Cole’s Campground 1 – Pastuxet
One of the most popular campgrounds in the late 19th and early 20th century was Cole’s Campground, located off West Shore Road between Hoxsie and Conimicut. Long before that, however, the area was a well-known gathering place for Rhode Island’s most important and influential politicians and thinkers of the pre-Revolutionary era. At that time it was known as Occupasuetuxet, shortened to ‘Pastuxet’ for convenience in conversation. This was the large landed estate of Judge Philip Greene, who had inherited the land, as well as a farm in what today is known as Centerville, from his father, Major Job Greene.
According to an article written in 1901 by Mary Anne Greene, and quoted in The Greenes of Rhode Island, compiled by Major-General George Sears Greene, we read “The glory and hospitality of Pastuxet reached its height during the long life of Philip Greene, son of Job.” It goes on to say, “The old house at Pastuxet was always filled with company in Judge Philip Greene’s day. One of his nieces, who lived to the great age of one hundred and two…says when she got permission to go to visit at Uncle Philip’s she felt as if she was going to heaven’.”
The “Pastuxet” home was built in 1676 by Deputy Governor John Greene for his son, Job. The original house, erected ca. 1670, was burned in King Philips War (1675-76). Family tradition tells us that shortly thereafter, Deputy Governor Greene and his son Job commenced rebuilding on the site “while the ashes were still warm.”
Two members of the Greene family most closely associated with the house in the early period were Philip Greene (1705-1791) and his illustrious son, Christopher (1737-1781). Philip Greene was Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas (1776-1784) and a very influential landowner. The famous statesman, Benjamin Franklin, visited Philip at the house and, according to local historians, attempted to woo (unsuccessfully) Philip’s youngest daughter, Betty Greene.
Some of the more illustrious guests and visitors were Judge Greene’s sister. Deborah Greene Ray, and her lovely daughters, Catharine, Ann, and Phebe. Others, such as Nathanael Greene, James Varnum, and Governor Samuel Ward, found Pastuxet a most stimulating and charming place to visit.
One of the most heralded of the residents at the Pastuxet estate was Colonel Christopher Greene, born in the house in 1737. He was the hero of the Battle of Red Bank during the Revolutionary War and served with great distinction in the Continental Army until 1781, when he was brutally murdered by Loyalist cavalry at the Croton River in New York.