Thomas Robinson Hazard

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Thomas Robinson Hazard
Born(1791-01-03)January 3, 1791
DiedMarch 26, 1886(1886-03-26) (aged 95)
Frances Minturn
(m. 1838;her death 1854)
Parent(s)Rowland Hazard
Mary Peace Hazard
Relatives Rowland G. Hazard (brother)

Thomas Robinson “Shepherd Tom” Hazard (January 3, 1797 March 26, 1886) was an American author, social reformer, and advocate of Modern Spiritualism.

A reform movement is a type of social movement that aims to bring a social or political system closer to the community's ideal. A reform movement is distinguished from more radical social movements such as revolutionary movements which reject those old ideals in the ideas are often grounded in liberalism, although they may be rooted in socialist or religious concepts. Some rely on personal transformation; others rely on small collectives, such as Mahatma Gandhi's spinning wheel and the self-sustaining village economy, as a mode of social change. Reactionary movements, which can arise against any of these, attempt to put things back the way they were before any successes the new reform movement(s) enjoyed, or to prevent any such successes.


Early life

Hazard was born on January 3, 1797 in the village of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, the second-eldest son of textile industrialist Rowland Hazard and Mary (née Peace) Hazard. [1] His mother was raised in Charleston, South Carolina and spent a year studying in London as a girl. His father founded the Peace Dale Manufacturing Company in Peace Dale, Rhode Island in 1802. [2] Among his siblings was older brother Isaac Peace Hazard and younger brother Rowland G. Hazard. [3]

Charleston, South Carolina City in the United States

Charleston is the oldest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina's coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Charleston had an estimated population of 136,208 in 2018. The estimated population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, was 787,643 residents as of 2018, the third-largest in the state and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.

Peace Dale, Rhode Island United States historic place

Peace Dale is a village in the town of South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Together with the village of Wakefield, it is treated by the U.S. Census as a component of the census-designated place identified as Wakefield-Peacedale, Rhode Island.

Rowland G. Hazard American politician

Rowland Gibson Hazard was an American industrialist, politician, and social reformer.

A descendant of an old New England Quaker family, Hazard was a fifth-great-grandson of Thomas Hazard, one of the nine founding settlers of Newport on Aquidneck Island in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. [3] His paternal grandparents were Thomas Hazard and Elizabeth (née Robinson) Hazard, herself a daughter of William Robinson, the Deputy Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. [3]

Thomas Hazard was one of the nine founding settlers of Newport on Aquidneck Island in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He settled in Boston and Portsmouth before settling Newport, but later returned to Portsmouth. His descendants include Commodores Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew C. Perry and three colonial Rhode Island deputy governors.

Newport, Rhode Island City in Rhode Island, United States

Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, located approximately 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, 20 miles (32 km) south of Fall River, Massachusetts, 73 miles (117 km) south of Boston, and 180 miles (290 km) northeast of New York City. It is known as a New England summer resort and is famous for its historic mansions and its rich sailing history. It was the location of the first U.S. Open tournaments in both tennis and golf, as well as every challenge to the America's Cup between 1930 and 1983. It is also the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and an important Navy training center. It was a major 18th-century port city and also contains a high number of buildings from the Colonial era.

Aquidneck Island island in the United States of America

Aquidneck Island, officially Rhode Island, is an island in Narragansett Bay and in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which is partially named after the island. The total land area is 97.9 km2 (37.8 sq mi), which makes it the largest island in the bay. The 2000 United States Census reported its population as 60,870.

At twelve, Thomas enrolled in the Friends’ School at West Town, Pennsylvania but left to assist in the operation of the family’s wool carding manufactures at Peace Dale. After a gift of two ewes sparked his interest in agriculture and livestock, Hazard acquired the nickname “Shepherd Tom.” [3]


In 1844, Hazard became one of the original twenty three incorporators of the Rhode Island Hospital for the Insane, later Butler Hospital. [4] The facility was the first of its kind in the state; responsibility for the care of destitute and mentally handicapped citizens at the time fell largely upon local governments.

Butler Hospital United States historic place

Butler Hospital is a private, non-profit, psychiatric and substance abuse hospital for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors, located at 345 Blackstone Boulevard in Providence, Rhode Island. The hospital is affiliated with the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and is the flagship for Brown University's renowned department of psychiatry. Butler Hospital was a founding member, along with Women & Infants Hospital and Kent Hospital, of the Care New England health system in 1996.

Owing to his extensive record as an outspoken champion of the rights of the “insane poor,” Hazard was appointed by the state to conduct a survey of Rhode Island’s poor houses and insane asylums. The Report on the Poor and Insane in Rhode Island: Made to the General Assembly at its January Session, 1851 provided a detailed census of “insane paupers” at thirty-three local facilities. The abuse of disabled Rhode Islanders in rural localities exposed in the report helped abolish state policies which treated mental illness as a crime. [5]

Hazard was also a committed antislavery activist and published dozens of tracts in support of the American Colonization Society and the Republic of Liberia. From 1840 to 1841 he served as a Vice President of the ACS. Other causes for which he labored included the abolition of the death penalty in Rhode Island and public education. [6]


Following the death of his wife in 1854, Hazard became interested in spiritual communication and began visiting mediums in Providence and Boston. The author Maud Howe Elliott, a neighbor and childhood friend of the Hazard children, recalls Shepherd Tom’s grief and subsequent obsession with “materialization, spirit life, mediums, psychic photographs.” [7] Hazard penned numerous firsthand accounts of spirit materializations and séances held in a dedicated room at his Portsmouth estate, Vaucluse. After two of his daughters died of tuberculosis and a third drowned herself in a river on the family’s property, he dedicated himself exclusively to the defense of mediumship. [5]

Hazard authored two books of local folklore, the latter of which became the subject of controversy when Dr. Leroy Vaughn used the work as evidence of Thomas Jefferson's African Heritage, which the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has since dismissed. [5]

Personal life

On October 12, 1838 he married Frances Minturn (1813–1854), daughter of New York merchant Jonas Minturn and Esther (née Robinson) Minturn. She was also a niece of Robert Bowne Minturn (who later went into business with Henry Grinnell as Grinnell, Minturn & Co). Together, the couple had five daughter and one son: [8]

Hazard died in New York City on March 26, 1886. [3]

Published works

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  1. L.E. Rogers, ed. (1881). "Hazard, Thomas R.". Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island. Providence: National Biographical Publishing Co.
  2. Peter H. Hare (1972), "Rowland G. Hazard (1801-88) on Freedom in Willing", Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1972), pp. 155–164.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Robinson, Caroline; Daniel Berkely Updike (1896). The Hazard family of Rhode Island 1635-1894 : Being a genealogy and history of the descendants of Thomas Hazard, with sketches of the worthies of this family, and anecdotes illustrative of their traits and also of the times in which they lived. Boston: Merrymount Press. pp. 121, 200.
  4. Field, Edward (1902). State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century: A History, Volume 3. Boston: The Mason Publishing Co. p. 419. ISBN   1144749522.
  5. 1 2 3 Fee, Christopher R.; Webb, Jeffrey B. (2016). American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore [3 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore (3 Volumes). ABC-CLIO. p. 462. ISBN   9781610695688 . Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  6. Hazard, Thomas R. (1883). Miscellaneous Essays and Letters. Philadelphia: Collins.
  7. Elliott, Maud Howe (1944). This Was My Newport. New York: Mythology Co. p. 67.
  8. Stattler, Rick (July 1997). "Thomas R. Hazard Papers | Manufacturer, author and spiritualist of Portsmouth, R.I." Rhode Island Historical Society . Retrieved 14 July 2019.