Frequently Asked Questions

Q. When and where was Roger Williams born?

A. Roger Williams was born in the year of 1603, in the Smithfield section of London, England.

Q. What did Roger Williams look like?

A. We don't know. There is no known image of Williams done during his lifetime. The are several paintings and sculptures depicting Williams, but these are all artists' impressions. For example, the statue at Roger Williams University actually features the face of Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams!

Q. What was Roger Williams’ family background?

A. Williams’ father, James, was a fairly successful merchant tailor, who upon his death in 1621, left his family comfortably situated. Williams’s mother, Alice Pemberton, daughter of Robert Pemberton and Katherine Stokes, was born in St. Albans in 1564. She ran an inn in London and apparently was also successful. She died in 1634, leaving some inheritance. Roger had an older brother, Sydrach, an older sister Catherine, and a younger brother Robert.

Q. What was Roger Williams’ religion?

A. Roger Williams was a Christian. He started out as an ordained minister of the Church of England. He became a Puritan before he left England in 1631. After his arrival in Massachusetts Bay Colony, he broke with the Puritans and became a Separatist. In Providence, in 1638, he helped established the First Baptist Church in America. Eventually becoming dissatisfied with all organized religions, he became a ‘”seeker’”; someone living a pious life, following their own conscience while awaiting Christ’s re-establishment of a true church.

Q. Did Roger Williams have a family?

A. Roger Williams married Mary Barnard at All Saints Church in High Laver in England in December of 1629. She sailed with him to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in December of 1630. They had six children:

Mary 1633-1684: married John Sayles in 1650

Freeborn 1635-1710: first married Thomas Hart; later married Walter Clarke

Providence 1638-1686; never married

Mercy1640-1705: married Resolved Waterman in 1659; later married Samuel Winsor

Daniel 1641-1712; married Rebecca Rhodes Power in 1676

Joseph 1643-1724; married Lydia Olney

The Roger Williams Family Association is an organization of his desecendants. Find out more about them at:

Q. Where was Roger Williams House?

A. Roger Williams’s house is no longer standing. It stood on a lot across the street from the current memorial. It probably looked a lot like the Clemmons Irons house, a Rhode Island stone ender. Roger’s house was burned during King Philip’s War in 1676.

Q. How many languages did Roger Williams speak?

A. Roger Williams spoke at least seven different languages: English, French, Latin, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, and Narragansett.

Q. When did Roger Williams die?

A. Roger Williams died between January and March1683, at approximately 80 years of age.

Q. Where was Roger Williams buried?

A. Roger has been laid to rest three times!!!!!!

  1. Roger was first buried behind his house on Towne Street at what is now North Main Street.
  2. In 1860, his remains were moved to a family crypt in the Old North Burial Ground. A committee was formed to create a memorial to Williams and they selected Prospect Terrance as a suitable final resting place. However, funds were meager, the Civil War intervened and no action was taken.
  3. To mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Providence in 1936, a new committee raised funds and interred the remains under a statue of Williams, dedicated in 1939, at Prospect Terrace.

Q. Is there a statue of Roger Williams?

A. We know of at least five statues of Roger Williams:

  1. The statue at Prospect Terrace- his final resting place, overlooking the city of Providence.
  2. The statue at the Elmwood Ave entrance to Roger Williams Park and Zoo- dedicated in 1877.
  3. The statue at Roger Williams University.
  4. The statue in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.- Used to be in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building until he was moved to the basement to make way for the bust of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucreatia Mott.
  5. Monument to the Heroes of the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland.

Q. When was the Roger Williams National Memorial created?

A. Proposals to create a national park site to commemorate the life and ideals of Roger Williams were made as early as 1959.

Enabling legislation authorizing the purchase of land by the Federal Government for the site was passed on October 22, 1965. Through 1974, the Providence Redevelopment authority purchased land for the site, condemned and tore down buildings and cleared rubble. Final clearing and drainage was completed in 1975.

In 1974, the land became the property of the National Park Service. Landscaping and tree planting was completed by the mid 1980’s.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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