Rhode Island History
A Short History of Rhode Island
The island on which Newport is located is also called Rhode Island, and
both the state and this island might have been named in honor of the Greek
Island of Rhodes, possibly because of the shape of the island. There seems
to be no confirmation of this. The island on which Newport is located is
also known as Aquidneck. This island was the first to be populated by those
who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony because of religious differences.
Maps (9 Kb each) showing where the state and county lines were in 1703,
For one page showing all maps for comparison click
here. Maps provided by GoldBug
Providence, was founded in 1636 as a settlement by English clergyman
Roger Williams, after he was banished by the Massachusetts Great and General
Court. Williams selected the name in gratitude for "God's merciful providence"
that the Narragansett have granted him title to the site. Anne Hutchinson
was exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638 and brought more settlers
who were attracted to the colony by the promise of religious freedom to
establish Pocasset, now Portsmouth. William Coddington and others founded
Newport in 1639. In 1643 Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, now Warwick. The
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations also gave protection to
Quakers in 1657 and to Jews from Holland in 1658.
In 1776 Rhode Island became one of the Thirteen Colonies to renounce
its allegiance to Great Britain. After the American Revolution, shipping
declined, but Samuel Slater built the first successful U.S. cotton-textile
mill at the falls of the Blackstone River, at what later was called Pawtucket,
by Samuel Slater and ironmaster David Wilkinson (1790). An abundance of
water power led to the rapid development of manufacturing. Rhode Island's
political and economic life was dominated by mill-owners until well into
the 20th century, when competition from the South resulted in a continuing
decline in the state's textile industry. The recent growth of new industries
such as electronics has helped to revitalize the economy.
Block Island is an island off southern Rhode Island at the eastern
entrance to Long Island Sound. Named for Dutch explorer Adriaen Block who
visited the island in 1614. He returned to Amsterdam in October after exploring
the New England coast, sailing up the Connecticut River, and mapping the
coast of Manhattan. Block Island was first settled in 1661. It became part
of Rhode Island in 1663 under the Charter.
In 1786 Rhode Island farmers burned their grain, dumped their milk,
and left their apples to rot in the orchards in a farm strike directed
against Providence and Newport merchants who refused to accept the paper
money that had depreciated to the point of being virtually worthless. The
strike had little effect, since 90 percent of Americans raised their own
food in their gardens and let their hogs forage in the woods for acorns.
For a more detailed history of Rhode Island, see the State
RI General Assembly history
A Brief Rhode Island Timeline
1614: Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island now named for him.
1634: William Blackstone was the first Rhode Island settler.
1636: Providence was founded as a Rhode Island settlement by Roger Williams.
1638: The Portsmouth compact was signed. A picture
of the plaque in Founders Park, Portsmouth taken in May of 1997 by
Elliot J. Wilcox (98 kb).
1639: The Newport Compact, which formed the basis of the settlement, was
signed in April by John Clarke, William Coddington, William Dyer, Nicholas
Easton, John Coggeshall, William Brenton, Henry Bull, Jeremy Clarke and
1643: Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, Rhode Island's fourth settlement.
The town was named Warwick a few years later in honor of the Earl of Warwick.
1643-44: Name of Aquidneck changed to "the Isle of Rhodes, or Rhode Island."
1652: First record of African slaves.
1663: Charles II granted the Charter of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations
July 8. It remained the constitution until 1842.
1664: Seal of the colony "Mottoe, Rhode Island and Providence, with the
word HOPE over head of anker."
1675: The decisive battle in King Philip's War was fought against the Narragansett.
1708: First census taken; population 7,181.
1724: Rhode Island established property ownership qualifications for voters.
1730: Census taken; population 17,935.
1748: Census taken; population 32,773.
1755: Census taken; population 40,414.
1772: British trade restrictions angered the colonists. They burned
the British revenue cutters Liberty and Gaspee.
See also Gaspee Historical Archives
1774: Census taken; population 57,707.
1774: The Connecticut and Rhode Island colonies prohibited further importation
May 4, 1776: The colony declared its independence.
1776-1779: Newport was occupied by the British.
1778: Generals John Sullivan and LaFayette won a partial victory, but failed
to oust the British.
1779: British forces evacuated Rhode Island in October of the Revolutionary
1780-1781: French troops under General Rochambeau were stationed in RI.
1782: Census taken; population 52,347.
1784: Emancipation act passed providing for gradual abolition of slavery.
All children born after March 1, 1784, were free.
1786: Farmers struck against merchants who have refused to accept the depreciated
Statehood, May 29, 1790 (13th of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution).
1790: The first successful U.S. cotton mill established by Samuel Slater
and David Wilkinson.
1812: Rhode Island refused to participate in the War of 1812.
1840: Population over 100,000.
1841: Providence lawyer Thomas Wilson Dorr founded a People's Party to
liberalize the Rhode Island charter of 1663. He submitted a new, liberal
constitution to extend suffrage in the state to those who didn't own property.
1842: Dorr's Rebellion in Rhode Island forces the state's conservatives
to abolish the Charter of 1663 and expand suffrage.
1843: Present state constitution was adopted.
1877: State Flag established.
1897: New State Flag adopted.
1910: Population over 540,000.
and Governors from Rhode Island
to RIGenWeb Home Page.