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.
The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It was an English colony from 1636 until 1707, and then a colony of Great Britain until the American Revolution in 1776, when it became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
The following people lived in Rhode Island prior to Colonial settlement:
Wampanoag people lived throughout Plymouth Colony and around Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island
The Wampanoag, also rendered Wôpanâak, are an American Indian tribe. They were a loose confederacy made up of several tribes in the 17th century, but today Wampanoag people are enrolled in two federally recognized tribes: the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head in Massachusetts. They lived in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the beginning of the 17th century, at the time of first contact with the English colonists, a territory that included Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket islands. Their population numbered in the thousands; 3,000 Wampanoag lived on Martha's Vineyard alone.
Plymouth Colony was an English colonial venture in America from 1620 to 1691 at a location that had previously been surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement served as the capital of the colony and developed as the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. At its height, Plymouth Colony occupied most of the southeastern portion of Massachusetts.
Mount Hope Bay is a tidal estuary located at the mouth of the Taunton River on the Massachusetts and Rhode Island border. It is an arm of Narragansett Bay. The bay is named after Mount Hope, a small hill located on its western shore in what is now Bristol, Rhode Island. It flows into the East Passage of Narragansett Bay and also the Sakonnet River. Mount Hope Bay has played an important role to the history of the area, from pre-colonial times to the present. While many years of sewage and industrial pollution have severely degraded the quality of the shallow waters of the bay, there are currently major efforts underway to clean up and restore it.
Massasoit Sachem or Ousamequin was the sachem or leader of the Wampanoag tribe. The term Massasoit means Great Sachem.
Wamsutta, also known as Alexander Pokanoket, as he was called by New England colonists, was the eldest son of Massasoit Ousa Mequin of the Pokanoket Tribe and Wampanoag nation, and brother of Metacomet. His sale of Wampanoag lands to colonists other than those of the Plymouth Colony brought the Wampanoag considerable power, but aroused the suspicions of the Plymouth colonists. He was imprisoned for three days at Plymouth; he died shortly after release, causing tribal suspicion of the colonists. His death possibly contributed to King Philip's War of 1675. Wamsutta's name is memorialized in and around New Bedford, Massachusetts in various ways. He was honored in the naming of a United States Navy steamer in commission during the American Civil War between 1863 and 1865.
Metacom, also known as Metacomet and by his adopted English name King Philip, was chief to the Wampanoag people and the second son of the sachem Massasoit. He became a chief in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta died shortly after the death of their father, Massasoit. Wamsutta's widow Weetamoo, sunksqua of the Pocasset, was Metacom's ally and friend for the rest of her life. Metacom married Weetamoo's younger sister Wootonekanuske. No one knows how many children they had or what happened to them. Wootonekanuske and one of their sons were sold to slavery in the West Indies following the defeat of the Native Americans in what became known as King Philip's War.
Narragansett people lived throughout the Rhode Island colony
The Narragansett people are an Algonquian American Indian tribe from Rhode Island. The tribe was nearly landless for most of the 20th century, but it worked to gain federal recognition and attained it in 1983. It is officially the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island and is made up of descendants of tribal members who were identified in an 1880 treaty with the state.
Canonicus was a Native American chief of the Narragansett people. Although wary of the European newcomers, he bowed before superior armaments and surrendered a portion of the territory of his people to the immigrants without war. He ultimately proved to be a firm friend of Roger Williams and other English settlers.
Roger Williams was a Puritan minister, theologian, and author who founded the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was a staunch advocate for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and fair dealings with American Indians, and he was one of the first abolitionists.
Providence Plantation was the first permanent European American settlement in Rhode Island. It was established by a group of colonists led by Roger Williams who left Massachusetts Bay Colony in order to establish a colony with greater religious freedom. Providence Plantation became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations after the American Revolution.
Niantic people lived around the Pawcatuck River in the southwestern corner of Rhode Island
Nipmuc people wandered within Rhode Island Colony, mostly from the north
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:
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. By this time, it is likely that the family members of the original settlers had joined the group, and two other families also joined the settlement. 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.Also, Benedict Arnold later wrote, "Memm. We came to Providence to Dwell the 20th of April, 1636". Providence had not yet been established, so he probably was referring to Seekonk where the Arnolds came from Hingham, Massachusetts to join the other settlers. It is likely, therefore, that the following 25 people crossed the river from Seekonk in the Plymouth Colony sometime around June 1636, to a location on the Moshassuck River in Narragansett territory which Williams named Providence Plantations:
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.
Those named in a deed from Roger Williams, dated about October 8, 1638:
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:
Those 39 Providence settlers who signed an agreement to form a government on July 27, 1640:
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:
Supporters of Anne Hutchinson who signed the Portsmouth Compact, dated March 7, 1638:
The last four names on the list were crossed out, but these men nevertheless came to Portsmouth or Newport.
The following individuals were among the earliest settlers of Aquidneck Island in the Narragansett Bay; the island was officially named Rhode Island by 1644,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.
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 
"Inhabitants admitted at the Town of Nieu-port since the 20th of the 3:1638" (since 20 May 1638)
Those Portsmouth settlers who remained after the group left to found Newport and who signed an agreement for a government on April 30, 1639:
Those who signed an agreement for a new government on April 28, 1639:
Those who purchased the land from the Indians on January 12, 1642:
Those who purchased the Pettaquamscutt lands (later South Kingstown) from the Indian sachems in 1657:
The original purchasers of Block Island in April 1661, whose names appear on a plaque at the north end of the island:
The early settlers whose names appear on the plaque:
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:
Others named in the document:
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:
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":
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."
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."Gorham's enterprise succeeded on 18 Sep 1680 when four proprietors were awarded the deed to Mt. Hope Lands:
On 27 Aug 1680, twelve men signed Articles agreeing to purchase lands:
On 1 Sep 1681, more than 60 families were present at the first town meeting and named these lands Bristol after Bristol, England.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.
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
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.
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:
The Ayrault family moved to Newport.
John Clarke was a physician, Baptist minister, co-founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, author of its influential charter, and a leading advocate of religious freedom in America.
Samuel Gorton was an early settler and civic leader of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and President of the towns of Providence and Warwick. He had strong religious beliefs which differed from Puritan theology and was very outspoken, and he became the leader of a small sect of converts known as Gortonists or Gortonites. As a result, he was frequently in trouble with the civil and church authorities in the New England colonies.
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.
The Portsmouth Compact was a document signed on March 7, 1638 that established the settlement of Portsmouth, which is now a town in the state of Rhode Island. It was the first document in American history that severed both political and religious ties with England.
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.
William Arnold was one of the founding settlers of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and he and his sons were among the wealthiest people in the colony. He was raised and educated in England where he was the warden of St. Mary's, the parish church of Ilchester in southeastern Somerset. He emigrated to New England with family and associates in 1635. He initially settled in Hingham in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but he soon relocated to the new settlement of Providence Plantation with Roger Williams. He was one of the 13 original proprietors of Providence, appearing on the deed signed by Roger Williams in 1638, and was one of the 12 founding members of the first Baptist church to be established in America.
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.
William Brenton was a colonial President, Deputy Governor, and Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and an early settler of Portsmouth and Newport in the Rhode Island colony. Austin and other historians give his place of origin as Hammersmith in Middlesex, England, but in reviewing the evidence, Anderson concludes that his place of origin is unknown. Brenton named one of his Newport properties "Hammersmith," and this has led some writers to assume that the like-named town in London was his place of origin.
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.
Stukely Westcott was one of the founding settlers of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and one of the original members of the first Baptist Church in America, established by Roger Williams in 1638. He came to New England from the town of Yeovil in Somerset, England and first settled in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but difficulties with the authorities prompted him to join Roger Williams in settling near the Narragansett Bay in 1638 at Providence Plantations. He remained there for a few years, but he was recorded as an inhabitant of Warwick in 1648, probably having settled there several years earlier. He was most active in colonial affairs from 1650 to 1660 when he was a commissioner, surveyor of highways, and the keeper of a house of entertainment. His highest offices were as an Assistant in 1653 and much later as a deputy to the General Court in 1671 when he was almost 80 years old. He made his will on January 12, 1677 but died the same day with it unsigned, leaving his affairs in limbo for the following two decades.
John Greene Sr. was an early settler of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, one of the 12 original proprietors of Providence, and a co-founder of the town of Warwick in the colony, sailing from England with his family in 1635. He first settled in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but he had difficulty with the Puritan authority and soon followed Roger Williams to Providence, becoming one of the original proprietors of that town. In 1643, he joined Samuel Gorton and ten others in purchasing land that became the town of Warwick. Difficulties with Massachusetts ensued, until he accompanied Gorton on a trip to England where they secured royal recognition of their town.
The Rhode Island Royal Charter provided royal recognition to the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, approved by England's King Charles II in July 1663. It outlined many freedoms for the inhabitants of Rhode Island and was the guiding document of the colony's government over a period of 180 years.
Samuel Wilbore was one of the founding settlers of Portsmouth in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He emigrated from Essex, England to Boston with his wife and three sons in 1633. He and his wife both joined the Boston church, but a theological controversy began to cause dissension in the church and community in 1636, and Wilbore aligned himself with John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson, signing a petition in support of dissident minister Wheelwright. In so doing, he and many others were disarmed and dismissed from the Boston church. In March 1638, he was one of 23 individuals who signed a compact to establish a new government, and this group purchased Rhode Island from the Narragansett Indians at the urging of Roger Williams, establishing the settlement of Portsmouth.
Thomas Angell (c.1616–1694) was one of the four men who wintered with Roger Williams at Seekonk, Plymouth Colony in early 1636, and then joined him in founding the settlement of Providence Plantation in what became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was a minor at the time of his arrival, but his name appears on several of the early documents related to the settlement of Providence. In the early 1650s, he became active in the affairs of the town, serving as commissioner, juryman, and constable. In 1658, he began his service as the Providence Town Clerk and held this position for 17 years. He wrote his will in 1685, dying almost a decade later in 1694, leaving a widow and many grown children. Angell Street on Providence's East Side is named for him.
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.
Robert Coles was a 17th-century New England colonist who is known for the scarlet-letter punishment he received in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and his role in establishing the Providence Plantations, now the state of Rhode Island.