Roger Williams' Providence Deed, 1666

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Roger Williams' Providence Deed, 1666


Image of the Providence Deed between Roger Williams, Stukely Westcot, William Arnold, Thomas James, Robert Coles, John Greene, John Throckmorton, William Harris, William Carpenter, Thomas Olny, Francis Weston, Richard Waterman, Ezechiell Holyman and the sachims Caunounicus and Miantunome.

It is impossible to fix the exact date of the arrival of Roger C Williams, but that it was in the latter part of the spring or the beginning of the summer of 1636, two hundred and fifty years ago, that he landed, for the first time, with intent to commence a settlement within the limits of Providence, seems to be a settled fact. "In gratitude to his supreme deliverer" he called the new settlement Providence.

The town of Providence originally comprised the whole county. The city was incorporated by an act passed November 5,1831, which went into operation on the first day June of the following year. Portions of the town of Cranston were re-annexed to Providence, June 10, 1868, and March 28, 1873. Portions of North Providence were also re-annexed June 29, 1867, March 28, 1873 and May 1, 1874.

We give below a copy of the deed of Roger Williams and his wife Mary, dated Dec. 20th 1661, confirming to his companions the purchase he had made in their behalf. There seems to have been some question as to the original ownership of the land. It was contended by many of the inhabitants that the original purchase was made by Mr. Williams as the agent of the whole company, and that they refunded to him their proportions of the original cost. This he denied in the strongest terms. In a letter from him to the town, many years after the settlement, speaking of Providence and Pawtucket he says "they were mine as truly as any man's coat upon his back. It was not his intention, however, to retain the whole purchase to himself or to make his companions any way dependant upon him.

Soon after the purchase of the land he executed a deed, known as the "Initial deed", to his companions. There is no date to this deed, but it is understood that it was executed October 8, 1638. It was lost before 1661. It is presumed that the deed here given was executed in pursuance of the request of a committee who had been appointed by the town of Providence to wait on Mr. Williams and procure from him a deed of the first purchase. Staples in his "Annals of the town of Providence" says "the acceptance of this deed and the enrollment of it by the town in their records, is in some degree an acknowledgment of the truth of the recitals contained in it, and the part which he subsequently acted by appointment of the town in procuring other deeds of cession and confirmation from the natives, prove that the town reposed full confidence in his integrity and uprightness. With respect to the dates referred to in this deed, they are probably incorrect. His deed from the sachems bears date the 24th of the first month, in the second year of the plantation, corresponding with the 24th day of March, or the last day of the year 1637.

The deed of 61 was accepted by the town of Providence and entered on their records. This, with the evidence then in existence of the so called initial deed.* constituted the whole title of the town until 1666, when Mr. Williams executed another instrument dated "Providence 22. 10 mo. 1666, which is also recorded, and which follows the deed in this article.
Rhode Island Geneology Trails: Providence County Records

See also:
Know Rhode Island: Facts Concerning the Land of Roger Williams, 1934, 1942, 1954

Rhode Island: A Study in Separatism by Irving Berdine Richman, 1905

Rhode Island's Historic Background, 1936

Rhode Island Historical Society: Roger Williams Gallery




Rhode Island State Archives


1666 October 22


Copyright is in the public domain unless otherwise specified. We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to preservation concerns.





Document Item Type Metadata


Providence 8 of the 8th month 1638 (so called)

In memorandum I Roger Wiliams
having formerly purchased of Caunounicus
& Miantunome this our situation or
plantation of New Providence viz the
two fresh Rivers Wanaquatuckit &
Mooshausick & the ground & Meadowes
thereupon for consideration of thirty
pounds received from the Inhabitants
of the said place doe freely & fully passe
grant & make over equall Right & power
of enjoying & disposing the sae Grounds
& Lands unto my friends & Neighbors
Stukely Westcot: William Arnold. Thomas James
Robert Coles. John Greene: John Throckmorton
William Harris: William Carpenter: Thomas Olny: Francis
Weston: Richard Waterman: Ezechiell Holyman
& such other as the major part of us shall admit
into the same fellowship -- vote with us
As allso I doe freely make & passe over equall right &
power of enjoying & disposing of the Lands & grounds
reaching from the aforesaid Rivers unto the great
River Pawtucket with the Grasse & Meadows
thereupon wich was so lately give & granted by
the afiresaid Sachims to me. Witnes my hand

Providence 22.10 1666 (so called) Roger Williams
This papere & writing is a true
Copie of a writing given by
me about twentie eight yeares since
& differs not a little only -- dated
as neer as we could guesse about the
time & the names of men (written in a
straight of time & hast) are here explained by me
In the presence of us Roger Williams

John ?Per___
John Sayles ___ ___

This writing was wrote in Providence
Recordes December the 25: 1666 per me
Thomas Olney ?junior Towne Clerke
Enrolled in the 48 page of the Booke with Brase Claspes


Williams, Roger, 1604?-1683, "Roger Williams' Providence Deed, 1666," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #301, (accessed October 15, 2019).