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Did you Know Brown University's Roots Lead to Newport?

Newport Historical Society to document and interpret Brown's founding based on documents in its collection thanks to a $10,000 grant from the university.

Within the vast collections at the Newport Historical Society are some documents that reveal the story of how Brown University was formed.

Today, Brown is a top Ivy League school headquartered in Providence and most people know it as the former College of Rhode Island, which first opened in Warren, Rhode Island, in 1765.

"However the institution may have its deepest roots in Newport," the historical society said in a release announcing a $10,000 grant from Brown University to take a deeper look at the university's deep roots in the City by the Sea.

“Some of the documents which record the conversations leading up to the University’s establishment, and several drafts of the petition to the General Assembly and the Charter for the new institution, reside in our collections,” said Newport Historical Society Executive Director Ruth Taylor. “These documents reveal that the first of such conversations occurred at the Newport Colony House and at the Newport home of Deputy Governor John Gardner, which is now Citizen’s Bank.”

While the University was ultimately founded as a Baptist institution, these meetings involved a group of individuals who represent the religious diversity within this community: Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Jews and Quakers. While a colony-wide geographic diversity was also represented, the majority were men who lived, worked, worshipped and/or were buried in Newport. Homes and gravesites of the these Founders are extant; names include William Vernon, Ezra Stiles, William Ellery, William Redwood, Gideon Cornell, James Honeyman, Thomas Robinson, Joseph Wanton and Martin Howard.

Brown’s support will allow the Newport Historical Society to work with the University and the Rhode Island Historical Society to create an exhibit, a Newport walking tour and other interpretive materials to highlight and celebrate the impetus for, issues around and progress of the founding of Brown University.

The exhibit and activities are planned for Brown's 250th anniversary celebration in 2015.

For more information, visit www.newporthistory.org.

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