Welome to East Greenwich - A Brief History
This outline of East Greenwich’s establishment
and growth was compiled from “The History of East
Greenwich, Rhode Island” by Martha R. McPartland,
former East Greenwich Librarian.
The 16 square miles of central Rhode Island known as
East Greenwich celebrated its tercentenary in 1977. The
eighth oldest town in the state, it is located on the western
shore of Narragansett Bay.
East Greenwich could well be named the “town on four
hills”. Heading up from Greenwich Bay, the first rise holds
the Main Street business section. Peirce Street with its library
and two churches rides the second crest and residential
sections cover the final two levels.
Roger Williams, the state’s founder, reportedly believed
in legal transaction to acquire property and received his
Rhode Island land by signed agreement with the Indian
Chief Sachems. A king’s Charter in 1644 confirmed these
Narragansett Sachem Pessacus signed the submission
of his land and people to Charles II in 1644. Narragansett
Country, including what was to become East Greenwich,
was acquired by the King’s Commission in 1665 as part of
the colony of Rhode Island.
From 1675 to 1677 the Narragansetts and other New
England Tribes waged King Philip’s War against the mostly
British settlers. At the war’s close Indian captives were sold
as slaves from the Wickford trading post. Those that escaped
joined other tribes. Their lands, titles and jurisdictions
became Rhode Island property.
Incorporated in 1677, East Greenwich, or Green Town,
was named after Greenwich County of Kent, England. It
was renamed Dedford in 1688, but quickly reverted to the
Before the incorporation in 1677, a portion of the town
was illegally claimed by a group calling themselves the
Atherton Company or the Bay Purchasers. This landhungry
and occasionally ruthless group was composed of
Major Humphrey Atherton of Massachusetts, Connecticut
Governor John Wihthrop, Richard Smith and Richard
Smith, Jr. of Cocumcussuc, William Hudson and Amos
Richardson of Boston and John Tinker of Nashua.
In 1659 an Indian expedition damaged the home of a
settler. The Narragansetts were fined 600 fathoms of wampum
by the United Colonies and for payment Narragansett
County was mortgaged. In 1662 Major Atherton convinced
the Indians to mortgage the land to him in return
for paying off the fine. The Atherton group overlooked the
original mortgage with the colonies and laid claim to all
the Narragansett Country, which today includes Kent and
Washington counties. The claim was not recognized by
Rhode Island Governor Andros and the disputed land was
granted to English settlers in 1677.
In 1686 the Atherton Company sold some of the land
which had been granted by the assembly to a group of
French refugees called Huguenots. Although not recorded,
the Huguenot settlement is believed bounded by Frenchtown
Road on the north, the Exeter line to the south, South
County Trail on the east and the West Greenwich line on