The idea of a canal to connect the small inland town of Worcester with the seaport of Providence forty-five miles to the south "through the valley or bosom of the Blackstone River" was originally conceived by John Brown.1 According to the Rhode Island Historical Society, Brown was "an entrepreneur, patriot, privateer, and China trade merchant" making him one of the most prominent citizens of Providence.2 Another member of this prominent family, John's brother Moses, who invited Samuel Slater to assist him in building the first cotton mills in America.3
In 1796 John Brown successfully petitioned the Rhode Island Assembly for an act of incorporation to form a canal company to dig the canal from Providence to the Massachusetts border. However, a similar petition before the Massachusetts General Court to incorporate the Massachusetts counterpart to Brown's corporation failed. Without being incorporated by the Massachusetts legislature, Brown was unable to found his proposed company and therefore could not build the canal. This would be the very first blow to the canal's success.
3 This source actually refers to John Slater, Samuel Slaterís brother, but this author believes Sessions identified the wrong Slater.† The author of that source states "it was Moses Brown who in 1789, invited John Slater to come to Rhode Island."† However, it appears to the author of this web page that the source confused the first name of Slater with that of John Brown, who is written about in the same passage.
© 2002: John Carter. All Rights Reserved.