Scituate Early History


Scituate Historical Trivia


In the latter 1600s land seven miles west of Fox Point was known as The Providence Woods or The Outlands. The Westconnaug Purchase of 1662 divided amongst its owners the area that would later become incorporated as Scituate and was subsequently divided into 13 divisions of land. Some believe the town is named after the home town of its first settlers, the Randalls, Wantons, and others from Scituate, Massachusetts. Others dispute this and claim it is derived from an Indian name Seduat which means Cold Brooks.

In 1705 the first lot was built upon by John Mathewson who settled The Falls area which became Ashland. By 1710 others claimed their portion of The Outlands and by 1711 the first tavern was built. The Angell Tavern in South Scituate provided lodging and refreshment for over 200 years. It was also used for town meetings and the signpost was used as the town whipping post.

In 1731 the General Assembly passed an act incorporating The Outlands into three towns; Smithfield, Glocester, and the Westconnaug Township (1661-1731) as Scituate. A 1740 census listed "560 white men and women, 220 Indians, 750 cattle, 700 horses, 1,000 sheep, 120 oxen, 350 hogs, 300 dogs, 300 cats, a number of geese, turkeys and hens, 30 grist mills, a number of cider and sawmills, 30 ponds, 14 taverns, 9 home schools, 4 dog pounds, 1,000 apple trees, 500 peach trees, 500 pear trees." (Sarkesian 8) In 1810 the first two cotton mills of the area were constructed in North Scituate and Hope. Bolts of cloth were shipped via railway to Providence on a weekly basis.

The first bank appeared also in 1810 and was located at Elmdale in North Scituate. It was known as the Scituate bank and is renowned for $562 worth of counterfeit bill being uncovered in 1837, and after relocating and changing name to the Hamilton Bank was the subject of a State investigation involving cheating stockholders of their investments. It was ordered to close in 1852.

The first public school was the Eagle School on Gleaner Chapel Road in Clayville. The first local newspaper was The Little Rhody with printing taking place at the Angell Tavern. It contained local gossip, advertisements, and local and state news.

For Scituate, as for the State in general, the first epoch of the industrial era may be bracketed between the dates of 1800 and 1857, beginning with the shift of maritime capital to manufacturing enterprises, and ending with the great nationwide economic crisis of 1857, which shook to its foundation the banking, financial and manufacturing structure of the state. The economy that survived this assault emerged transformed in philosophy and structure. This first epoch had been identified with a generally small scale, local enterprise of simple structure, usually a partnership among men of long standing acquaintance, quite often a close knit family enterprise, with ownership, management and operation in the same hands, running establishments dependent on water power...with the corporate structure of business accepted and legislatively endorsed, and with the introduction of steam power, the small country mills were superseded by large industrial complexes, capitalized abundantly through the investment of many stockholders, and no longer limited in size and location by dependence on water power and the vagaries of climate. Wider freedom of choice in location made possible adaptation to economical transportation lines, or the creation of such when necessary and profitable, thereby changing not only their own sites but the very pattern of the countryside itself. (Walker 276)

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