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Rhode Island

State History

Native Americans

People have lived in the land that is today Rhode Island for thousands of years. Before the Europeans arrived, various Native American tribes ruled the land. These tribes spoke the Algonquian language, lived in longhouses, and farmed corn, beans, and squash. The largest of the tribes was the Narragansett. Other tribes included the Wampanoag, the Niantic, the Nipmuck, and the Pequot.

Providence State House
Providence State House by Joe Webster

Europeans Arrive

The first recorded visit by a European was in 1524 when Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano arrived. He met with some of the local tribes and mapped out portions of the coastline. Dutch explorer Adriaen Block arrived around 90 years later in 1614. He further mapped out the coastline including Narragansett Bay and Block Island, which was named after him.

Colonization

The first permanent European settlement was established by Roger Williams in 1636. Williams moved to Rhode Island after being kicked out of Massachusetts for his religious beliefs. Williams called the settlement Providence and declared that it would be a place of religious freedom. Today Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and Williams is known as the "Father of Rhode Island."


Roger Williams meeting the Narragansett
Roger Williams and Narragansetts
by James Charles Armytage

Other people wanting religious freedom followed Williams to the region. Anne Hutchinson was also told to leave Massachusetts because of her religion. She established the settlement of Portsmouth in 1638.

As more colonists settled in the area, they began to want independence from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1644, they united under a single government to form their own colony. They received a royal charter from the King of England in 1663.

King Philip's War

From 1675 to 1676 the colonists in New England fought a war against the local Native Americans. The leader of the Native Americans was a Wampanoag chief called King Philip. Many of the settlements in Rhode Island were attacked including Providence. The largest battle fought during the war was the Great Swamp Fight in which a large Narrangansett force was defeated and their fort was burned to the ground. Eventually, King Philip was hunted down and killed. After the war, few Native Americans were left living in the colony.

American Revolution

When England began to tax the American colonies, Rhode Island was eager to gain their independence. In 1772, colonists from Providence attacked and burned the British ship the Gaspee. Rhode Island was also one of the first colonies to renounce their allegiance to Britain on May 4, 1776.


The burning of the Gaspee
The burning of the Gaspee by Harper & Brothers

Becoming a State

After the war, Rhode Island was hesitant to join the United States. They wanted to be sure that the Constitution would protect their rights. They finally agreed to join after the Bill of Rightswas added to the Constitution. Rhode Island became the 13th state to join the Union on May 29, 1790.

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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