Thomas W. Bicknell

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Thomas Bicknell
Thomas W. Bicknell and others in front of Dr. John Clarke's grave in Newport (from Bicknell's "Story of Dr. John Clarke") Dr. John Clarke grave.jpg
Thomas W. Bicknell and others in front of Dr. John Clarke's grave in Newport (from Bicknell's "Story of Dr. John Clarke")

Thomas W. Bicknell (September 6, 1834 – 1925) was an American educator, historian, and author.


Early life and career

Thomas Williams Bicknell was born in Barrington, Rhode Island to Harriet Byron Kinnicutt (1 September 1791 - 15 December 1837), daughter of Josiah Kinnicutt and Rebecca Townsend Kinnicutt, and Rhode Island minister and Senator, Lt.-Col. Allin Bicknell (13 April 1787 - 16 August 1870), who had served with the Bristol County, Rhode Island Militia. [1] Thomas Bicknell attended Thetford Academy in Vermont and Amherst College in Massachusetts, taught school and became principal in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, then principal in Elgin, Illinois.

Barrington, Rhode Island Town in Rhode Island, United States

Barrington is a suburban, residential town in Bristol County, Rhode Island located approximately 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Providence. It was founded by Congregationalist separatists from Swansea, Massachusetts and incorporated in 1717.

Bristol County, Rhode Island County in the United States

Bristol County is a county located in the U.S. state of Rhode Island. As of the 2010 census, the population was 49,875, making it the least populous county in Rhode Island. In terms of land area it is the third smallest county in the United States, at only 25 square miles (65 km2). The county was created in 1747 when it was separated from Bristol County, Massachusetts. Bristol County is included in the Providence-Warwick, RI-MA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is in turn constitutes a portion of the greater Boston-Worcester-Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT Combined Statistical Area.

Militia generally refers to an army or other fighting force that is composed of non-professional fighters

A militia is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class. Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.

When he returned to Rehoboth, serving as principal once again, he earned a master's degree from Brown University. While a senior at Brown he was elected State Representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly. After graduating from Brown, he became principal of Bristol High School and then Arnold Street Grammar School, then back to Bristol High School.

Brown University University in Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University is a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, it is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

Rhode Island Governor Seth Padelford (Republican 1869–1873) selected Bicknell to be the Commissioner of Public Schools in 1869. As commissioner he focused on re-establishing the Normal School (now Rhode Island College). He was a gifted speaker and fundraiser, who would triple the amount of money spent on public education; he also established a Rhode Island State Board of Education, oversaw the selection of school superintendents in every town and city in the state, dedicated over 50 new schoolhouses, and increased the school year from 27 to 35 weeks.

Seth Padelford American politician

Seth Padelford was the 31st Governor of Rhode Island from 1869 to 1873.

Rhode Island College higher education institution

Rhode Island College (RIC) is a public college in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1854, it is the second oldest college in Rhode Island, after Brown University. Located on a 180-acre campus, the college has a student body of 9,000: 7,518 undergraduates and 1,482 graduate students. RIC is a member of the NCAA and has 17 Division III teams.

Civil rights reformer

In the 1850s Bicknell signed on to help settle the State of "Free Kansas" to prevent the spread of slavery. On the way to Kansas he was taken hostage by bandits on the Missouri River, but after two weeks as a prisoner, sharpshooters set him adrift.

Bicknell was an equaligist, a racial and sexual reformer, an early advocate to end Black segregation in schools; he also helped elect the United States' first all-female school board for the town of Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Tiverton, Rhode Island Town in Rhode Island, United States

Tiverton is a town in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 15,780 at the 2010 census.

Heritage and legacy

Bicknell joined the Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1896 and was the founder of the National Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims and Order of the Founders and Patriots of America (1898). He re-established, and was the president of, the American Institute of Instruction, and was president of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction and the National Educational Association. He was the president of the New England Publishing Company.

Sons of the American Revolution Nonprofit organization

The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution is an American congressionally chartered organization, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. A non-profit corporation, it has described its purpose as maintaining and extending "the institutions of American freedom, an appreciation for true patriotism, a respect for our national symbols, the value of American citizenship, [and] the unifying force of 'e pluribus unum' that has created, from the people of many nations, one nation and one people."

Order of the Founders and Patriots of America lineage society

The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America (OFPA) is a highly restrictive, United States-based, hereditary fraternal organization whose self-declared purpose is to collect and preserve records related to the original American colonists and their descendants, and to promote camaraderie among descendants of original colonists. Its strict bloodline mandates and small size, has earned it a reputation as the most exclusive lineage society in the United States. However, unlike the Society of the Cincinnati, membership eligibility does not descend through family lines by order of agnatic primogeniture, meaning more than one member of the same family can simultaneously hold membership.

The American Institute of Instruction was formed in 1830. The original purpose was to secure a Massachusetts Superintendent of Common Schools. Due the work of Samuel Read Hall, George B. Emerson and E. A. Andrews, legislation was passed leading to both the appointment of Horace Mann as Secretary of the State Board of Education, and the Acts of 1837, providing for a Superintendent of Public Education.

In 1914, wanting to have a town named for him, he offered a 1000-volume library to any town in Utah that would adopt his name. Two towns vied for the prize, Grayson and Thurber; the two towns compromised and in 1916 Thurber changed its name to Bicknell, and Grayson took the name of Blanding, the maiden name of Bicknell's wife. The towns then split the library with 500 books to each. [2]

Bicknell and his wife, Amelia, donated $500 to the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society in Rehoboth, to establish the Blanding Public Library in memory of Amelia's parents, Christopher and Chloe Blanding.

In addition to education, he was also active in civic activities and the church. He served as commissioner from Rhode Island to the Universal Exposition at Vienna, Austria. He helped establish the U.S. Postal Code system as a member of the 1878 Postal Congress. He served as president in over thirty associations and organizations, and was a member in over one hundred. He was president of the International Sunday School Union, the Massachusetts Congregational Sunday School Union, the Chautauqua Teachers' Reading Union, and the New England Sunday School Association.


Bicknell was an author, editor, and publisher of the New England Journal of Education (Boston, 1875–1880). He was the author of the five-volume History of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, [3] the author-publisher of The Governors of Rhode Island, The Dorr War, The Story of the Rhode Island Normal School, [4] and Story of Dr. John Clarke, [5] and the editor-publisher of History and Genealogy of the Bicknell Family and Collateral Lines. [6] As a historian he also contributed to The Bay State Monthly magazine. [7]

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  1. Bicknell, T. W. History and genealogy of the Bicknell family and some collateral lines, of Normandy, Great Britain and America. Comprising some ancestors and many descendants of Zachary Bicknell from Barrington, Somersetshire, England, 1635 by Thomas Williams Bicknell; USA; 1913, p. 173.
  2. Van Cott, John W. (1990). Utah Place Names. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press. p. 31. ISBN   0-87480-345-4.
  3. Bicknell, Thomas W. (1920). History of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The American Historical Society.
  4. Bicknell, Thomas W. (1911). The Story of Rhode Island Normal School.
  5. Bicknell, Thomas W. (1915). Story of Dr. John Clarke.
  6. Bicknell, Thomas W., ed. (1913). History and Genealogy of the Bicknell Family and Collateral Lines.
  7. "The Bay State Monthly – Volume 1 (Contents)". Books Should Be Free. Retrieved April 28, 2013.

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