Contributing Writer

Industrialists James B. Peirce and Thomas J. Johnson owned the sizable piece of property that covered the west side of Liberty Street, both sides of Prospect Street, both sides of what is now Greene Street, and the south side of Somerset Street. This was just to the south and west of the old Union Mill (also known as the Orion Mill and the Drysalters, at 461 Main St.). In 1846 they hired the firm of Atwater & Schubarth to survey and plat the property into 52 lots. (Steven Atwater (1816-1855) and Niles Bierragaard Schubarth (1818-1889) a native of Norway, are perhaps best known for their work in designing Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.) In 1848, Peirce & Johnson sold two of the most desirable lots, at the south-east corner of Somerset Street, 100 ft. and Prospect Street, 123.5 feet (12,350 sq. ft.), to Susan A. Howland, wife of John W. Howland, who built a 2-story, 8 room, 1,515 sq. ft. house, with a very comfortable front porch, which is 8 ft. deep, and 36 ft. along the entire  Somerset Street side of the house.

Susan Andrews (Greene) Howland (1808-1890) was the daughter of Augustus & Mary (Andrews) Greene. She was a descendant of Surgeon John Greene, an early settler of Providence, and a founder of Warwick. She was also one of General Nathaniel Greene’s 20 first cousins. It was a big family. Susan married 1826 John Wicks Howland (1804-1872), son of Thomas Aldrich & Phebe (Weaver) Howland.  John was listed in the census records as a laborer in 1850, a butcher in 1860, and a farmer in 1865 and 1870. John and Susan had 9 children: Thomas A., b. 1830; Benjamin, 1833; Alfred F. 1836; Charles A. 1838; George W. 1841; Christopher H. 1843; Emma 1845; Susan 1848 and Arthur W. 1851. The father, John, died in 1872, and the mother, Susan, died in 1890. Although the children were all adults of at least 40 years old, the property fell into foreclosure in 1899, due to a defaulted mortgage. The East Greenwich Institute for Savings sold the house at public auction on December 2, 1899, to Alex Johnson, high bidder.

The buyer “Alex Johnson”, was actually Axel W. Johnson (1872-1930) born in Sweden, emigrated in 1882 and naturalized in 1894. He married Hilma Josephine (Falquist) Johnson (1875-1967), born in Sweden, emigrated in 1887. Axel worked as a weaver in an EG cotton factory in 1900, a laborer at the Color factory (Drysalters), and living on Prospect Street in 1910, and as a machinist at the Chemical Company (Drysalters), living on Eldredge Ave. in 1920 and 1930. They had 8 children that I could identify: Albert Walford, b. 1895; Arthur Harry 1896; Agnes Elizabeth1899; Oscar William 1901; Lilly Adelina 1901; Emma Dorothy 1906; Norman Maynard 1908, and Paul Edward 1917. Axel owned this Somerset Street house for 2 years, selling it to Charles J. & Alma E. Johnson. These 2 Johnson families don’t appear to be closely related.

Charles J. Johnson (1865-1951) was born at Hinneryd, Koronobgl, Sweden. He married 1889 Alma B. (Ogren) Johnson (1868-1904). She was born in Timmelho, F.L., Sweden, and emigrated, age 18, leaving Goteborg, Sweden on April 16, 1886 on the ship Orlando to Hull, England. She later continued to the US.  The census records show that Charles worked as a carpenter from 1900 to 1940, except in 1930, when he was a building contractor. They had at least 8 children: Mamie Elizabeth, b. 1889 (the only daughter); Carl Edward 1891; Walter Ferdinand 1893; Albert Leonard 1894; John Herbert 1898; Oscar Harold 1900; Gustav Alfred 1902, and Otto Gilbert 1904. Alma died in 1904, only 36 years old. The family continued to live here another 40 years, selling in 1944. Besides Charles J. Johnson, the following 6 children signed the deed: Mamie, Carl, Walter, Oscar (all single), Albert (and wife Ethel) and John (and wife Margaret). The buyers were Clinton G. & Edith B. Clough.

Clinton George Clough (1901-1971) was the son of Clinton A. & Rebecca A. (Crowther) Clough. Edith B (Stone) Clough (1902-1994) was the daughter of Herbert Andrew & Clara M. (Mathewson) Stone.  This family pronounced the name Clough as “Clow”. I know another family with the same name, who pronounce the name as “Cluff”. Edith, a graduate of Rhode Island College, was a teacher at Warwick Public Schools and Rocky Hill School. Clint was a 1923 graduate of Brown University, and a 1926 graduate of Harvard Law School. They moved from Warwick to East Greenwich in 1937 (living first at 37 Mawney Street). Clint had a very active law practice in town, and was an active member of the community, serving as the Moderator of the Annual Town Meetings. Clinton and Edith had 2 children, Clinton, Jr., and Lillian Edith (Clough) Pelly, who married Frank A. Pelly. Clinton, Sr. died in 1971, and Edith died in 1994.  Their two children, Frank and Edith, are the current owners. 

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

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