l grinnell

Grinnell Family of New Bedford, MA

GRINNELL (New Bedford family). Since the early settlement of Newport and Portsmouth, R. I., shortly after 1638, the Grinnells have been identified with Rhode Island and Massachusetts history, the earlier generations living largely in the towns of Newport county, R. I., and for the past hundred and more years branches of this southern Rhode Island family have been representative of the best citizenship in the old Massachusetts town of New Bedford. At New Bedford lived Capt. Cornelius Grinnell, a patriot of the Revolution, and long engaged in the merchant service, who married into the old historic Howland family, and one of whose sons, Joseph Grinnell, for almost a decade represented the New Bedford district in the United States Congress, and was long prominent as a merchant and manufacturer and banker of the town; and there lived the late Lawrence Grinnell, father of the late Frederick Grinnell, who so long was at the head of the Providence Steam and Gas Pipe Company and the General Eire Extinguisher Company, a man of genius in mechanical lines, whose inventions gave him distinction, and one of whose sons, Russell Grinnell, is at this time vice president of the General Fire Extinguisher Company. It is with this New Bedford branch of the Grinnell family this article deals.

Matthew Grinnell, of Huguenot ancestry, the name in France being known as Grenelle, came to America, and his name is in a long list of inhabitants of Newport admitted after May 20, 1638. He died before 1643, in which year his widow Rose married Anthony Paine. She married (third) James Weeden. Matthew Grinnell’s children were:

  1. Matthew
  2. Thomas
  3. Daniel
  4. A daughter

Daniel Grinnell, son of Matthew, born about 1636, married Mary Wodell, born in November, 1640, daughter of William and Mary Wodell, and they lived in Portsmouth and Little Compton, R. I. Mr. Grinnell bought land in 1656 and was made a freeman in 1657. He was for several years juryman and served as constable. He was of Little Compton as early as 1687. His children were:

  1. Daniel
  2. Jonathan (born m 1670)
  3. Richard (born in 1675)

Richard Grinnell, son of Daniel, born in 1675, married May 25, 1704, Patience, born in 1681, daughter of James Emery. They lived in Little Compton, R. I. Mr. Grinnell bought several tracts of land – over two hundred and sixty acres – between 1701 and 1721. His death occurred July 1, 1725. His wife died March 10, 1749. Their children were:

  1. George, born Jan. 25, 1705
  2. William, March 19, 1707
  3. Rebecca, Dec. 16, 1710
  4. Elizabeth, May 21, 1713
  5. Patience, Aug. 24, 1715
  6. Richard, March 8, 1717
  7. Ruth, April 3, 1719
  8. Daniel, April 20, 1721
  9. Sarah, May 6, 1723

Daniel Grinnell, born April 20, 1721, married May 31, 1741, Grace Palmer, born Jan. 18, 1720, and their children of Little Compton town record, according to Arnold, were:

  1. Ruth, born Feb. 14, 1744
  2. Alice, Jan. 14, 1746
  3. Aaron, Oct. 22, 1747
  4. Moses, Dec. 3, 1751
  5. Betsey, March, 1754
  6. Cornelius, Feb. 11, 1758
  7. Susanna, June 24, 1761

Capt. Cornelius Grinnell, born Feb. 11, 1758, located in New Bedford, Mass. He married in 1785 Sylvia Howland, a woman of lovely character. She was born on the 4th of 8th month, 1765, daughter of Gideon and Sarah (Hicks) Howland, he a direct descendant of Henry Howland, of Plymouth, probably as early as 1625, his lineage being through Zoeth, Benjamin and Barnabas Howland. Captain Grinnell located at New Bedford about 1780. In 1810 he established the house of Fish & Grinnell, New York, which was the first American firm to start a regular line of packets to Liverpool and London; and the house, under the name of Grinnell, Minturn & Co., exists to the present day. Captain Grinnell served his country both on land and sea in the war of the Revolution. He was a vessel owner and commander and built a number of ships, one of which, the “Euphrates,” built in 1803, was famous in her day. She had a long history and was destroyed by the “Shenandoah”‘ in the Pacific in 1864. For the entire sixty years of her use she was in the hands of the Grinnell family. Captain Grinnell had good business talents, and his capacity for devotion to mercantile pursuits was transmitted to his sons. He died April 19, 1850, at New Bedford, in his ninety-third year. His wife died Aug. 1, 1837. Their children were:

  1. Cornelius, Jr., born Feb. 8, 1786
  2. Joseph, born Nov. 17, 1788, who was a member of Congress from 1843 to 1851
  3. Sylvia, born Aug. 11, 1791, who married William T. Russell
  4. William P., born Sept. 1, 1797
  5. Henry, born Feb. 18, 1799, who resided in New York, and became a very distinguished man, in 1850 equipping at his own cost an Arctic expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, and in 1853, associated with George Peabody, sending out a second expedition, while he was a generous contributor to the Hayes and Polaris enterprises, and a lasting memorial to him is Grinnell Land, named in his honor
  6. Abraham B., born June 14, 1801, who died in young manhood
  7. Moses H., born March 23, 1803, who was a resident of New York, identified with the Grinnell, Minturn & Co. line of packets, and like his brothers, Joseph and Henry, became very prominent, numbering among his warmest friends Daniel Webster, U. S. Grant and Washington Irving, and he himself being a member of Congress from 1835 to 1841, president of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1843, president of the Phenix Bank and of the Union Club, and Commodore of the New York Yacht Club
  8. Francis H., born Aug. 11, 1805
  9. James M., born Oct. 30, 1807

Cornelius Grinnell, son of Capt. Cornelius, was born Feb. 8, 1786, at New Bedford, and when a young man went to New York, where he became a partner in the commission business. Later he returned to New Bedford, and purchasing a farm known as Potomska, about ten miles from that place, for a few years was engaged in the raising of fine merino sheep. In about 1828 he removed to New Bedford and erected the house adjoining the residence of the late Frederick Grinnell, and there died in 1830. He married (first) June 26. 1808, Eliza Tallman Russell, daughter of Gilbert and Lydia (Tallman) Russell. Mrs. Grinnell died in 1827. Subsequently he married (second) Mary Russell, sister to his first wife, and she survived him a number of years, dying at White Sulphur Springs, Va., While there on a visit. His children, all born to the first marriage, were:

  1. Eliza R., born July 3, 1809, died unmarried
  2. Lawrence, born April 17, 1811, is mentioned below
  3. Mary R., born Jan. 28, 1813, married Oct. 30, 1844, Henry Holdredge, a commission merchant in New York
  4. Joseph G., born Oct. 3, 1815, is mentioned below
  5. Edmund, born March 6, 1817, married March 3, 1842, Mary Wood, was a plantation owner, and died in Tennessee
  6. William R., born March 10, 1819, who married June 8, 1847, Charlotte Irving, followed agricultural pursuits and died in Aurora, N. Y.
  7. Frank died in infancy
  8. Frank (2), born in 1821, and now a farmer near Yellow Springs, Ohio, married Dec. 8, 1846, Marion Johnson
  9. Susan R., born March 23, 1823, was unmarried and resided at New Bedford until her death, in July, 1908
  10. Cornelia, born March 19, 1825, married Oct. 1, 1846, Nathaniel P. Willis, and lived in Washington, D. C, where she died the mother of Grinnell (in business in New York), Bailey (in Washington), Lilian (married Robert Boit, of Brookline, Mass.), and Edith (widow of Lawrence Grinnell, and living in Brookline, Massachusetts).
Lawrence Grinnell
Lawrence Grinnell

Lawrence Grinnell, son of Cornelius, was born April 17, 1811, in New Bedford, and received his education in private school and at the Friends’ Academy under John H. W. Page. In 1829 he went to New York to enter the counting room of Pish, Grinnell & Co., and remained there three years. Upon reaching his majority he returned to New Bedford and went into business at tho corner of First and Grinnell streets, in the manufacture of sperm oil and candles. At the same time he engaged in the commission business and was ship agent of several vessels, among them the famous “Euphrates,” the barks “Persia,” “Joshua Bragdon” and “Wavelet.” He was alone in business until his brother Joseph became a member of the firm a few years later. In 1843 he became agent for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, a position he held for nearly fifty years. After the large fire in 1859, the largest in the history of New Bedford, he was appointed agent of the Liverpool & London & Globe Insurance Company, but not until 1870 did he make the insurance business his occupation. In 1876 he took his son, Richard W., as a partner under the name of Lawrence Grinnell & Son. After the latter’s retirement, in 1883, he formed partnerships with (at different periods) Joshua C. Hitch and John H. Pedro. In 1846 Mr. Grinnell became treasurer of the New Bedford & Taunton Railroad Company, and held that position until April 1, 1873. He then successively became treasurer of the New Bedford railroad until 1876, and of the Boston, Clinton & Fitehburg railroad until 1878. In his political faith he was a stanch Republican, and had been so from the formation of the party, previous to that being a Whig. He was deeply interested in municipal politics, and served as a member of the common council two years. In April, 1861, he was appointed by President Lincoln customs collector at New Bedford, and he held that office from May 1, 1861, to March 1, 1870. Mr. Grinnell was one of the best known citizens of New Bedford, and was a worthy representative of the old and honored family to which he belonged. He died Dec. 14, 1893, after a decline in health covering two years.

On Oct. 8, 1835, Mr. Grinnell married Rebecca Smith, daughter of Richard Williams. She died Oct. 8, 1893, an active member of the Unitarian Church. Their children were:

  1. Frederick was born Aug. 14, 1836
  2. Laura W., born Feb. 7, 1840, died Nov. 12, 1842
  3. Mary Russell, born Sept. 22, 1843, died Oct. 11, 1874
  4. Richard Williams was born Jan. 10, 1846
  5. Nina, born Nov. 12, 1851, died the same day

Frederick Grinnell, son of Lawrence and Rebecca Smith Grinnell, was born Aug. 14, 1836, in New Bedford, Mass., and in the Friends’ Academy of that place received his early education. Having decided upon civil engineering as a profession he furthered his studies in that line at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N. Y., from which he was graduated in 1855 with high honors, his name being at the head of the list of over sixty students of that year. In the fall of J1855 he commenced practical work as a draftsman, gaining shop practice in the Jersey City Locomotive Works. From this time with little exception he was at these works until 1860. In the meantime, in the summer of 1858, he served as assistant engineer in the construction of the Burlington & Missouri River railroad, now a part of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. For a period beginning in 1860 he was draftsman in the employ of the Corliss Steam Engine Company, Providence, R. I., where his exceptional ability was soon recognized, and soon after entering the Corliss company he was chosen treasurer of the same, and acted for a time as superintendent of the works. This experience made him familiar with the construction of the Corliss engines, owing to which during the Civil war he was sent on several trips on the steamer “Blackstone,” one of these trips being in search of the line-of-battleship “Vermont,” which had been given up as lost.

Mr. Grinnell, in January, 1865, became general manager of the Jersey City Locomotive Works, then leased by the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad Company, and in the fall of that year he was appointed superintendent of the motive power and machinery of the Atlantic & Great Western railroad. Previous to entering upon the duties of this position Mr. Grinnell spent several months in visiting and studying the large mechanical establishments in England and Scotland. He remained in the employ of the Atlantic & Great Western Company for the following four years. Subsequently, when that road was leased by the Erie Company, Mr. Grinnell was offered the highly responsible position of mechanical engineer of the entire combined system. In 1869 he purchased a controlling interest in the Providence Steam & Gas Pipe Company, of which he was made the executive officer and business manager and mechanical engineer, relations he ever afterward, during his active business life, sustained to the company.

The corporation just alluded to has done an extensive business in equipping manufacturing establishments with steam heating apparatus, gas works for lighting them, and in providing them with automatic fire extinguishers. It was in this last department that Mr. Grinnell accomplished a work of original genius of the utmost practical importance and which has made his name known all over the civilized world.

In 1874 Mr. Grinnell became attracted by an invention of Henry S. Parmelee, of New Haven, Conn. -an automatic fire extinguisher exhibited in that year, and in 1878 the Providence Steam & Gas Pipe Company began the manufacture of fire extinguishers under an arrangement with Mr. Parmelee. From that time on through his active years Mr. Grinnell so improved and perfected them as to have completely revolutionized the system of fire protection in manufacturing establishments throughout the world. He solved the problem of automatic fire extinguishers in buildings where water in pipes would freeze. This apparatus has been very generally introduced not only in this country, but in Europe, India and Australia, and improvements in the apparatus include some forty patents or devices. This work has received the endorsements of all the principal fire insurance companies, and has resulted in the reduction of the rates of insurance for manufacturing establishments of from thirty to fifty per cent. To be more specific, Mr. Grinnell in 1881 placed on the market the well known invention which gained him great prominence in the manufacturing world, and besides the Grinnell Extinguisher, which is known as the valve or sensitive sprinkler, he invented the Grinnell dry pipe valve and fire alarm. In 1893 all the inventions were combined and other controllers of automatic fire extinguishers joined with Mr. Grinnell in the formation of the General Fire Extinguisher Co., with factory and main offices in Providence.

Besides his executive positions with the Providence Steam & Gas Pipe Company and the General Fire Extinguisher Company, Mr. Grinnell was a director in the Mechanics’ National Bank, of New Bedford, the National Bank of Commerce, of Providence, R. I., the Gorham Manufacturing Company, of Providence, the Dunnell Manufacturing Company, of Pawtucket, the Morse Twist Drill & Machine Company, and the Wamsutta Mills, both the latter of New Bedford. He was a member of the American Association of Mechanical Engineers, of the Hope Club, the New York Yacht Club, and also of the Eastern Yacht Club. He was always an enthusiastic yachtsman, and spent what little time he took for vacation in that way. His racing schooner “Quickstep” was not only never beaten until her fifth year of participation in all important races by any boat of her class, but on three occasions won special races against the finest schooners in the class above her. From the time of Lincoln Mr. Grinnell was a Republican.

On Oct. 15, 1865, Mr. Grinnell was married to Alice Brayton Almy, daughter of William Almy, of New Bedford, Mass. She died Jan. 5, 1871, the mother of two children:

  1. Lawrence, who died in 1872, aged four years
  2. Alice Almy, born Nov. 19, 1870, who married Robert W. Taft, of Providence, and has two children
    1. Eleanor (born July 24, 1894)
    2. Mary Frances (born Sept. 15, 1904).

Mr. Grinnell was married (second) Feb. 17, 1874, to Mary Brayton Page, born in New Bedford, daughter of John H. W. and Susan C. (Greene) Page, and granddaughter of David R. Greene, whose father, Robert Greene, came to America from Liverpool, England. The children born to the second marriage were:

  1. Russell, born Aug. 3, 1875, prepared for college at the English and Classical School, and was graduated from Brown in 1897. Soon after he became connected with the General Fire Extinguisher Company, becoming second vice president in 1901, and vice president in 1906. He succeeded his father as director of the Gorham Manufacturing Company; the Morse Twist Drill & Machine Company, and the Mechanics’ National Bank. He is a member of the Hope, University and Agawam Hunt Clubs at Providence. In 1900 he married Rose L., daughter of R. Swain Gifford, of New Bedford.
  2. Lydia, born Oct. 17, 1878, is the wife of John W. Knowles, treasurer of the Page Manufacturing Company, at New Bedford, and has four children:
    1. Grinnell, born Sept. 16, 1901
    2. John Edson, Oct. 17, 1902
    3. Lawrence Grinnell, Jan. 2, 1904
    4. Russell, April 26, 1908
  3. Frederick, born Dec. 8, 1881, died Nov. 21, 1885.
  4. Lawrence, born June 18, 1885, left Harvard University in 1907, and resides at South Dartmouth. He married Emily M. Severance and has one son, Lawrence, Jr., born Sept. 19, 1909.
  5. Francis Browne, born June 13, 1887, completed the four-years course at Harvard University in three and one half years. He married Feb. 25, 1909, Elizabeth M. Plummer, and has a son, Frederick, born Dec. 29, 1909.

Frederick Grinnell, the father, was for many years a resident of Providence, but in 1894 he removed to his native town of New Bedford, and there resided in the Grinnell mansion on County street, the former residence of Hon. Joseph Grinnell, until his death, Oct. 21, 1905. His remains rest in the family yard in Oak Grove cemetery in that city. Mr. Grinnell possessed a genial and kindly nature, and had a most attractive personality, making many friends and retaining them. During his busy and successful career he ever maintained a high reputation for honor and for upright dealings, and his memory is cherished by all who knew him.

Richard Williams Grinnell, son of Lawrence and Rebecca Smith Grinnell, was born Jan. 10, 1846, and died Dec. 23, 1900. He attended the Friends’ school and Brown University, and was for a time associated with his father in the insurance business, later being a partner with his brother Frederick, in Providence, in the manufacture of fire extinguishers, being vice president of the Providence Steam & Gas Pipe Company. He also was connected with the inventions perfecting the sprinkler, and collaborated with his brother in producing many patents which made the Grinnell name so well known in this field of manufacture. Ill health caused Mr. Grinnell to give up active business, and for some years he resided in California, but in 1896 he returned to New Bedford, where he resided until his death.

Mr. Grinnell married Leonora Gardner, who was born Nov. 29, 1843, daughter of John and Phebe (Lawson) Gardner, of what is now East Providence, and she died Nov. 20, 1904. Their children were:

  1. Rebecca Williams, born Oct. 6, 1875
  2. Mary Russell, Nov. 17, 1877
  3. Harold Duncan, Jan. 24, 1880, a graduate of Harvard, class of 1903, and now an architect, residing at Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Joseph G. Grinnell, son of Cornelius and Eliza Tallman (Russell) Grinnell, was born Oct. 3, 1815, in New Bedford. As a boy he attended school at Cold Spring, near Tarrytown, N. Y., and later the Academy at New Bedford. He was early employed in the oil and candle business, and about 1849 entered a foundry, becoming a member of the firm of Taber & Co., composed of Isaac C. Taber, William Eddy and Joseph G. Grinnell. Mr. Grinnell finally purchased the interests of his partners, and became sole owner, conducting the business until his death, Jan. 28, 1873. He was a quiet, retiring man, devoted to his home. In politics he was first a Whig, and then a Republican. In his religious belief he was a Unitarian. He had a keen appreciation of the beautiful in nature and in art, and had many of the tastes of the scholar.

Mr. Grinnell was twice married. On Sept. 14, 1841, he married Susan Williams. His second wife, to whom he was wedded Sept, 23, 1847, was Lydia W. Presbury, daughter of Rev. Samuel Presbury, who was ordained pastor of the Second Congregational Society of Northfield, Mass., Feb. 27, 1828. Mr. Grin-nell’s children, all born to the second marriage, were as follows:

  1. Edmund, born Oct. 13, 1850, died Aug. 26, 1892. He married Nov. 19, 1875, Jennie Gibbs Swift, and their children were born as follows:
    1. Edmund, Jr., Oct. 2, 1877
    2. Rachel Lee, Feb. 9, 1879
    3. Ralph Russell, May 5, 1883 (died Sept. 9, 1883)
    4. Katherine, May 5, 1885
    5. Susan Dunnell, Jan. 15, 1888
  2. Susan Williams, born Feb. 16, 1852, married June 20, 1882, W. W. Dunnell, of Providence, and died June 18, 1888.
  3. Arthur Gordon, born July 6, 1854, resides in New Bedford, where he is engaged in business.
  4. Josephine G., born June 6, 1856, married Dec. 4, 1879, Morgan Rotch and had
    1. Arthur Grinnell, born Nov. 22, 1880
    2. Emily Morgan, March 21, 1882
  5. Rachel Howland, born Nov. 12, 1860, died Oct. 11, 1878.

Civil War,

Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts: containing historical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and genealogical records of many of the old families. 3 Volumes. Beers & Chicago. 1912.

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