Born in 1707, Dr. Joshua Babcock was the son of Captain James Babcock, son of one of the first permanent settlers of Westerly, and was the first Rhode Islander to be graduated from Yale College in 1724 at the age of 17. Returning to Westerly in 1734 after studying medicine in Boston and London, he bought the Babcock-Smith House property and married Hannah Stanton. He practiced medicine locally as a physician and surgeon for twenty-five years.
Dr. Babcock, through appointment by the Rhode Island Assembly, and possibly through his friendship with Benjamin Franklin, became Westerly’s first Postmaster in 1775 and established a post office at his home. He also maintained an extensive general store at this same location.
As a politician Dr. Babcock represented Westerly in the Rhode Island General Assembly for nine years and presided as Chief justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island for sixteen years. When the Colony repealed the act of allegiance to the King of Great Britain on May 4, 1776 – two months before the issuing of the Declaration of Independence – Dr. Babcock was one of the members of that Assembly. Rhode Island declared its independence from the Crown before any of the other colonies. Besides being appointed Major General of the Rhode Island Militia, he was also a member of the Colony’s War Council, procured equipment for Westerly’s troops, and served as paymaster.
Dr. Babcock continued being active in community affairs until his death in 1783, and his family occupied the house until 1817. When his second wife, Anna Maxson Babcock, died in 1812, the property was passed to Dudley Babcock. Dudley, having lost some ships in the war of 1812 and unable to pay some debts, sold the house to his distant cousin, Oliver Wells, in 1817. Mr. Wells used it as a prosperous tenant farm, however the house was allowed to fall into disrepair.