Blackstone Valley

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Blackstone Valley
The Blackstone Valley in Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Long-axis directionNorthwest-Southeast
Type River valley
LocationFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Population centers Worcester, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island
Rivers Blackstone River
A typical summer view in the Blackstone Valley near Uxbridge, Massachusetts Blackstone valley from king phillip's rock.jpg
A typical summer view in the Blackstone Valley near Uxbridge, Massachusetts

The Blackstone Valley or Blackstone River Valley is a region of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was a major factor in the American Industrial Revolution. It makes up part of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and National Historical Park.



National Heritage Corridor

The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor follows the Blackstone Valley from Worcester to Providence, Rhode Island. The corridor follows the course of the Industrial Revolution in America from its origin at the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island as it first spread north along the valley to Worcester, Massachusetts, and then to the rest of the nation.

The region was designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in November 1986, composing 25 towns and cities throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

National Historical Park

In 2011, a report recommended the region for National Park status. [1] In 2014, the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park was established. [2]


Blackstone River

The Blackstone River at the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park, near Massachusetts-Rhode Island state line Blackstone-Riv1.jpg
The Blackstone River at the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park, near Massachusetts–Rhode Island state line

The river is named after William Blackstone (original spelling William Blaxton) who arrived in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1623, and became the first European settler of present-day Boston in 1625. He relocated again, to Rhode Island in 1635 and built his home on the river, in what would become Cumberland. With the Providence River, the Blackstone was the northeastern border of Dutch claims for New Netherland from Adriaen Block's charting of Narragansett Bay in 1614 through the Hartford Treaty of 1650.

The original Native American name for the river was the "Kittacuck", which meant "the great tidal river". The "Kittacuck", or Blackstone, was plentiful with salmon and lamprey in pre-colonial and colonial times. [3]

In 1790, Samuel Slater opened the first successful water powered cotton mill in America, Slater Mill, at Pawtucket Falls. This mill was powered by the waters of the Blackstone River. Many other mills appeared along the Blackstone River over time making it an important part of American industry. The industrialization also led to the river being identified by the end of the 20th century as the primary source of Narragansett Bay pollution. [4]

Blackstone Canal

The Blackstone Canal in Providence Moshassuck River Providence.jpg
The Blackstone Canal in Providence

The initiative for the canal came from Providence, where a merchant community wished to profit from trade with the farming country of the Blackstone Valley and Worcester County. [5] The people of Worcester and the Blackstone Valley, eager for transport that would enable them to get better prices for their produce, welcomed the plan. However, since the trade of central Massachusetts was at that time going overland through the port of Boston, Massachusetts commercial interests succeeded in stalling the project for several years. Finally, in 1823, the Blackstone Canal Company was organized through an act of the Massachusetts legislature, with a Rhode Island company soon following. [6] The canal's construction may have been motivated by competition among rival industrialists to curtail "water rights". [7]

Construction began in 1825 and cost $750,000 (twice its initial estimate). The canal opened on October 7, 1828, when the packet boat Lady Carrington arrived in Worcester, the first vessel to make the trip. The canal brought immediate prosperity to Worcester and the Valley; farmers' profits increased and mills were built, especially in Worcester. [6] Using water to transport goods was a great improvement over the rough roads of the era. At the time of its construction, it represented the best available transportation technology.

It was a two-day trip for the canal boats from Worcester to Providence and another two-day trip to return to Worcester. The overnight stopping point was in Uxbridge. Boston merchants moved to recapture the trade moving down the canal to Providence, opening a rail line to Worcester in 1835. (Boston merchants opened three railroads in 1835, one to Lowell, one to Worcester, and one to Providence, RI. These were very new technology.) In 1847 the parallel Providence and Worcester Railroad began operation, and the canal closed in 1848.

The canal is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Purgatory Chasm Purgatory chasm view 2.jpg
Purgatory Chasm


The Blackstone Valley offers multiple recreation areas for visitors to take advantage of the sights. These sites are:


Multiple modes of transportation are available that serve the Blackstone Valley.


Two major roads travel through the region. Route 122 in Massachusetts is known as the Blackstone Canal Heritage Highway. [9] The road travels through many of the region's mill villages. The other major road is Route 146 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Upgrades on the Massachusetts side have seen major economic benefits throughout the towns. [10]


Union Station in Worcester Union Station, Worcester MA.jpg
Union Station in Worcester

Two MBTA Commuter Rail lines, the Worcester and Providence Lines have stations located within the Blackstone Valley. Both lines provide direct service to Boston's South Station. Providence station is also served by Amtrak trains on the Northeast Corridor, providing service to New York City and beyond.


At the 2010 United States Census, the population of the Blackstone Valley was 848,725. [8]

Blackstone Valley population
TownPopulation (2020)
Central Falls22,583
East Providence47,139
North Smithfield12,588

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Uxbridge, Massachusetts</span> Town in Massachusetts, United States

Uxbridge is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States,A first colonized in 1662 and incorporated in 1727. It was originally part of the town of Mendon, and named for the Earl of Uxbridge. The town is located 36 mi (58 km) southwest of Boston and 15 mi (24 km) south-southeast of Worcester, at the midpoint of the Blackstone Valley National Historic Park. The historical society notes that Uxbridge is the "Heart of The Blackstone Valley" and is also known as "the Cradle of the Industrial Revolution". Uxbridge was a prominent Textile center in the American Industrial Revolution. Two Quakers served as national leaders in the American anti-slavery movement. Uxbridge "weaves a tapestry of early America".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Smithfield, Rhode Island</span> Town in Rhode Island, United States

North Smithfield is a town in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States, settled as a farming community in 1666 and incorporated into its present form in 1871. North Smithfield includes the historic villages of Forestdale, Primrose, Waterford, Branch Village, Union Village, Park Square, and Slatersville. The population was 12,588 at the 2020 census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pawtucket, Rhode Island</span> City in Rhode Island

Pawtucket is Providence city. The population was 75,604 at the 2020 census, making the city the fourth-largest in the state. Pawtucket borders Providence and East Providence to the south, Central Falls and Lincoln to the north, and North Providence to the west. The city also borders the Massachusetts municipalities of Seekonk and Attleboro.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackstone River</span> River in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, USA

The Blackstone River is a river in the U.S. states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It flows approximately 48 mi (80 km) and drains a watershed of approximately 540 sq. mi (1,400 km2). Its long history of industrial use has left a legacy of pollution, and it was characterized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1990 as "the most polluted river in the country concerning toxic sediments."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Massachusetts Route 146</span> State highway in Worcester County, Massachusetts, US

Route 146 is a 20.99-mile (33.78 km) north-south expressway in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Spanning approximately 21 miles (34 km) along a south–north axis, it is a continuation of Route 146 in Rhode Island, which splits from I-95 in Providence. The southern terminus within Massachusetts exists in Millville, where the expressway enters the state from North Smithfield, Rhode Island. Among several local roads, Route 146 intersects with the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) in Millbury and I-290 in Worcester before arriving at its northern terminus at the intersection of several surface streets in downtown Worcester. Most of the route is a freeway, except for a short section near the boundary between Millbury and Sutton where there is driveway access and at-grade crossings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Moshassuck River</span> River in Rhode Island, United States

The Moshassuck River is a river in the U.S. state of Rhode Island. It flows 8.9 miles (14.3 km) from the town of Lincoln to the city of Providence. There are six dams along the river's length.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackstone Canal</span> United States historic place

The Blackstone Canal was a waterway linking Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island through the Blackstone Valley via a series of locks and canals during the early 19th century. Construction was started in 1825, and the canal opened three years later. Following the opening of the Boston and Providence Railroad in 1835, the canal struggled for business. It was ultimately replaced by the Providence and Worcester Railroad, which completed a parallel line using much of the canal right-of-way in 1847, the canal shut down in 1848. Several segments of the canal are preserved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slater Mill Historic Site</span> United States historic place

The Slater Mill is a historic water-powered textile mill complex on the banks of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, modeled after cotton spinning mills first established in England. It is the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in America to utilize the Arkwright system of cotton spinning as developed by Richard Arkwright.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor</span> Area dedicated to the history of the early American Industrial Revolution

The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is a National Heritage Corridor dedicated to the history of the early American Industrial Revolution, including mill towns stretching across 24 cities and towns near the river's course in Worcester County, Massachusetts and Providence County, Rhode Island. It makes up a historical area in the Blackstone Valley and is named for the late US Senator from Rhode Island John Chafee. In 2014, the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park was created out of a smaller portion of the National Heritage Corridor. Both units now exist as cooperative entities. The organization is headquartered at the building in Woonsocket Depot Square which is located at 1 Depot Square, Woonsocket, RI 02895.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackstone River Greenway</span> Partially completed paved rail trail from Worcester, MA, US to Providence, RI, US

The Blackstone River Greenway is a partially completed 48-mile (77 km) paved rail trail defining the course of the East Coast Greenway through the Blackstone Valley from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linwood, Massachusetts</span> Village in Massachusetts, United States

Linwood is a village with its own post office in the towns of Northbridge and Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park</span>

The Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park is a part of the state park system of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). This 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) park "recalls the role of canals in transporting raw materials and manufactured goods between emerging industrial centers." The Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, is the midpoint of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor of the National Park System. The Blackstone River and Valley is where the industrial revolution was born in America. The southern entrance to this state park is the site of the historic Stanley Woolen Mill, currently being redeveloped for commercial and tourism. The Native American Nipmuc name for the village here was "Wacentug", translated as "bend in the river".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Uxbridge, Massachusetts</span> Village in Massachusetts, United States

North Uxbridge is a village and a post office in the town (township) of Uxbridge in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The postal zip code is 01538. It is classified as a community or populated place located at latitude 42.088 and longitude -71.641 and the elevation is 266 feet (81 m). North Uxbridge appears on the Uxbridge U.S. Geological Survey Map. Worcester County is in the Eastern time zone and observes DST. North Uxbridge is located about 36 miles WSW of Boston, and 15 miles SE of Worcester. The town meeting in 1885 set aside North Uxbridge as a "special district", since its population had exceeded 1000 people. North Uxbridge appeared to be a separate Census tract in the 1960 census with a population of 1882. In 2013, an Uxbridge DIY show, The Garage, with Steve Butler, went worldwide from Steve's garage in North Uxbridge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wheelockville, Massachusetts</span> Village in Massachusetts, United States

Wheelockville is a village in the town (township) of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, United States. Part of the village centering on Mendon and Henry streets is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Wheelockville Historic District. Wheelockville appears on the Blackstone U.S. Geological Survey Map. The Village receives municipal services from Uxbridge, for fire, police, EMS, School district, public works, and other services. Worcester's Judicial District includes Uxbridge District Court. The geography of Wheelockville includes several other distinct mill villages, including: Hecla and Elmdale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ironstone, Massachusetts</span> Village in Massachusetts, United States

Ironstone is an historic village,, in the township of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, United States. It derived its name from plentiful bog iron found here which helped Uxbridge to become a center for three iron forges in the town's earliest settlement. South Uxbridge has historic sites, picturesque weddings, hospitality, industrial and distribution centers, and the new Uxbridge High School. This community borders North Smithfield, and Burrillville, Rhode Island, and Millville, Massachusetts. South Uxbridge receives municipal services from Uxbridge, for fire, police, EMS, School district, public works, and other services. There is a South Uxbridge fire station of the Uxbridge fire department. Worcester's Judicial District includes Uxbridge District Court. Ironstone appears on the Blackstone U.S. Geological Survey Map. Worcester County is in the Eastern time zone and observes DST.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Hill Dam</span>

West Hill Dam Reserve is a United States Army Corps of Engineers flood control project with a recreational park and wildlife management area located at Uxbridge, Massachusetts. The West Hill Dam Project was completed in June 1961. It is located on the West River, one of the branches of the Blackstone River which flows from Worcester, MA to Providence, RI. The West River originates in Grafton, Massachusetts, at Cider Mill Pond and Silver Lake, near Upton, Massachusetts, and the Upton State Forest. The dam is unusual in that it isn't filled unless there is a flood. West Hill Dam was built after devastating floods during the 1950s; it is intended to protect the Blackstone Valley from future destructive flooding. The cities and towns downriver from Uxbridge, including Millville, Blackstone, Woonsocket, North Smithfield, Cumberland, Lincoln, Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence, Rhode Island, suffered extensive flooding from the Blackstone during Hurricane Diane in 1955. Hurricane Donna tested this new dam in 1960 as the eyewall passed over. The West Hill Dam is located in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor near the Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park. Park rangers provide visitor assistance and offer scheduled interpretative programs. Fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing opportunities are available year-round. The park has a recreation area, 34 picnic sites, one playground, a swimming area and five miles of hiking trails. However, access to the park from West Hill Road is currently blocked as of 2021 because of landowner disagreements. West Hill Dam is also the field office for the Charles River Natural Valley Storage Area. It consists of scattered wetlands in the upper and middle Charles River watershed, between the towns of Bellingham and Needham. The wetlands provide flood storage area, fisheries, wildlife management, and recreation. The Charles River is the well-known watercourse that flows into Boston Harbor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Valley Falls Company</span>

The Valley Falls Company was founded in 1839 by Oliver Chace, in Valley Falls, Rhode Island, a historic mill village on both sides of the Blackstone River, within the modern-day town of Cumberland and city of Central Falls, Rhode Island. The Valley Falls Company is the original antecedent of Berkshire Hathaway, currently one of the world's largest and most successful companies.

The history of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, founded in 1727, may be divided into its prehistory, its colonial history and its modern industrial history. Uxbridge is located on the Massachusetts-Rhode Island state line, and became a center of the earliest industrialized region in the United States.

The Rhode Island System refers to a system of mills, complete with small villages and farms, ponds, dams, and spillways first developed by Samuel Slater and his brother John Slater.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park</span> National Park Service unit in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, United States

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park is a National Park Service unit in the states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The park was created for the purpose of preserving, protecting, and interpreting the industrial heritage of the Blackstone River Valley and the urban, rural, and agricultural landscape of that region. The Blackstone River Valley was the site of some of the earliest successful textile mills in the United States, and these mills contributed significantly to the earliest American Industrial Revolution. The subsequent construction of the Blackstone Canal, a few years after the successful completion of the Erie Canal, helped to sustain the region's industrial strength.


  1. "Report backs Slater Mill as national park".
  2. "Congress approves creation of Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park". 15 December 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  3. source document: Metcalf, Annals of the History of Mendon, 1880.
  4. Blackstone River Watershed Five-Year Watershed Action Plan, First Draft Archived March 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5.|Blackstone Canal-artery-heart of the Commonwealth
  6. 1 2 Muir, Diana, Reflections in Bullough's Pond, University Press of New England, p.112
  7. "Stanely Woolen Mill, The Story". Archived from the original on 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
  8. 1 2 Chase, Ben. "The Blackstone Valley" . Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  9. "Official Transportation Map - English". Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  10. Cote, Edd (7 August 2012). "Road To Revival: Blackstone Valley Towns Continue To Reap Benefits Of Route 146". Worcester Business Journal. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg An American Valley, 1976, film about the deindustrialization of the Valley in the mid-20th century