GaspeeVirtual Archives
Captain Samuel Godfrey (c1743-1831) 

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 implicating Captain Samuel Godfrey:

From The Rhode Island American, August 13, 1825 XVI:91 p1:  "Providence: Olden Times" was apparently a retelling of the Gaspee Affair, probably in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the start of the Revolution, and quoting Paul Allen, Jr, (the son of Gaspee raider Paul Allen)  in his recently published History of the Revolution:

"There are still surviving some of our most respected citizens, who were actively engaged in the affair: Colonel Ephraim Bowen, Captain Samuel Godfrey, Colonel John Mawney, and Captain Benjamin Page."

Paul Allen, Jr was not only the son of a Gaspee raider who had heard the stories during his upbringing--he was an established historical author, and was editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Morning Chronicle .  One assumes that a man with these credentials is to be believed.

We also get the following snippet from the July 6th, 1827 edition of the [Providence] American and Gazette, published a full year after the death of Captain Caleb Godfrey as listed in the obituaries. 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."

 It would seem to beat the odds against both a Caleb and Samuel Godfrey that were both Captains, lived in Providence, and burned the Gaspee.  Besides, there's no Samuel Godfrey in at least the genealogical files that list Caleb Godfrey. So the question this a mistaken refrernce to Captain Caleb Godfrey, or is this Captain Samuel Godfrey a separate and distinct person? What, if any relationship he had with Caleb Godfrey is subject to conjecture, but based on Caleb’s obituary, he is also established as a Gaspee raider in his own right.  The point not to missed is that, based on Paul Allen, Jr’s writings, Capt. Samuel Godfrey is now firmly established as a Gaspee raider.  It seems that we have proven here that Captain Samuel Godfrey was a separate and distict man from Captain Caleb Godfrey. 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.

From the October 18, 1825 Rhode Island American and Providence Gazette is found a notice from Samuel Godfrey and other heirs of the estate of the late Caleb Godfrey appointing Samuel Pearson as administrator of the estate. This would assumably prove a blood relationship between Samuel and Caleb Godfrey. What exact relation Samuel Godfey held to fellow Gaspee raider Caleb Godfey is still to be educidated, but the fact that many of the Gaspee raiders were related to each other makes this no surprise.

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.
Biographical and Genealogical search notes on Samuel Godfrey:

A search of the Gaspee Virtual Archives reveals only the same incidences of "Godfrey" that are listed in our bio on Caleb Godfrey:

According to Field, Edward, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century:  A History.  Boston, Mason Publishing Co. 1902, Vol II, pp424-430 "List of Privateersmen from Providence", James Godfrey was a master of Providence-based privateer, Lady Washington, and others. As noted in the The Green Groves Of Erin genealogical web site, this was probably the uncle of our Caleb Godfrey, but there is no distinct occurance of a Samuel Godfrey.

According to the 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers, a Richard Godfrey owned property at Chace IIIB4.  This Godfrey must have been of some standing; his lot is located right next to the Town Parade in the center of Providence,  and lots owned by most of the important merchants of the day, many of who were Gaspee burners.

From the NEHGS website we get reference to an 1831 probate record for a Samuel Godfrey in Providence, RI.  We also get 1790 Federal census records that indicate that there was a Samuel Godfrey living as head of a household in the South district of Providence.  On the same census page, denoting close proximity, are listed fellow Gaspee raiders Christopher Sheldon, Pardon Sheldon, and Joseph Tillinghast. who all lived in the South Main Street area nearby the Sabin Tavern. 

From the NEGHS site link to the Early American Newspapers collection we find reference in the January 25, 1783 edition of the Providence Gazette that: "Capt. Samuel Godfrey, in a Brig from this port, was taken by a British ship of 64 guns, on his passage from Cape Francois to North Carolina, and ordered for New York."  The Brig was retaken by Americans, but the hapless captain was kept prisoner aboard the British man-o-war.  Mrs. Patience Godfrey, wife of Captain Samuel Godfrey died in January 1786, and Miss Eunice Godfrey, daughter of Capt. Samuel Godfrey died in February 1796, and Mrs. Patience Carpenter, daughter of Capt. Samuel Godfrey died at age 26 in May 1813. We note he was advertising in 1804 a large brick apartment on the South end of Providence, and in 1807 through 1819 he owned a wharf, renting space to both ships and shops. In 1812 he was appointed administrator of the estate of one Adam Brown, (a black man), and in 1814 of Levi Hall, Esq.

Sadly by 1829 he had fallen on very bad times, indeed. From Louis Filler, "Dynamics or Reform; The Antislavery Crusade, and Others; With Something about the Negro", The Antioch Review, 27:3 (1967), p370-371:  Taken for the Providence Daily Advertizer, "Prisoners for Debt" included
"Among the debtors are some of our most worthy fellow citizens.  Capt. Samuel Godfrey, is now eighty-six years of age, with the loss of hearing, and bent nearly double by infirmities.  He is committed too, not by his own debt, but for having been an endorser. We envy not the feelings of a creditor who this extracts the pound of flesh, when the sources of life are so dried up he might venture to cut it out, without risking the drawing of a drop of blood!
We get a positive ID at the RI Historical Cemeteries Database
GODFREY, SAMUEL, CAPT   1743c - 22 SEP 1831    PV011
This is at St. John's Cemetery, possibly indicating that he was a member of the Anglican/Episcopalian faith.  Plugging these dates into the LDS site, we get that a Samuel Godfrey was baptised at Trinity (Episcopal) Church in Newport, RI 21Sep1743.  Captain Samuel Godfrey was first married to Patience Sabin born c1745 on 30July1769.  In a 2014 e-mail Bill Fitts asserts that the Patience Sabin married to this Samuel Godfrey was a cousin to James Sabin, the proprietor of the inn where the planning was carried out for the attack on the Gaspee.  After Patience's death in 1786, Samuel Godfrey married an Elizabeth on 1Aug1793, but this is after her death so some error must have been made.  He third married a Lydia Macomber Chaffee on 29Dec1812.  All are buried at St. Johns:, and unfortunately we can tract no further offspring.
GODFREY, PATIENCE   1751c - 24 JAN 1786    PV011
GODFREY, ELIZABETH 1755c - 29 JUL 1793 PV011
GODFREY, LYDIA 1754c - 25 OCT 1836 PV011
The Gaspee Days Committee recognizes Captain Samuel Godfrey as a Gaspee raider, and therefore, a true American patriot.
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 1/2006    Last Revised 10/2017    SamuelGodfrey.html