The Towns & Villages

Tiverton

Originally part of the Province of Massachusetts in 1694, the Town of Tiverton was incorporated in 1746 and annexed to Newport County by Royal Decree. Fishing with hand nets or seines has been identified with Tiverton since its very beginning.

Tiverton Four Corners

Four Corners offers all the charm of a quaint New England village. It is a unique place where visitors can eat homemade ice cream and gourmet sandwiches and browse through more than a dozen small shops, a few antique shops and four art galleries.

Early settlers in this part of Rhode Island passed a law that you could build a tavern only at a four-way intersection. Then they made sure there weren’t any except the one that gave Tiverton Four Corners its name.

Four Corners is a mix of art activities that range from the avant-garde to the folksy. An Arts and Education Center hosts summer concerts and offers classes for adults and children. There are a number of distinguished historic houses at the Four Corners which make it an area worth visiting.
Tiverton Four Corners was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The history of this rural village dates from the seventeenth century and spans three hundred years. Among the notable historic houses are the Soule-Seabury House and the Chace-Cory House, which is opened from time to time as a house museum.

You should also visit the Mill Pond, now the home of the Millpond Shops, where a stone mill and early Grange Hall have been converted into a cluster of specialty shops and a real estate office.

To find out more about Tiverton Four Corners, visit its website at TivertonFourCorners.com.

Little Compton

Settled by the English in the 17th century, Little Compton, with three sides to the sea, offers 23 square miles comprised of stone-wall-bound farms, woodland, marshes, beaches, comfortable summer houses all connected by tree-lines, winding roads. A population of 3,500 occupies the town stretching from Sakonnet Point to the town center, The Commons and to the far east, the village of Adamsville. Its Indian history includes the Sagonate tribe, which was one of the thirty tribes comprising the Wampanoag Indians. Little Compton was home to Queen Awashonks and later King Philip of the King Philip’s Wars.

The Commons

The Commons serves the town with school, church, town hall, post office, library, restaurant, stores, recreational facilities and offices. It is very much the town’s gathering place. The Commons is unique in the state of Rhode Island as a village that both serves as a whole town’s social focus and retain much of its historical setting, buildings and function.

Adamsville

Adamsville, called the “Valley of Sin” back when rum-running dory men rowed their hooch ashore, lies at the head of the west branch of the Westport River. It came into being more than 200 years ago, nurtured by a grist mill which is still operating today. The village center, with lamp posts along the streets and a duck pond, includes two general stores, two eateries, a dish store, a gift shop and a post office.

Adamsville also boasts the world’s only monument to a rooster. Just near the baseball diamond you will find a bronze tablet commemorating the birthplace of the Rhode Island Red breed of fowl, which were originally bred in this area and became popular throughout the world.

Despite the recent loss of Abraham’s General Store to a fire, much of the early historic buildings remain. In addition to several early houses, there is the former Odd Fellows “Electra Lodge”, Gray’s Grist Mill, Gray’s General Store, and an early Water Tower just off Old harbor Road.

Westport

Settled in 1616, Westport was incorporated as a separate town in 1787 from Dartmouth township which originally included New Bedford, Fairhaven, Acushnet, Dartmouth and Westport. The Indian name for the town was Acoaxet. At the time of incorporation, the town consisted of three villages.

Head of Westport

The Head of Westport, which is at the northern end of the east branch of the Westport River, was principally devoted to agriculture and shipbuilding. Originally, there was a grist mill, a shoemaker, harness maker, and blacksmith. Today you will find the Bell School House, which houses the Westport Historical Society and the Powder House which was used as an ammunition house after the War of 1812.

Central Village

Central Village, is today the main business section of the town and through which the main coastal East-West intersection runs. One of Westport’s most prominent citizens was farmer-mariner Paul Cuffee. Cuffee, a black man, succeeded as a master and merchant. He owned the brig Traveller which he used for trading in Europe and implementing his dream of furthering the cause of his race by establishing a settlement in Africa for freed slaves from America. He also built the first integrated school house on his farm.

Westport Point

Westport Point is a nationally registered historic village that forms the heart of the Westport commercial fishing industry. Located at the juncture of the east and west branches of the Westport River, the “Point” prospered with the development of the whaling industry and subsequent shipbuilding activity. Currently it offers a safe harbor to both fishing and pleasure boats.

By the late 19th century, a fourth village existed called Westport Factory. It was located on the electric railroad line that ran between Fall River and New Bedford. The Westport Manufacturing Co., the only important manufacturing plant in town, produced carpet-warp, twine, cotton-batting and wicking.

Today Westport is still home to many productive farms with open fields to the rivers surrounded by fieldstone walls. Many people in surrounding areas know Westport as the location of Horseneck State Beach and travel there directly on Rte. 88 which was constructed in the early 1960’s and bisects the town in a North-South direction. By doing so they miss many of the charms and historical qualities of this seacoast town.

Dartmouth

Dartmouth was settled in 1652, and along with Westport was purchased by the Massachusetts Bay Colony from the Indians Massasoit and Wamsutta for “thirty yards of cloth, eight moose skins, fifteen axes, fifteen pairs of breeches, eight blankets, two kettles, one clock, two English pounds of Wampum, eight pairs of shoes, one iron pot, and ten shillings!” In those early years the Town was settled mostly by the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, that sought to break away from the religious orthodoxy of the Plymoth Colony.

Russell’s Mills

Nestled at the head of the Slocum River, beside the Mill Pond, is the Historic Village of Russell’s Mills. The first settlement in an area that was to become Dartmouth, Russell’s Mills was a well rounded center of commerce. The first settlements (1600’s) were prior to King Phillip’s War and the early settlers were members of the Russell family. They established the early industries which eventually grew to eleven. These water-powered mills ground grain, sawed timbers, made shingles and processed wool. There was also a ship-building operation close to the Town Landing, along with a Davoll’s store and storage building to house goods delivered up the river by boat.

Today the village continues to be home to Davoll’s General Store, Salt Marsh Pottery & Village Gardens.

Padanaram

The name of this charming old village fascinates people and puzzles most. The village of Padanaram was one of many settlements which began cropping up within the town of Old Dartmouth after its purchase from Chief of the Wampanoag Indians, Massasoit, by members of the Plymouth Colony in 1652.

This area of Dartmouth that was to become Padanaram Village developed slowly until the mid 18th century, when the fine harbor on the Apponagansett River brought shipbuilding and its service industries to expand activities and population. During this period the problem of a name for this growing community was solved. It had been called Ponagansett after the harbor in early records, but about 1800 a newcomer by the name of Laban Thatcher arrived from Cape Cod. He and his large family became involved in many projects. Laban was soon a pillar of the community. He built a wharf, a shipyard, windmill, magnesia factory and had much success in property investment. Laban was well known for having established an elaborate salt works which, however, was a failure and became known as “Laban’s Folly”. The designation Padanaram was first used in a land contract in 1817.

It was Laban Thatcher who gave the name Padanaram to the village, apparently because he saw an analogy in his own life and fortunes to that of the biblical Laban who dwelt in Padan-Aram. The plain of Aram in northwest Mesopotamia was the home of the prolific Laban who prospered and sired a fine family of daughters, notably Leah and Rachel, wives of Jacob.
As time went on the village settled into a quiet pattern of life. In the 19th century, it had a significant salt industry, and it became quite a whaling port, with several whaleships being built there.


Special thanks to James Weir, by Faith E. Wilbur, Jennifer Hall and Beverly Glennon for the information and knowledge they shared for these histories.