The D'Wolf family of Bristol, Rhode Island became Bristol's most prominent family in the period after the Revolutionary war, initially engaging in maritime businesses that include the slave trade, privateering, and whaling. They branched out into many fields that eventually included a rum distillery, banking, an insurance company, a textile factory and sugar and coffee plantations in Cuba. Members of the family assumed positions of political leadership including John, who served in the State Legislature and became a judge, and James, who became a United States Senator.
Obadiah Brown I (1712-1762) was born in Providence. His father was Elder James Brown (1666-1716), a pastor on the First Baptist Church; his mother was Mary (Harris) Brown. Upon reaching adulthood, Obadiah joined his older brother James Brown II (1698-1739) in the mercantile trade, which included traffic in cocoa, rum, molasses and slaves.
Sullivan Dorr (1778-1858) was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Ebenezer (1739-1809) and Abigail (Cummingham) Dorr (1762-1796).Early in life Sullivan was engaged in the fur trade on the northwest coast of the United States and at the age of twenty, he went to Canton, China to follow mercantile pursuits. Much of his business was for the firm of J.& J. Dorr; based in Boston and owned by his brothers, Jonathan and Joseph. He stayed in Canton for five years (1799-1803) and upon returning to the States he settled in Providence and became a prosperous merchant. He resided in a home he built in 1811 on the northeast corner of Benefit and Bowen Streets.