Patriot Ebenezer Cole

In honor of Independence Day I will tell you about one of our Revolutionary War patriot ancestors.  Ebenezer Cole is recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a “patriot” meaning he provided patriotic service to support the revolution.

Ebenezer Cole Junior was born October 27, 1715 at Swansea, Bristol County, Massachusetts.  Swansea, located about 40 miles south of Boston, was founded in 1662.  Ebenezer’s grandfather, Hugh Cole, was among the town founders and also involved in King Philipps War with the local Indians.  The entire village was burned during that war.

Ebenezer married Prudence Millard in 1737 and they had twelve known children.   Their son Edward born in 1751 is an ancestor of Grandma Clarice Clark Renschler Bugg.

The town of Warren, Rhode Island is in red at the top. In New England a "town" is the equivalent of our township.
The town of Warren, Rhode Island is in red at the top. In New England a “town” is the equivalent of our township.

In May 1758 Ebenezer was appointed to the office of Justice of the Peace in the town of Warren, Bristol County, Rhode Island.  Warren was part of Bristol County, Massachusetts until 1747.

The Warren Rhode Island Preservation Society states this house was built by Ebenezer Cole in the 1740s.
The Warren (Rhode Island) Preservation Society states this house was built by Ebenezer Cole in the 1740s.

The following was taken from the book “The Descendants of James Cole of Plymouth 1633″  “In 1762 Ebenezer Cole purchased a tract of land in the heart of the town of Warren and built a house for hotel purposes.  This house afterwards became one of the famous hotels of New England.  It was kept by the Cole family, Ebenezer, Benjamin, and George Cole, for over one hundred and twenty-five years.  In 1778 General Lafayette assumed command of the ports about the island of Rhode Island, and for a time was encamped in Warren.  He was a frequent guest at Cole’s Hotel.  Ebenezer Cole died in 1799,[sic] and was succeeded in business by his son Benjamin, or as he was commonly known, Colonel Cole.  There were two large brick ovens.  The size of them may be judged when it is stated that at a large dinner twenty pigs were roasted in the ovens.”

From “The History of Warren Rhode Island” the following was taken:  “The gallant French officer Lafayette was very popular with the townspeople.  Tradition states that he was extremely partial to the old-fashioned Rhode Island johnny-cakes baked on a board at the hostelry of Ebenezer Cole, famous throughout the colonies for its good cheer.”  Johnny-cake is a flat cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet.

Ebenezer was one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Warren. In 1763 he began framing the building.    It was about 44 feet square with a four-sided hip roof surmounted with a small belfry, in which was placed a ship bell, with the rope hanging directly down in the center of the middle aisle.  On top of the belfry was a weather vane.  There was no porch.  The building was never painted.  The communion table, used bimonthly, was brought to the church from Cole’s Hotel.   Ebenezer was elected one of the first deacons of the church in 1764 and served as deacon until his death.

On May 25, 1778 the church, along with its parsonage and college building were burned by the British.  After the fire, Deacon Cole found the weather vane in the ashes and took it to the attic of his hotel where it remained for many years.

By the time of the Revolution, Warren Rhode Island was a prosperous maritime community.  There was a shipyard and Warren sailors were engaged in coastal transport, the West Indies trade, the slave trade, and some whaling.  The revolution nearly ruined the town; there was chaos and near starvation.  Business was destroyed, twenty-three vessels were lost, shipyards were empty, farms neglected, and the population destitute.  In May 1778 the British and Hessians raided the town, burned buildings, destroyed ships, looted and vandalized homes and businesses.  They took about 60 persons captive.  The young men were sent aboard the notorious prison ship Jersey where some died.  Of course these tactics only inflamed the populace and furthered revolutionary zeal.

Ebenezer, too old to serve in the army, was a member of the local militia company which served when called upon, similar to the National Guard.  He enlisted August 3, 1780, in a company of militia which answered an alarm to defend Trenton and other Massachusetts towns.  He served only a few days until the alarm was over.  He was 65 years old at the time.   He probably served at other times when called but many records of the local militias are lost.  Two of his sons, Ebenezer and Benjamin, served in the military during the Revolution.

He also served as a deputy from Warren, Rhode Island to the General Assembly of Rhode Island during the Revolution.  This service is considered “patriotic service” by the DAR.

It is known that Ebenezer owned slaves which was common in the town of Warren.  The 1774 census of Rhode Island lists Ebenezer owning one slave. Shamefully, he also owned a slaver (a ship used in the slave trade).   Interesting how persons who were willing to fight for their own freedom denied it to others.

Ebenezer Cole's tombstone in the North Burial Grounds Warren, RI.
Ebenezer Cole’s tombstone in the North Burial Grounds Warren, RI.

Ebenezer died July 9, 1798 at the age of 83 years.  He was survived by ten children, 53 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and one great, great-grandchild.  He was buried in the North Burial Ground at Warren, Rhode Island.

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