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List of early settlers of Rhode Island

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This is a collection of lists of early settlers (before 1700) in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Most of the lists are of the earliest inhabitants of a particular town or area.

Native American tribes and leaders[edit]

Ninigret in 1681

The following people lived in Rhode Island prior to Colonial settlement:[1]

Wampanoag people lived throughout Plymouth Colony and around Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island

  • Massasoit, tribal leader, met the Pilgrims at Plymouth
  • Wamsutta, son of Massasoit, renamed Alexander; became tribal leader upon father's death but died shortly after
  • Metacomet, son of Massasoit, renamed Philip; succeeded his brother as tribal leader; instigated King Philip's War

Narragansett people lived throughout the Rhode Island colony

Niantic people lived around the Pawcatuck River in the southwestern corner of Rhode Island

  • Ninigret, kept the Niantics neutral during King Philip's War
  • Harman Garrett, Indian governor and nephew of Ninigret

Nipmuc people wandered within Rhode Island Colony, mostly from the north

First European settler[edit]

First settlers of Providence[edit]

Narragansett Indians receiving Roger Williams

Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in October 1635 but was allowed to remain at his home in Salem, Massachusetts until the end of winter, provided that he did not preach. However, his followers visited him at his home in sizable numbers, and the authorities deemed this to be preaching. They planned to apprehend him by force and put him on a ship for England in January 1636, but magistrate John Winthrop warned him privately, and he slipped away from Salem in the dead of winter to find shelter with the Wampanoags. He bought a parcel of land in Seekonk from Wampanoag sachem Massasoit which was at the western edge of the Plymouth Colony (now Rehoboth, Massachusetts). In a 1677 statement, Williams mentioned the four who were with him at Seekonk. The five members of the group were:[3][4][5]

The original 1636 deed for Providence, signed by Canonicus

In the spring of 1636, Williams and his company planted crops at Seekonk but were informed in a gentle letter from Governor Edward Winslow of Plymouth that they were within Plymouth's jurisdiction, and this fact would cause difficulties with the Massachusetts authorities. Without urgency, Winslow suggested that Williams and his group move across the Seekonk River into the territory of the Narragansetts, where no colony had any claim. Joshua Verin wrote a statement in 1650 mentioning "we six which came first to Providence", suggesting that he was the next to join the original five.[6] Also, Benedict Arnold later wrote, "We came to Providence to Dwell the 20th of April, 1636". The traditional date of the settlement of Providence has been given as about June 20, 1636, but this does not take into account the Arnold record. More recent analysis of the settling of Providence suggests that Williams likely negotiated with the Narragansetts for land in March 1636, and that he and his party actually settled the land in April 1636 along with the Arnold family.[7] It is likely that the following people were the original settlers in the Narragansett territory at Providence Plantations:[8]

The Arnold party, including:

Providence civil compact, 1637[edit]

Several young men were admitted as inhabitants to Providence before the settlement was a year old, but they were discontented with their position and wanted to be able to vote and otherwise have equality with the older settlers. The following resolution was adopted in a town meeting on August 20, 1637 and is sometimes called the "civil compact." The 1637 date was on the original town records, but when they were transcribed in 1800, the page containing that date was missing. The text of the resolution is as follows:

We, whose names are hereunder, desirous to inhabit in the town of Providence, do promise to subject ourselves in active or passive obedience to all such orders or agreements as shall be made for public good of our body, in an orderly way, by the major assent of the present inhabitants, master of families, incorporated together into a town fellowship, and others whom they shall admit unto them only in civil things.[10]

Original proprietors of Providence[edit]

Those named in a deed from Roger Williams, dated about October 8, 1638:[11]

Pawtuxet settlers[edit]

Pawtuxet River near where the Arnolds settled

Those settlers who left Providence to settle on the north side of the Pawtuxet River about 1638, putting themselves under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1642 to 1658:[21][22][23][24]

Signers of Providence agreement for a government, 1640[edit]

Town layout of Providence showing land plots of many of the earliest settlers

Those 39 Providence settlers who signed an agreement to form a government on July 27, 1640:[25]

Settlers of Cocumscussoc (Wickford) area[edit]

Smith's Castle, home of Richard Smith

Those early settlers who had trading posts in the area of Wickford in what was then the "Narragansett country" and later a part of North Kingstown, Rhode Island:[26][27]

  • Richard Smith, built a trading post established about 1637 where his house Smith's Castle still stands, rebuilt by Richard, Jr. after King Philip's War
  • Roger Williams, built his trading post about a mile north from Smith's post along the Pequot Path (or Post Road) and occupied it from about 1644 to 1651 and then sold it to Smith to get funds for his proposed errand to England
  • Mr. Wilcox (possibly Edward or John), built his trading post in the early 1640s in the same general area

Founders of Portsmouth[edit]

Supporters of Anne Hutchinson who signed the Portsmouth Compact, dated March 7, 1638:[28]

The last four names on the list were crossed out, but these men nevertheless came to Portsmouth or Newport.

Inhabitants of Aquidneck Island (1638)[edit]

The following individuals were among the earliest settlers of Aquidneck Island in the Narragansett Bay; the island was officially named Rhode Island by 1644,[29] from which the entire colony eventually took its name. The first group of 58 names appears to be settlers of Pocasset (later Portsmouth), while the second group of 42 appears to be settlers of Newport. These two lists come from Bartlett's Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, and apparently they were compiled and incorporated into the town records of Newport on November 25, 1639. The actual arrival dates of the individuals likely span over several months during 1638; a few individuals have legible dates next to their names, while several others have illegible dates.[30]

A Catalogue of such who, by the Generall consent of the Company were admitted to be Inhabytants of the Island now called Aqueedneck, having submitted themselves to the Government that is or shall be established, according to the word of God therein [1638]

  • Samuel Hutchinson
  • Thomas Emons
  • Richard Awards
  • Edward Willcoks
  • George Gardiner
  • William Witherington
  • Mr. Samuel Gorton
  • John Wickes
  • Ralph Earle
  • Nicholas Browne
  • Richard Burden [Borden]
  • Richard Maxon
  • Mr. Nicholas Esson
  • Thomas Spicer
  • Robert Potter
  • William Nedham
  • Sampson Shatton
  • Adam Mott
  • John Mott
  • Mr. Robert Jefferyes
  • Thomas Hitt
  • James Tarr
  • John Roome
  • Robert Gilham
  • Jeremy Clarke
  • Nicholas Davis
  • Wm. Baker
  • John More
  • Anthony Pain
  • George Potter
  • Wm. Richardson
  • Wm. Quick
  • Thomas Clarke
  • John Johnson
  • William Hall
  • John Briggs
  • James Davis
  • George Parker
  • Erasmus Bullock
  • George Cleer
  • Thomas Hazard
  • William Cowlie
  • Jeffery Champlin
  • Richard Sarle
  • John Sloff
  • Thomas Beeder
  • John Tripp
  • Osamund Doutch
  • John Marshall
  • Robert Stanton
  • Joseph Clarke
  • Robert Carr
  • George Layton
  • John Arnold
  • William Havens
  • Thomas Layton
  • Edward Poole
  • Mathew Sutherland

"Inhabitants admitted at the Town of Nieu-port since the 20th of the 3:1638" (since 20 May 1638)

  • Marmaduke Ward
  • Robert Field
  • Thomas Stafford
  • Job Tyler
  • Thomas Sauorie
  • Hugh Durdall
  • William Baker
  • John Layton
  • Mr. Will Foster
  • John Hall
  • Tobye Knight
  • John Peckum
  • Michel Williamson
  • Mr. Robert Lintell
  • Richard Smith
  • James Rogers
  • John Smith
  • Wm. Parker
  • John Grinman
  • Edward Rero
  • John Macummore
  • Robert Root
  • Ezekiah Meritt
  • James Burt
  • John Bartlett
  • Edward _________
  • Sampson Salter
  • Nicholas Cottrell
  • John Vaughan
  • John Smith
  • John Merchant (2 July)
  • Jeremy Gould
  • Enoch Hunt
  • Nathaniel Adams
  • Samuel Allen
  • George Allen
  • Ralph Allen
  • Mr. Thomas Burton
  • Henry Bishop
  • John Hicks
  • Edward Browce
  • Mathew Gridell (5 August)

Residents of Portsmouth after split with Newport[edit]

Anne Hutchinson/Mary Dyer Memorial Herb Garden at Founders' Brook Park, Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Those Portsmouth settlers who remained after the group left to found Newport and who signed an agreement for a government on April 30, 1639:[31]

  • William Hutchinson
  • Samuel Gorton
  • Samuel Hutchinson, did not stay long if actually here
  • John Wickes
  • Richard Magson
  • Thomas Spicer
  • John Roome
  • John Geoffe (?)
  • Thomas Beddar
  • Erasmus Bullock
  • Samson Shotten
  • Ralphe Earle
  • Robert Potter
  • Nathaniel Potter
  • George Potter
  • William Havens
  • George Shaw
  • George Lawton
  • Anthony Paine
  • Job Hawkins
  • Richard Awarde
  • John Moore
  • Nicholas Browne
  • William Richardson
  • John Tripp
  • Thomas Layton
  • Robert Stanton
  • John Briggs
  • James Davis
  • William Aspinwall (did not sign agreement, but did remain here)

Founders of Newport[edit]

Henry Bull house, c. 1639, from a 1900 post card

Those who signed an agreement for a new government on April 28, 1639:[32]

Founders of Warwick[edit]

Samuel Gorton's house, built after King Philip's War

Those who purchased the land from the Indians on January 12, 1642:[33]

Pettaquamscutt purchasers[edit]

Pettaquamscutt Purchase in 1724

Those who purchased the Pettaquamscutt lands (later South Kingstown) from the Indian sachems in 1657:[34]

Original purchasers:

Later purchasers:[35]

In 1659 a second group set up the Atherton Trading Company, with perceived rights to land in Narragansett, in an area south of the North Kingstown, which included Wickford. Their claim was declared void years later.

Early inhabitants of New Shoreham (Block Island)[edit]

Plaque showing both the names of the original purchasers, and names of the first settlers of Block Island

The original purchasers of Block Island in April 1661, whose names appear on a plaque at the north end of the island:

  • Thomas Terry
  • John Clarke
  • William Jud
  • Samuel Dearing
  • Simon Ray
  • William Tosh
  • Tormut Rose
  • William Barker
  • Daniel Cumball
  • William Cohoone
  • Duncan Mack Williamson
  • John Rathbun
  • Edward Vorce, Jun.
  • Trustrum Dodge, Sen.
  • Nicholas White
  • William Billings
  • John Ackurs (Acres).

The early settlers whose names appear on the plaque:[36]

  • Richard Billingum
  • Samuel Dearing
  • Nathaniel Winslow
  • Tormut Rose
  • Edward Vorce
  • John Rathbun
  • Thomas Faxson
  • Richard Allis
  • Phillip Warton
  • John Glover
  • Thomas Terry
  • James Sands
  • Hugh Williams
  • John Alcock
  • Peter George
  • Simon Ray
  • Trustrum Dodge was also an early settler, though his name only appears on the plaque as an original purchaser

Those named in the Royal Charter of 1663[edit]

Rhode Island's Royal Charter of 1663

The early Rhode Island inhabitants named in the Rhode Island Royal Charter, dated July 8, 1663 and signed with the royal seal by King Charles II; this charter was the basis for Rhode Island's government for nearly two centuries:[37]


Others named in the document:

Early inhabitants of Westerly[edit]

Westerly, at first called Misquamicut, was purchased on 27 August 1661 by the following Newport men:

Of these men, only John Crandall appears to have settled in Westerly.

Westerly inhabitants appearing in the town records of 18 May 1669:[38]

  • John Crandall
  • Edward Larkin
  • Stephen Wilcox
  • John Lewis
  • James Cross
  • Jonathan Armstrong
  • John Maxson
  • Jeffrey Champlin, Sr.
  • John Fairfield
  • Daniel Cromb
  • Nicholas Cottrell
  • Shubael Painter
  • Tobias Saunders
  • Robert Burdick
  • John Randall
  • John MacCoon
  • John Sharp
  • Daniel Stanton
  • James Babcock, Sr.
  • Thomas Painter
  • James Babcock, Jr.
  • John Babcock
  • Job Babcock
  • Josiah Clarke

Colonial leaders during King Philip's War[edit]

Garrison house being attacked during King Philip's War

During the devastating events of King Philip's War (1675-1676), the Rhode Island General Assembly sought the counsel of 16 prominent citizens of the colony with the resolution, "Voted that in these troublesome times and straites in this Collony, this Assembly desiringe to have the advice and concurrance of the most juditious inhabitants, if it may be had for the good of the whole, doe desire at their next sittinge the Company and Councill of":[39]

Original proprietors of East Greenwich[edit]

At a meeting of the General Assembly in Newport in May 1677, the following 48 individuals were granted 100-acre tracts in East Greenwich "for the services rendered during King Philip's War."[40]

  • John Spencer
  • Thomas Nichols, father of Deputy Governor Jonathan Nichols
  • Clement Weaver
  • Henry Brightman
  • George Vaughan
  • John Weaver
  • Charles Macarty
  • Thomas Wood
  • Thomas Frye, father of Deputy Governor Thomas Frye
  • Benjamin Griffin
  • Daniel Vaughan
  • Thomas Dungan, son of William and Frances (Latham) Dungan
  • John Pearce
  • Stephen Peckham
  • John Crandall, son of John Crandall
  • Preserved Pearce
  • Henry Lilly
  • John Albro, son of John Albro
  • Samuel Albro, son of John Albro
  • Philip Long
  • Richard Knight
  • John Peckham
  • Thomas Peckham
  • William Clarke
  • Edward Day
  • Edward Richmond
  • Edward Calvery
  • John Heath
  • Robert Havens
  • John Strainge
  • John Parker
  • George Browne
  • Richard Barnes
  • Samson Ballou
  • John Remington
  • Jonathan Devell
  • Benjamin Mowrey
  • Joseph Mowrey
  • William Wilbore, cousin of Samuel Wilbore
  • James Eyles Pearce
  • James Batty
  • Benjamin Gorton, son of Samuel Gorton
  • Henry Dyre, son of William and Mary Dyer
  • John Knowles
  • Stephen Arnold, son of William Arnold and brother of Governor Benedict Arnold
  • John Sanford, son of Governor John Sanford
  • William Hawkins
  • John Holden, son of Randall Holden

Early Settlers of Bristol (1680)[edit]

Bristol's early history began as a commercial enterprise when John Gorham was awarded 100 acres of land if it could be "honorably purchased from the indians."[41] Gorham's enterprise succeeded on 18 Sep 1680 when four proprietors were awarded the deed to Mt. Hope Lands:[42]

  • John Walley
  • Nathaniel Byfield
  • Stephen Burton
  • Nathaniel Oliver (sold share to Nathan Hayman)
  • Nathan Hayman

On 27 Aug 1680, twelve men signed Articles agreeing to purchase lands:

  • Capt. Benjamin Church
  • Doctor Isaac Waldron
  • Timothy Clarke
  • William Ingraham
  • Nathaniel Paine
  • Nathaniel Reynolds
  • Christopher Saunders
  • John Wilkins
  • Nathaniel Williams
  • Samuel Woodbury
  • Nathaniel Bosworth
  • Benjamin Jones[43]

On 1 Sep 1681, more than 60 families were present at the first town meeting and named these lands Bristol after Bristol, England.[44] Bristol was originally part of Massachusetts, but it became part of Rhode Island when disputed lands were awarded to the Colony of Rhode Island in 1747.[45]

  • Eliashib Adams
  • Watching Atherton
  • Joseph Baster
  • John Bayley
  • John Birge
  • Thomas Bletsoe
  • Benjamin Bosworth
  • Edward Bosworth
  • William Brenton
  • William Brown
  • James Burrill
  • James Burroughs (Burrows)
  • David Cary (Carey)
  • John Cary (Carey)
  • Samuel Cobbett
  • John Corps (Cope)
  • Solomon Curtis
  • Zachariah Curtis
  • Thomas Daggett
  • Jonathan Davenport
  • Robert Dutch
  • Jeremiah Finney
  • John Finney
  • Jonathan Finney
  • Joseph Ford
  • Anthony Fry
  • Samuel Gallop
  • John Gladding
  • Jabez Gorham
  • Richard Hammond
  • Henry Hampton
  • William Hedge
  • William Hoar
  • Jabez Howland
  • Benjamin Ingell (Ingalls)
  • Joseph Jacob(s)
  • Daniel Landon (Langdon)
  • Thomas Lewis
  • John Martin Jr.
  • Nicholas Mead
  • George Morye (Mowrey)
  • Jeremiah Osborne
  • Peter Pampelion (Papillon)
  • Samuel Penfield
  • John Pope
  • Edmund Ranger
  • Increase Robinson
  • John Rogers
  • John Saffin
  • Joseph Sandy
  • John Smith
  • Richard Smith
  • Widdo (Elizabeth) Southard (Southworth)
  • Robert Taft
  • Major Robert Thompson
  • William Throope
  • John Thurston
  • George Waldron
  • Thomas Walker
  • Uzal/Uzell Wardwell
  • Richard White
  • John Wilson
  • Hugh Woodbury

Settlers of Frenchtown[edit]

Original plat map of Frenchtown

French Huguenots settled in what is now East Greenwich in 1687. On 12 October 1686, an agreement was signed between the following, representing the French settlers and the land owners:

Representing Land Owners

Representing Huguenot Settlers

  • Ezechiel Carre'
  • Peter Le Breton

Those who signed the agreement

The following individuals signed the follow-on agreement, usually giving only their surname, and these same names are found on a plat map of the settlement.

  • William Barbret
  • Paul Collin
  • Jean Germon
  • Dechamps
  • Fougere
  • Grignon
  • Legare'
  • Robineau
  • Petter Ayrault
  • Magni, Junior
  • Magni, Senior
  • Dauid, Junior
  • Dauid, Senior
  • Chadene
  • foretier
  • Ezechiel Carre', Ministre
  • Louis Alaire
  • Jamain
  • Bussereau
  • Le moine (Moses LeMoine, father of Colonel Peter Mawney)
  • Abraum tourtellot
  • La Veue Galay
  • Targe', Junior
  • Targe', Senior
  • Grasilier
  • Amian
  • Lafou
  • Belhair
  • Milard
  • Jouet
  • Renaud
  • Le gendre
  • Bertin dit Laronde
  • Menardeau
  • Galay
  • Ratier
  • Dauid
  • Beauchamps
  • Moize le Brun
  • Le Breton
  • La Vigne
  • Tauerrier
  • Bouniot
  • Arnaud
  • Lambert
  • Rambert
  • Coudret
  • Jean Julien

Also on the map are two additional lots: "La terre pour L'Eglise" (land for the church) and "La terr pour L'ecolle" (land for the school). Almost all of these people left Rhode Island to settle in Massachusetts and New York following some severe civil clashes with the English settlers. Two families remained on their original land, however:

  • LeMoine (later anglicized to Money, and then Mawney)
  • Targe' (which became Tourgee)

The Ayrault family moved to Newport.[46]

Other prominent early settlers (pre-1700)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arnold, Samuel Greene (1859). History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Vol. 1. New York: D. Appleton & Company. pp. 73–4.
  2. ^ Arnold, 98-9
  3. ^ Arnold, 97
  4. ^ Bicknell, 1:158
  5. ^ Chapin, Howard M. (1916). Documentary History of Rhode Island. Providence: Preston and Rounds Company. pp. 8–16.
  6. ^ Chapin, 11
  7. ^ MacLachlan, Linda (Spring 2013). "When Was Providence Founded?". Rhode Island History. 71: 21–32.
  8. ^ Chapin, 17
  9. ^ Moriarty, G. Andrews (April 1944). "Additions and Corrections to Austin's Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island". The American Genealogist. 20: 227.
  10. ^ Field, Edward (1902). State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century: A History. Vol. 1. Boston: Mason Publishing Company. p. 33.
  11. ^ Arnold, 100
  12. ^ Austin, John Osborne (1887). Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. Albany, New York: J. Munsell's Sons. p. 416. ISBN 978-0-8063-0006-1.
  13. ^ Anderson, Robert Charles (1995). The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England 1620–1633. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. pp. 1072–1076. ISBN 0-88082-044-6.
  14. ^ Austin, 50
  15. ^ Anderson, Robert Charles; Sanborn, George F. Jr.; Sanborn, Melinde L. (2003). The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England 1634–1635. Vol. III G-H. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. p. 142. ISBN 0-88082-158-2.
  16. ^ Austin, 200
  17. ^ Anderson, Robert Charles (2007). The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England 1634–1635. Vol. V M-P. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. p. 302. ISBN 978-0-88082-211-4.
  18. ^ Anderson (1995), p. 1967
  19. ^ Anderson (1995), p. 1943
  20. ^ Austin, 102
  21. ^ Gorton, Adelos (1907). The Life and Times of Samuel Gorton. George S. Ferguson Co. p. 39. ISBN 9780795018510.
  22. ^ Arnold, 102
  23. ^ Bicknell, 1:143
  24. ^ Moriarty, 20:227
  25. ^ Staples, William R. (1843). Annals of the Town of Providence, from its First Settlement to the Organization of the City Government in June 1832. Providence: Printed by Knowles and Vose. pp. 40–43.
  26. ^ Arnold, 195
  27. ^ Bicknell, Thomas Williams (1920). The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Vol. 2. New York: The American Historical Society. pp. 469–70.
  28. ^ "The Portsmouth Compact". Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  29. ^ Office of the Secretary of State: A. Ralph Mollis: State Library Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State, archived November 17, 2010 from the original
  30. ^ Bartlett, John Russell (1856). Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in new England. Vol. 1. Providence: A. Crawford Greene and Brother. pp. 90–93. ISBN 9780543912589.
  31. ^ Arnold, 133
  32. ^ Arnold, 132
  33. ^ Arnold, 176
  34. ^ "Kingston Congregational Church Collection". Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  35. ^ "History of Washington and Kent Counties, Rhode Island". Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  36. ^ *"Block Island settlers". Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  37. ^ "Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  38. ^ Denison, Frederic (1878). Westerly (Rhode Island) and its Witnesses, for Two Hundred and Fifty Years, 1626-1876. Providence: J.A. & R.A. Reid. pp. 47, 52.
  39. ^ *Holmes, James T. (1915). The American Family of Rev. Obadiah Holmes. Columbus, Ohio: private. p. 41.
  40. ^ Greene, Daniel H. (1877). History of the Town of East Greenwich and Adjacent Territory from 1677 to 1877. Providence: J.A. & R. A. Reid. pp. 9–10.
  41. ^ Munro, Wilfred (1881). The History of Bristol, R.I. Providence: J.A. & R.A. Reid.p.77
  42. ^ Munro, 76
  43. ^ Munro, 77
  44. ^ Munro, 78
  45. ^ Saunders, Dorothy (2010). Bristol, Rhode Island's Early Settlers. Westminster, MA: Heritage Books.
  46. ^ Potter, Elisha R. (1879). Memoir Concerning the French Settlements and French Settlers in the Colony of Rhode Island. Providence: Sidney S. Rider. pp. 10–15.

External links[edit]