Samuel Newman’s Concordance, an alphabetized index of words in the Bible that he revised in Rehoboth, was considered the most superior work of its kind in English in the seventeenth century. Newman was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England in 1602. He graduated from Trinity College, Oxford in 1620 and after studying theology became a minister in the Church of England. His Puritan leanings led to persecution, which he escaped upon immigration to Massachusetts Bay Colony around 1636. Living in Dorchester, he worked as a preacher and began the first edition of his concordance. By 1639 he was serving as a pastor in Weymouth. The Concordance was published in London in 1643. Soon afterward, Newman led the majority of his church and others from Hingham to a tract of land “eight miles square” (as described in a 1668 deed) east of the Seekonk River bought from Massasoit, grand sachem of the Wampanoag, in 1641. Newman renamed the area (known to Native Americans as Seacunck) Rehoboth, a word included in his concordance that means open space: “At last the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22). Newman corrected and amended the first edition of the concordance in his new home, “using in the evening pine-knots instead of candles,” according to Ezra Stiles, seventh president of Yale University. The second edition was published in London in 1650. A third version appeared in 1658. Later editions were known as the Cambridge Concordance, under which title the book was reprinted until the late nineteenth century.
Born on December 12, 1811 in Savoy, Massachusetts, Leonard Bliss Jr. was the eldest son of Leonard and Lydia (Talbot) Bliss, both born in Rehoboth. In 1828, he moved with his parents back to town, where they lived and worked on the Danforth Street farm of his paternal grandfather, Dr. James Bliss. Leonard Jr. was known as a good scholar and talented writer. He prepared for college at an academy in Amherst in 1830 and started at Brown University a year later. In hopes of raising some much-needed money during his third year at Brown, Bliss began research for the first study of Rehoboth’s history in 1833. He continued the project despite a period of ill health. His book, The History of Rehoboth, Bristol County, Massachusetts; Comprising A History of the Present Towns of Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Pawtucket, From Their Settlement to the Present Time, was published in 1836 and distributed to 265 subscribers. After teaching and working as an editor and writer in the area, Bliss moved to Louisville, Kentucky, with his younger brother James in 1837. Still pursuing his interest in history, he became an officer of the Kentucky Historical Society and a scholar of Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark. By late 1839 he was also editor of the well-regarded Louisville Literary News Letter. Bliss’s report about Henry C. Pope, a candidate for public office, offended Godfrey Pope, editor of the Louisville Sun and Advertiser and a cousin of Henry, to the extent that Pope shot Bliss in late September 1842. He died from his injury on October 6. Bliss’s portrait was given to the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society at its founding by Caroline M. Carpenter, his fiancée at the time of his death. The book Bliss holds in his right hand memorializes his career as an editor and writer. His History of Rehoboth, still admired at the turn of the 20th century, was incorporated into George Tilton’s 1918 history.
Joe Perry was the transportation supervisor for the Rehoboth School Department from November 1946 until his retirement on August 10, 1984. He labored over the school bus schedule every summer, plotting different routes with pins and colored yarns on a four by eight foot wall map at school and this smaller map at home. A computer company was once contacted to see if they could eliminate four buses or route the buses better. After study, the company responded that they could not improve Perry’s plan in any way and therefore could not in good conscience accept the job offer. This brought Perry much praise and a pay raise.
Gilbert Stuart, who grew up in nearby Saunderstown and Newport, Rhode Island, is considered the preeminent portraitist of the Federal Period. A prolific artist, he painted over 1,000 likenesses in his lifetime, including those of the founding fathers and other prominent citizens. Stuart was known for eccentric and capricious behavior, often keeping unfinished paintings in his studio for years. He began his portraits of Salem merchant Humphrey Devereux and his wife Eliza in September 1817. At nearly thirty-two years old, Eliza Dodge Devereux (1785–1828) was an invalid when she and her husband sat for the famous artist. Stuart masked her ill health behind a healthy glow. While Eliza greatly appreciated Stuart’s portrayal of her countenance, according to an early source, she was dissatisfied with Stuart’s indifferent treatment of her clothing. Eliza dared not approach the temperamental artist with her concerns, however, for fear that she would never receive the painting. Stuart finally delivered it in 1821. A handwritten note on the back of the portrait dating to before 1897 states that well-known American artist Chester Harding (1792–1866) repainted the ruff and drapery in July 1835, seven years after both Eliza’s and Stuart’s deaths.