The Ring of the Green — Our Ancestors in Rehoboth

Our Carpenter family connections.

Many of the family ancestors settled in Massachusetts, many in a place called Rehoboth. Most notably the Carpenter and Sabin families called Rehoboth home.

According to the History of Weymouth, in 1643, 40 families departed Weymouth – perhaps due to religious dissent. William Carpenter’s family and William Sabin’s family were two of the 40, along with the Rev. Samuel Newman where he became the minister there. William

Ring of the Green
This map shows the original settlers of the Ring. William Carpenter and William Sabin are ancestors

Carpenter was one of the original petitioners to the General Court that received permission to buy a tract of land eight miles square from Massasoit. That track, although known as the Seekonk Plain, was renamed Rehoboth by the settlers. William Carpenter, as a proprietor, received one of the lots on the original “Ring of Green”, as did William Sabin.

The East Providence Historical Society explains the settlement:

In 1641 The Plymouth Bay Colony gave John Brown and Edward Winslow permission to purchase 64 square miles of land from the Indian chief Massassoit. The piece of property extended eight miles from the Seekonk River East to the Taunton border and eight miles from what is now the Attleboros south to what is now Silver Spring Golf Course. There is a granite marker set into the wall there marking the southern boundary of the purchase. The Reverend Samuel Newman of Weymouth was told to round up potential settlers for this new area and two surveyors, William Sabin and Richard Wright, were sent into the area to lay out the settlement of the new Seekonk Plantation.

The settlement featured “long, narrow home lots which were set within the bend of the Ten Mile River in a fashion that gave most of the lots frontage on both the river and the Ring,” according to a National Register of Historic Places report on Rumford’s historic district. “A gristmill was built above the river bend at what is now called Hunts Mills, and a meeting house was constructed near the center of the Ring.”

The new settlement was a circular layout with five gates for entrance. The center area was to enclose the animals which the settlers would bring with them. There would be a continuous fence around this area and the house and farm lots would encircle the outside extending outward in six, eight and twelve acre lots. The Newman Meeting House for church services and settlement business and the cemetery would also be in the center of the circle. There would be five garrison buildings scattered throughout for security reasons to protect settlers from possible attack by the Indians. King Philip and his Indians did attack and burned the Ring settlement to the ground in 1676. The entire settlement had to be rebuilt. Only one man died during the raid although others died in later skirmishes with the Indians.

King Philip’s War

Walter Giersbach explained King Philip’s war:

King Philip’s War (1675-76) is an event that has been largely ignored by the American public and popular historians. However, the almost two-year conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans in New England stands as perhaps the most devastating war in this country’s history. One in ten soldiers on both sides were wounded or killed. At its height, hostilities threatened to push the recently arrived English colonists back to the coast. And, it took years for towns and urban centers to recover from the carnage and property damage.

The war is named for King Philip, the son of Massasoit and chief of the Wampanoag nation. In his language, his name was Metacom, Metacomet, or Pometacom. In 1662, the court at Plymouth Colony arrogantly summoned the Wampanoag leader Wamsutta to Plymouth. Major Josiah Winslow (later Colonel) and a small force took Wamsutta, Philip’s brother, at gunpoint. Soon after questioning, Wamsutta sickened and died and his death infuriated the Wampanoag nation.

Upon the death of his brother, whom the Indians suspected the English of murdering, Philip became sachem and maintained a shaky peace with the colonists for a number of years. Friendship continued to erode over the steady succession of land sales forced on the Indians by their growing dependence on English goods, and Plymouth’s continued unyielding policy toward Native leaders, it is reported by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars (www.colonialwarsct.org) and other sources.

Suspicions of the Indians remained, and in 1671, the colonists questioned Philip, fined him and demanded that the Wampanoag surrender their arms, which they did.

In January 1675, the Indian John Sassamon died at Assawampsett Pond, about 15 miles north of present-day New Bedford. Sassamon was literate and a Christian convert. He may have been acting as an informer to the English and was murdered, probably at Philip’s instigation. Increase Mather, writing after the war, suggested he was killed “out of hatred for him for his Religion, for he was Christianized, and baptiz’d, and was a Preacher amongst the Indians…and was wont to curb those Indians that knew not God on the account of their debauchereyes”. [1]

Events moved quickly, and on June 8 Sassamon’s alleged murderers were tried and executed at Plymouth. Three days later, Wampanoags were reported to have taken up arms near Swansea, about 15 miles from Providence.

By the mid-17th century, settlements had been established throughout southeast Massachusetts. “Though there were many events that led to the war, the attack on the settlement on the banks of the Kickemuit River may be attributed to the growing perception that Indian land had been increasingly encroached upon by settlers, leaving cornfields overrun by settlers’ livestock and traditional hunting grounds inaccessible. In fact, since the arrival of the English at Plymouth Rock in 1620, land under Native control had been reduced from all of Southeastern Massachusetts to merely the area of the Mount Hope peninsula.” (A map and local points related to the war can be found at http:members.cox.net/drweed/kingphilip.htm.)

Less than a week later, authorities in Rhode Island, Plymouth, and Massachusetts attempted negotiation with Philip, and sought guarantees of fidelity from the Nipmucks and Narragansetts. However, before the end of the month, Wampanoags made a sudden raid on the settlement of Swansea on the Taunton River. On June 26, Massachusetts troops marched to Swansea to join Plymouth troops.

When news of the attack on Swansea reached Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Colony quickly came to the aid of The Plymouth Colony. An example of the orders of the General Court is the following: “To the Militia of the Town of Boston, Cha. Camb. Watertown, Roxbury, Dorchester, Dedham, Brantrey, Weymouth, Hingham, Maulden—You are hereby required in his Majesty’s name to take notice that Govr & Council have ordered 100 able shouldjers forthwith impressed out of the severall Towns according to the proportions hereunder written for the aid and assistance of our confederate Plymouth in the designe afoote agst the Indians, and accordingly you are to warne and proportions to be ready at an hours warning from Capt Daniel Henchman who is appointed Captain and Commander of the Foote Company that each souldjer shal have his armes compleat and Snalsack ready to march and not faile to be at the randevous.”

In the coming days, Wampanoags attacked Rehoboth and Taunton, eluded colonial troops, and left Mount Hope for Pocasset. Meanwhile, the Mohegans of Connecticut traveled to Boston and offered to fight on the English side.

The war would continue until mid 1676. Giersbach concluded:

In all, more than half of New England’s 90 towns were assaulted by native warriors. For a time in the spring of 1676, it appeared to the colonists that the entire English population of Massachusetts and Rhode Island might be driven back into a handful of fortified seacoast cities. Between 600 and 800 English died in battle during King Philip’s War. Measured against a European population in New England of perhaps 52,000, this death rate was nearly twice that of the Civil War and more than seven times that of World War II. The English Crown sent Edmund Randolph to assess damages shortly after the war and he reported that 1,200 homes were burned, 8,000 head of cattle lost, and vast stores of foodstuffs destroyed. One in ten soldiers on both sides was injured or killed.

Nathaniel Saltonstall noted in 1676, the Indian attacks left “in Narraganset not one House left standing. At Warwick, but one. At Providence, not above three. At Potuxit, none left…. Besides particular Farms and Plantations, a great Number not be reckoned up, wholly laid waste or very much damnified. And as to Persons, it is generally thought that of the English there hath been lost, in all…above Eight Hundred.”

The outcome of King Philip’s War was equally devastating to the traditional way of life for Native people in New England. Hundreds of Natives who fought with Philip were sold into slavery abroad. Others who might be rehabilitated, especially women and children, were forced to become servants locally. As the traditional base of existence changed due to the Colonists’ victory, the Wampanoag and other local Native communities had to adapt certain aspects of their culture in order to survive.

It is curious that such a conflict is little remembered today, not because of its bloody devastation but for the extent that such a great proportion of the population—English and Native American alike—was affected. Jacques Arsenault, writing for the University of Georgetown (http://www.georgetown.edu/users/arsenauj/kpw.html), indicates this is because many of the realities of King Philip’s War do not fit the classical myth of America as the Land of the Free. He states, “The final reason for the poor understanding of King Philip’s War is that the events of the war really don’t fit into American Mythology. The evidence of King Philip’s resistance to an encroaching colonial population would not sit well with peaceful images of the first Thanksgiving, or with the vision of the founders of our nation gathering together to create a nation of freedom, equality and liberty.”

Founding of the Ring

In 1643 fifty-eight men including Newman formed the Seekonk Proprietors or Planters and drew lots for the order in which to select their property. A low number had a better choice than the latter and the size of their lot depended on their wealth or lack thereof. Wright and Sabin had already built a gristmill and a sawmill to process lumber for the new houses at a natural dam on the Ten Mile River as it enters Seekonk Cove (now Omega Pond). “Seekonk” is Indian for “black geese” of which there were many in the area. In 1643 Stephen Payne I built another sawmill, grist mill and tannery up the Ten Mile River in front of where the John Hunt House is today. The foundation of the grist mill is still visible. Wright’s dam is no longer visible under water.

The Reverend Newman shortly after arrival named the area Rehoboth which in the Bible means a good place to pass through. It became known throughout the Bay Colony as the Ring of the Green of Rehoboth. As John Brown bought more land the settlers drew for their purchase too and gradually more settlers arrived moving out into the surrounding lands. The whole area became known as the Town of Rehoboth in the Plymouth Bay Colony. In 1812 the Town had become too large to govern and split in two. The western area including the Ring of the Green became known as the Town of Seekonk in the Bay Colony and in the State of Massachusetts after the American Revolution.

In 1862 a western portion of Seekonk was annexed to the State of Rhode Island and the residents voted to name their new town East Providence. Several houses built before the Revolution are still standing in East Providence, built when we were Rehoboth. The Ring of the Green of Rehoboth is now the site of the village of Rumford in the city of East Providence. (from East Providence Historical Society.

 

2 Replies to “The Ring of the Green — Our Ancestors in Rehoboth”

  1. Thank you so very much for this research! You may see a plot for “Robert Fuller” on the map of “the ring of the green” as well as one for “Richard Bowen” — Robert’s wife / Richard’s daughter Sarah is my earliest American grandmother, Sarah Bowen Fuller. Sarah is believed to have been killed by Indians during King Philip’s raids on Rehoboth – the 14th of February, 1676 is her date of death as recorded in Rehoboth town records. I have included information from your post in a story about Sarah. Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you’re interested in learning more. My email: cdfquinonez@gmail.com

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