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Newport (R.I.) (1639-)



  • Existence: 1639-


Since its founding by English settlers in 1639, Newport has bustled with diversity. The policy of liberty of conscience and religion embodied in the Newport Town Statutes of 1641 was a result of the religious beliefs of its founders and their frustration over political intervention in their religious life in Boston. This policy was a beacon to settlers with wide-ranging religious beliefs, who came primarily from other colonies at first, and co-existed in the rapidly growing settlement, unaware that their town’s religious diversity was a prototype of the America to come. The first English settlers arrived on Aquidneck Island in 1636 following a remarkable woman named Anne Hutchinson. She had been driven out of Boston for her religious beliefs which challenged the very foundations of Puritanism. She and her band of supporters followed the path taken by Roger Williams when he, too, was banished from Massachusetts for religious reasons. After consulting with Williams, her group purchased Aquidneck Island (later named Rhode Island) from the native Americans. What the English settlers found on their arrival was hardly an empty wilderness. Native people had been in the area for at least 5,000 years, and had established sophisticated land management and fishing practices. Current evidence points to the existence of a large summer settlement in what is now downtown Newport, and the work these native people had done clearing the land was one of the factors that made this area attractive to English settlers. Ann Hutchinson’s group settled at the northern end of the island in an area known as Pocasett. In just over a year, however, that settlement split in two. A group lead by William Coddington and Nicholas Easton moved south to form Newport in 1639. By the time they arrived in Newport, many of these settlers were becoming Baptists and embraced a belief that was central for the Baptists of Europe at the time – the separation of church and state. These early settlers founded their new town on the basis of liberty of conscience and religion and Newport became one of the first secular democracies in the Atlantic world. The founder’s commitment to religious freedom had a profound impact on all aspects of the town’s subsequent history.

Found in 6 Collections and/or Records:

Newport Probate File Papers

Identifier: 1636-1575

File papers of cases administered by the court of Newport probate

Dates: 1741-1961; Majority of material found within 1850-1905

Newport Probate records: List of Pensioners, 1832

 File — Folder: Newport probate - list of pensioners 1832
Identifier: 1636-247
Scope and Contents From the Series:

Newport Probate File Papers. Includes wills, inventories, mortgage deeds, administration of estates, appointment of trustees, power of attorney, guardianship, adoption of children / name changes, petitions, complaints & warrants from overseers of the poor, Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, etc.

Dates: 1832

Newport Riots claims for damages

 Series — Volume: Newport Riots claims for damages, 1761-1773
Identifier: C#00493

Claims brought before the General Assembly for damage to the property of Martin Howard, Augustus Johnston, and Dr. Thomas Moffatt during a riot in Newport in August of 1765. Included are estimates of the damage done, testimony by varius parties as to the extent of the damage, and the decision of the General Assembly as to monetary damages.

Dates: 1761-1773

Newport Tax Books, 1852-1980 with gaps

 Sub-Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: C#00742

The Newport Tax Books contain an alphabetical listing of taxpaying residents and non-residents of the town. Lists real estate, personal estate and amount of taxes paid. Later volumes include; list of poll tax, tax-exempt properties, treasurer's reports and school committee report.

Dates: 1852-1980 with gaps

Proposed Newport Military Installation records

 Series — Box: Proposed Newport Military Installation (Rochefontaine) drawings and correspondence, 1794
Identifier: 2000-20
Scope and Contents

The Military Installation records consist of eight (8) color ganache drawings by engraver Rochefontaine of proposed military installations or fortifications for Newport, Rhode Island. This series also includes a letter from Rochefontaine to Governor Fenner regarding the plans for the proposed fortifications dated August 16, 1794 (Boston).

Dates: 1794

Tall Ships, Newport photographs, June 30, 1976


Tall Ships, Newport 1976 photographs. Black and white images taken by Louis Notarianni, Warwick, RI. All photographs dated June 30, 1976. Event also called “Seaport ‘76”.

Dates: June 30, 1976

Additional filters:

Archival Object 3
Collection 3
Bunkers (Fortification) 1
Military bases 1
Municipal government -- Records and correspondence 1
building plans 1
drawings (visual works) 1