North Kingstown Town
North Kingstown Town Hall is located at 80 Boston Neck Road, North Kingstown, RI 02852; phone: 401-294-3331.
First settled around 1641, North Kingstown was incorporated as Kings Towne in 1674 by the colonial government.
The first European interest in the Narragansett areas, after some preliminary exploration of the bay, was for the trade with the Indians. Dutch traders from New Amsterdam may have sailed into Wickford Harbor in the early seventeenth century. In 1637, a year after his arrival in Rhode Island, Roger Williams established a temporary trading post in the northern part of what was to be North Kingstown. In 1643, Williams built a permanent house and stayed in it for six years, farming, raising goats on Queen's Island, and trading with the Indians for fur and wampum. Modern estimates as to the location of his house vary, but a granite marker in the Richard Smith Roadside Park on Post Road commemorates his presence. A seventeenth century house near this marker, the Hall-Northup House at 7919 Post Road, is so much like the type of Rhode Island house of the mid-seventeenth century — the one-room, one-and-a-half-story "stone-ender" built in Providence in the 1640s — that it could be Roger Williams' 1643 house.
Richard Smith, of Gloucestershire, England, and then of Taunton, Massachusetts, the first permanent settler in North Kingstown, acquired land north of today's Wickford from Canonicus and Miantonomi about 1639. Sometime after 1641 Smith built a fortified trading post but did not permanently occupy it until after 1651 when he left Taunton "for conscience's sake" and moved his family here. In 1651, he also bought Roger Williams' house, Williams needing the funds for a voyage to England to confirm the Providence Plantations charter. Cocumscussoc, or "Smith's Castle," his trading post (55 Richard Smith Drive), became the political, social, and religious capital of the developing Narragansett area, which included all of southwest Rhode Island. The mid-seventeenth century house was destroyed by Indians in 1676 during King Phillip's War but was rebuilt in 1678. Some of the 1678 building remains, protected by an eighteenth century expansion.
Colonial jurisdiction over the land which is now North Kingstown was ambiguous throughout the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth. Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts all claimed ownership. The problem of the area's colonial allegiance was not fully resolved until 1728, leaving the region in its earliest period of development, a governmental no-man's land assured of no colony's protection. In spite of these jurisdictional problems, settlement in the Narragansett region expanded in the third quarter of the seventeenth century and mandated some political formalization. Kings Towne was founded in 1674 to include the present-day towns of North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett and Exeter.
In 1675, King Phillip's War, an angry uprising of a misunderstood and greatly wronged native population, raged over southeast New England. The finale of Rhode Island's part in the tragedy was played out in the central Narragansett area, the present South Kingstown, in the Great Swamp Fight of December, 1675, where the Indians were defeated by the colonists. Cocumscussoc served as headquarters for the colonial military operations. The Indians, in retaliation for the devastation of their population in the Great Swamp Fight, reportedly burned all buildings of the European settlers in the area. Thus, though settlement in North Kingstown dates from the 1640s, it has always been understood in modern times that no buildings from before 1676 remain.
Settlement increased in all parts of town in the last part of the seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth centuries. Growth was so marked that by 1722 it was deemed necessary to divide Kings Towne in two. North and South Kingstown were created, with the understanding that the former, which had the earliest settlement, was to be the older, 1674 town. A census of 1730 recorded 2,105 people in North Kingstown, almost double the number in a count of 1708.
Growth was aided by the creation of new roads, which allowed the transport of cattle and grains from the interior to the coast for shipment to Newport and other ports. Ten Rod Road, a major route west through the present-day Exeter, which had been separated from North Kingstown in 1742, to Connecticut, was authorized in 1703. It provided a stimulus both for inland settlement and for the growth of Updike's Newtown, later called Wickford, which had been founded within a few years of the creation of Ten Rod Road, close to the road's eastern terminus.
North Kingstown, Rhode Island: Statewide Historical Preservation Report, W-NK-1, Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, November, 1979.