American History and Genealogy Project

State of Rhode Island

Page 564

Rhode Island, or, according to its original name, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, one of the northern United States, is situated between 41° 22' and 42° 3' n. lat., and between 71° 6' and 71° 38' w. Ion., and between 5° 7' and 5° 54' e. from w. It is about 49 miles long and 29 broad, containing 1,360 square miles, of which Narraganset bay includes 130, or, in the whole, 870,400 acres, and is the smallest state in the Union.

The population in 1790 was 58,825; in 1800, 69,122; in 1810, 76,931; in 1820, 83,059; in 1830, 97,212; in 1840, 108,830. Of these, 51,362 were white males; 54,225 do. females; colored free males, 1,413; do. females, 1,825. Employed in agriculture, 16,617; in commerce, 1,348; manufactures and trades, 21,271; navigating the ocean, 1,717; learned professions, &c, 457.

It is divided into 5 counties, which, with their population in 1840, and their capitals, were as follows:

County, Population, Capital

Providence, 58,073, Providence Newport, 16,874, Newport;
Bristol, 6,476, Bristol; Kent, 13,083, East Greenwich;
Washington, 14,324, South Kingston ...

Newport and Providence are the principal seats of government; but the legislature meets annually at the former in May, and at the latter, alternately with South Kingston, in October.

The n. w. part of the state is hilly and rocky. The hills, though not elevated, are found through the northern third of the state; the remainder is mostly level. The soil in the w. and n. w. parts is thin and lean; but near Narraganset bay, and on the islands in it, it has great fertility. It is better for grazing than for grain, and is distinguished for the excellence of its cattle and sheep, and its butter and cheese. Indian corn, rye, barley, oats, and, in some places, wheat, are produced, but not in sufficient quantity for exportation. Grass, fruits, and culinary vegetables, are produced in great perfection.

The rivers and bays abound in excellent fish. There were in 1840 in the state, 8,024 horse 3 and mules; 36,891 neat cattle; 90,146 sheep; 30,659 swine. There were raised 3,098 bush, of wheat; 66,490 of barley; 171,517 of oats; 34,521 of rye; 2,979 of buckwheat; 450,498 of Indian com; 183,830 pounds of wool; 911,973 bushels of potatoes; 383 tons of hemp and flax. The products of the dairy amounted to $223,229; of the orchard, $32,098; of lumber, $44,455.

The exports consist chiefly of flaxseed, horses, cattle, beef, pork, fish, poultry, onions, butter, cheese, barley, and cotton goods. The manufactures exceed those of any other state, in proportion to its population, the principal of which is cotton. They also have manufactures of woolen, iron, cordage, &c. This state has extensive shipping.

The climate is healthy, and more mild, particularly on the islands, than in any other part of New England. The sea-breezes moderate the heat of summer and the cold of winter; and Newport is a favorite resort, particularly during the summer.

The rivers are not large, but furnish some fine mill seats, and are extensively used for manufacturing purposes. The principal are Pawtucket, Providence, Pawtuxet, Pawcatuck, and Wood. Narraganset Bay extends from n. to s. over 30 miles into the state, and contains a number of fine islands. The principal are Rhode island, 15 miles long, with an average width of 2½ miles; Canonicut, 8 miles long and 1 broad; Prudence, 6 miles long; and Block island, 10 miles out in the Atlantic, 8 miles long and from 2 to 4 broad. It constitutes the township of New Shoreham, and has a light-house. Newport, on the s. w. part of Rhode Island, has one of the finest harbors in the world, being spacious, safe, and easily accessible. Providence, at the head of Narraganset bay, 36 miles above Point Judith, is accessible by large ships. In population, commerce, and wealth, this is the second city in New England. It has been extensively engaged in the West India, and also in the East India trade. Bristol, on the e. side of the bay, 15 miles n. of Newport, has a safe and commodious harbor, and considerable trade. Pawtucket, 4 miles n. of Providence, and Pawtuxet village, 10 miles s. of Providence, have extensive manufactures.

The exports of this state in 1840 amounted to $206,989, and the imports to $274,534. There were in 1840, in this state, 44 commercial and 57 commission houses engaged in foreign trade, with a capital of $2,043,507; 930 drygoods and other retail stores, employing a capital of $2,810,125; 58 persons engaged in transportation, with 83 butchers, packers, &c, employing a cap-ital of $71,050; 262 persons engaged in the lumber trade, employing a capital of $254,900; 1,160 persons employed in the fisheries, and a capital of $1,077,157.

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The manufactures of this small state deserve particular notice. Homemade or family goods were produced to the amount of $51,180; 41 woolen manufactories, with 45 fulling mills, employing 961 persons, produced goods to the amount of $842,172, with a capital of $685,350; 209 cotton manufactories, with 518,817 spindles, employed 12,086 persons, producing articles to the amount of $7,116,792, and employed a capital of $7,326,000; 27 persons produced 1,000 tons of anthracite coal, with a capital of $6,000; 5 furnaces produced 4,126 tons of cast iron, and had a capital of $22,250; 2 paper mills produced articles to the amount of $25,000, and other paper manufactures produced to the amount of $8,500, employing 15 persons, and a capital of $ 15,000; hats and caps were manufactured to the amount, of $92,465, and straw bonnets to the amount of $86,106, the whole employing 411 persons, and a capital of $66,427; 27 tanneries employed 89 persons, and a capital of $72,000; 44 saddleries and other leather manufactories produced to the amount of $182,110, with a capital of $70,695; 43 persons manufactured granite and marble to the amount of $36,202: 113 persons produced bricks and lime to the amount of $66,000; 534 persons produced machinery to the amount of $437,100; 164 persons produced hardware and cutlery to the amount of $138,720; 179 persons manufactured the precious metals to the amount of $283,500; 57 persons produced 1,237,050 pounds of soap, 157,250 do. of tallow candles, 264,500 do. of spermaceti or wax candles, with a capital of $252,628; 161 persons manufactured carriages and wagons to the amount of $78,811, with a capital of $36,661; various mills produced articles to the amount of $83,683, employing 166 persons, and a capital of $152,310; 9 ropewalks employed 45 persons, and produced cordage to the amount of $49,700, with a capital of $28,300; ships were built to the amount of $41,500; 195 persons produced furniture to the amount of $121,131, with a capital of $83,300; 4 distilleries produced 885,000 gallons, and 3 breweries 89,600 gallons, with a capital of $139,000; 6 brick and 292 wooden houses were built, employing 887 persons, at a cost of $379,010; there are 16 printing offices, 8 binderies, 2 daily, 4 semi-weekly, and 10 weekly newspapers, and 2 periodicals, the whole employing 122 persons, and a capital of $35,700. The whole amount of capital employed in manufactures in the state was $10,696,136.

Brown University, at Providence, is the only college in the state, and is a flourishing institution. It was founded in 1764, at Warwick, and was removed to Providence in 1770. A majority of the corporation are required to be of the Baptist denomination. In common school education this state has been behind the other states of New England, but is improving. In 1840 there were in Brown University, and in a high school, which partakes of the nature of a college, 324 students; 52 academies and grammar schools, with 3,664 students; 434 common and primary schools, with 17,355 scholars.

The principal religious denominations are the Baptists, the Congregationalists, the Episcopalians, and the Methodists. In 1836 the Baptists had 20 congregations and 18 ministers, besides 9 others of a different denomination; the Congregationalists had 16 congregations, 16 ministers, and 2,100 communicants; the Episcopalians had 16 congregations, 18 ministers, and 1,655 communicants; the Methodists had 10 ministers. Besides these, there are some Friends, Unitarians, Roman Catholics, Universalists, and Christians.

In the commencement of 1840, this state had 62 banks, with an aggregate capital of $9,880,500, and a circulation of $1,719,230. Although the banks in this state are so numerous, averaging two to a town, yet they have preserved their credit unimpaired.

Rhode Island has had, until recently, no other constitution of government but the charter granted by Charles II., in 1663. The government consisted of a governor, a senate, and a house of representatives, chosen annually by the people. There were 10 senators, 2 from each county. There were 72 representatives; and the legislature met twice annually, commencing on the first Wednesday of May, at Newport, and on the last Monday of October, alternately at Providence and south Kingston. The judiciary consisted of a supreme court and the court of common pleas; and ill the judges were chosen annually by the legislature in grand committee.

Several works of internal improvement contribute to the prosperity of this state. The Blackstone canal, which connects Providence with Worcester, Mass., lies partly in this state. The same is true of the Providence and Boston railroad. This connects with a line of steamboats to the city of New York. The Providence and Stonington railroad lies chiefly in this state, and is 7 miles long. This road also connects with a line of steamboats to the city of New York. When he Long Island railroad shall have been completed through the island, this road will become of real importance. Rhode Island has no public debt. There is a state prison at Providence, completed in 1838.

This state was first settled by Roger Williams, who, with his associates, left Massachusetts on account of their religious principles. He at first made a purchase of the Indians at Sekonk; but finding himself within the Plymouth colony, he removed to Providence, to which he gave name, and here he commenced a settlement in 1636. He obtained a patent from the Plymouth company, in England, in 1644. A settlement had been made on Rhode Island in 1638, and this charter included both under the name of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. After the restoration of Charles II., a new charter was obtained from him in 1663, which, until recently, formed the basis of the government, unchanged by the revolution. In May, 1842, an attempt was made by the "suffrage party," as they were called, to take forcible possession of the government. They had previously, without authority from the legislature, formed a constitution, and in their primary assemblies, acting informally, chosen a governor, senate, and house of representatives, and attempted to maintain their authority by force of arms. But the force of the state was brought against them, and the suffrage party were dispersed, and the authority of the government was maintained. By order of the charter legislature, a convention was assembled in September, 1842, for the purpose, formed a constitution, which was approved by a majority of the people in their primary assemblies, and has gone into operation. The particulars of it we are unable to give.

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Rhode Island bore an honorable part in the revolutionary war. She was the last of the old 13 states to adopt the federal constitution, which she did in May 29, 1790, by a majority of 2 votes, and became a member of the Union.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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