The relationship of William Cadman to the Handy House is through his son George, and granddaughter Elizabeth Cadman. William Cadman is the grandfather of Elizabeth Cadman White, the only daughter of George Cadman and Hannah Hathaway.
William Cadman arrived about 1651-52 in the New England colonies as a young man in his early twenties. William was born in England sometime around 1625.1 Upon reaching the New England colonies, William settled in the town of Portsmouth, in the relatively newly established Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
We know little of William Cadman, the man, except for what is found in community records. There are enough tracings of his actions within these records to understand William Cadman within the society and community of his time.
William and Elizabeth Cadman are believed to have had three children:
- Mary (Cadman) Cole (b. June 10, 1655, d. March 29, 1732)2
- George Cadman (b. c. 1656, d. After November 24, 1718)3
- Richard Cadman (b. c. 1660, d. 1695)4
To understand William Cadman’s unique place in Portsmouth community life, his role in Portsmouth, and more importantly his sons George’s and Richard’s establishment of homesteads in Dartmouth, it is necessary to describe the development of Portsmouth’s governing style and its community at the time of his arrival. The book, Democratic Balance – Ideals of Community in Early Portsmouth, casts William Cadman as a documentable example of the younger, unestablished, inhabitants of Portsmouth, RI in the seventeenth century.5 William Cadman’s introduction into the Portsmouth community occurred at the end of a struggle-filled transition in community and property hierarchies within the town.
The first English inhabitants of the Island of Aquidneck in Narragansett Bay were dissenters in some form of the “New England Way” that was emerging in the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s style of government.6 These people were confronted with establishing a community where only wilderness stood. The early inhabitants had to develop a way to establish property and form a style of community government, largely through a trial and error process that constantly changed and evolved. By the time William Cadman arrived in Portsmouth, this process was in its final formative years, establishing a relatively stable community environment.
The first mention of William Cadman in the Portsmouth area is a deed of twenty acres from Ralph Earl to William, recorded December 13, 1653.7 The property description is almost indecipherable, “East by Newport, and bounded with the common, west with [illegible] swamp, and easterly [illegible] Mill Pond, west common, north…”
Ralph Earl was one of the original twenty colonists of Rhode Island to petition Charles I for a charter in 1638. Earl’s name appears on a 1639 town record establishing a civil body politic.8 As one of the founders of Portsmouth, Ralph Earl would have enjoyed a position in the upper levels of Portsmouth society and political power. In 1647, Earl was given permission to keep an Inn, sell beer and wine, and to entertain strangers. Earl served the town in multiple capacities such as treasurer, the apportioning of every man’s lands to assess taxes, and oversee the work of the prison. Earl, who would have had significant lands as one of the original townsmen, sold land to eight inhabitants from 1640 to 1656, and quit claimed land to his son.9 The purchase of Earl’s land by William Cadman occurred prior to William’s acceptance as an inhabitant of the town.
The next reference to William Cadman in Portsmouth records notes his acceptance as an inhabitant of Portsmouth. This occurred on June 5, 1654.10 This was fortunate timing for William. The granting of lands had become very selective and strongly indicated that besides the allotments of large grants of land not fully completed for freemen in the 1639 and 1640, inhabitants that were granted land was very strictly contained to a selection of those original town families. Of the twenty-six receiving land in the 1656 allotment process, the largest allotments (30 acres to 100 acres) went to seven men who had been residents for at least thirteen years. Of the other nineteen men, just five of them appear in town records after 1651. Of those five “newcomers,” only one was not a son of one of the founders. The common inhabitants of the town so strongly disagreed with the allotment process that they dismissed the disposers in November 1656, and created a committee of five to distribute 200 (increased to 300 prior to the allotment process) acres to those most in need of land. This distribution was based on the needs of an inhabitant and the number of mouths he had to feed in relation to the amount of land he possessed. The political idea of full representation that had caused turmoil in the community of Portsmouth for decades had finally come to realization in December 1657 when the community began to allot lands to newcomers, commoners, and non-freemen.11
In December 1657, William Cadman received an allotment of eight acres land.12 The author of Democratic Balance – Ideals of Community in Early Portsmouth, uses William Cadman as an example of the type of inhabitant that the 1657 allotment was intended to help, “Circumstances of William Cadman exemplify those of younger unestablished recipients of grants in 1657. Cadman, a blacksmith had resided in Portsmouth for just four years before the allotments were made. He was newly married, father of one, and not known to have been a freeman in 1657.”13 A common characteristic of almost all the 1657 grantees was their disassociation from founding families, and the perceived inability to successfully establish their own and that of their children’s self-sufficiency. This act of allotment based on need, and not political weight, was a new act for the community of Portsmouth — an act that supported the commoner.
After the 1657 allotment of lands, the town government closed the commons to any further development and free allotment of lands.14 The act by the townsmen effectively closed the community to future attraction of inhabitants via free land offerings. The success of a family would be based on the inheritance value and size of land holding of a man’s estate. Whether the next generation would be able to succeed in Portsmouth would be based on their father’s worth. This closing off of the community would be a factor in William Cadman’s sons’ (George and Richard) involvement with Dartmouth and ultimately the existence of the Handy house.
William Cadman’s role in the Portsmouth community is well noted in the historical records. By the age of fifty, William had become involved as a respected member of the community’s governing body, holding such positions as:
- Deputy to the General Assembly, six times between 1670 and 1682.
- Noted as a Lieutenant in records for 1679 and 1682.
- Selected in 1671 as one of four to demand a charter from Governor Nicholas Easton.
- Member of the town council for six years between 1673 and 1681.
- Appointed in 1673 to a committee of four to prepare matters concerning drunkenness amongst the Indians, the establishment of a militia, and weigh the dangers of the Dutch taking New York.
- Chosen as a juryman in 1676.
- Selected to oversee the poor five times between 1676 and 1682.
- Selected in 1678 to establish a tax rate and to audit the accounts between Newport and Portsmouth.
- Selected in 1678 for a committee charged with the disposition of Indians and the placing of them as apprentices.
- Witnessed wills and appraised property for the distribution of wills for over seventeen years.15
What little else is known about William’s life in Portsmouth, outside of town records demonstrating his role in governing the community, can be discovered through small incidents of his life that appear scattered throughout town records. In the year 1666, William Cadman had run afoul of the community laws by offering shelter to a stranger, William Maze.16 The August 27th, 1666 town meeting selected two of William’s neighbors to go to William Cadman and inform him that there is a town law (enacted in 1654) which forbids the entertaining of any sojourner or stranger without the consent of the inhabitants of the town. The penalty of five pounds per month that the offense is committed may be instituted. William Wodell and William Hall were chosen to take the notice to Cadman and bring his answer back to the magistrate of the town.17
In 1658-59, during the sitting of the Pettit Jury on the Joseph Turry Case, an Indian named Tatemonashkish testified that he and another Indian, Wouacomtone, took an ancker (a small cask holding about 45 bottles) of liquor from the cellar of William Cadman’s house. The court resolved that Quashawett, a Sachem Indian living at Pocakett bind himself to pay, or cause to be paid eight pounds, twelve shillings, to make restitution to William Cadman. The court also sentenced the two Indians to be whipped with fifteen stripes.18 From this record we can determine that William Cadman had a house of sufficient size to contain a cellar, and possibly well known enough that the court did not deem it necessary to give a description of its location. At the same sitting of the jury, William Cadman was fined ten shillings for not attending.19
In April of 1678 William Cadman was a member of the committee being empowered by public vote to dispose of Indians, and place them out as apprentices.20 Cadman witnessed the apprenticeship of a mother, Meequapew for three years, her fourteen-year-old son Peter for ten years, and her daughter, Hannah, for fifteen years to William Wodell.21 In the month of August, 1679 William Cadman was elected moderator of the town meeting.22
In 1682, William Cadman is listed as an Assistant to the Town Clerk, and witnessed the marriage of Jonathan Gatchell of Marble-Head to Widow Mary Wodell of Portsmouth.23
The location of William Cadman’s home is lost to history, as are many of the details of the Cadman family. An oblique reference to it in Robert Charles’, The Great Migration, gives a clue to the location of lands (if not describing a homestead location) of William Cadman of Portsmouth.24 A July 1660 deed of William Freeborn to his daughter describes a parcel of twenty acres bounded as: “…east of the Newport path, south with land of Another land entry, dated 1654, describes the selling of eighty acres to William Freeborne – except for twenty acres which is owned by William Cadman.25 This very well may be the original twenty acres purchased by William Cadman, on which he built his dwelling.
In June 1682, William deeded to his son, “a certain parcel of land lying and being in the liberties and presents of the township of Dartmouth aforesaid containing half a share which I [William] bough of William Earl.”26 The deed was made in consideration of his [George’s] natural love and affection of me. Most likely George Cadman already possessed land in Dartmouth. Foster’s 1935 work, Descendants of William Cadman, notes that George served as a juryman for Dartmouth in 1676 — six years before receiving the half share of Dartmouth lands from his father. In 1684, George was appointed to a committee to lay out a way through Dartmouth, and in 1686, he was named an inhabitant of Dartmouth. In 1694, George was named as one of the 56 original proprietors of Dartmouth through a deed to the residents of Dartmouth by William Bradford. As an original proprietor, George was entitled to 800 acres of land.27 It is not known if George Cadman was already living on the land deeded to him by his father William, or the half share just extended George’s extensive land holdings.
The possible disposition of William Cadman’s homestead is detailed in a deed dated 1688 between Richard Cadman and Robert Fish.28 Richard (William’s son), Elizabeth (William’s widow) and Sara (Richard’s wife) quit claim to Robert Fish twenty-eight acres bounded, “…easterly by highway [illegible], southerly by lands that goes to Robert Houcking and his common, westerly by land of Nicholas Brown, and northerly by land of the said Robert Fish and Gibson [Hroghbarn].” The parcel is described as, “Together with all and singular the houses, barns, cribs, orchards, fences, common liberties and way of highways provided.”29 Both of William Cadman’s sons, Richard and George, had obtained significant land holdings of their own by the time of their father’s death on or about 1684.
The full extent of William Cadman’s land holdings is not known; however, numerous references to land owned by William Cadman are made mention of in Portsmouth deeds addressing properties adjacent to land owned by William Cadman and in Dartmouth, William Cadman’s name shows up in survey[s] by Benjamin Crane for George Cadman where “George Cadman claims ½ of a share by deed from his father willm [sic] Cadman dated June ye 28: 1682”30.
The life William Cadman led is shrouded in history’s passing. We can ascertain that around 1650 he took a wife believed to be named Elizabeth Cornell. They are believed to have had three children that survived beyond infancy. George Cadman is generally accepted as the first male son, born around 1656. Mary Cadman, believed to be their only daughter, is thought to have been born around 1655. Their second son, Richard Cadman, is estimated being born in 1657.31
1 O’Toole, Dennis A. Democratic Balance – Ideals of Community in Early Portsmouth. Article in Rhode Island History. Published by The Rhode Island Historical Society. Providence, Rhode Island. Vol. 32, No. 1, February 1973.
2 Mary Cadman Family Tree Maker. http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/k/o/s/Lille-Koski-CA/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0598.html November 11, 2013.
3 Coughlin, Michelle Marchetti. Elizabeth Cadman White (ca. 1685–1768): Initial Research Progress Report for the Westport Historical Society. August 14, 2013. Unpublished manuscript. p. 13. Coughlin lists Cadman’s death as December 1718. His will was proved January 6, 1718/9.
4 Ibid, p.10
5 Ibid., Pages 3- 18.
6 Ibid., p. 3
7 Portsmouth Town Land Records, (Grantee Index) & Book 1, page 14.
8 Author Unknown. Ralph Earl Biography Notes. http:// www.caskey-family.com/genealogy/RalhpEarl.htm
9 Ibid. Ralph Earl Biography Notes.
10 Handwritten text of town meeting notes from 1638 to the late 1600’s. Town of Portsmouth, Undated. Page 58. The script appears to be late 19th century. Several time periods are repeated throughout the book in what appears to be a different hand. The book is a located in the vault at Portsmouth Town Hall, Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
11 O’Toole, Democratic Balance – Ideals of Community in Early Portsmouth, pages 13-16.
12 Portsmouth Town Land Records. Book 1, Page 532.
13 O’Toole, Democratic Balance – Ideals of Community in Early Portsmouth, page 16.
14 O’Toole, Democratic Balance – Ideals of Community in Early Portsmouth, page 17.
15 Foster, Theodore G. William Cadman of Portsmouth and His Descendants. Lansing Michigan. 1935- as extract
Handwritten transcript of Portsmouth town meeting notes dated June, 5 1654, noting the acceptance of William Cadman as an inhabitant of the town. Portsmouth town records, Portsmouth, Rhode Island. ed by Lille Koski. Posting RE: Elizabeth Cadman born est 1684-1706. Genforum.genealogy.com/Cadman/messages/125.html
16 Chronological table of town meetings. Source Information:Ancestry.com. The early records of the town of Portsmouth [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004. Original data: The early records of the town of Portsmouth. Providence, R.I.: E.L. Freeman & Sons, state printers, 1989.
17 Town of Portsmouth Book. Undated. Page 58. The book is a handwritten text of town meeting notes from 1638 to the late 1600’s. Located in the vault at Portsmouth Town Hall. Note: the script appears to be late 19th century, and several time periods are repeated throughout the book (in what appears to be a different hand).
18 Vol. I. Rhode Island Court Records. Source Information- Ancestry.com. Rhode Island court records : records of the Court of Trials of the Colony of Providence Plantations, 1647-1662. [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data: Rhode Island court records : records of the Court of Trials of the Colony of Providence Plantations, 1647-1662.. Providence: unknown, 1920-1922. Page 625. http://interactive.ancestry.com/17373/dvm_PrimSrc000293-00027-1/34?backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fcgi-bin%2fsse. dll%3fgst%3d-6&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnSearchResults&r c=1462,679,1741,732;1739,682,2021,736#?imageId=dvm_ PrimSrc000293-00028-0
19 Ibid. Vol. I. Rhode Island Court Records. Source Information Ancestry.com. Rhode Island court records : records of the Court of Trials of the Colony of Providence Plantations, 1647-1662. [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Page 626.
Original data: Rhode Island court records : records of the Court of Trials of the Colony of Providence Plantations, 1647-1662.. Providence: unknown, 1920-1922.
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20 Chronological table of town meetings. Source Information. Ancestry.com. The early records of the town of Portsmouth [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004. Original data: The early records of the town of Portsmouth. Providence, R.I.: E.L. Freeman & Sons, state printers, 1989. http://interactive.ancestry. com/17372/dvm_PrimSrc000292-00230-0/440?backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2fcgi-bin%2fsse. dll%3fgst%3d-6&ssrc=&backlabel=ReturnSearchResults& rc=1079,3188,1413,3247;1411,3190,1749,3249
21 Ibid Chronological Table. Pg 431-434.
22 Town of Portsmouth Book. Undated. Page 58. The book is a handwritten text of town meeting notes from 1638 to the late 1600’s. Located in the vault at Portsmouth Town Hall. Note: the script appears to be late 19th century, and several time periods are repeated throughout the book (in what appears to be a different hand).
23 The Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth, Providence , RI. E.L. Freemon & Sons, State Printers, 1989. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=Genealogy-glh20102858&h=313
24 Great Migration, Vol 2, C-F. Source Information: Ancestry.com. New England, The Great Migration and The Great Migration Begins, 1620-1635 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.Original data: Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Volumes 1-3; The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volumes 1-6. Boston: New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1996-2011. Page 574.
25 Ibid. Page 574.
26 Portsmouth Town Land Records, Volume 1, Page 190.
27 Foster, Theodore G. William Cadman of Portsmouth and His Descendants. Lansing Michigan. 1935- as extracted by Lille Koski. Posting RE: Elizabeth Cadman born est 1684-1706. http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/5964862/ person/6038660747/storyx/efce7888-ca7d-46ec-8249- 511f92f10a41?src=search
28 Portsmouth Town Land Records, Volume 1, Page 451.
29 Ibid. Portsmouth. Volume 1, Page 451.
30 The Field Notes of Benjamin Crane, Benjamin Hammond, and Samuel Smith. The New Bedford Free Public Library. New Bedford, Massachusetts. The Mercury Press; New Bedford. P.169
31 Document titled “Ancestors of Elizabeth Cadman White.” Archives of the Westport Historical Society, Westport, Massachusetts.
Eric Gradoia, Architectural History and Conservation. Copyright 2014