Biography of Benjamin Dyer Potter

One of the pioneers in the development of Texas, in the vicinity of Sabine, and an early Indian trader, the late Benjamin Dyer Potter belonged to one of the most ancient families of Rhode Island, whose descendants have done much in shaping the affairs and contributing to the prosperity of the Commonwealth from its earliest Colonial period.

Born in Providence, January 6, 1814, Benjamin Dyer Potter was the son of Joseph Kinnicutt and Abby Pierce (Dyer) Potter, a grandson of William Potter, and a descendant of George Potter, of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

From the time of its founding in Rhode Island in the seventeenth century to the present time, the Potter family has been one of the foremost of the colony and of the State, ranking prominently among the families which from the earliest days have held a place of influence in the official, business, industrial, professional and social life of the Commonwealth. The Potters of the latter generations have not relinquished the place accorded the family in the days prior to the war for the independence of the Colonies.

Benjamin Dyer Potter received his education in the common schools of his native city. During his young manhood he worked at various trades, and following his marriage went to Sabine, Texas, where he was one of the pioneers in the development of that region. He built a log house for his dwelling and traded with the Indians, buying furs of them in exchange for supplies.

He married, January 6, 1835, Harriet M. Fearing, daughter of Martin and Abby M. Fearing. Following his death, which occurred July 25, 1840, Mrs. Potter returned to Providence and later married Henry Clay Whitaker, a man of marked literary ability, a frequent contributor to magazines and the Providence “Journal,” and who maintained a bookstore in Providence for many years. He died in 1887.

Children of Benjamin Dyer and Harriet M. (Fearing) Potter:

  1. Augustus W., born in Providence, October 31, 1835; married, September 25, 1858, Harriet Addie Stead, daughter of Thomas J. Stead, and their children were: Frederick A., born August 6, 1859; Harry Stead, born May 2, 1861; and Alice Victoria, born June 10, 1864.
  2. Elisabeth Dyer Potter, born in Sabine, Texas, July 20, 1840; educated in the schools of Providence, and by her pen and her purity of character has contributed to the Potter reputation and to the good deeds and standing of the community. Miss Potter was one of the founders and for a long time was active in the Girls Friendly Society in Rhode Island. She is now honorary vice-president of the organization. The parent society was started in England in 1875, and Rhode Island was one of the first States to have an American organization. It is conducted under the auspices of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Miss Potter was baptized in St. John’s Church at Providence, in 1849, and has been an active, devout member and worker there since. She was instrumental in the establishment of the “Holiday House” at Plum Beach for the Girls Friendly Society. She is a descendant of Roger Williams, a distant relative of Nathanael Greene, Revolutionary hero, and a cousin of United States Senator Henry Bowen Anthony, member of the Forty-eighth Congress, who died September 2, 1884, and whom she often assisted with secretarial work.

Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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