Rhode Island Clockmakers
Rhode Island was far less noted for her clockmakers than Connecticut or even Massachusetts. For many years she imported such timekeepers as she used, and is credited, between the years 1686 and 1708, with having ten English clocks, all of which were owned in the small district of Narragansett, and were imported from the Barbados.
In Providence Seril Dodge was working at his trade of clock and watch maker 1788. The bulk of his business was that of a silversmith, the two trades often being combined. His place of business is described as "two doors north of the Baptist Meeting House." He was one of the apprentices of Thomas Harland at clockmaking at Norwich, Conn, He built two houses, one of which was known later as the "Doctor Wheaton House" and the other was owned by Obadiah Brown. It was said at the time that they were paid for in silver buckles, such quantities of these were turned out from his shop. Mr. Dodge moved to Pomfret, Conn., and died there April 22, 1802.
Nehemiah Dodge followed both the clockmaking and silversmith trades, also. He kept a shop on North Main Street in 1796. He moved in 1798 to a shop "Two doors north of the Baptist Meeting House, directly opposite Mr. Barker's Inn" the shop vacated by Seril Dodge when he moved to Pomfret.
In 1799 Nehemiah was associated with Mr. Stephen Williams, "opposite Mr. Haws Inn, Main Street." This partnership was of short duration, for by 1800 Mr. Williams was doing business by himself in a shop on Main Street, nearly opposite Governor Fenners. Mr. Dodge made, besides clocks and watches, "gold necklaces, knobs and twists, gold rings, miniature case fancy jewelry, and all kinds of silverware". He moved again shortly, this time to a shop opposite the "Nathan Angell tavern" and General Josiah Whitaker became his partner. In 1803 Mr. Dodge became a member of the Mechanics' Association. On his retirement from active business he sold his interest to Mr. George Dana and Thomas Whitaker.
John Cairns, who had a shop near St. John's Church and "next door to Mr. Saunders Pitman's" in 1784, was the only man of his time who made watches entire. He advertised that he made watches "of any fashion required for $25 warranted for two years without expense except in case of accident." Some of his watches are still to be found in going order. He was "accidentally drowned one dark night by falling into the Moshassuck between Mill and Shingle Bridges."
Caleb Wheaton in 1784 did business at No. 83 North Main Street, and as he was an excellent clock-maker some specimens of his work are still in running order. He was a member of the Society of Friends and died in 1827 at the age of seventy.
Calvin Wheaton had a shop in 1790 opposite Governor Fenner's. In 1791 he moved to the shop in the house of Ambrose Page, Esq., "at the Sign of the Clock, directly opposite the Friends Meeting House".