Rhodes and Dennis Families

Rhodes-Dennis — Among the outstanding families in Rhode Island affairs are those of Rhodes and Dennis, which were united in the marriage of Sarah Arnold Rhodes to Dr. William B. Dennis on September 27, 1868. Though Dr. Dennis is now deceased (1930), his wife still lives, and is keenly interested in the civic life of her State and of the city in which she lives, which is Providence. Dr. Dennis himself was born in April 1837, son of Samuel Chamberlain and Emeline (Mead) Dennis. He was graduated from the Medical School of Harvard University with the degree of Doctor of Medicine, and on April 17, 1861, enlisted in the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Regiment. He was mustered out of the service on August 2, 1861, after having served from May 2, that year. His death occurred on July 18, 1877.

The family of Rhodes, of which Mrs. Dennis is a member, is an old and honored one, which has been traced back to Zachariah Rhodes, the immigrant ancestor of the line. Born in 1603, he is first recorded in this country, as far as is known, as living in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1643. In 1646 he removed from that place to Rhode Island. In 1644 he had lot No. 46 in the division of wood land at Rehoboth; and on July 5, 1644, he signed the agreement of the settlers forming a town government there. He drew lot No. 45 in the division of the Great Plain, on July 9, 1645, and lot No. 37 in the meadow division, February 18, 1646. In 1646 he settled at Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, on the Warwick side of the Pawtuxet River; and here he became a large property owner. According to the records, he refused to obey the Massachusetts laws requiring him to contribute to the support of public preaching; and this seems to have been the reason for his removal to Rhode Island. He was an Independent or Baptist in religion, and was doubtless banished from Massachusetts because of his views, as a letter written by Roger Williams seems to show. Zachariah Rhodes was one of those in favor of joining Pawtuxet with Rhode Island rather than with Massachusetts. In 1664 and 1665 he was treasurer of Providence, and a member of the Town Council. He was a prominent man in public affairs and held various offices. He was admitted a freeman on May 18, 1658. He was chosen commissioner in 1658 and was fined on May 18 for not appearing at the General Court of Commissioners. In 1659, 1661, 1662, and 1663 he also served as commissioner, and in 1663 and 1664 was a member of the original General Assembly of Rhode Island from Providence. He also served in 1665. On June 1, 1653, he signed with five others an address to the court at Boston, asking that Pawtuxet be dismissed from the Government of Massachusetts Colony. One record says that he was a friend of the Indian chief, “Pomham,” and that he saved the Colony from a raid by the Indians through his influence over the chief. He was one of the commissioners to treat with the Narragansett Indians. His will was dated in 1662, and he died in 1665. A letter written by Roger Williams seems to show that he was drowned in Narragansett Bay, off the shores of Pawtuxet; that letter was dated August 24, 1669.

Zachariah Rhodes married, about March, 1646, Joanna Arnold, born February 27, 1617, daughter of William Arnold; and she married (second), July 11, 1666, Samuel Reape, of Newport. Her second marriage seems to have been unfortunate, as she was allowed by the General Court to dispose of her own estate. Her will was proved January 27, 1667, several years before her death. She died in 1692. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes were: 1. Jeremiah. 2. Malachi, through whom passes the line of descent with which we are concerned. 3. Zachariah. 4. John. 5. Peleg. 6. Elizabeth. 7. Mary, who married John Low. 8. Rebecca, married (first) Nicholas Power, and (second) Daniel Williams, son of Roger Williams.

Malachi Rhodes, the second child listed above, was born in 1650, and died in 1682; he married, May 27, 1675, Mary Carder, who died January 22, 1692-93. Their son, also named Malachi, born in 1676, died August 17, 1714; he married Dorothy Whipple on March 8, 1700; she was born in 1680, and died September 10, 1728. Their son, James, born December 15, 1711, died October 9, 1797; he married Sarah Westgate on February 22, 1732-33; she was born January 10, 1713. Their son, Captain Robert Rhodes, born April 1, 1743, died March 25, 1821; he married Phebe Smith, on April 1, 1763; she was born February 14, 1744, and died May 31, 1819. Their son, Colonel William Rhodes, born February 11, 1782, died July 23, 1854; he married Sarah Arnold on February 20, 1803; she was born on May 28, 1783, and died on September 25, 1843. This William Rhodes was a prominent man in his day, having been the first president of the Weybosset Bank, organized in 1831. Later, this institution became the Weybosset National Bank, that change having taken place in 1865; and it was absorbed, in 1904, by the Union Trust Company. Colonel Rhodes died in 1854.

The Arnold family, from which his wife, Mrs. Sarah (Arnold) Rhodes, claimed descent, was an old and honored one, like the Rhodes house itself, the line of this family having gone back to the American immigrant, William Arnold, who was born on June 24, 1587, and died in 1676. He lived in Cheselbourne, and on November 23, 1616, was appointed administrator of the estate of his brother John. In 1635 he removed with his family from Dorsetshire to New England. He also lived for a time in Hingham, Massachusetts, where he was a proprietor in 1635. In 1636 he became associated with Roger Williams and others in the purchase of land in Rhode Island, and he received large tracts of land in Providence, Pawtuxet, and Warwick. He was one of the thirteen original proprietors of Providence and signed the agreement of government in 1640. He was a leading man of the Colony and held different offices of trust. On March 9, 1658-59, a statement was made that he was lately robbed of property in Pawtuxet by the Indians. He was commissioner from Providence to the court of commissioners in 1661. He married Christian Peake, daughter of Christopher Peake. Their daughter, Joanna, as already noted, became the wife of Zachariah Rhodes, referred to previously; and so the Arnold and Rhodes families were once united in marriage. Then the two houses were again brought together in the marriage of Colonel William Rhodes and Sarah Arnold, daughter of John Rice Arnold, many generations later.

Robert Rhodes, son of Colonel William and Sarah (Arnold) Rhodes, married Julia Clarke, in January 1843. His daughter, Sarah Arnold Rhodes, became the wife of Dr. Dennis, who, as noted at the beginning of this review, died in 1877.

The children of Dr. William B. and Sarah Arnold (Rhodes) Dennis were: 1. Dwight Brown Dennis, now (1930), of New York City. 2. Sarah Rhodes Dennis, who, on October 14, 1901, became the wife of Roscoe Clifton Washburn. They had a daughter, Mary Fessenden Washburn, born May 24, 1906, who was united in marriage, on June 11, 1927, with Frederic W. Howe, Jr., son of Frederic W. and Ruth (Stone) Howe. This marriage, too, has produced one son, Frederick W. Howe, III, who was born November 15, 1928.

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

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