Wilkins Updike, youngest of the eleven children of Lodowick and Abigail (Gardner) Updike, was also almost the last of a generation of true Rhode Island men known as 'old fashioned', 'of the old school', but worthy of respect and imitation in the walks of private and public life. This was the eulogy passed upon 'an old fashioned gentleman, this vigorous and honest legislator, the hospitable and warm hearted citizen' by his colleagues of the Rhode Island General Assembly at his decease. He was born at North Kingstown, R.I., January 8, 1784, died at his home in Kingstown, January 14, 1867. He was educated under private tutors and at Plainfield Academy (Connecticut), pursuing law study under William Hunter and Asher Robbins, of Newport, and Elisha Potter, of Kingstown. He was admitted to the bar in 1808, and soon rose to eminence in his profession. He resided at Tower Hill, also for a few years at the homestead at North Kingstown, now Kingston. He was a law maker as well as a lawyer, and was identified with many legislative reforms, the Married Woman's Act, the system of public schools, and many of the great public enterprises of his time. He was a hard working member of the General Assembly, in debate was most effective, in logic convincing, in ridicule most powerful and in sympathetic appeal could draw the hardest to tears. At his decease the General Assembly passed the following resolutions:
"Resolved, That we desire to inscribe upon the record some memorial of our respect for this old fashioned gentleman, this vigorous and honest legislator, this hospitable and warm-hearted citizen. Resolved, That in the decease of Hon. Wilkins Updike, has passed away from earth almost the last of a generation of true Rhode Island men, worthy of our respect and imitation in the walks of private and public life."
His pen was equally effective and he contributed to the public press. He wrote 'Memoirs of the Rhode Island Bar', published in 1842, a valuable work preserving much concerning distinguished men of the Rhode Island bar which otherwise would have been forgotten and lost. He also wrote a 'History of the Episcopal Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island', published in 1847, a book now very valuable and rare. He was a valued member of the Rhode Island Historical Society, one of the hardworking members to whom the Society owes its life. Said one of his biographers:
"There is a portrait of Mr. Updike, by Lincoln, excellent both as a picture and as a likeness when he was in the full maturity of his physical and mental powers. It is a radiant face, suggestive of strength and enjoyment. If it were hung in a gallery of portraits of men who have made a mark in the world, it would at once arrest attention and provoke inquiry about the original. As the picture, so the man. In whatever company Mr. Updike was, he was a centre of attraction, not because he asserted himself, but because he was alive in every part of his nature. He enjoyed himself, and so was a source of joy to all around him. He loved to eat and drink and laugh and work. What was worth seeing, he saw. What was worth knowing he knew."
He had strong convictions, loved to study individual character, was a zealous friend of temperance, a church-man, a nobleman in personal appearance, and in the generous humanity of his nature. Wherever he sat was the head of the table, and he would have entertained royally at his home without any thought of difference in rank. He was beloved of the large family which grew up around him, the idol of his children, and when at a good old age he passed over he was laid at rest by a loving group of relatives and friends.
He married, September 31, 1809, Abby A. Watson, daughter of Walter and Abigail (Hazard) Watson, a lady of remarkable mentality, who preceded her husband in death, her remains being interred in the family burial ground at Wickford. Her portrait was painted in 1817, by Artist Gimbrede, in water colors, but later wax copied in oil. She was greatly beloved and esteemed. Their children were twelve: 1. Thomas Boudoin, a druggist of Pittsburgh, Pa. 2. Mary A., married Samuel Rodman, a manufacturer of Rocky Brook. 3. Isabelle W., married R. R. Randolph, an accountant of Kingstown. 4. Abby A., of further mention. 5. Walter W., a lawyer of Seekonk, Mass. 6. Artis T., of Kingston. 7. Angeline, married John F. Greene, of Brooklyn, N. Y. 8. Elizabeth T., of Kingston. 9. Caesar A., a lawyer of Providence. 10. Caroline, married John Eddy, a lawyer of Providence. 11. Daniel, of Kingston. 12. Alice, of Kingston. (from "History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Biographical"; pub. by the American Historical Society, New York, 1920).
Relocated from Wilkins Updike Lot, NGHC #16 in Narragansett, RI.
Abby Watson Updike
Alice L. Updike
Isabella Watson Updike Randolph
Mary Anstis Updike Rodman
Abby Antonia Updike Hidden
Walter Watson Updike
Aritis T. Updike
Angeline Updike Greene
Elizabeth Townsend Updike
Caesar A. Updike
Caroline Matilda Updike Eddy