Roger Williams' Aquidneck Deed, 1637

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Roger Williams' Aquidneck Deed, 1637


Image of the Aquidneck Deed between Roger Williams and 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




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Document Item Type Metadata


Williams, Roger, 1604?-1683, "Roger Williams' Aquidneck Deed, 1637," in Virtual Exhibits, Item #302, (accessed October 25, 2016).