The village felt the wrath of t he Narragansetts

While the founding fathers of Rhode Island were often engrossed in problems of religion, politics, and land deeds, the village of Pawtuxet began to grow. Horace Belcher, veteran R.I. newspaperman, and an excellent source for Pawtuxet materials, made a careful study of the early accounts of Pawtuxet before King Philip's War.  He places a great deal of emphasis on the early settlements of William Arnold and his family as they first set up a trading post in the wilderness and then began the first industry with a grist mill near the falls.

Belcher tells us that the Arnold clan of Pawtuxet consisted of William, the founder, his wife Christian, their children, Elizabeth, Benedict, Joanne, and Steven.  Belcher's thoroughness includes the ages of the family when they first arrived in Boston from England in 1635.  William was at that time 48 years old, the oldest of the Pawtuxet purchasers.  The traditional date, backed by considerable evidence, places the Arnolds as settling in Pawtuxet as early as 1638.   Belcher says the location of this first settlement was at the "ford" or "Indian wading place", a "few rods below the present bridge at Warwick Avenue".

As it was near the large Indian town of Mashapaug, Arnold found it ideal as a location for a trading post. Using his son Benedict as an interpreter, Arnold was very successful and established a good relationship with the Narragansett under-sachems, Socononaco and Pomham. The struggle of the early settlers to establish a thriving village in the wilderness along the banks of the Pawtuxet River was hampered by many obstacles during the first four decades.  Bitter quarrels over religion, politics and land, kept the Harris, Arnold and Carpenter families in nearly constant turmoil with their neighbors in Providence and Warwick.

Along with the internal friction there was the constant problem with wild animals and the threat of an Indian attack.  One of the most brutal periods in the history of the village came as a result of the conflict between the Narragansett Indians and the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Despite the fact that Rhode Island did not participate in the attacks on the Narragansetts, it felt the wrath of the natives after the terrible slaughter at the Great Swamp in 1675.  In the months that followed, every house in Warwick, with the exception of Thomas Greene’s Stone Castle was burned.  In 1676, Pawtuxet village was burned to the ground by the Indians.  Not only were houses burned, livestock stolen, and years of hard work demolished, a number of lives were lost as well.

Before Pawtuxet fell to the wrath of the Indians, however, a great deal of progress had been made, and after the Indian danger was over, Pawtuxet was able to emerge as a thriving village.  The meadows had proven to be very productive.  In the 1670's, William Carpenter's farm at Bellefonte, along the banks of the Pawtuxet River, was large and thriving, with a sizeable flock of sheep, a herd of cattle and 15 horses.  His son Joseph, along with Zachariah Rhodes and Stephen Arnold, had established a successful grist mill at Pawtuxet Falls and had cut a road through the wilderness that helped bring trade and prosperity to the small village.   In 1659, the first settlers, William Arnold, William Carpenter, and William Harris removed themselves from Massachusetts’s jurisdiction and believed they had established a valid claim to nearly one-third of the area of present day Rhode Island.  All three of these founders lived through King Philip's War, and all died believing their land claims were successful. 

By 1677, the Indian danger had ended and it was possible for those who fled from Pawtuxet and Warwick to return. 


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