According to historical records and legends, Hannah Robinson was the celebrated beauty of her day. She was the daughter of the wealthy plantation owner, Rowland Robinson and Anstis Gardiner Robinson. Educated at the finishing school of Madame Osborne in Newport, Rhode Island, Hannah fell in love with one of her teachers, Peter Simons. Rowland forbade the marriage. With the help of her cousin, Hannah eloped with Peter and settled with him in Providence, Rhode Island, far away from her beloved birthplace on Narragansett Bay and her Narragansett pacer horses.
Hannah was not only the celebrated beauty of her day but as commanding a figure as her imperious father. In today’s world, she might have become the chief executive officer of a major corporation. In her own time, the best she could do was show her mettle, which she did by marrying the man she loved against her father’s wishes and by refusing to name the person who helped her elope. The conflict of wills between daughter and father is the heart of the story.
Rowland was a third generation Narragansett planter, who owned about a thousand acres along Boston Neck Road in what is now Narragansett, Rhode Island. Rowland settled on the plantation in 1751 after the death of his father and built a manorhouse that stands today, although closed to the public. He inherited several hundred sheep, a few hundred cows, a large herd of Narragansett pacer horses, and about 30 slaves.
The plantation had its own wharf that gave Rowland easy access to the trading port of Newport on the other side of Narragansett Bay. According to historical accounts, Rowland was tall and handsome and had an imperious air about him, particularly when he surveyed his land mounted on his black pacer stallion.
The Narragansett planters were colonial Rhode Island landowners who farmed large tracts of land called plantations along Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in the southern part of the colony. The northern plantations were similar to those in the south of the United States. African slaves and indentured servants did the labor on both northern and southern plantations, and the plantation owners became wealthy.