Joseph Wanton, Jr. – Loyalist


Joseph Wanton, Jr. (1730–1780) was a Loyalist, merchant, Deputy Governor of Rhode Island in 1764 and 1767 and owner of Hunter House in Newport, Rhode Island.

Wanton was born to Governor Joseph Wanton and Mary Winthrop Wanton of Newport on February 8, 1730. Wanton graduated from Harvard University in 1751 and was involved with privateers during the French and Indian War possibly where he attained the title of colonel. Wanton’s first wife Abigail died in 1771. Wanton served as a vestryman at Trinity Church (Newport). Wanton was elected Deputy Governor of Rhode Island in 1764 and 1767.

Wanton was a loyalist during the American Revolution and was accused of treason and imprisoned by Rhode Island General William West while the British occupied Narragansett Bay in 1776. When the British occupied Newport, he raised troops for the Loyalist cause. In 1780 Wanton’s property (Hunter House) was confiscated, and he fled Newport when the Americans reoccupied the city. Wanton likely died in New York in 1780 after fleeing there with the British. In 1781 his widow Sarah Brenton Wanton unsuccessfully petitioned the State of Rhode Island to return of the confiscated Wanton properties in Newport, Jamestown, Prudence Island, and Gould Island.

Some genealogists speculate that Wanton became an Episcopal minister near Liverpool, England, although this seems inconsistent with other information about his life, including the 1780 burial record of one Col. Wanton in the churchyard at Trinity Wall Street Church, Manhattan. It is more likely that it was Joseph and Sarah’s son; Joseph Brenton Wanton who went to Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1795, aged 18; and later became a minister in Liverpool, England.