Lawrence Wilkinson, the first of the race here in New England, was born in Lanchester, County of Durham, England, a son of William Wilkinson by his wife Mary, sister of Sir John Conyers, Bart., and the grandson of Lawrence Wilkinson, of Harpley House, Durham. He was a loyalist, and at the surrender of Newcastle, 1644, was taken prisoner by the Parliamentary and Scotch troops. At this time he held a lieutenant’s commission. He was deprived of his property, and his estates sequestered by order of Parliament. After having obtained special permission from Lord Fairfax, chief commander of the Parliamentary army, he embarked with his wife and child for New England, leaving, according to Somerby, in 1652. Arriving at Providence he signed the civil compact and received a gift of twenty-five acres of land and commenced his pioneer life. He was admitted as one of the original “Proprietors of Providence.” He soon acquired a large real estate, and held a prominent position among his fellow citizens. He was frequently chosen to fill offices of trust in the infant colony; was elected a member of the Legislature in 1659 and subsequently. He was an active business man. He participated in the Indian wars. He lived in his adopted country nearly half a century. His death occurred in 1692.

Mr. Wilkinson married Susannah, only daughter probably of Christopher Smith. Their children were:

  1. Samuel
  2. Susannah, born in 1652
  3. John, born in 1654
  4. Joanna, born in 1657
  5. Josias
  6. Susannah (2), born in 1662

John Wilkinson, born in Providence, married April 16, 1689, Deborah Whipple, born Aug. 1, 1670. He became an extensive land owner, and at a very early date fixed his residence in that part of Providence which was in 1731 called the town of Smithfield. His house was on the margin of the Blackstone river, and he bought land in what was called the “Gore” (Attleboro, Mass., now Cumberland, R. I.). He was an active, energetic business man. He was admitted freeman May 3, 1681. He was noted for his bravery and daring in the wars with the Indians; was severely wounded in one personal encounter with the Indians, and the General Assembly voted him a pension. He held several town offices, was deputy for Providence at the General Court in 1699, 1700, 1706, etc. He died April 10, 1708. The children of John and Deborah were:

  1. John, born in 1690
  2. Marcy, born in 1694
  3. Sarah, born in 1696
  4. Freelove, born in 1701
  5. Daniel, born in 1703
  6. Jeremiah, born in 1707

John Wilkinson (2), born in 1690, married March 20, 1717-18, Rebeccah, daughter of the second Richard Scott. Mr. Wilkinson lived in Rhode Island, and was a cooper as well as farmer. He had seven children (perhaps more), two sons and five daughters; the sons and their descendants are remembered, but the daughters are forgotten. They lived in Smithfield. The Pawtucket Wilkinsons are descendants of this John. The children of John and Rebeccah were:

  1. John
  2. Ahab
  3. Amey
  4. Sarah
  5. Susanna
  6. Ruth
  7. Joanna

John Wilkinson (3), born in Smithfield, R. I., married Ruth, daughter of James Angell, who was a son of John Angell and grandson of Thomas Angell, who came with Roger Williams from Seekonk, being one of the six original founders of Providence. Mr. Wilkinson was a farmer and blacksmith, and had a shop on a little stream called the Mussey’s brook. He lived in Smithfield until some time after the close of the Revolutionary war, and then moved to Pawtucket, where he spent his last days. He held a lieutenant’s commission. He died June 23, 1804. The children of John and Ruth were:

  1. Oziel, born in 1744
  2. Martha
  3. Susanna

Oziel Wilkinson, born in 1744, in Smithfield, R. L, married Lydia, daughter of Edward Smith, of Smithfield. He became familiar with blacksmithing in the shop of his father. The inventive genius which characterized this branch of the family at a later period began to manifest itself at this obscure place, and trip hammers were put in motion, and the heavy work of wielding the sledge was imposed upon the water – thus harnessing the elements to perform the work of man. He continued his business with unabated vigor and success, and his reputation as a mechanic secured him patronage from Attleboro, Providence and all parts of the country. He established himself permanently at Pawtucket, R. I., about 1783-84. Here he was greatly prospered and rapidly increasing his property, resources and business became a leading man in the town, and one of the most enterprising manufacturers of America. “He may with propriety be called the Father of American manufacturers of America,” as Samuel Slater married into his family, and his sons and sons-in-law are the beginning of that industrial enterprise in America. It was at his shop in Smithfield that many important kinds of labor were performed, and where some useful inventions were commenced which are now perfected, and bring no small gain to hundreds of manufacturers. Here it was, in 1775, that Eleazer Smith made the machine to manufacture card teeth for Daniel Anthony of Providence. Oziel’s shop was a school of invention. Mr. Wilkinson made a small machine with different sized impressions to head nails, which had been cut with common shears with plates of iron drawn under his trip hammer. He put his anchor shop in operation in 1784 or 1785, and furnished a large number of anchors for ships which were being built at Pawtucket, Providence, Boston and elsewhere. He operated at Pawtucket a screw machine profitably. In addition to making nails, screws and anchors he began about 1791 the experiment of manufacturing iron into steel and succeeded. He also made shovels and spades – the first in America – and other farming utensils, and as well various kinds of machinery. He built a rolling and slitting mill about 1793. In 1790 or 1791 he began preparing for the manufacture of cotton cloth – was one of the first to make a practical demonstration in that line. About this year he spun cotton yarn in the old fulling mill by the bridge in Pawtucket. He aided Samuel Slater constantly on his arrival for manufacturing cotton goods; the latter married his daughter. Oziel Wilkinson, associated with others, in 1799, began the second cotton mill in Pawtucket on the Massachusetts side of the river. It should have been mentioned ere this that scythes, guns and cannon were made by the son of Mr. Wilkinson. It is said that the first solid cannon ever made in the world was cast here.

Mr. Wilkinson interested himself in everything that tended to the good order and welfare of the community. His influence was great over the active business men of the place. He aided in establishing the Manufacturers’ Bank at Pawtucket, and was it first president. He died in Pawtucket in 1815.

The children of Oziel and Lydia Wilkinson were:

  1. Lucy, born in 1766
  2. Abraham, born in 1768
  3. Isaac (twin), born in 1768
  4. David, born in 1771
  5. Marcy, born in 1773
  6. Hannah, born in 1774
  7. Daniel, born in 1777
  8. George, born in 1783
  9. Smith, born in 1781
  10. Lydia, born in 1783

Abraham Wilkinson was born Oct. 10, 1768, in Smithfield, R. I. He and his twin brother Isaac removed with their father in 1783 to Pawtucket, where they labored together in their father’s anchor shop. They continued to labor together for their father till about 1790, when they commenced a partnership business, which they continued until 1829. Their iron business became very extensive, as they had furnaces in Pawtucket, Providence and Fall River. They also built some kinds of cotton machinery, and built and operated extensive cotton mills at Pawtucket, Valley Falls, etc. Abraham in consequence of an injury became unfitted for heavy labor, and took the management of their financial affairs, while the extensive business of their anchor shop and furnaces devolved upon Isaac. Abraham was a member of the Legislature of Rhode Island in 1807, and was frequently returned to that body by his fellow townsmen. He held many town and county offices and filled them to the entire satisfaction of the people.

Abraham Wilkinson married Lydia Whipple, and their children were:

  1. Amey, born in 1796
  2. George, born in 1798
  3. Whipple, born in 1799
  4. Sarah, born in 1802
  5. Anna, born in 1803
  6. Abraham, born in 1805
  7. Lydia, born in 1808
  8. William, born in 1811

The father of these died in 1849, in the eighty-first year of his age. Of these children Amey married in 1823 Samuel G. Harris; George married in 1829 Sarah DeWolf, of Bristol, R. I.; Sarah married in 1826 William Harris; Anna married in 1821 Nathan Lazell, of Bridgewater, Mass.; Lydia married Frederick A. Sumner, of Bridgewater, Mass., and had several children, one of whom, Mary, married George Barstow Stetson, and lived in Bridgewater, Mass.; and William married Harriet O. Colton.