The Nathanael Greene Homestead

About Katharine (Littlefield) Greene (1754-1814)

Katharine or sometimes Catherine with a nickname of Caty was born Katharine Littlefield, the 3rd child and first daughter of John and Phoebe (Ray) Littlefield on the Island of New Shoreham now known as Block Island on December 17, 1753. Little is known of her childhood but it is presumed she attended the town school and the Baptist meetinghouse. When her mother passed away, she came to live with her aunt Catherine (Ray) and uncle William who became the Governor of Rhode Island and was a third cousin of Nathanael. Under her aunt's guidance, Caty (or Kitty) learned all the social graces of her day. She was a delightful and animated woman who came to demand respect of the great men of her day by her courage and charm. In July, 1774 when she married Nathanael in her uncle's mansion on Division Street in Warwick, she was 19 and he was 32. The wedding was officiated by the Baptist minister, Elder John Gorton. Two years later in 1776, there began a succession of five children born to the Greenes. Their names were George Washington (1776), Martha Washington (1777), Cornelia Lott (1778)  pictured below in a real photo taken ca. 1854, Nathanael Ray (1780) and Louisa Catharine (1784).

The first winter of the Revolution when smallpox raged in Boston, Caty opened the Coventry Homestead as a hospital for soldiers recovering from the illness but four men died at the Homestead. Officers wives often visited the encampments during the winter. While staying with Nathanael the winter of 1775, Caty met the Washingtons and they became lifelong friends. Caty's witty and vivacious personality made her a popular hostess. Her ability to learn and speak French endeared her to General Lafayette. She continued to serve her countrymen by following the troops to many major battles. She was well known for her hospitality throughout the eight long years of war.

After the war they moved to their southern plantation known as Mulberry Grove. Upon the death of Nathanael in 1786, Caty was left at age 30 with five small children. In 1790 she married for a second time to Phineas Miller who had been a tutor for the Greene children. On a return from a visit to New York, she met a man named Eli Whitney. Caty became aware of Eli's ingenuity and persuaded him to turn his talents to devising a machine that could separate the seeds from the raw cotton. In 1793 he invented the "cotton gin" which was the machine that could do this job. Whitney had financial troubles and Caty came to help him by pledging her entire financial resources.

By 1800, she was forced to sell Mulberry Grove and the family relocated to a mansion known as "Dungeness" on Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia purchased by Nathanael as a gift to Caty before his death. Caty lived as Dungeness until her death on September 2, 1814 ad age 59 years. She was buried there on her estate.