Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

For Participating Institutions

Roger Williams Baptist Church records (Ms.2012.009)

Brown University Library

Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146

Historical Note

The Roger Williams Baptist Church had its origins in 1865 when Mrs. Amey Manton and Mrs. Helen A. Metcalf, wife of Jesse Metcalf, owner of the newly built Wanskuck Worsted Mill, started a Sunday school for the children of Wanskuck. It soon outgrew its space, and Mrs. Metcalf donated a triangle of land at Woodward Road and Veazie Street. On this site was erected the Roger Williams Chapel, dedicated February 10, 1867. In 1877 the church obtained a charter of incorporation of the Roger Williams Baptist Church. The church membership drew upon the mill workers, many of whom were immigrants from England. The Metcalf family and the Wanskuck Company continued to provide financial support well into the 20th century, helping to build a new addition in 1906 and a bell tower, given by Mrs. Sophia Metcalf Baker in memory of her parents. The church came to have over 400 members. In World War I, sixty-one men from the church served in the armed forces, including Leroy Miller, the first Rhode Islander to die in the war. In World War II, another ninety-two men and women entered the service.

Then came the post-war era which brought the closing of the Wanskuck Mill in the 1960s and a dramatic decrease in the population of Providence between 1950 and 1970. The membership rolls shrank by over 100 between December 1963 and December 1973 and continued falling decade by decade. By the 2000s, the church was in dire straits, with weekly attendance dwindling to less than twenty by 2010. Consequently, the remaining members voted to disband, and the closing service was held on November 20, 2011.