The Tefft Papers

The Tefft Family and the Narragansett Controversy

On January 18, 1676, Joshua Tefft was hanged, drawn and quartered for high treason during King Philip's War by the United Colonies' troops stationed at Smith's Castle in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, under the direction of Captain Richard Smith and General Josiah Winslow, Governor of Plymouth Colony. This was the only execution of its kind of an Englishman in New England history. Joshua left behind an orphan son named Peter... 

"The Father to the bough, the Son to the plow."

Peter Tefft - a nine-year old landowner:

March the 22th day 1681

Upon a presentation made to the Councell
this present day of their writing concearning
Peter Tift Orphan of Joshua Tift that some
course bee taken to apoint Guardians and
ffeffeese in trust that may looke after all -
All matters of Landes that may a pertaine to the
said Orphan :xc: and the councell haveing
seriously weighed the premisses have desired
and selected and Chosen three persons for
Guardians or feffees in trust viz Mr. Jreth Bull
Ser of Pettequamscutt or Kingstowne John
Greene Jur of Warwick and Samuell Tift of
Providence Unckle to the sd Orphan
Authorizing them or any two of them to
demand and receive deed or deeds of any lands
belonging to the said orphan-Peter Tift and to
doe any matter or thinge for the benifit and
beehoofe of the sayd orphan as they shall
thinke necessary and to make returne to the

Ordered that John Potter Clarke of the
Councell, be apointed to write unto the
persons afore named a Coppy of the
abovesaid order.

Warwick General Records No.1. 1681. A1:27-28. 


The Shannock Purchase

The Shannock Purchase was the second largest land grant to the citizens of the Rhode Island colony during the division of the "vacant" Indian lands in 1709. The Narragansett and Niantic Indian Nations agreed to sell the "vacant lands" in exchange for permanent possession of land located in the present town of Charlestown. The Shannock Purchase encompassed a large part of the present town of Richmond.

Three of the 26 individuals to receive land in the Shannock Purchase were members of the Tefft family; including Joshua Tefft's brother Samuel and Samuel's eldest son, John - as well as Joshua's orphan son, Peter.

"Know all men by these presents that we Weston Clark Randall Holden Richard Greene Philip Tillinghast being a committee appointed and fully empowered by the Government & Company of the Colony of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations to dispose & make sale of the vacant lands in ye Narragansett County for & in consideration of the sum of 486 pound 2 shillings currant money of New England well & truely paid unto us who receive ye same in behalf & for the use of ye Governor & Company afore sd of & at the hand of William Gibson, Nicholas Utter, Samuell Tift, fransis Colgrene, George Babcock, George Foster, William Knowles, Samuell Clark, John Eanos, William Clark, Thomas Parker, James Deny, Daniel Wilcocks, Daniel Tenant, Samuell Lewis, William Utter, John Witter, Peter Tift, Jeremiah Crandall, Eber Crandall, Samuell Perry, Joseph Brown, Weston Clark, John Tift and Nicholas Utter, Junior, all inhabitants of Westerly Kingstown and Newport."

Westerly Land Evidence 2:48


1713 Shannock Purchase Map. Westerly, Rhode Island


Below is a copy of the above map redrawn by Timothy Nathan Tefft in 2003. The land divisions of the 26 Shannock Purchase Proprietors are much more easy to see. The land that Peter Tefft owned was located near the present Washington County Fairgrounds. Samuel Tefft owned land nearby on Wilbur Hill, much of which is preserved by the Nature Conservancy. His property in the northern part of the Shannock Purchase is still known to this day as "Tefft Hill". John Tefft owned several properties and bought out other landholders, and many of his descendants can trace their roots to Richmond.