King Philip's War & the Colonial Contact Period in Warren, RI

The native village moved with the seasons, but probably continuously occupied several areas along the Warren and Kickemuit Rivers. This photo simulation depicts, in an area that is now called Jacob's Point, what Sowams might have looked like along the Warren and Kickemuit Rivers. 

According to Virginia Baker, in  July 1621, Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony dispatched a deputation including Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins, to Pokanoket where the Sachem Massasoit resided.  They returned to Plymouth two days later. In March, 1623, news came to Plymouth that Massasoit was ill. Bradford sent a second expedition which succeeded in restoring his health and cementing a positive relationship with the sachem. By 1632, an English trading post had been established on the west bank of the Kickemuit River..

A monument to Massasoit (Ousamequin), chief of the Wampanoag natives, sits at the end of Baker Street in downtown Warren, the site of one of the reputed native villages, according to Virginia Baker, school teacher and local historian who lived next to the site in the early 20th Century. The bronze plaque reads:  This tablet, placed beside the gushing water known for many generations as Massasoit's Spring, commemorates the great Indian sachem Massasoit, 'Friend of the White Man', ruler of this region when the Pilgrims of the Mayflower landed at Plymouth in the Year of Our Lord 1620. This site is the likely location of Edward Winslow's first visit to Massasoit's village in 1621.

Burr's Hill was described by Fessenden in 1845 in The History of Warren, RI, From the Earliest Times as a a number of hills with bluffs overlooking the Warren River. A guard house was constructed on one of the hills to watch for British ships during the Revolutionary War. (Left: a speculative rendering of how the hills might have looked)

The Burr's Hill natural gravel bank overlooking the eastern shore of the Warren River, Burr’s Hill was purchased in 1901 by the Town from the Providence, Warren, and Bristol Railroad which had used the site for gravel to build a Providence to Bristol Railroad, completed in 1851. The photo on the left shows Burr's Hill and South Water Street where the Town Beach is now prior to the park excavation in the 1920s. Over the years, numerous native remains were dug from the sandy soil which was known as a native burial ground because it was a high bluff overlooking the setting sun over the water. 

Several years before the Hill was excavated to create the park and the town beach, hundreds of native artifacts (see photos, below) were unearthed and removed in 1913 by Charles Carr, Librarian of the George Hail Library in the first and only systematic archaeological excavations ever conducted at Burr’s Hill. His purpose was to assemble materials for ethnological exhibit at the Library. The hill where Carr’s excavations took place, however, remain undisturbed today. 

A monograph detailing Carr’s work and an archaeological analysis of the grave contents edited by Susan G. Gibson (Burr’s Hill: A 17th Century Wampanoag Burial Ground in Warren, RI) was published by Brown University in 1980. Carr’s original notebook, field notes and several pages of his own archaeological research are now housed at the Cornell University Library.

Fabric Beads Wampum
On May 13, 2017, over 600 items removed from the Burr's Hill and other gravesites were reburied in a crypt in the Park and a large stone monument  to Massasoit's memory as the leader who brought peace between the native population and the English Colonists until his death in 1662 was erected by the Wampanoag Tribe
King Philip's Seat (right) near the former site of the Haffenreffer Museum in Bristol and present-day reconstructions of  native wetus (below, right) similar to what may have made up the village or Sowams near the Massasoit Spring in present-day Warren, RI, here reconstructed at Plimoth Plantation. 





King's Rock (seen in the photo on the left) located on at the Rhode Island /  Massachusetts State line on Market Street (Rte. 136) on the northern border of Warren was purportedly used by Natives to light fires to celebrate their victories in tribal wars and talk about peace treaties The area was referred to as "Wigwam Hill." and could be seen for miles. 


Not far from there, on present day Chase Farm, Roger Williams camped over the winter of 1636 following his banishment from Boston by the Puritans. 



"Here by tradition, Chief Massasoit and Margaret, both of the Pokanoket tribe, nursed an ill Roger back to health during that very cold winter of 1636 following his banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony."

Roger Williams Family Association, 2014



Three and a half months later, in the spring, Rev. Rogers moved to Omega Pond in what is now East Providence, and finally across the the Seekonk River to the Moshassuck River where he founded Providence.

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