|Glocester, RI||June 19, 2023|
Although I may have unknowingly strolled past his grave a decade prior, in 2023 I definitively tracked down the burial site of Warren Otis Arnold at Acotes Hill Cemetery in Chepachet, Glocester, Rhode Island. Arnold was a successful businessman from the woolen goods industry who served multiple terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He rests with his wife of 47 years, Mary Owen, in the plot seen at the far left of this image.
The Arnolds had no children, and they are the only occupants of their plot. Mary Arnold outlived her husband by three years, dying in February 1913. Her footstone is situated on the right, and the congressman’s marker is on the left. Both were coated with lichens at the time of my visit.
Sometime between 1857 and 1860 (sources differ), Warren O. Arnold established himself as a merchant in Mapleville, a village in Burrillville, Rhode Island. In 1864 he shifted his business model to the manufacture of cotton goods. Two years after that, he transitioned from cotton to wool. In 1880, he and his younger brother, Louis, purchased a mill along the Pawcatuck River in Westerly, Rhode Island. The two were the managing partners of the Westerly Woolen Company for many years. Louis lived near the mill in Westerly, whereas Warren maintained a residence in Chepachet.
Rhode Island’s second congressional district endured some tumultuous elections in the 1880s. The 1884 results were contested and the seat was eventually declared vacant. The 1886 election saw no candidate receive a majority, which under state law was necessary to win the seat. The election was postponed until November 1887, when the Republican Party made gains throughout the state and Warren O. Arnold rode the wave to Washington, defeating Democrat Charles S. Peabody and Prohibition Party nominee Thomas H. Peabody. It was Arnold’s first — and only — public office. Arnold was re-elected in 1888 and ran for a third term in 1890. In the latter contest, when no candidate received a majority of votes, the state legislature ordered for another election to be held, in which Arnold declined to participate. After a four-year hiatus, he secured a third and final congressional term in 1894. During his initial congressional tenure, Arnold served on the House’s Banking and Currency Committee and the Committee on Indian Affairs. He was a member of the Appropriations Committee during his second stint. After his political career concluded in March 1897, Arnold continued his industrial endeavors with the Westerly Woolen Company.
Born: June 3, 1839 in Coventry, Rhode Island
Spouse: Mary Owen Arnold (m. 1862-1910)
Political Affiliation: Republican Party
House Tenure: 1887-1891, 1895-1897
Died: April 1, 1910 in Westerly, Rhode Island
Interment: Acotes Hill Cemetery, Chepachet, Glocester, Rhode Island
"Mr. Arnold's long experience as a manufacturer has placed him in a position where his opinion is widely sought for upon business matters by men launching out in manufacturing enterprises, and therefore he is eminently qualified to hold a position where his influence can be felt in the making of the laws of this country."
- Joseph D. Hall, Jr.
Editor of Biographical History of the Manufacturers and Business Men of Rhode Island at the Opening of the Twentieth Century, published in 1901
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Hall, Joseph D., Jr., ed. Biographical History of the Manufacturers and Business Men of Rhode Island at the Opening of the Twentieth Century. Providence: J. D. Hall & Co., 1901. https://ia802606.us.archive.org/7/items/biographicalhist00hall/biographicalhist00hall.pdf.
Indianapolis Journal. “RHODE ISLAND. The Postponed Congressional Election Results in a Republican Victory.” November 9, 1887. Page 3. https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=IJ18871109.1.3&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-.
Michael, W.H. Fiftieth Congress [First Session.] Official Congressional Directory for the Use of the United States Congress. 2nd ed. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1888. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CDIR-1888-01-01/pdf/CDIR-1888-01-01.pdf.
New York Times. “RHODE ISLAND REPUBLICAN.; A SWEEPING VICTORY AND GAIN OF A CONGRESSMAN.” November 9, 1887. Page 2. https://www.nytimes.com/1887/11/09/archives/rhode-island-republican-a-sweeping-victory-and-gain-of-a.html.