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Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the American Revolution

The Providence Beacon - 1775

The Following abstract from a paper read by Edward Field, Esq., before the Rhode Island Historical Society on January 26, 1886, is here printed for the purpose of explaining the significance of the design on the seal of the Society:

“At a town meeting in Providence, held July 3rd (1775) it was voted, among other matters, that the town take steps regarding the erection of a beacon to alarm the county in case of the approach of an enemy.

“One week later at a town meeting a committee, consisting of Joseph Brown, Joseph Bucklin and Benjamin Thurber, then appointed to 'erect a beacon on the hill to the eastward of the town to alarm the country in case of an enemy's approach.' The hill designated for the location of this beacon was the one now known as Prospect Hill, and then called Beacon Hill, and the spot, near what is now the corner of Prospect and Meeting streets. A beacon had been erected at this location more than a century before, in May, 1667, during the Indian war in the colony. The work was immediately commenced.

“The Providence Gazette, the first newspaper published in Providence, on July 29, 1775, informed the colonists that 'a beacon is now erecting on a very high hill in the town by order of the Honorable General Assembly. A watch is likewise kept on Tower Hill in case of any attempt by water from our savage enemies.”

A handbill was later distributed that described the building of this tower. “This structure was very simple in its design, consisting of a wooden shaft or mast, about 85 feet in height, securely braced at the foundation: wooden pegs or steps, at regular intervals, projected from either side to enable a person to climb to the top. From the end of this shaft an iron crane extended, from which hung as iron basket; this was filled with inflammable material. By order of the town, a house was built at its base in which to store the combustibles, so as to be ready at a moment's notice. The beacon, probably, was never fired after the trial of August 17th, unless, perhaps, at the proclamation of peace it was used to spread the glad tidings throughout the neighboring country.”

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