Thursday, June 20, 2013

Grist for the Mill: Harts and Tabers in Little Compton, Rhode Island

From Connecticut yesterday we ventured on to Rhode Island in search of the Harts of our paternal lineage. We knew that starting with Nicholas Hart, the first Hart of our lineage to come to America, the Harts had lived in Rhode Island, first mainly in Portsmouth, and then in Little Compton. Our ancestor and four times great grandfather, Jeremiah Hart, who had fought in the Revolutionary War, had been born in Little Compton in 1746, but left there  in about 1768 with two of his brothers to farm in Hart's Village, Dutchess County, New York, now called Millford. During the war in about 1775, he moved again to Stillwater, Saratoga, New York, where he lived out the rest of his life. Jeremiah's mother was Mary Taber,  great granddaughter of John Cooke, and great great granddaughter of Richard Warren and Francis Cooke, all of whom had been passengers on the Mayflower.

My sister and I were struck by the beauty and charm of the Little Compton area as we drove through it, not expecting to gain much more than a feel for the landscape. The lovely farms and houses, some appearing to be from the colonial era caught our attention. My sister noticed the Wilbor House, home of the Little Compton Historical Society as we drove along. (See We stopped in and found that it was only going to be open to the public for fifteen more minutes. We introduced ourselves, and the Society members recognized our surname. They informed us that the Hart family still lived in the area, and that the Harts had always lived in the village of Adamsville, which was formerly part of Little Compton. They kindly gave us directions there (and from there to Plymouth, our next destination).

Wilbor House
(photographer: Sherry)

Adamsville appeared to a little colonial town frozen in time. We parked in front of Gray's Grist Mill, claimed both by the towns of Adamsville, Rhode Island and Westport, Massachusetts. There was a sign stating that it was the oldest continually operating grist mill in the area, and that it dated back to 1675, when it was owned by Phillip Taber. We are descended from a Phillip Taber, but I believe that this Phillip was possibly Mary's brother or uncle. I have since discovered that the owner previous to the present one was a John Hart! The mill in its history has produced a variety of products, including cornmeal from an ancient variety of corn, the similiar to that had been eaten by the pilgrims in Plymouth. The cornmeal was the basis of the johnnycake, a long time area staple. (See

Gray's Mill (photographer: Sherry)

It was amazing and startling to have come from so far away to find a place so specific to our own family, and to get such a feel for their history in a brief afternoon. We definitely are getting a sense of being "guided". More and more I am developing such a sense of gratitude to the people in historical societies everywhere whose work helps to preserve the past. So much of what I know all over my family tree derives from their work. Thanks to them all.

Gray's Mill Interior (photographer: Sherry)

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