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Joseph Cole

Rhode Island Family

     The story of this Joseph is very different from those of his forebears. His character was far from perfect. He drank too much and was unfaithful to his wife. Despite these faults, he had many good traits.

     His story begins in Seekonk, Massachusetts on the farm of his father who was also a Joseph Cole. His mother was Hannah Daggett, daughter of a family with a proud heritage in Rehoboth, MA.

     Joseph was born on November 5, 1822. Little is known of his early years. He probably lived and worked on the family farm. He did attend school, and learned to read and write.

     When he was twenty three he married for the first time. Her name was Loiza or Eliza Smith of Cumberland. They were married in 1844 in Killingly, CT by the Rev. Daniel Williams, pastor of the Free Will Baptist Church in Killingly and Foster, RI.
     About the year 1845 he became the father of Charles William Cole. He and his wife were living in Valley Falls, and the child was born there. It is thought that his wife died either in childbirth or soon thereafter.

     On July 2, 1847, in Killingly, Connecticut, Joseph was married a second time to a young widow, Harriet Roach Lewis. He was twenty five and Harriet was twenty seven. Harriet had three children from her first marriage to John W. Lewis. Their names were George L. Lewis, age eight, Mary Elizabeth Lewis, age seven and Thomas Wilson Dorr Lewis age five.

     On the 1850 Census of Seekonk, MA, Joseph and Harriet can be found. Her children are with them, and they have a two year old, Joseph Augustus  Cole. He was born in Seekonk in 1848.  They do not have Charles William  with them at this time. He would have been about five years old. Charles was living in Cumberland with his maternal grandmother and aunt

     By 1860, Joseph was  alone on a Census living in Pawtucket, MA. It appears he may have been living in a boarding house and working in the area as a laborer. I have not found where the rest of the family were living at this time, but they may have been in Seekonk. His young fifteen year old son Charles, was living in Foster, RI on the farm of Darius Hopkins.

     About this same time, 1860, Mary Elizabeth Lewis, his step-daughter married Nelson P. Bennett, a butcher and the son of a Foster, Rhode Island farmer. She went to live with her new husband and his widowed father on their farm. She and Nelson had a son and they named him James A. Bennett. The marriage was a disaster. Nelson was a lazy and cruel man. Joseph and Harriet went to the farm and found Mary and the baby in very bad circumstances. It was winter and she had no shoes. They bundled up Mary and the baby and took them to their home to live. Mary tried to help by working in Providence saloons, one of which was the North American Saloon in Providence. She was a frail girl and soon became ill and unable to support herself and her child. During this time she was still married to Nelson, and he was in the Civil War. The marriage was over, he did not support his wife and child. He deserted the Army and his family. Mary sued for divorce in 1864, and it was granted. Shortly after she met, and married another fellow from Maine. The three of them lived with Joseph and Harriet for a few years.

     In 1862, Joseph signed for Charles William, his son to join the local RI Volunteers in the Union Army. Charles was assigned to Portsmouth, RI in the Hospital Guard Unit until the end of the war. Thomas W. D. Lewis also joined the Union Army at this time.

     On the State Census of 1865, the Cole Family was in Providence on Power Street. Joseph, a teamster was forty two. Harriet was forty five and several of their children were with them. Charles William  was there.He was twenty.  His enlistment in the Union Army was over, as was that of his half brother, Thomas. Joseph Augustus was  eighteen, Thomas was twenty two, Mary was twenty four, her new husband, Lewis Enoch Beverly was  also twenty four, Arnold Frederick  Cole was eleven, Oliver William  Cole was  fourteen, and little James A. Bennett, Harriet's grandson was  four.

     On the next Census in 1870, Joseph and his family are found in East Providence, RI. They are living in their own home. I believe the home was on Taunton Pike or Waterman Avenue. Their home was valued at $1200.00 and their personal belongings at $100.00. Joseph was forty six and he was a laborer. Harriet was forty nine, and she was keeping house, Oliver was nineteen and Arnold was seventeen and they worked as nailcutters. Thomas Lewis was twenty five and a mason. Charles had just returned from Army duty in Mississippi, and he was also twenty five. Little James A. Bennett was still living with his grandparents, the Coles. It seems the door was always open to family, and Joseph welcomed them home frequently.

      Joe was a hard working man. He supported his family and always appeared to have a job. He worked hard and he drank hard. As the years went by, he began to drink more and it began to control him. In October of 1874, Harriet divorced Joe. The depositions of his family paint a sad picture.

     His son Joseph Augustus Cole testified in court that he had seen his father in a drunken state in a saloon. It states also that Joe was with a woman of loose morals, and he was caught in the back room with this woman on the sailcloth by his own son who had gone to look for his father. His daughter in law testified that Harriet, his wife, was an admirable woman who could no longer stand his intolerable behavior. At the time of the divorce, Joe was working as a pile driver in Warwick, RI and he was there when he was served with divorce papers.

     Joseph was now alone. The drink had taken over. He died on March 23, 1878 in East Providence, RI. He was fifty six. It is not known where he was buried.

     It is not for us to judge Joe. He offered much kindness to others, and perhaps he made peace with his maker before he died

Eliza (Loiza) Smith 
Joseph's first wife,my great grandmother

Eliza (Loiza) Smith was born about 1824 in Cumberland, Rhode Island . She was the daughter of Hezekiah and Adah Salisbury Smith. On September 24, 1844, Loiza  married Joseph Cole, also of Cumberland, in Killingly, CT. They were married by Rev. Daniel Williams.

On  September 6, 1845, she gave birth to a son, Charles William Cole. Sometime before July of 1847, Loiza died and was buried in her family's plot in the North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island.

Charles went to live with Eliza's mother, Adah Smith, his grandmother and his mother's sister, Elizabeth, his aunt. Joseph married Harriet Roach Lewis, a widow with three children in 1847.

In 1850, Charles appears on a census with Adah and Elizabeth in Cumberland, Rhode Island. In 1852, Adah died, and he went to live with Harriet and his father Joseph in Seekonk. Charles was with Joseph and Harriet on the 1855 census in Seekonk.

Harriet Roach 
Joseph's second wife, a grand lady
  1820 - 1884

     Harriet must have been a remarkable woman. Although her origins remain a mystery, I have come to believe through various sources, that she was born in the year 1820. She calls her birthplace, South Kingstown, others have said Jamestown or Newport, RI.

     Her father was John W. Roach, and Englishman, and all that is known of her mother is a first name, Betsey and that she was an American.

     Harriet married for the first time when she was about eighteen. Her first husband was John Lewis. No record has been found of their marriage, but I continue to search.

      Their first child was George L. Lewis born in 1839. Their only daughter, Mary Elizabeth was born about 1840 and another son, Thomas Wilson Dorr Lewis joined the family in 1842. Her first husband must have been a strong supporter of the famous Thomas Wilson Dorr, the gentleman who in the 1840s tried to overthrow the Rhode Island government. He was a champion of the common man, and he strove to grant voting privileges to them.  Harriet and John named their son for this great man.
     Sometime before 1847, John died and Harriet was left a young widow with three small children.

     She was living in Cumberland, RI when she met and married Joseph Cole of the same town. Both had been widowed . She was twenty seven when they married.

     By 1850, the family moved to Seekonk, MA. Joseph's young son Charles was not with them. He was five years old. I am still searching for his whereabouts at this time. Joseph  Augustus Cole was born to Harriet and Joseph in Seekonk on September 3, 1848. Joseph Sr. was called a yeoman at that time, which meant he was a small land owner. Oliver W. Cole was born in 1851 and Arnold F. Cole in 1855.

     In 1860, her only daughter married a scoundrel by the name of Nelson P. Bennett. He was an unsavory, lazy character. About one year after the marriage, Joe and Harriet went to the Bennett farm in Foster, RI where her daughter was living with her husband and young son. Harriet found her daughter in horrendous condition, with no shoes in the middle of winter. Joe and Harriet bundled up Mary and the child and took them home. Nelson later deserted his wife and child and joined the Army in the Civil War. Mary later divorced him.

     It must have been a heartache for Harriet to see her daughter and grandchild treated this way. As always, Harriet was there to help.

     In 1865 the family was living on Power Street in Providence, RI.They had quite an extended family at that time. Several sons were at home, as was her daughter Mary Elizabeth, her second husband and her small son James, Harriet's grandson.

     It seems the Coles always had room for one more Family members could count on the love of their mother to take them in when they needed assistance The family soon moved to East Providence. Harriet saw three of her young daughters in law die early. Harriet's sons were widowed with young children to care for, and Harriet was always there.

     Her marriage to Joe ended in October of 1874 when she filed for divorce. She had kept him from living in their home for a while because he was often intoxicated. He was “drinking hard” as his son deposed at court during the divorce, and was unfaithful to Harriet many times. His own son had caught him with a woman in the back room of a saloon “on a sailcloth”. She had good reason to disolve their marriage.

     Joseph died on March 23, 1878 in East Providence and Harriet died six years later on September 3, 1884. She was 64.

     The name Harriet is a treasured one in the Cole family. A grand daughter was named Harriet in 1882, and that grand daughter named her first daughter Harriet also in 1906.

     She was a noble woman, strong and protective of her loved ones, truly a woman ahead of her time.