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Salsbery, D

Duty Salsbery

Housewright, Glocester / Burrillville, RI

  • (1766 Smithfield, RI-1859 Burrillville, RI)

  • Brother-in-law to craftsman Isaac Ross, Jr.

  • Research and article by Rick Slaney

Salsbery, D

Salsbery, D

(1766 Smithfield, RI-1859 Glocester / Burrillvielle, RI)

House carpenter,












Here's an article on Duty Salsbery, provided courtesy of Rick Slaney

Early RI Toolmakers & Tradesmen, NETRIS



( Duty Salsbery )

by Richard Slaney

                                                                                               April 13, 2015


The planemaker Duty Salsbery was born c1766 in Smithfield, RI.  He is the son of Edward Salisbury (1733-1829) and Abigail (Ballou).  He married Cynthia Smith in (?) and they had six children.  Duty died Jan. 12, 1859 in Burrillville, RI, age 93. (note 1)

He was a carpenter, millwright, and farmer.  He resided in the Town of Glocester, RI until 1806 when the town boundary changed and he became a resident of the Town of Burrillville, which was formed from part of Glocester.  A biographical sketch in the book Representative Men And Old Families Of Rhode Island has this information on Duty Salsbery.  “He was a carpenter by occupation.  He became especially well known for his work in mill construction.  He and his son-in-law, Thomas Slack, erected and operated the first woolen-mill at Pascoag” [a village in Burrillville, RI]. (note 2)

I found seven Glocester, RI land deeds for Duty Salsbery which refer to him as either a “House Carpenter” or “House Wright,” these deeds dating from 1793 through 1801.  I found another deed, dated 1801, which refers to him as a “Yeoman alias House Carpenter,” and two other deeds, dated 1798, in which he is called a “Yeoman.”  The spelling of his name in nine of the deeds is Duty Salsbery, the same spelling that is on his wooden planes.  In one deed the spelling is Duty Salisbery. (note 3)

I found three Burrillville, RI land deeds for Duty Salsbery which refer to him as a “carpenter,” these deeds dating from 1811 through 1814, and one deed, dated 1815, which refers to him as a “gentleman.”  The spelling of his name in the first three deeds is Duty Salsbury and in the last deed Duty Salsbery. (note 4)

The name Salsbery is a variant spelling of the family name Salisbury.  Most family members in Rhode Island in the late 18th and early 19th centuries used either Salisbury or Salsbury.  The spelling used by the plane maker is seldom seen and made it easier for me to identify the Glocester / Burrillville carpenter as the plane maker “D + SALSBERY.”

There are five known examples of D + SALSBERY planes.  He made planes for his own use and probably an occasional plane for a friend or fellow worker.  The total number of planes he made over 50 plus years may be less than 25.  His ability to make a functional plane was one of the many skills he possessed as a carpenter and millwright.

I have three D + SALSBERY planes in my collection, an ogee molding plane, a plow plane, and a panel raising plane.  The three planes are pictured on the Early RI Toolmakers & Tradesmen website.  If I had to describe the style and appearance of these planes, I would say “country plain.”  They are a bit crude and awkward looking, but in a charming sort of way.  Without question, all three would perform well the work for which they were made.  The panel plane and the molder are birch and the plow plane is fruitwood, probably apple.  The panel plane has an offset handle and has round chamfering at the top and ends.  The wedges in both the plow plane and the molder have long necks and small round finials, and both plane bodies have 3/16+ flat chamfering along the top.  The end treatment on these two planes is quite distinctive.  The flat chamfers end with a right angle flat step out, and then immediately below is a full gouge cut, the top of the gouge cut just touching the bottom of the step out.  The end detailing is very close to what is seen on the planes made by Stephen Olney (b.1775) of Scituate, RI.

Duty Salsbery in Glocester, RI and Stephen Olney in Scituate, RI lived in neighboring towns in the rural western part of the state.  Both towns were mainly agricultural, although this began to change after 1810 as the textile industry spread into rural RI.  The plane making that took place in such towns served the needs of a farm based economy and the planes that were made do not have the practiced look that men like Joseph Fuller and John Lindenberger gave to their work.  Duty Salsbery (b.1766) was nine years older than the plane maker Stephen Olney (b.1775).  The relationship between the two men is not known, but the almost identical chamfer stops on the ends of their planes suggests a connection.  What can be said is that both men adopted a plane making style that was unique to the western part of the state. (note 5)

If the planes made by Duty Salsberry are typical of western RI planemaking, what is to be made of the planes marked A. SAYLES and E. SAYLES?  Both men are listed in A Guide To The Makers of American Wooden Planes, [Fourth Edition. 2001]; the A SAYLES mark reported on ten planes and the E. SAYLES mark on one plane, but with no information in the book as to the identity of either man.  I now know that A. Sayles is Ahab Salyes and E. Sayles is either Elisha Sayles or Esek Sayles; three brothers, all working as carpenters, who lived in the same part of Glocester and then Burrillville as Duty Salsbery.  Salsbery (b. c1766) was 6 years younger than Ahab Sayles, 9 years younger than Elisha Sayles and 13 years younger than Esek Sayles.  In 1801, Salsbery was living on a farm that bordered on the farm owned by Elisha Sayles. (note 6)  Yet the D + SALSBERRY stamped planes are so very different than the SAYLES planes. The 11 SAYLES planes are identical to the work of the planemaker Henry Wetherel from Norton, MA.  All are beautifully crafted, with precision detailing.  And two of the planes with the A. SAYLES mark also have the H. WETHEREL / IN NORTON mark. (note 7)  A likely scenario is that the Sayles brothers inherited from their father, Israel Sayles, a set of planes made by Henry Wetherel of Norton.  Either most of the Wetherel planes were not stamped when made or someone carefully removed the Wetherel stamp, providing space on the planes for two of the Sayles brothers to place their owner stamps.  The planes marked A. SAYLES and E. SAYLES are made in the best tradition of Southeastern Massachusetts planemaking as it evolved from the work of Francis Nicholson, whereas Duty Salsbery’s planes should be thought of as examples of country toolmaking in western RI.



1.  Charles William Farnham, John Smith, the Miller, of Providence, Rhode Island, and some of his Descendants, reprinted in the book Genealogies of Rhode Island Families From Rhode Island Periodicals.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. 1983. Vol. 2, page 136.

There is a short biographical sketch of Duty Salsbery in the book Representative Men And Old Families Of Rhode Island.  Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co. 1908. Vol. III, pages 1470-1.
Duty Salsbery and his wife are buried in the “Rhode Island Historical Cemetery - Pascoag - 14,” in Burrillville, RI.

2.  Representative Men And Old Families Of Rhode Island.  Page 1470.

-Duty Salsbery passed on his carpentry skills to four of his sons who made woodworking their life’s work.
*Martin S., born Mar. 28, 1793.  A wheelwright who lived in Burrillville and Prov., RI.
*Moses B., born July 30, 1797.  A carpenter and wheelwright who died in Prov., RI
*Alexander, born Apr. 15, 1802.  A carpenter who died in Burrillville, RI.
*Daniel M., born Mar. 24, 1808.  A carpenter who moved to Prov., RI in 1834.

3.  Land Deeds at Glocester Town Hall           [Grantee Deeds]
Book 12, page 384. 1793. “Duty Salsbery of Glocester House Carpenter”
Book 12, page 446. 1794. “Duty Salsbery of Glocester House Carpenter”
Book 13, page 149. 1795. “Duty Salsbery of Glocester House Carpenter”
Book 13, page 231. 1796. “Duty Salsbery of Glocester House Carpenter.” 
Book 13, page 289. 1796. “Duty Salsbery of Glocester House Carpenter.” 
Book 13, page 479. 1798. “Duty Salsbery House Wright.”
Book 14, page 69. 1798. “Duty Salsbery & Silvanus Cook, Yeoman.”  Benjamin Aldrich of Glocester sells Salsbery and Cook “The one eighth part of the Sawmill standing on the southeasterly part of Joseph Shippee’s farm together with one eighth of the Mill irons and Sawmill Yard & all other privileges and appurtenances thereunto belonging, the saw only excepted, _ _ .”
[Grantor Deeds]
Book 14, page 55. 1798. “Duty Salisbery (wife Cynthia) of Glocester Yeoman”
Book 14, page 229. 1800. “Duty Salsbery (wife Cynthia) of Glocester House Carpenter”
Book 15, page 59. 1801 “Duty Salsbery Yeoman alias House Carpenter.”  Duty Salsbery sells Elisha Sayles of Glocester, “Yeoman alias House Carpenter,” _ _ the “south part of the said Salsbery farm whereon he now lives” _ _  “it being a bound of the said Sayles and Salsbery.                                                    

4.  Land Deeds at Burrillville Town Hall            [Grantee Deeds]
Book 1, page 60. 1811 “Duty Salsbury of Burrillville, carpenter.”  Benjamin Mathewson of Burrillville sells Duty Salsbery “all the right and privilege I own in the Monkey Town Sawmill privilege so called and Sawmill Lot, it being one fifth of half and half quarter, also half and half quarter of the old Mill irons that belonged to the old sawmill.”
Book 1, page 70. 1811 “Duty Salsbury of Burrillville, carpenter.”  Elisha Sayles of Burrillville sells Duty Salsberry “all the right and title I own in the Monkey Town Sawmill place privilege lying on the South side of the highway, and in water, and mill yard, and irons, it being one eighth and one sixteenth part of the mill privilege, and yard, water, and irons.”
Book 1, page 107. 1814 “Duty Salsbury of Burrillville, carpenter.”  Daniel Mathewson of Preston, NY, sells Duty Salsbury “all the right and privilege I own in the Monkey Town Sawmill so called and Sawmill Lot, it being one fifth of half and half quarter _ _.”
[Grantor Deed]
Book 1, page 141. 1815 “Duty Salsbery of Burrillville, gentleman.”  Salsbery sells to a Mary Smith “Three small tracts of land lying and being in Burrillville near Passcogue or Salsbery Factory _ _  the first piece is wood and improved land _ _ beginning at the Northeast corner of my old farm where Adin Steere now lives _ _ bounded by the Southwest corner of the Factory Lot and runs _ _  to a rock to the Southwest of the Sawmill _ _.”

5.  The planes Abraham Fisk (b.1762) made after he moved to NY State c1788 have the same end treatment as seen on Salsbery and Olney planes.  Fisk was raised in the Scituate, RI area, as was Olney, and there is a connection between Fisk, Olney, and Salsbery.   Fisk (b.1762) is older than both Salsbery (b. c1766) and Olney (b.1775) and Fisk would be the first of the three to have “taken hold of” this distinctive end detailing. Either Fisk originated this end detailing or he learned it from someone working in the Scituate, RI area.  The years 1777-1782 would be when Fisk learned his trade, probably as a house-wright or shop joiner.  Surprisingly, Fisk appears to have made few, if any planes, while living in RI; most Fisk planes having been found in NY State.

6.  See the 1801 Glocester, RI “Grantee” land deed referenced in Note 3 above.

7.  A Guide To The Makers of American Wooden Planes, [Fourth Edition. 2001], says the ten A. SAYLES planes (including the two marked H. Wetherel / In Norton) are in the collection of Old Sturbridge Village.

Additional Photos and Biographical Notes (below)

Here are excerpts on Duty Salsbery taken from Burrillville, As It Was, And As It Is by Horace A. Keach




by HORACE A. KEACH, 1856


  • Perhaps such brief review as we may be able to give of the customs of our ancestors, may not be altogether uninteresting. No record has ever been collated that gave us an account of the manners and habits of the primitive inhabitants of Burrillville, and what little we have been able to gather of ancient modes of living, has been by transient conversation with our old people, and the hereditary rumors of traditional gossip. We have enjoyed the privilege of several conversations with Dea. Duty Salisbury, whose great age and very excellent memory well fit him for a review of long ago. The Deaeon’s father could remember when there was but one house from Providence bridge to Olneyville.


  • Dea. Duty Salisbury, the oldest man in our town at present, has a comb basket or case, given to his mother by the Indians of Metaka woods. It is woven like a basket, and must be at least one hundred and fifty years old.


      About thirty years ago, while the Deacon was digging for a gate post, he found a bundle of arrows and several                other implements. They were in a pile together about two feet underground. One of these was composed of a                  porphyritic stone of a character unlike any at present to be found in this vicinity.


  • The Salsbury family were among the first who settled in the central parts of Burrillville. Edward Salsbury the father of Duty Salsbury, of Pascoag, was formerly a resident of Smithfield, R. I. He enlisted in the old French war, with the assurance that he would not be called upon to leave the town; but his regiment was soon ordered to New York, and out to Lake Erie. He was engaged in building Fort Stanwix. He carefully saved his wages, and at the close of the war Purchased three hundred acres of land on the east side of Herring Pond.


      Not a rood of it was cleared. He built a rude cabin, and removed his family to it. Duty Salsbury remembers when      

      they come across the Branch Bridge in a cart drawn by oxen. There were no wagons then, and those who had     

      horses only used them with the saddle.


      The boy sat at his mother’s feet, and his father guided the oxen along the rude paths until they come to the solitary        hut, which was to be their future home. There were five other children, and these trudged along in sturdy defiance          of bushes and brakes.


      A little spot was cleared around their cabin; they had one cow; the woods supplied them with game, and the pond          with fish. The revolutionary war began. Edward Salsbury had six bushels of corn. He took this to Hunt’s mill, at the          place now called Round Top, and brought home six bushels of meal. A day had scarcely past when three guns                were fired at Providence, and answered at various points, until the echoes went over Herring Woods. They were the        alarm guns to call the minute men. The woodman must lay by his axe and shoulder his musket. Edward, taking a            hasty farewell of his family, telling them he did not know when he could return, if ever, and bidding them be frugal of        their little stock of provisions, shouldered his knapsack and joined his comrades in arms.


      For six weeks the family lived on such food as could be prepared from Indian meal, with salt and water, for their              cow was dry. When they had milk they fared much better, for they could then have “hasty pudding, pudding and              milk, and milk porridge.”


      Twenty years later the youngest boy, whom we now always call “Deacon,” (he holds that office in the Baptist                    Church,) left the homestead and moved to the place now called Pascoag. It is almost seventy years ago that he              began to battle with the wilderness there. Now there are seven factories in a circuit of a mile, coaches run through          the valley where he snared the first partridge, and the mason’s hammer rings on the ledge where the fox hid                  himself from the pioneer’s rifle. Nothing remains of the old, save the rocky hill, whose thunder splintered                          battlements seem to fortify the vil1age, and the name the Indian gave to the river and the valley.


      We shall never forget the worthy Deacon, with his silver hair, stern independence and sturdy piety. His stereotyped        exhortation of “I believe religion is a good thing, the Lord has been good to me,” has been repeated for three-                  fourths of a century, and now, in his second childhood, he repeats it still.


  • Among the first wants of the new settlers was a place for public worship. The few who had not imbibed      the infidel sentiments, so prevalent during the War, were desirous of erecting a church. The first church      was built by the Freewill Baptists. A lottery was instituted, and the proceeds devoted to the erection of the            building. It is now used for our Town House, but for a great many years it was called the “Burrillville      Freewill Baptist Meeting House.”


      It was apparent that the revenue from the lottery would not complete the edifice, and a subscription was set on              foot. They had not agreed upon its location. The dwellers at Rhodesville wanted it at that place; the people around          Pascoag would like to have it nearer them. It was at last decided that the side of the river where the people                      subscribed the largest sum should have the house. The greatest amount was obtained upon the west side, and the        house was begun.


      When raised, and partly covered, the funds gave out and the work stopped for some years. Another effort was                made to finish the lower part, but when half the pews were up the exchequer was again empty, and the Society              offered to give Dea. Salisbury the upper story if he would finish the house. He was a carpenter, had a saw-mill near        Pascoag, owned plenty of timber, and he accepted the offer. A high steeple was first put upon it, but about 1812 it          was found to be leaky around it, and it was sawed off. A great crowd gathered to see it come down.


      A long rope was attached to it, hundreds of hands seized it, and it came to the ground with a crash that splintered it        into kindling wood. When it fell it reached almost to the road, which those who have been by there will remember, is        a good way from the house. The house was covered anew, and the porch built to it. A few years later it was offered        to the town, upon condition that they would keep the outside in repair. The inside is a curiosity. There is a lofty                pulpit, above which is a painting representing cherubim, but almost rude and shabby daub. The pews are square            pens, with seats on the four sides; a third of the congregation sitting with their backs to the speakers. Perhaps there        is no building in our town so heavily built. The timber is massive, and its appearance will give us some index to the          character of Burrillville forests an hundred years ago.

Salsbery, D Planes

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