#52Ancestors: John “The Surgeon” Greene And The Founding Of Providence Plantations Rhode Island

My 14th week in Amy Johnson Crow’s “
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I’m no longer a few weeks behind in this series. I am now 7 weeks behind in this series (the challenge just wrapped up week 21). I initially blamed my tardiness on being super busy at home, work, and with my volunteer work. However, the extended lapse can be blamed on the recent diagnosis of some critical health issues that had wiped me out for a while (you can read about that on my food blog).

But I’m determined to chronicle at least 52 Ancestors this year, so I’m playing catch-up.

John “The Surgeon” Greene

This 14th “ancestor” is my husband’s 9th great grandfather, John “The Surgeon” GREENE (abt 1590 – 1659) — one of the early settlers of Rhode Island, a founding member of Providence Plantations, a founding member of the first Baptist church in North America, and the founding patriarch of the large prominent line of “Warwick Greenes” (distinguished from other Greene lines in Rhode Island and New England). He is referred to as the Surgeon to distinguish him from the many other John Greenes, even in this same line. And because he was a physician.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of Rhode Island’s statehood. Two-hundred twenty-four years ago, in 1790, Rhode Island became the last of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution, becoming our thirteenth state. I thought this anniversary an opportune time to share a bit about my husband’s ancestor’s role in Rhode Island’s history.

Origin & Immigration

There is quite a lot written about John “The Surgeon” Greene — both in print and electronic format (a simple Google Search will bring up a ton of blogs, websites, and forums managed by his descendants). He also has a Wikipedia page (of course!). I only just discovered him late last year, so I am still processing the overwhelming amount of data available on him, and verifying sources and facts. Hence, you can anticipate many future posts about this ancestor.


John appears to have been born in Gillingham, Dorset, England around 1590 (more on that in a later blog post). He immigrated to the U.S. with his wife and children, traveling on board the James of London, which left London in April 1635 during what is called the Great Migration from England to New England. The family arrived in Massachusetts Bay, Boston, Massachusetts, in June 1635.

From Massachusetts to Rhode Island

That same year, John settled his family in Salem, Massachusetts, where he became associated with Roger Williams, the theologian and founder (1636) of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Williams even baptized Greene. Williams and Greene both grew frustrated by the lack of religious freedom in Puritan-controlled Massachusetts, so Greene followed Williams to newly acquired land in what Williams would establish as the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. John Greene was one of the initial twelve men “proprietors” deeded land by Roger Williams in 1638, in what would become the town of Providence. It was there that Williams and Greene founded the first Baptist church.

In 1643, John Greene purchased land and settled in what became Warwick, Rhode Island. John was active in government here, and had quite a documented history of protesting and causing mayhem against Massachusetts over boundary and jurisdiction disputes (Massachusetts wanted control over Rhode Island). My liberty-loving husband definitely takes after his 9th great grandpa!
John Greene died in Warwick in 1659, where he is buried.

Town layout of Providence with Greene’s lot fifth from the top. Public domain photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

John Greene’s Relationship To My Husband

  1. John “The Surgeon” Greene (abt 1590 – 1659)
  2. John Greene (abt 1619 – 1708), oldest son
  3. Samuel Greene (1670 – 1720), youngest son
  4. Benjamin Greene
  5. Christopher Greene (1733 – 1820)
  6. William Greene (1772 – )
  7. Johnathan Greene (1803 – 1873)
  8. William Henry Greene (1837 – 1921)
  9. William Wallace Greene (1869 – 1944)
  10. William Wallace Greene (1908 – 2003)
  11. Richard Greene, my father-in-law
  12. Jeff Greene, my husband


The bulk of my research comes from:

Greene, G. S. (1903). The Greenes of Rhode Island with historical records of English ancestry, 1534-1902. New York: [The Knickerbocker press].