gathered in any other church meeting, no one could inhabit the colony without being examined and licensed by the magistrates and anyone who settled in violation of these laws were commanded to leave. The orders were enforced and those who didn’t conform often faced severe penalties—jail, public whippings and even death.
There were many who for conscience sake, would not conform to those rules and were banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony. They made their way into the Narragansett Indian Territory which we now know as Rhode Island. With great trials and persecutions they founded the Six Principles church and established a civil government that was separate from the church. Many of them served as ministers and elders of the churches they established and a recorded deed in 1711 listed the church at Providence as a Six Principles Church and those six principles are the foundation teachings found in Hebrews 6:
1) Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Rhode Island enacted the first law prohibiting slavery in North America on May 18, 1652. Historians define the first Baptist Church founded in America in 1638 at Providence though it was actually a Six Principle Church. The burning of the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay was the first armed act of rebellion against the British Crown in 1772. Rhode Island elected the first delegates to the Continental Congress on June 15, 1774 and the Rhode Island General Assembly created the first standing army in the colonies with 1500 men in April 1775. Two months later the General Assembly commissioned two sloops, armed with 24 guns, creating the first American Navy. Rhode Island was the first colony to declare its independence from Great Britain on May 4, 1776 and it was the last state to ratify the United States Constitution.
In June 2008, Doyle Davidson said by the Spirit of God, “God sent my ancestors to America so I could preach the gospel.” Since that time he has learned that he traces his maternal ancestors to this group of men who founded Rhode Island, as does David Kaspareit. Stukely Westcott, Ezekiel Holliman, John Warner, Samuel Gorton, Obadiah Holmes and Chad Brown are both Doyle and David's ancestors. Doyle also traces his lineage to John Coggeshall and John Greene(of Quidnessett). David also traces his lineage to founders: William Wickenden, John Wickes, John Greene(of Warwick), John Crandall, and John Sweet.
In studying the history of the founding of Rhode Island, it is evident that had not God upheld them, the United States of America would be a very different country. The influence these men and others with them had on this nation was described by one historian as that it "operated like leaven in diffusing itself through the minds of the masses and formed the nucleus out of which ultimately sprang the Declaration of Independence." Research continues to confirm the words Doyle spoke that day in June, "[they came], so he could preach the gospel."
Below, are brief biographies about these men and the church and government they established.
John Green of Quidnesset
Here is a YouTube playlist where you can watch and listen to Doyle Davidson and Paul Peters read and discuss some of these Rhode Island Founders:
"A Nation Bringing Forth Fruit" Page