Go to Top

History Bytes

History Bytes: Frances Vaughan’s Book

One of the earliest books in the collection of the Newport Historical Society is a bible, printed in London in 1599. It was brought to Rhode Island in 1638 by Frances Clarke, wife of Jeremiah Clarke, one of Newport’s founders. Shortly after her third marriage, which was to William Vaughan by 1656, Frances inscribed her new name in the bible, along with many notes, doodles and smeared palm prints in February 1660.

Frances Latham Dungan Clarke Vaughan was the daughter of Sir Lewis Latham, Lord Falconer to King Charles I of England. She died in 1677 and is buried in the Common Burying Ground near some of her 82 great grandchildren.

Above: Leading page of the New Testament in Frances Vaughn’s Bible, from the NHS collection.

History Bytes: Yznaga Avenue

Nestled between “Clarendon Court” and “Miramar” on Bellevue Avenue is a tiny street called Yznaga Avenue that provides access to the garages and outbuildings of those houses. The origin of the name comes from Antonio Yznaga Del Vaille (1823-1892), a Cuban sugar plantation owner, also of New York and New Orleans. In 1860 he purchased a lot on Bellevue Avenue and shortly thereafter erected a cottage called “Reef Point.”

His short time in Newport ended in 1868 when he sold his house to Harry Ingersoll of Philadelphia. After several ownerships, “Reef Point” was demolished by Edward C. Knight after Clarendon Court was completed in 1904. Yznaga’s three children fared well during Newport’s Gilded Age through well planned marriages. Natica married Sir John Pepys, Baronet Lister-Kay; Fernando married Alva Vanderbilt’s sister; Consuelo married the 8th Duke of Manchester and was the inspiration for the naming of Alva’s daughter Consuelo, later Duchess of Marlborough.

Above: Detail of an 1876 atlas showing Yznaga Avenue and Reef Point, under the ownership of Harry Ingersoll.

P4173 (1024x745)Photomechanical print entitled “Cliff Walk, North of Rough Point”; Reef Point is the fifth house from left. Circa 1900, NHS Collection, P4173.

IMG_0284 - CropYznaga family home in Trinidad, Cuba. Now the Museum of Architecture. Photo by Bert Lippincott.

History Bytes: Newport’s Liberty Tree

This month marks the 250th anniversary of the deeding of Newport’s Liberty Tree and the repeal of the Stamp Act. In 1765, the Sons of Liberty began rallying to protest the Stamp Act on land owned by Captain William Read at the corner of Thames and Farewell Streets.

Newport’s Liberty Tree was probably inspired by Boston’s Liberty Tree, where in 1765 the Sons of Liberty gathered beneath a Boston elm tree to protest the Stamp Act. In 1766, Capt. William Read deeded the plot of land, including a large buttonwood tree that grew there, to William Ellery and Newport’s Sons of Liberty.

Upon its dedication Read insisted that, “The said tree forever hereafter be known as the Tree of Liberty, and be set apart to and for the use of the Sons of Liberty, and that the same stand as a Monument of the Spirited and Noble Opposition made to the Stamp Act in the year One Thousand seven hundred and Sixty-five, by the Sons of Liberty.”

Word of the Stamp Act’s repeal arrived in Newport in May 1766. There was reportedly much public rejoicing at the news including displaying an 8×14 foot painting of Newport Harbor to highlight “the Advantages which LIBERTY gives to COMMERCE”.

In December 1776, at the start of the three year British occupation, the first Liberty Tree was cut down by British troops. A new tree was planted in 1783 which lasted until the 1860s. A third tree was planted in 1876, but didn’t survive. The current tree was planted in 1897 and appears to have been moved from the original deeded plot of land to the adjacent Ellery Park.

Above: A c.1905 photo of Newport’s Liberty Tree, at the corner of Thames and Farewell Streets, by Clarence Stanhope. From the NHS collection.

Liberty Tree Deed

A detail of the Liberty Tree’s deed, from the NHS collections.

Liberty Tree Deed Box

The Liberty Tree’s deed box, from the NHS collections.