The Four Mile Common
The first mention of Apponaug in the Warwick Town
Records was on May 27, 1663. It tells us that it was "Ordred
yt 20 men of ye Inhabitants of this Towne of Warwick shall goe forthwith
to sett up ye fence in ye place where it was formerly sett up from
ye head of Coave goeing to Aponachack and rainging downe to ye fresh
river to toeskeuncke.…" This reference was in the Warwick
Town Records pg 134 #197.
At that time, Apponaug Cove was the western-most point of the area known as the "four mile common." This designation was applied to the land from Greenwich Bay to the northern boundary of the Shawomet Purchase, bounded on the east by the early Gorton village and the west by Apponaug. Cove.
The early Warwick Settlement moves west
By 1663, the first settlement at Mill Creek, near Conimicut Point, had been partially abandoned in favor of sites closer to the head of Warwick Cove. According to the 1981 Statewide Historical Preservation Report, K W 1, by Robert O. Jones, the early village was linear in form and extending from present day West Shore Road from what is now Economy Avenue to Second Point Road.
Within a short period of time, other small villages began to take form. In order to understand how Warwick developed in the 17th century it is necessary to remember the original settlers of Warwick believed in the separation of church and state. Because of this, the Town of Warwick, unlike those found in other early colonies such as Plymouth or Massachusetts Bay, did not develop around a church or a village green.
The settlement at Apponaug did not take place during the time of the first generation of settlers. Problems
with the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a limited population,
and difficulties with the Indian sachem, Pomham, and his followers,
made it impossible to establish a settlement in Apponaug until after
King Philip's War (1675). After that dreadful conflict, the power
of the Narragansett Indians was broken and Pomham was killed. Oliver
Payson Fuller, in his classic 1875, History of Warwick, comments,
"The sense of security resulting from the enfeebled condition
of the natives gradually increased by accession to their own number
with the prospect of still greater security as time advanced."
After the war, there was an increase in population and the sons
of the original settlers found it desirable to increase their land
holdings in order to support their families.
Fuller, in his history, attempts to explain this expansion by saying, "It is a law in political economy that 'industry will by applied to capital as every man enjoys the advantages of his labor and his capital'." Fuller makes this point indicating that, "Heretofore the settlers were in doubt in these matters. They were harassed upon every side, and there was little encouragement to extend their efforts beyond the immediate precincts of their homes at Shawomet."
With an improvement of relations with other colonies and the cessation of hostilities, it was soon possible for the settlers to hope for a better quality of life. The surviving settlers and their families found they were enjoying the necessities of food, clothing and shelter and were now hoping to enrich their lives and begin to seek a more comfortable existence.
Significant improvements came when an increase in population and greater success in farming and trade made it possible for Warwick to attract skilled laborers. These skilled mechanics would be very instrumental in establishing the village at Apponaug.
John Micarter comes to Apponaug
Oliver P. Fuller, in his History of Warwick, tells us, "Hence we find, at an early period in the history of the town, when the supply of wearing apparel of the quality demanded was insufficient from the ordinary methods of production to meet the wants of the inhabitants, a skilled laborer from abroad found it to his advantage to come among them." John Micarter was the "skilled laborer" referred to by Fuller. Micarter was capable of setting up a "fulling mill" and chose Apponaug as the site for this enterprise.
A Fulling Mill for Apponaug
With the conclusion of hostilities after King Philip's War, the children of the first settlers in Warwick began to settle in the area called the Four Mile Common at Apponaug Cove. By this time, they were beginning to demand more comfort and material things than their parents had enjoyed. They especially wanted better dwellings and finer clothing. As a result, fulling mills were in great demand in the 17th century.
The "fulling of cloth"
"Fulling" is the process of cleansing, scouring and pressing woven woolen goods to make them stronger and firmer. During the Colonial Period, a water mill was used to scour or wash the cloth. According to the Encyclopedia Americana, these early mills consisted of a wheel, with pestles and stampers attached to it. Cloth is put in a trough with "fuller's earth," (usually clay) and the pestles beat on it to thicken and scour the cloth. After from about 48 to 65 hours of this treatment the result is considerable shrinkage of the cloth. The threads are firm and close together and the tendency for the cloth to unravel is eliminated.
Apponaug had soil that contained this "fuller's earth" or clay which was necessary to separate the grease and oil from the cloth. Realizing this, and finding the area ideal for his enterprise, Micarter asked for and received permission to build a mill at the stream near the Cove.
Fuller quotes the Proprietor's records as saying on April 28, 1696, "Moses Lippitt, James Greene, James Carder and Randall Holden are appointed to go with Mr. Micarter to Aponake, and to view a place desired by him to set up a fulling mill; and to see what accommodation they judge may be allowed to it, and so make report to the town at the next meeting."
A village is born - 1697
The site was suitable and Micarter was granted the right to build a mill at "Aponake". He was also permitted to build "some convenient accommodations for the abode and residence of himself and family." He was charged with the proviso, "that the said fulling mill shall be finished and completed, fit to do the town service at or before the first day of May, which will be in the year 1697..." Micarter was told that he "shall always be ready to do the towne's work upon as reasonable terms as they can have it done elsewhere..." He was given one acre and a half of land which was situated "between two wading places, the uppermost being the foot way, the lowermost the horse way; as also, allowed liberty for digging a trench at the entrance of Kekamewit brooke to raise it sufficiently..."
In addition to the right to build the mill, Micarter asked for and received permission to dry cloth on the common, and to have "the privileges upon the common for fuel or fire wood...and privileges for ten head of cattle to feed on the common..."
Apponaug's life as a village began.
Apparently, not long after the mill was put in operation Micarter decided to leave. The late Dorothy Mayor, who spent many years researching Apponaug's past, has concluded that John Micarter sold his fulling mill to Jeremiah Westcott in 1698. for the "sum of one hundred fifty and five pounds of current money of New England." In the spring of 1702, Westcott decided to sell "my dwelling house together with my fulling mill, each being situate at or near Aponake..."
The Greenes take over
Westcott sold his interest to Samuel Greene for "one hundred and fifty pounds New England silver money." In addition to the house and mill, all the land, fences, water courses and privileges belonging to the mill were included.
The success of the mill under Greene ownership resulted in Apponaug being called Fulling Mill for a number of years and also served to encourage the establishment of other mills in the near vicinity.
The story of Apponaug will be continued.