Historic Home of the Quarter

Although a date of 1745 has been long attributed to this fine two-story gable-on-hip roofed home at 19 Pleasant Street, its exact construction date has never been definitively determined. The original parcel of land was deeded by village founder Lodowick Updike to his son Richard. Upon Richard’s sudden death in 1734, while moving a great stone at Cocumscossuc, this place identified only as his estate, passed down to his son Captain John Updike a prominent Newport and Wickford mariner. No description of this “estate” is detailed in the will and probate record at the time of Richard Updike demise.  Regardless of its actual construction date, the house was built in the style of a Newport mansion of the timeframe and was the grandest home in the village and worthy of a member of this prominent family.  It was originally located right on the frontage of Main Street (now Pleasant St.) and included a large wharf, a substantial warehouse, a stable, and other outbuildings. Updike ownership ended in 1752 when John sold it to Peleg Pearce and moved to Providence where he later married his wife Ann, daughter of John Crawford of the prominent Providence merchant and ship owning family. For the next 75 years or so, this house, due to its importance as a commercial parcel rather that a residential one, changed hands numerous times. Indeed this home has had perhaps, more owners than any other in Old Wickford proper.  Most of these owners were either mariners themselves or sailing vessel owners who utilized the warehouse and expansive wharf associated with the home as a focus of their business enterprises. Peleg Pearce owned the home for only one year and then sold it to house carpenter Ebenezer Cahoone who held on to it until 1757 when he sold it to Joshua Pearce. In 1760, Joshua Pearce sold it to Jonathan Vaughn who held ownership for one year followed by Thomas Newcombe also for one year. The next owner was prominent Wickford banker, merchant, and property owner Benjamin Fowler who lived there until 1765. Fowler, who built his own fine home just up the Grand Highway in 1769, sold it to John Reynolds, who evidently purchased it speculatively as he resold it in a matter of a few months to prominent Newporter Samuel Brenton.  Brenton too, kept the property for just one year and then turned around and sold it to prominent local mariner Capt. Ebenezer Slocum. Master mariner Ebenezer Slocum was the captain, at various timeframes, of the sailing vessels Abigail, Alice, Mount Vernon, Despatch, and Swift. Additionally, he held the original charter to operate a ferry at North Ferry located just south of Plum Beach.  He owned the property and based his maritime business enterprise from here for nearly a decade and then sold it, in 1775, to a relation Samuel Slocum who was a merchant and part owner of the vessel “Fair America”. As the Revolutionary War kicked into high gear Sam Slocum sold the house and property to vocal and ardent Tory Thomas Cutler. Apparently, Thomas Cutler was too vocal a loyalist to the Crown and its cause, as, in the end of the 1770’s, the property was seized by the fledgling government of the new State of Rhode Island and auctioned off, in 1782 to help finance the war debt. It was purchased from RI General Treasurer Joseph Clarke by local real estate mogul Peter Phillips and quickly resold to Jonathan Bates, who retained ownership of the house and associated property for the next decade. Jonathan Bates was part owner of the RI privateer schooner “Betty” which was active during the Revolutionary War. In 1792, Bates sold the property to merchant and vessel owner Joshua Vaughn, who later sold it to Capt. James Cooper, master of the “Abigail”. In 1801, it was purchased by Capt. Benjamin Davis, master of the ship Union and schooner Ocean. In 1805, Davis sold it to business associate Stukely Himes who was the owner of the sailing vessel “Ocean”. West Indies trader and local merchant Stukely Himes was married to Elizabeth Vaughn, the daughter of an earlier owner of the house Joshua Vaughn. Sadly, Stukely Himes was betrayed by his business partners in the ownership of the Ocean, Capt Samuel Carter and cargo officer Alexander Stuart when they sold the ship and cargo at their first port call and fled with the proceeds. Stukely & Elizabeth lost much of their wealth because of this and had to move in with the Vaughn family. Their son, Joshua Vaughn Himes, upon reaching adulthood, became a prominent priest and leader of the Adventist Church of William Miller. The Millerites as they were known were convinced that the Day of Atonement when Jesus would return and take the faithful to heaven would occur precisely on October 22nd, 1844. When this did not occur, Joshua Himes is credited with pulling his followers together and forming the Advent Christian Faith. Indeed Himes is thought of as the founder of this faith. Stukely Himes sold his home to merchant and vessel owner John Cottrell; part owner of the sailing vessels Elamsville and George. Cottrell eventually sold the home to Capt. Oliver Spink, a merchant and farmer who also had ownership shares in the vessels Fame and Mary. In 1824 Capt John Westcott purchased the home from Spink who was a relation. Capt John Westcott, master at various times of the sailing vessels Fame, Mary, Huntress, Huntress, Bob, and Hope, lived in the home for longer than anyone else. After his retirement from a life at sea he opened a ship’s chandlery and a general store just around the corner from his home at a location on Main Street. Upon his death in 1885 the house and the store was left to his son Oliver Spink Westcott, who was a Brown University trained educator serving as the principal of a prominent Chicago high school. Oliver Westcott was known as a brilliant man fluent in six languages and was a recognized and renowned entomologist with a personal collection of over 40,000 different insect species.  When Oliver sold the home to Asel P. Bartlett in 1899 just a few years after receiving an honorary doctorate from his Alma Mater in Providence, 75 years of Westcott ownership ended. Providence merchant Asel Bartlett only owned the home for two years when he sold it in 1901 to Wickford house carpenter James H. Bullock. Bullock turned around quickly and resold it within a few months to local real estate agent Frank L. Holloway who retained ownership until 1920. In 1920 the house was purchased by Alonzo Cross. Alonzo Cross, president and founder of Cross Pen & Pencil, hired architect Norman Isham to oversee the restoration, remodeling and relocation of the house, which had fallen into disrepair over the years, for himself, his wife, and his son Professor Herbert R. Cross.  The house was moved back on the lot forty feet to a new foundation and then completely restored to its former majesty by restoration carpenter Joseph Bullock utilizing Isham’s plans. The Cross family and their descendants retained ownership of the home until 1967. Later owners of Crossholme, as it came to be known, were Gil and Nancy Thorpe and Bill and Mary Anne Sabo. The house is still lovingly maintained by the Sabo family.
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