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Lincoln Town

Lincoln Town Hall is located at 100 Old River Road, Lincoln, RI 02865; phone: 401-333-1100.

Beginnings [1]

The land which now forms the town of Lincoln was included in Roger Williams' original purchase of Providence from the Narragansett sachems, Miantonomi and Canonicus. The area remained legally part of the town of Providence for almost a century, from its purchase in 1636 until 1730, when the state legislature divided the northern section of the colony, the "North Woods" or "Outlands" into three new towns, including Smithfield, a seventy-three-square-mile area which included present-day Lincoln. Throughout the eighteenth century (when Lincoln was largely an agricultural area) and the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century (when the town's manufacturing villages were founded and expanded), the area remained part of Smithfield. In 1870, the town was divided and Lincoln was created as a separate town. Lincoln's present-day boundaries were established in 1895 when, after a plebescite, the village of Central Falls was separated from the town and incorporated as a city.

Though Providence settlers had acquired the land which is now Lincoln in 1636, they did not immediately settle here, but rather clustered at the head of the bay in what became the city of Providence. Bound together by their need for defense and their communal life, only a few ventured into the interior reaches purchased from the Indians. The area remained, for the most part, a wilderness, used only intermittently: the rivers may have been fished; the marsh hay growing along steam banks was harvested for cattle feed; and lime deposits were mined by the 1660s.

The land remained an undeveloped adjunct of the compact part of Providence, entered only occasionally for exploitation of game, wood, hay, or lime.

After the decisive battles of King Philip's War in the 1670s, which mitigated the fear of Indian attack, settlement in the Blackstone and Moshassuck Valleys began in earnest. While no community existed well into the 18th century, individual families applied for grants of land or purchased property, made their way north, built houses, cleared fields, and planted crops. Among the first families to settle in Lincoln were the Arnolds, Ballous, Wilkinsons, Whipples, and Dexters, and two early houses survive to illustrate the nature of the remote homestead oases here: the Eleazer Arnold House (in the Great Road Historic District) and the Valentine Whitman, Jr., House (in the Lime Rock Historic District).

Many of the early settlers were members of the Society of Friends. In other New England colonies Quakers were regarded as fanatics inimical to civil order and they were decidedly unwelcome. Like other religious refugees they found a home in Rhode Island and by the 1660s had established monthly and yearly meetings in the colony. Blackstone Valley Quakers held their first-day meetings in private houses until 1704 when they built a small meetinghouse which still stands on Great Road (entered on the National Register of Historic Places). The meetinghouse was the seat of the Providence Monthly Meeting after 1718 and was the focus of Quaker life for the expanse between East Greenwich and the Massachusetts border. In the nineteenth century, however, Quaker dominance of the area's religious life diminished under the impact of the Industrial Revolution.


Statewide Historic Preservation Report, P-L-1; Lincoln, Rhode Island, January, 1982.

  1. Pamela Kennedy, Rhode Island Historical Preservation Committee, Lincoln Rhode Island Multiple Resource Area (MRA), nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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