Coles Campground 2 - The Elms
Long before Cole’s Station and campground became one of Rhode Island’s most popular summer resorts it was known as the center of much of the political and intellectual life in Rhode Island. The house, built by Major John Greene in 1676, became most well-known and famous during the ownership of his grandson, Philip Greene.
Judge Philip Greene’s hospitality at his Pastuxet estate attracted some of the best minds of the 18th century. Here, men and women came, talked, flirted, and developed some of the most outrageous and dangerous philosophies of the time. Young Nathanael Greene hoped to win the love of Nancy Ward, while his brother pursued her sister, Kitty. Both of the Greene brothers hoped to win the respect and support of Governor Samuel Ward; and all marveled at the brilliant discourses between Thomas Wickes and his sister Elizabeth, wife of Judge Greene.
The period from 1746 to 1776 witnessed Rhode Island dividing into two political camps. Many regard this as the beginning of the two-party system in America, while other historians view it as two factions struggling for control and wealth. The Revolutionary War saw both factions getting together to agree on opposing British tyranny and much of the seed for later cooperation was fostered at Pastuxet. After the War, and into the early 19th century, the Greene family at Pastuxet lost some of its earlier affluence and found it necessary to sell much of its property.
The change of ownership
In 1817, Jeremiah Greene, grandson of Judge Philip, sold the house and 80 acres of land to William Davis Cole, who changed the name of the farm from “Pastuxet” to “the Elms.” In 1842, Edward Cole inherited the farm and for much of the next century, thanks in a great part to the Warwick Railroad, “ the Elms” or Cole’s Farm became a popular summer camping site, especially famous for its clambakes.
Thanks to its easy access to Providence, it became a lively summer campground by the time of the Civil War. Even before the Warwick Railroad, the site became very popular among the wealthy and influential citizens of the area.. Local historian Henry A. L. Brown tells us “For many years, each Saturday was reserved for about 50 of Providence's most affluent men. They called themselves the "No-name group," later the "Bond Holders" and eventually became the "Squantum Club." To many, they were the "Saturday Club," and were known throughout the state for their lavish entertainments.”
This was a period of time when the Industrial Revolution was making itself felt in Rhode Island and many of the leading mill owners having political aspirations found the Elms an ideal place to meet with their cronies and to inquire about political backing. Many of these entrepreneurs found that promises of support to leading politicians could result in legislation favorable to their interests.