Gilbert Stuart was
born and raised in my hometown of Saunderstown, RI. I can remember many a fine
weekend spent netting Buckies (or Alewife - a kind of herring)
in the creek to
the front of the Gilbert Stuart Snuff Mill,
(his historic birthplace) or
renting one of the old rowboats they kept at the mill and taking it up the
creek to the lake behind the mill and fishing for pickerel, bluegills, and
There was a very ancient, (at least to a 10 year old boy)
lady who lived at the mill and took care of the place. I suspect that she has
long since passed away as it was during the years 1955 to 1960 when the mill
was one of my favorite haunts.
Gilbert Charles Stuart was born on
December 3, 1755 at the Old Snuff Mill in Saunderstown, Rhode
Island. He grew up in Newport, RI where his family moved when he was still very
Gilbert Stuart was the foremost
portrait painter of his era and is especially known for his famous 1796
unfinished portrait of George Washington,
of which, hung in most primary school classrooms when I was growing up).
Other famous paintings by Stuart include portraits of
General Henry Dearborn, and President John Adams
In 1775 Stuart moved to London to
study under the Benjamin West. However, Stuart's style is more reminiscent of
Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds than of West's. Stuart opened his
own studio in 1782 and began painting portraits of England's high society.
Stuart didn't manage his finances verv well and fled to Ireland in 1787 to
escape his creditors where he spent the next six years.
Stuart returned to the United States
in 1792 and quickly established himself as the country's leading portrait
painter. He lived in New York for a short period and then in Philadelphia for
12 years. He settled in Boston, Massachusetts in 1805.
Gilbert Stuart died on July 9, 1828 in
The Old Snuff Mill
The Snuff Mill where Gilbert Stuart was born was
originally built by his father, Gilbert Stuart, Sr.,
who was born and educated in Scotland. Gilbert supported
the pretender to the Scottish throne, "Bonnie
Prince Charlie" and fought under his flag at the
of Culloden. After the defeat, Gilbert emigrated to Rhode Island
where in 1751, he built the first snuff mill in New England. The mill and
surrounding land was sold to Thomas Moffitt in 1753 and in 1812 it was
purchased by Benjamin Hammond and has been known ever since as
Mill or "The Birthplace of
The site is important not only as the birthplace
of Gilbert Stuart, but also for it's ties to early Rhode Island's industrial
heritage. The snuff mill and attached home have been restored to
their original 18th century condition with period furnishings. The Gilbert
Stuart Birthplace is open to the public from April to October on Monday through
Thursday from 11 AM to 4 PM. The mill is located at 815 Gilbert Stuart Road off
of Route 1A in Saunderstown, Rhode Island.
is a small village in the township of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. It is located about 2
miles south of the Jamestown Bridge crossing off of the Old Boston Post
Road (Route 1A).
Saunderstown was the home of one of the states greatest shipwrights. John
Aldrich Saunders began building schooners and steamships
here. He built one of the fastest and largest Ferry Boats, the steam screw ferry
Newport. Because of the ferries at Saunderstown, many
vacationers traveling from New York to Newport would stop for the day.
Many of them became permanent residents, enjoying the "working village-on-the-bay."
The Post Offices of Rhode Island - Merolla
Stuart Birthplace - Official Website