A searcher of records, a careful Historian, a lover of the past, whose life was given to perpetuating its lessons. author of RI Vital Records - James Newell Arnold. His collecion of vital and cemetery records resides at the Knight branch of the Providence Public Library
James N. Arnold
James N. Arnold is dead at the ripe age of eighty-three years. To many Newporters this announcement means nothing, but it should. In his profession of historian and geneologist, Mr. Arnold found Newport a rich field for his efforts and he cultivated it assiduously, much of his work being without hope of financial reward. He had located the burial place of many of the distinguished citizens of an earlier day in Newport, and had urged their preservation and care. He unearthed much information about Govenor Benedict Arnold, of Newport, and Rev. John Clarke, both of whom were leading citizens in the early days of the colony.
Mr. Arnold had not known a life of ease. In his early youth he was the victim of an accident, and an incompetent or careless physician treated him in such a manner as to leave him permanently crippled, so that throughout his life he was obliged to depend upon crutches. In spite of this tremendous handicap, he was forced at an early age to earn his own living and later to support a helpless sister. He travelled up and down the State and into its most remote corners, pursuing his lavors, and although the financial rewards were not commensurate with the burden of his work, he was able to maintain the family. Whenever any extra money came into his possession he bought more books, until he had finally accumulated one of the most valuable geneological libraries in New England.
For his own comfort and convenience he cared nothing. In his tours, he carried a black bag hung over his shoulder, and hobbled about on crutches. Frequently he was unshaven and unkept. In this condition, he once stepped off the train at Newport and was accosted by a police officer who had been warned to look out for suspicious characters. The officer accousted Mr. Arnold sharply and unpleasantly, inquiring what he had in his bag. The visitor, although one of the gentlest and kindest of men, promptly took offense, and replied, "None of your dammed business." Thereupon the policeman marched him down to the Police Station and into the presence of Pardon S. Kaull, then Chief of Police. Mr. Kaull recognized him instantly, chatted with him for a time and then very courteously informed him that the police department had no business with him. But after Mr. Arnold had left the office, the patrolman who brought him in received a severe "wigging."
Mr. Arnold's greatest work was the compilation of the "Vital Records of Rhode Island," a tremendous task, comprising many volumes. For a number of years, the General Assembly made annual appropriations for the purchase of certain copies of each volume and these books were distributed to libraries and other places, where they are highly regarded as valuable works of reference. Many of these books were printed at the Mercury Office, which brought the author here very frequently. Always cheerful, alert and intellegent, he was a welcome visitor.
Recent advancing years had brought him further physical handicap and he had been under the care at the Dexter Asylum for some time before his death.
Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island) 24 Sep 1927 Sat Pg 1 col 5
A searcher of records, a careful Historian, a lover of the past, whose life was given to perpetuating its lessons.
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