Benjamin L. Spencer House

Contributing Writer

In December 1845 Benjamin L. Spencer purchased a small 4,000 sq. ft. lot (0ne-tenth of an acre) on the east side of Main Street, between Long and London Streets. The lot was only 40 wide and 100 feet deep. In 1846, Spencer built a 3-story Greek-Revival building that was 23-feet wide, leaving only 17 feet on the south side for a driveway. Today, with a large addition on the back, the building, zoned as mixed use, has retail on the first floor and residential upstairs, and contains 8 rooms and 2,635 sq. ft. of living space. 

Benjamin L. Spencer (1820-1892) was the son of John M. & Betsey (Greene) Spencer. Betsey was a member of the Greene family of Potowomut, and a cousin of Gen. Nathanael Greene. In 1844 he married Almira (Cole) Spencer (1820-1908), daughter of Nathaniel Hill & Roby (Wickes) Cole. Benjamin was listed in the census records as a merchant in 1860, and a machinist in 1850, 1870 and 1880. Benjamin and Almira had one child, a daughter Josephine (Spencer) Allen (1845-1934). She married Pardon Seabury Allen (1839-1890), son of Gideon & Almira (Wilbur) Allen. Josephine was a dressmaker in 1870. She had 3 children, but none survived. Benjamin and Almira were married in East Greenwich in 1844, but they were living in Taunton in 1850, and Providence in 1860, 1870 and 1880. Benjamin died in 1892, but Elmira, Josephine, and Benjamin’s sister Julia were living at 155 Canton St. in Providence in 1900. Benjamin and Almira sold the property in 1875 to Henry B. Kenyon.

Dr. Henry Benjamin Kenyon was born in Richmond, RI in 1843, son of John & Lucy Kenyon. Henry married 1869 Emily A. (Wilcox) Kenyon (1845-1909). She was a schoolteacher, born in Bristol, and died in Townshend, VT. Emily was the daughter of Antonio & Betsey (DeCosta) Wilcox. Antonio was born in the Azores, and Betsey in Bristol. It would appear that they were of Portuguese ancestry, and probably were part of the extensive nautical connection between Bristol and the Azores. While Wilcox is an old Yankee name, it’s likely that Antonio’s father was a Yankee sailor, and that his mother was Portuguese.

Henry B. Kenyon was a physician, a 1874 graduate of the NY University Medical School. His medical practice was what was called “Allopathic”, science based, modern medicine. Today they are considered M.D.’s. Henry and Lucy lived in Barrington in 1870, East Greenwich in 1875, and Townshend, VT in 1880. Henry and Emily Kenyon sold the property in 1883 to S. Edwin & Zilpha B. Shippee.

Seth Edwin Lillibridge (1856-1910) was the son of Jesse Reynolds & Mary Celinda (Greene) Lillibridge. Mary was a member of the Greene family of West Greenwich. Seth was a descendant of Jonathan Lillibridge who was a Revolutionary War Militia Ensign in 1778. Seth was a farmer, and had extensive farmland in town. He married Zilpha Knight (Shippee) Lillibridge (1858-1915), daughter of Wanton & Zilpha Bucklin (Knight) Shippee. Seth and Zilpha owned and lived at the historic 1772 Crossways Farm at 12 Middle Road, at the corner of Cedar Avenue. They had five surviving children. Seth died in 1910, and Zilpha died in 1915. She left this 312 Main Street building to three of their daughters: Maude E. Lillibridge (who later married George Amos Whitworth), Elizabeth H. (Lillibridge) Eldredge, (wife of Lucius Gilbert Eldredge), and Helen Z. Lillibridge (who later married Thomas Earle Laughlin). In 1917, Maude and George Whitworth sold her share of the building to her sisters; Elizabeth H. Eldredge and Helen L. Laughlin. In 1919, sisters Elizabeth and Helen sold the building to C. Edward & T. Celia Anderson.

Carl Edward Anderson (1887-1983), was born in RI, son of Carl Victor & Hannah (Krans) Anderson, both born in Sweden. He married 1913 Teckla Cecilia (Johnson) Anderson (1889-1989), born in RI, daughter of Alfred & Amanda Charlotta (Swanson) Johnson, both born in Sweden. Carl was a plumber. The 1951-52 EG School Census lists the occupants of the house as C.E. Anderson, b. 1887, with 3 unnamed members of the family born 1889 (T. Cecilia), 1914 (Dorothy), and 1920 (Evelyn).

Carl & Teckla had 6 children: Dorothy Ruth Hannah Anderson (1915-1991), Leonard E. Anderson (b. 1926), Harry Frederick Anderson (1918-1920), Evelyn C. Anderson (b. 1920), Virginia E. Anderson, b. 1922, and Miriam Charlotte Anderson (1923-1923). C. Edward Anderson died in 1983, and his widow T. Cecilia (Johnson) Anderson died in 1989. The “children and heirs” of T. Cecilia were listed as Evelyn C. (Anderson) Matteson, Virginia E. (Anderson) Davis, and Leonard E. Anderson.

These 3 heirs retained ownership for another 5 years before selling the building in 1994 to William H. & Susan E. (Howard) Blake. When Bill died in 2015, Susan became the sole owner of this 175-year old Main Street building.

Bruce MacGunnigle is the East Greenwich Town Historian. He can be reached at greenwich1677@gmail.com. His book “Strolling in Historic East Greenwich” is available at the Green Door, 130 Main Street.

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