Island resident continues genealogy project

Pick a Rose, find a Rose!

Fri, 04/05/2019 - 6:15am

Genealogist Peter Greenman has again plunged into the history of a large Block Island family, and this time it is a founding family: the Roses, descended from Tormut Rose, one of the 16 original Block Island settlers of 1661. Only seven of the 16 settlers were landowners, and Tormut Rose was an owner as well as a settler. This is the fourth book on Block Island genealogy that Greenman has undertaken.

The other books are on the Motts, the Block Island descendants of Experience Mitchell, and the Sheffields of Block Island.

The title of the new book is “The Block Island Descendants of Tormut Rose” and is now available for purchase. 

Born about 1632, Tormut was descended from John Rose (1390-1454), the Sixth Laird of Kilravock. In 1650, Tormut was one of 8,000 Scottish highlanders captured by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in the Battle of Dunbar. Cromwell’s plan was to banish the prisoners to the colonies as slaves.

At the time, the new Robert Ricks Iron Works in Braintree, Massachusetts was being organized and “needed” slave labor. Two of the largest Ricks stockholders, who lived in London, bought 272 of the soldiers. They were able to pick and choose, and they chose the best of the young men. One of them was Tormut Rose.

Tormut was one of at least three Scottish prisoners to make their way to Block Island after serving out their indentureships and gaining freedom. William Tosh (originally MacIntosh) arrived on Block Island at the same time as Tormut Rose, and died in 1685. James Danielson “and possibly a few other” freed Scottish prisoners also came to Block Island.

Tormut Rose’s farm was located on the west side of the Island. As one turns into Dorries Cove Road, a large stone marker on the left proclaims the “Tormut Rose Farm.” Today, Block Island’s citizenry is more familiar with the Rose Farm and the Rose Farm Inn, located off High Street. The Rose Farm Inn was established, and is owned by, Tormut’s 11th-generation descendant, Robert (Bobby) Rose. The nearby Atlantic Inn, pictured on the cover of Greenman’s book, was built as the Norwich House in 1878 by James E. Rose.

The name Tormut was used only on Block Island, and appears in at least four generations. The third-generation Tormut Rose, born in 1699, married Anna Rathbone, of another founding family. He was sometimes referred to as “Edmund.”

The fourth generation Tormut Rose, called “Fearnot” in some documents, was born in 1730, and in 1756 married Jane Dunn. He was an Ensign in the local detachment of the Newport County Regiment, and a Lieutenant on the Civil and Military Lists of 1770. In 1767, he petitioned the Town Council for permission to “keepe a common tavern” in New Shoreham, and was granted and licensed “the liberty to retail strong liquors” in his establishment.

As Peter Greenman notes, his hefty volume on the Rose family cannot begin to list all known descendants of Tormut Rose. Many Rose descendants left Block Island for other shores. The intermarriages on Block Island, however, lead the reader down interesting paths and byways. As Greenman writes, regarding original families here and in other New England towns, “within a few generations, everyone is related to everyone else in some way.”

A surprise for Greenman was that his friend Nancy Robison is a Rose descendant, and he cites her in his Acknowledgements as being of great help to him in writing the book. Born Nancy Rose Allison in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Nancy writes that her mother, Iva Littlefield Allison, was the second child of Amazon and Marintha Littlefield. Marintha’s mother was Almira Rose (Diffy), a seventh-generation descendant of Tormut Rose. Nancy, married to Steve Robison, writes of their current home on Block Island: “Steve and I bought our home…in 1973; one special attraction was that it is located immediately south of my mother’s homestead (Amazon Littlefield House).”

The Amazon Littlefield House, on Corn Neck Road, is the handsome yellow house with a wavy shingle pattern high on its front, designed and occupied by Captain Amazon Littlefield and his wife Marintha.

The house was owned for a time by Chris and Sue Jacke Littlefield, who sold their Littlefield Bee Farm honey from that location.

The third-generation Tormut’s marriage to Anna Rathbone tied the Roses to the Rathbone (or Rathbun) family, which has its own connections to the Littlefield family. Lydia Littlefield is a Rathbun by birth. Her husband Don, and his late brother, Dick, both grandsons of Amazon Littlefield, are 7th cousins, one generation removed, of Larry and Bobby Rose. The Littlefield clan is vast in its own right, and has had many other Rose connections through the generations.

A Rose by any other name is a Rose, and the connections lead everywhere.

A scan of the index, and a little exploration, yields a treasure trove of names descended in various ways from Tormut Rose:

Barby Barrell Michel’s great grandfather, Jeremiah C. Rose, was a seventh-generation descendant.

Alice Rose Mott Huggins is the granddaughter of eighth-generation Matilda A. Rose.

Polly Sprague McMahon and Charlene Sprague Tripler, both daughters of the late Vera Littlefield Sprague, can trace their Rose ancestry back to fourth-generation Catherine Rose. All descendants of Catherine are also Mayflower descendants. By the fourth generation, Roses had married into the Mitchell, Dickens, Dodge, and Rathbone families.

Danielle Jaixen Rose Bates, daughter of Gail Hall and the late Clifford Rose, is a twelfth-generation Rose descendant.

Anna Mullen was born Anna Francis Rose and still lives in the house on High Street where she grew up, and where she and her late husband, Rick, raised their children. The house was built by Anna’s father, Capt. Harry Hayes Rose, Sr., a 10th-generation descendant of Tormut.

The late Stanley Smith was an 11th-generation Rose; his daughter, Donna, is one of the friendly faces behind the counter at the post office.

And so it goes. There are many more familiar names with Rose connections, and one can get delightfully lost, then found again, looking for them. This volume is highly recommended as a never-ending treasure for anyone interested, or involved in, Block Island history and families.

Greenman said he is working on his next project about the descendants of Thomas Payne.

Call Peter Greenman at (401) 466-2950 for a copy.