GaspeeVirtual Archives
Captain Pardon Sheldon (1739-1838)

The Gaspee Days Committee at www.gaspee.COM is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the
1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots as America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM.  Our historical research center, the Gaspee Virtual Archives at www.gaspee.ORG , has presented these research notes as an attempt to gather further information on one who has been suspected of being associated with the the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to
Evidence to implicate Captain Pardon Sheldon:

We found the following snippet from the July 6th, 1827 edition of the [Providence] American and Gazette. The article on page 2 describes the Providence 1827 Fourth of July parade floats:

    "Behind these [contingent of Revolutionary War veterans] was the barge "Independence," a finely modelled boat, hung lightly upon a carriage, drawn by six horses, manned by six American sailors, neatly dressed, bearing their oars erect.  In the stern sat two of the oldest captains of this port, Pardon Sheldon and Samuel Godfrey.  The boat was tastefully painted, and decorated with flags, with thirteen stars upon each gunwale.  The flag, commemorating the burning of the Gaspee, was borne in the bow, and the American Jack waved from the stern. The device was very happily executed and formed a neat and appropriate emblem of Independence and Commerce.  Five youths in white uniform followed, bearing banners inscribed with the names of Revolutionary worthies.  After these came a long procession of more than 400 young men."
Their riding together in a float of honor to the burning of the Gaspee indicates that both Captains Samuel Godfrey and Pardon Sheldon must have participated in the attack on the Gaspee in 1772.  Unlike the previous 1826 parade, we do not know the specific words used on the banner alluding to the Gaspee.  In 1826 (see http://gaspee.COM/EarlyCelebrations.htm ) the four ‘surviving’ Gaspee raiders (Page, Mawney, Bowen, and Smith) had their names on a banner depicting the burning, yet these four and their banner are not mentioned in the 1827 parade.  One explanation is that Pardon Sheldon and Sam Godfrey ‘came out of the closet’ so to speak once they saw that they had missed out on all the platitudes extended the other Gaspee raiders the year before.  Perhaps something similar motivated Ezra Ormsbee to add into his 1832 pension application the passage about his role in the burning of the Gaspee.

As to the float entered into the 1827 parade, it was quite obviously a seat of honor to be aboard. There would be no other specific reason for these two gentlemen to be so celebrated.  As someone who helps run the Gaspee Days Parade each year, such a position of honor would be subject to historical validation.  I know my immediate predecessors would be as anal-retentive as I, and I believe that my ancient predecessors would be also.  The guys in the 1827 float were also positioned immediately behind the group of Revolutionary War veterans that just so happened to include (by name) John Howland, the president of the newly established (1822) RI Historical Society, and an eyewitness to the boarding of the longboats at Fenner’s Wharf.  Thus it seems both Captains Pardon Sheldon and Samuel Godfrey must have been participants in the burning of the Gaspee in order to be so celebrated in 55 years later.

Biographical Notes:

With respect to Pardon Sheldon, Brown University has a letter dated December 12, 1763 from Nicholas Brown & Co. to Captain Pardon Sheldon, who was commanding their vessel Four Brothers on a trading voyage to Virginia. The complete image and transcipt is available on-line at  We note from newspaper accounts (Early American Newspapers collection through the NEHGS portal) that a Pardon Sheldon was listed as master of the brig Sea Flower in a 1767 advertisement of her passage to London, and was owned by Joseph and William Russell..  In April1769 he was reported to have arrived in North Carolina. We note also that Pardon Sheldon is listed on the map of 1770 Providence Taxpayers approximately on South Main Street just south of the Sabin Tavern.

Interestingly, The Providence Gazette 6June1772 advised that the ship Providence, Pardon Sheldon, Master, would sail for London in 10 days.  Note that this would place Pardon Sheldon in the Providence wharf areas at the same time of the preparations for and the attack on the Gaspee on 9-10June1772. 

Subsequently in Feb 1775 Pardon Sheldon commanded the John for the West Indies.  His wife, Marcy, died in Jan1776, and his second wife Susannah, died in August1791. In 1780 he was master of the privateer, Adventure, owned by John Brown.  In 1787 he commanded the ship Warren on a trip to France, and in 1790 took the ship to Calcutta. 'The Nineteenth Century', the second volume of James Hedge's The Browns of Providence Plantations, references that a Captain Pardon Sheldon worked for Brown & Benson, which became Brown, Benson & Ives during the voyage, commanded the Rising Sun which sailed from Warwick Neck in January of 1792 to Bombay & Canton, arriving home in May, 1793. 

In 1822 through 1825 Pardon Sheldon was running a lottery scheme for Domestic Industry.  In 1825 he won the Oxford Academy lottery prize of $20,000, and in 1829 was elected a director of the High Street Bank in Providence. In 1832 notices were placed by a C. F. Tillinghast calling in debts of Pardon Sheldon for payment.  This was probably shortly after Pardon Sheldon had died. 

While there are several people named Pardon Sheldon listed in Rhode Island, there are only two Captains Pardon Sheldon, and only one that fits our bill, to wit:

SHELDON, PARDON, CAPT 1740c - 3 FEB 1838 PV001

He is buried in Providence's Old North Burial Ground, and if this is correct, he lived 'til age 98..  We see his first wife was buried elsewhere, in the Tillinghast Family Plot, but was originally a Jenckes, possibly related to Gaspee raider Joseph Jenckes, and Joseph Tillinghast.

SHELDON, MARCY (JENCKES) 1746c - 6 JAN 1776 PV013
Genealogical Notes:

According to, The Pardon Sheldon of our concern, was born 21Oct1730 in Providence, RI to Pardon Sheldon (Sr) and Mary (Waterman) Sheldon.  But a more authorative source is Wayne G. Tillinghast, The Tillinghasts in America:  The First Four Generations (2006) which cites the correct birth year as 1739. The father of our Pardon Sheldon's died when his son was only 3 years old.  Our Pardon Sheldon m1 on 30Nov1766 his second cousin once removed, a Mercy Jenkes (1745-1776) daughter of Jeremiah Jenkes and Ann (Tillinghast) Jenkes. He m2 25Oct1778 a Phebe Brown (1741-1786), daughter of George Brown.and Esther Brown.  He m3 a Susannah Lyon.  Most of the lines listed in all claim (erroneously) that this Pardon Sheldon died on 6Oct1786.  There may have been another Pardon Sheldon born in Cranston in 1755 to a Job Sheldon and Lydia Sheldon, and while this meets the criteria for being born (just before) 1755, we do not know his death date, and we note that there is nothing in the LDS site or in Wayne G. Tillinghast's work representing any other Pardon Tillinghast with the correct dates.  We also note that fellow Gaspee raider Captain Christopher Sheldon and our Captain Pardon Sheldon were first cousins, sharing the same grandparents, Nicholas and Anne (Tillinghast) Sheldon.

Children of our Capt. Pardon and Mercy Sheldon :
  1. Capt. Charles Sheldon (1769-1850) m1 Sally Earle
  2. John Jenckes Sheldon (1771-1772) died at age 14 months
  3. John Jenckes Sheldon II (1774-1800)

    Children of our Capt. Pardon and Phebe Sheldon:
  4. Mary (Polly) Sheldon (1781-1783)
  5. Sarah (Sally) Sheldon b1783 m Capt. Benjamin Granger
  6. Pardon Sheldon (1786-1786) died at age 7 months
  7. Pardon II Sheldon (1789-1795)
  8. James Manning Sheldon (1791-1792)
Based on his recognition by parade organizers in 1827, there is actually compelling evidence for Captain Pardon Sheldon to have been a Gaspee raider.  And since we, as fellow historical parade organizers, hold to similar ideals, we gladly recognize Captain Pardon Sheldon as a true American patriot for his role in the destruction of the Gaspee.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 1/2006    Last Revised 5/2007    PardonSheldon.html