This is a list of the judges, presidents, and governors of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations from 1638 to 1776.
The Rhode Island Charter was suspended from 1686-1689. During this time, Sir Edmund Andros served as Governor of the Dominion of New England, which included Rhode Island. Andros was deposed on April 18, 1689.
Vacant 20 December 1686 - 27 February 1690
Note - the Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663 remained in effect until the Constitution of Rhode Island was ratified in 1842. For a list of Governors of Rhode Island from 1775 to the present see List of Governors of Rhode Island.
William Coddington was an early magistrate of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and later of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He served as the judge of Portsmouth and Newport, governor of Portsmouth and Newport, deputy governor of the four-town colony, and then governor of the entire colony. Coddington was born and raised in Lincolnshire, England. He accompanied the Winthrop Fleet on its voyage to New England in 1630, becoming an early leader in Boston. There he built the first brick house and became heavily involved in the local government as an assistant magistrate, treasurer, and deputy.
Nicholas Cooke was a governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations during the American Revolutionary War, and after Rhode Island became a state, he continued in this position to become the first Governor of the State of Rhode Island. Born in the maritime town of Providence, he early in life followed the sea, eventually becoming a Captain of ships. This occupation led him to become a slave merchant, becoming highly successful in this endeavor, and he ran a distillery and rope-making business as well. He is depicted as one of the affluent merchants in John Greenwood's satirical painting from the 1750s entitled Sea Captains Carousing in Surinam.
Benedict Arnold was president and then governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving for a total of 11 years in these roles. He was born and raised in the town of Ilchester, Somerset, England, likely attending school in Limington nearby. In 1635 at age 19, he accompanied his parents, siblings, and other family members on a voyage from England to New England where they first settled in Hingham in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In less than a year, they moved to Providence Plantation at the head of the Narragansett Bay at the request of Roger Williams. In about 1638, they moved once again about five miles (8 km) south to the Pawtuxet River, settling on the north side at a place commonly called Pawtuxet. Here they had serious disputes with their neighbors, particularly Samuel Gorton, and they put themselves and their lands under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, a situation which lasted for 16 years.
Nicholas Easton (c.1593–1675) was an early colonial President and Governor of Rhode Island. Born in Hampshire, England, he lived in the towns of Lymington and Romsey before immigrating to New England with his two sons in 1634. Once in the New World, he lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony towns of Ipswich, Newbury, and Hampton. Easton supported the dissident ministers John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson during the Antinomian Controversy, and was disarmed in 1637, and then banished from the Massachusetts colony the following year. Along with many other Hutchinson supporters, he settled in Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island, later a part of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was in Portsmouth for about a year when he and eight others signed an agreement to create a plantation elsewhere on the island, establishing the town of Newport.
John Sanford was an early settler of Boston, Massachusetts, an original settler of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and a governor of the combined towns of Portsmouth and Newport in the Rhode Island colony, dying in office after serving for less than a full term. He had some military experience in England, and also was an employee of Massachusetts magistrate John Winthrop's household prior to sailing to New England in 1631 with Winthrop's wife and oldest son. He lived in Boston for six years and was the cannoneer there.
John Easton (1624–1705) was a political leader in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, devoting decades to public service before eventually becoming governor of the colony. Born in Hampshire, England, he sailed to New England with his widowed father and older brother, settling in Ipswich and Newbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As a supporter of the dissident ministers John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson during the Antinomian Controversy, his father was exiled, and settled in Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island with many other Hutchinson supporters. Here there was discord among the leaders of the settlement, and his father followed William Coddington to the south end of the island where they established the town of Newport. The younger Easton remained in Newport the remainder of his life, where he became involved in civil affairs before the age of 30.
John Cranston (1625–1680) was a colonial physician, military leader, legislator, deputy governor and governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations during the 17th century.
Gregory Dexter (1610–1700) was a printer, Baptist minister, and early President of the combined towns of Providence and Warwick in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was in New England as early as 1644 when he had a five-acre lot assigned to him in Providence. He had been in the printing business in London, and still operated that business in 1643 when his establishment printed Roger Williams's translation of the Narragansett language. As an experienced stationer, he offered his expertise to the printing operation in Boston in 1646, asking for no compensation other than an annual almanac.
Walter Clarke (1640–1714) was an early governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and the first native-born governor of the colony. The son of colonial President Jeremy Clarke, he was a Quaker like his father. His mother was Frances (Latham) Clarke, who is often called "the Mother of Governors." While in his late 20s, he was elected as a deputy from Newport, and in 1673 was elected to his first of three consecutive terms as assistant. During King Philip's War, he was elected to his first term as governor of the colony. He served for one year in this role, dealing with the devastation of the war, and with the predatory demands of neighboring colonies on Rhode Island territory during the aftermath of the war.
Henry Bull (1610–1694) was an early colonial Governor of Rhode Island, serving for two separate terms, one before and one after the tenure of Edmund Andros under the Dominion of New England. Sailing from England as a young man, Bull first settled in Roxbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but soon became a follower of the dissident ministers John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson, and was excommunicated from the Roxbury church. With many other followers of Hutchinson, he signed the Portsmouth Compact, and settled on Aquidneck Island in the Narragansett Bay. Within a year of arriving there, he and others followed William Coddington to the south end of the island where they established the town of Newport.
Peleg Sanford was an early governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving three consecutive terms from 1680 to 1683.
James Barker (1622–1702) was an early leader and deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
John Coggeshall Jr. was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The son of Rhode Island President John Coggeshall Sr., he was raised in the village of Castle Hedingham in northeastern Essex where his father was a merchant. Aged about eight, he sailed from England with his parents and surviving siblings, arriving in New England in 1632. He was first active in civil affairs in 1653 when he became treasurer of the island towns of Portsmouth and Newport. The following year brought the re-unification of the colony, with the island towns rejoining the government with Providence and Warwick, and he served as treasurer of the four towns for a year. His name appears on a list of Newport freemen in 1655, and for the following 35 years he served almost continuously in one or multiple roles including Assistant, General Treasurer, Deputy, General Recorder, and Major for the Island. He was one of ten Assistants named in the Royal Charter of 1663, which would become the basis for Rhode Island's government for nearly two centuries. In 1686 he became the Deputy Governor under Governor Walter Clarke, but his term lasted only a month when the English crown assigned Edmund Andros to be Governor of all the New England colonies under the Dominion of New England. Following the demise of this dominion and the arrest of Andros in 1689, Coggeshall was once again selected as Deputy Governor for the year ending in May 1690, serving under Governor Henry Bull. In April 1676, during King Philip's War, he was on a committee to procure boats for the colony's defense. Later that year, in August, he was a member of a court martial for the trial of several Indians.
The Coddington Cemetery is an early colonial cemetery located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It is sometimes called the Friends' Burial Ground, and has more colonial governors buried in it than any other cemetery in the state.
John Albro was an early settler of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a magistrate, and a long-time military officer in the Portsmouth Militia in the colony. He immigrated to New England in 1634 as a minor under the care of early Portsmouth settler William Freeborn. He was very active in civil as well as military affairs, and was an Assistant to the Governor for nine one-year terms between 1671 and 1686. During King Philip's War when the colony needed the advice and counsel of "the most judicious inhabitants" in the colony, his was one of 16 in a 1676 list of names, which included Governor Benedict Arnold and former President Gregory Dexter.
Frances Latham, was a colonial American woman who settled in Rhode Island, and is known as "the Mother of Governors." Having been widowed twice, she had three husbands, and became the ancestor of at least ten governors and three deputy/lieutenant governors, and is related by marriage to an additional six governors and one deputy governor.
George Lawton (1607-1693) was an early settler of Portsmouth in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Late in life Lawton became active in the affairs of the colony, and served for several years as both Deputy to the General Assembly, and Assistant to the governor. His house was sometimes used for meetings of colonial leaders and committees. He became such a highly esteemed member of the colony, that in 1676 he was one of 16 individuals whose counsel was requested by the General Assembly during the chaotic events of King Philip's War.