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James Arnold

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In 1810, the owner of much of what is now downtown Woonsocket was James Arnold.

Born in 1763, James Arnold was the twelfth of thirteen children. His grandfather was John Arnold, the first permanent resident of Woonsocket. His father was Seth Arnold. At his father's death in 1801, James inherited a large amount of land in the Market Square area and 100% of the water rights from the falls. By 1814, he had purchased additional land until he owned all the land on both sides of the river from the falls to what is now the Social district.

For the first forty-seven years of his life, James Arnold was a miller in an agricultural community. That changed in 1810 when the first textile mill in Woonsocket, the Social Manufacturing Company, was built on the Mill River. As the textile industry in Woonsocket grew, James Arnold built mills, shops and storehouses, but never became involved in the textile industry himself. He was content to let his real estate to others for fair rent. The land sales of James Arnold

In 1814, Arnold completed the first of six major land sales he would make in his lifetime. Now known as the Lyman-Arnold Purchase, it included the river and 25 acres of land along what is now Main Street. This massive sale included the land both sides of Main Street from the Hanora Lippitt Manor complex to Clinton Street. In 1827, power was provided for mills with the construction of the Lyman Arnold Trench.

In 1821, Arnold made two sales. First, he sold a piece of land just west of the Lyman-Arnold Purchase, later known as the Bartlet Mill estate, to Dan Daniels. It is on this land that Daniels built his store and the 1827 mill later known as the Bartlet Mill. Then, Arnold sold the Lyman Mill estate. Located just east of the sawmill lot in what is now Market Square, it was on this land that Dexter Ballou began his textile operations in Woonsocket.

In 1827, Arnold completed two more sales. First he sold a plot of land on the Smithfield side of the river now known as the Bernon estate to Dan Daniels. This land was later sold to Sullivan Dorr and Crawford Allen and became the Woonsocket Mill Company. Then he sold the Globe estate, also located on the Smithfield side of the river. It was on this land that George C. Ballou built his magnificent Globe Mill complex in 1873.

Arnold's last sale was the sawmill lot, sold to George C. Ballou in 1839. After a fire destroyed his wooded mill in 1846, Ballou built the stone mill on this site that is featured on the city seal.

James Arnold House (c. 1840) In 1840, James Arnold built a grand "mansion" up the hill on what is now Arnold Street near Market Square. Built in the Greek Revival style, it is distinguished by a beautiful front portico. From this site, Arnold had a commanding view of his former holdings in the Market Square area.

James Arnold died on October 18, 1841. At the time of his death, little remained of his massive holdings. He owned his house on Arnold Street, his gristmill at the falls, and a small amount of land near Market Square now known as the "Island". The land on the Island was sold to Edward Harris for $800 in 1843.

This page utilizes information from:

  • History of Woonsocket written by E. Richardson and published by S.S. Fosse Printers, Woonsocket, RI 1876 (printed by Higginson Book Company, Salem, MA)
  • Woonsocket - Highlights of History 1800-1976 written by Alton Pickering Thomas, MD and published by the Woonsocket Opera House Society in 1973.
  • Statewide Historic Preservation Report for Woonsocket, Rhode Island published by the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission in September, 1976.
For Woonsocket residents, these books are available at the Woonsocket-Harris Public Library.


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