Clemence Family of Rhode Island

From Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island,
Vol. III, J. H. Beers, Chicago, 1905

pp. 1688 - 1689 [click images to enlarge]:

Stephen Henry ClemenceSTEPHEN HENRY CLEMENCE, one of the well-known citizens of Johnston, of which town he has been a highly esteemed resident for more than forty years, descends from an old Rhode Island family.

Thomas Clemence, the progenitor of the Rhode Island Clemence family, is of record in Providence as early as 1649, on November 3d of which year he was granted twenty-five acres of land.  He was made a freeman in 1655, and became a man of some consequence and importance in the town, as is evidenced by the fact of his representing it in the Colonial Assembly in 1666 and 1672 and being a member of the town council in 1667.  The children born to him and his wife Elizebeth, were:  Richard, Thomas, Elizabeth and Content.  The father died in 1688 and the mother after 1721.  Of the children of Thomas and Elizabeth Clemence, Content died in Providence, June 30, 1696; Elizabeth married James Mathhewson and left posterity; Thomas died unmarried in Providence; Richard is the next in this line.

Richard Clemence, son of Thomas, married Sarah, daughter of John and Sarah (Whipple) Smith, who died Oct. 14, 1725, he passing away Oct. 11, 1723. Their children, according to the town records, were:  Sarah, born Nov. 11, 1688; Mary, May 24, 1689; Ann, Dec. 11, 1690; Thomas, Aug. 6, 1693; Abigail, Dec. 4, 1695; and Richard, July 19, 1698.  It appears by the father's will, dated Oct. 11, 1723, that Sarah married an Angell; Abigail, a Thornton, and that Mary, at the time of the making of the will, was unmarried.  The Clemence name has been perpetuated through one or both of the sons of Richard Clemence, grandsons of the first Thomas and Elizabeth Clemence.  Of these sons, Thomas Clemence came into possession, by the will of his father, of the lands, tenements and meadows in Providence on both sides of the Woonasquatucket river, which made up the homestead and other lands.

The Clemences have not been a numerous family, but they have been one generally highly esteemed and respected, men and women of a good type of substantial and useful citizenship.  They seem to have been a Providence county family, of the old original town of Providence, out of which have been created other towns in which the family have lived.  The name Clemence has had, both prior to and during the revolution, a military connection with the history of the locality alluded to, members of the family holding  military commissions in the State service and performing duty during the Revolution.

Without having made a direct connection with either Thomas or Richard Clemence, of the third generation, and the Richard following, it is quite evident that one exists.  "Richard Clemence, Jr.", according to the Johnston records, married Oct. 16, 1760, Alney (Olney) Wright, daughter of Stephen. This Richard Clemence, Jr., was the great-grandfather of Stephen Henry Clemence, whose name introduces this sketch.

Wright Clemence, son of Richard (Jr.) and his wife Alney, resided in the town of Burrillville, and there died.  He married Nov. 1, 1788, Sarah, daughter of Elam Crossman, late of Glocester, and they had a family of three children, as follows:  Lillis married Joseph Steere, and resided in Burrillville; Stephen was a farmer and resided with his brother, Richard R., and with him died, unmarried; Richard Right was the next in the we are tracing.

 Detail of an undated map from the
 Johnston Town Hall Clerk's office
Map showing Clemence PropertyRichard Right Clemence, son of Wright and Sarah, was born Feb. 8, 1791, and in early life apprenticed himself to the learn the trade of a carpenter, which he followed for many years, at times employing a number of hands and apprentices, as he did a large business in his line for the time.  He furnished, and drew with oxen, lumber for the old Red bridge at Providence, and built a house still standing on Broadway, which is regarded as a landmark.  The latter years of his life were devoted to farming in Glocester, and there he died in Nov. 28, 1873; he was buried in a private yard in that town.  He was a successful man, accumulating a fair amount of property, was very industrious, and held the respect of all who knew him. He was a Democrat in his political views, but never cared for nor sought public office.  He married Mary Place, a native of Glocester, daughter of Reuben Place, and she died May 16, 1866, aged seventy-one years, one month, thirteen days.  Richard Right and Mary (Place) Clemence were the parents of ten children, of whom eight grew to mature years, as follows:  Laura Ann, born April 9, 1815, married Willard Bradford, whom she survived, and for some time previous to her death made her home with her brother, Stephen H., in Johnston; Sarah Johnston, born May 31, 1816, died unmarried Dec. 4, 1831; Seril Wright, born Oct. 27, 1818, married to Abra Ann Brown, was a mechanic, residing at Slatersville at the time of his death; Phebe Sweeting, born May 24, 1820, married Francis Mann, and died in Smithfield; Reuben Amey, born June 11, 1822, married Elsa Mann, and resided in Glocester, where he was a prominent and successful farmer ( a sketch of his life will be found elsewhere in this publication); Mahala Mowry, born April 19, 1824, died Jan. 3, 1832; Richard Place, born Oct. 26, 1826, died Dec. 9, 1831.  Stephen Henry was born Jan. 13, 1834; Lucy Ellen, born Oct. 14, 1836, died in young womanhood, April 30, 1853; Amy Elizabeth, born Oct. 20, 1840, married Henry Colwell, a farmer, and resided at Slatersville, where she died.

STEPHEN HENRY CLEMENCE, son of Richard Right and Mary, and the last surviving member of his father's family, was born in Glocester Jan. 13, 1834, and was reared to farm work.  His education was received in the district school and at the Smithfield Seminary at North Scituate, then presided over by the noted Hosea Quimby.  For a time he taught a select school in his native town, but resided on the homestead, engaged in farming, until 1864, a few years after his marriage, when he removed to Johnston and settled on his present farm, which he had purchased.  It was long known as the Pardon Sweet place, having been in the Sweet name for several generations.  This farm is located on Greenville avenue, about one mile west of Manton Village.  Mr. Clemence has been engaged in farming and dairying since settling there, and has been very successful.

Clemence-Irons House
38 George Waterman Road, Johnston, RI
Sign at Clenence-Irons House
Sign at Clemence-Irons House, owned by SPNEA
Architectural Drawing of Clemence-Irons house
Architectural drawings from the Thomas Clemence House book.
Clemence-Irons House
Framing looking toward gable end
Right: Plan of first floor showing framing ->
First floor plan showing framing
The stone ender (fireplace) side
The "stone ender" side plan and photograph
Plan of second floor showing framing.

On Jan. 11, 1860, he was married in Smithfield to Elsie A. Paine, daughter of Mathewson and Fidelia (Darling) Paine, and a descendant, on both sides, of old Rhode Island families.  Mr. and Mrs. Clemence had the following children:  Mary A., born April 4, 1862; Ida M., Feb. 18, 1864; Stephen H., Jr., June 24, 1867 (of whom more follows); Richard R., March 24, 1870. The latter is assisting his father in the management of the farm, and is unmarried.

Stephen Henry Clemence is a Democrat in politics, although, like his father, he has never cared for office, but like all other good citizens of  the locality, he is active in the support of measures which he considers will be of benefit to the community in which he resides.  For many years he has been a director of the National Exchange Bank at Greenville.  He attends the Broadway Baptist church at Olneyville of which church his wife and daughters are consistent and valued members.  Mr. Clemence has always been a hard-working, industrious man, known for splendid business judgment and high integrity, and he ranks among the most substantial, successful and influential citizens of the town.  He is universally esteemed and respected.
Stephen Henry Clemence, Jr.
STEPHEN H. CLEMENCE, JR., was born June 24, 1867, and reared on the farm of his father.  He had such educational advantages as the community afforded and assisted his father in the management of the farm.  In 1893 he completed the pleasant home which he now occupies, within a short distance of the old homestead, on the Greenville pike.  He married on March 16, 1893, Miss Susan Alice Carey Flint, daughter of William H. and Frances J. (Brown) Flint.  Her maternal grandfather was Arnold Brown, a direct descendant of Chad Brown, the ancestor of the Rhode Island family of that name. She also comes of ancient and distinguished lineage on the paternal side, and is a member of the Daughters of the Revolution.  Mr. and Mrs. Clemence are the parents of the following interesting family:  Elsie Frances, born April 25, 1895; Alice May, born March 25, 1900, and Bernice Emily, born June 20, 1906.

Mr. Clemence is, like his forefathers, in political views a Democrat, but he is in no respect a politician.  He has built up an excellent business in the line of milk and dairy products, and has proved himself a young man of a high order of intelligence, thrift and enterprise, distinctly of the modern aggressive type of business man.

The Thomas Clemence Book, bound, xerox copies of handwritten data collected in 1941. Survey by Edward W. Husband, Chief Draftsman. Historic America Buildings Survey, District of Rhode Island, 1937 to 1942. Copyright ?

Info on the house from the book:
1 1/2 stories; materials of construction: oak timbers; completely restored in 1938-1939 to its 1679 conditions. Drawings by noted colonial architect Norman Morrison Isham.


The house is now owned by S. P. N. E. A. - Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, and is open for tours by appointment. It was donated to the society in 1947. It is called a "property study", rather than a musuem. For more info on SPNEA:

The following info was gleaned from a tour:

The building, called a "rare surviving example of a stone-ender",  is named for the first and last families that lived there - three generations of the Clemence family, followed by three generations of the Angell family, and finally, three generations of the Irons family.  The last resident, Emily Irons, died in 1930, and the property was sold for back taxes in 1937 (I think they said the amount was $2,200!).    The house is about 50% original, having been remodeled and rennovated several times.... the original farm was 300 acres, the original stone-ender house, once 17 rooms.   It now has about 4 - and none of the furnishings are original.   The house is beautiful, the most striking indoor parts are the fireplaces.

Click Here for More Clemence Grave Stones This Clemence monument is from the "Clemence Lot", Glocester, RI . Click for more grave stone images from Glocester, plus Foster and Warwick.

More on the Clemence Family

 Images, information & transcription by Beth Hurd, 2001

Back to the RIGenWeb Articles Index
Back to the Rhode Island USGenWeb Home Page

                These documents are made available free to the public by the Rhode Island USGenWeb Project for individual use only.