Rhode Island is divided into 39 municipalities, ranging in size from 1.3 to 64.8 square miles. Although there are areas known as counties, and officials for counties, there is no independent county government that regulates the lives of citizens. Part of the state has “towns”, and within (or without) the towns there are villages and cities.
A town in New England is the next smaller political subdivision than a county, and in many respects is like a “township” in the western states. A “town” in New England is a political division that can be much larger than the various cities or villages that lie within it.
In studying Rhode Island history and family movements, it is frequently necessary to understand the development of towns, or their locations relative to one another. Towns had boundaries that were changed from time to time in the 1600 to 1799 period.
For an example of shifting towns: the Town of Foster was formed by incorporated in 1781 as a part of the area of then what was the Town of Scituate, RI. Thus those researching the Squire Bucklin line need to realize that although various Squire Bucklin family items may be noted in records today as involving “Foster”, you need to also search the town records of Scituate.
Scituate is located to the west of Providence. The town was mainly an agricultural settlement, but as more settlers came, water power was developed along its many streams. At Hope, a small village in the southern end of the town, an iron furnace was established in which ore mined from a nearby bog was was melted and casst into various iron objects. In later years cotton mills were established and several small villages were incorporated out of Scituate.
From Pawtucket to:
- Providence is about 6 miles
- Attleboro is about 8 miles
- Foster about 24 miles
- Coventry about 32 miles
- Pomfret, CT, about 33 miles
- Little Falls, NY, about 237 miles
By 1730 Providence was sufficiently large that three large towns were set off from the parent community in 1731 (Scituate, Glocester, and Smithfield). Before the colonial period came to a close, an inner ring of three more farm towns (Cranston, Johnston, and North Providence) were carved from Providence’s territory. The Providence city that remained was less than six square miles, with about 4000 persons, around the river and predominately commercial in character.
Warren MA now in RI was formed in 1747 from MA towns of Barrington, Swansea & Rehoboth; part from Bristol in 1873.
Coventry came into existence in 1741, when the western end of the Town of Warwick had been purchased by Samuel Gorton, and others from the Indian Miantonomi. It was named for Coventry, England. The new town extended from what is now West Warwick to the Connecticut line, and contained 64.8 square miles. Early figures show that in 1748, Coventry’s population was approximately 792.
Cumberland was one of five towns received from Massachusetts by Royal Decree. The Town was known as Attleboro Gore until 1746, when it was incorporated in Rhode Island as the Town of Cumberland. Cumberland was named in honor of William, the Duke of Cumberland.
Cumberland is of interest to the Bucklin family history because it is the site of the monument to the death of nine men including Benjamin Bucklin. This NINE MEN’S MISERY Monument is on the grounds of the Edward J. Hayden library, Diamond Hill Road. It commemorates “Pierce’s Fight,” when on March 26, 1676, a party of nine colonial militiamen, under the command of Captain Michael Pierce were pursued by Indians and slaughtered.
Cumberland is also the town in which there is the WILLIAM BLACKSTONE MONUMENT. It marks the approximate site of the grave of the Reverend William Blackstone, a contemplative Anglican clergyman, who, in 1635 became the first European to settle in what is now Rhode Island. He probably was one of the very few European’s in the area when William Bucklin settled in the area.
Foster as a town only came at the end of the Revolutionary War period, when it was separated from the town of Scituate in 1781. It was named for the Revolutionary War figure Foster. Foster has the distinction of being the most sparsely settled area of Rhode Island, even today. Geography has made it so, because it contains the highest point in the colony (831 feet above sea level) and even today in 2002, 80% of the town’s 52.2 square miles is hilly, and forested.