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Fanning's Illustrated Gazetteer of the United States

State, Territories, Counties, Cities, Towns & Post Offices


Transcribed by Jeana Gallagher and Sandy Stutzman
for the exclusive use of Genealogy Trails

PT is post town; PV is post village; PO is post office, PB is post borough, CH is court house, T is town

Rhode Island

One of the United States, so called from its island of the same name, which was supposed to bear a resemblance to the isle of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean.  It is the smallest state, as regards its territory, in the Union, and lies between 41°22' and 42°3' north latitude, and 71°6' and 71°38' west longitude from Greenwich, and is bounded on the north and east by Massachusetts; south by the Atlantic; and west by Connecticut.  Its superficial area is 1,340 square miles.

Physical Aspect-- The surface of this state is generally level, except in the northwest part, where it is rocky and hilly.  There are many hills, however, as Mount Hope, in Bristol, Hopkins' hill in West Greenwich, and Woonsocket hill in Smithfield.  The soil on the continental part if tolerably fertile, though thin and lean, and requires much labor to be tilled.  Bt the lands near Narraganset bay, as well as those on the islands, have great fertilely, and are in a high state of cultivation.  The soil of this state is generally regarded as better adapted to grazing than tillage.

Rivers and Bays-- The principal rivers are the Pawtucket or Blackstone, Providence, Pawtuxet, Wood and Pawcatuck.  Narraganset is the only bay worthy of not, and nearly divides the state in two.

Islands-- Besides the isle from which this state takes its name, Block, Canonicut, Pridence, Patience, Hope, Dyer's and Hog Islands, are included with in its territory.

Climate-- The climate is proverbially healthy; and on the islands, where the sea breezes have the effect, not only to mitigate the heat in summer, but to moderate the winter's cold, it is more temperate than in any of the other New England states.  Newport has long been celebrated as a delightful summer residence, and is much resorted to by people from the south.

Productive Resources-- The principal products are horses, mules, neat cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, wool, hemp, flax, hay, lumber, wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes and Indian corn.  Anthracite coal is found and wrought to a small extent in this state.

Manufactures-- A greater proportion of the people of Rhode Island are employed in manufacturing than in any other state of the Union.  The state abounds in excellent water power, affording sites for manufactories, which are extensively improved.  The principal manufactures are woolen and cotton; but it has several furnaces, tanneries, paper mills, and other establishments.

Railroads and Canals-- The railroads are principally connecting links in the great line of travel from New England to the south.  The three principal roads extend from Providence to Boston, Worcester, MA and Stonington, CT, respectively, and have an aggregate length of about 150 miles.  The Blackstone canal, from Providence to Worcester, lies partly in this state.

Commerce-- The direct foreign commerce of Rhode Island (owing to the greater eligibility of the ports of neighboring states) is small, compared with its population and industry.  Its exports and imports in 1850 amounted to $474,568.  Shipping owned in the state amounts to about 28,000 tons.

Education-- Brown university, at Providence, is the only college in the state.  There is an athenaeum also at Providence, and academics and common schools are numerous.  Provision is also made for the insane and blind.

Government-- The legislative power is vested in a senate, and house of representatives; and the executive power in a governor, and lieutenant governor; all chosen annually by the people, on the first Wednesday of April.  The judicial powers are vested in a supreme court, consisting of a chief justice and three associates, who hold their offices at the discretion of the legislature; and in a court of common pleas for each county, consisting of a justice of the supreme court and two associates.  The right of suffrage is vested in all male native citizens, who have resided in the state two years, and in the town where they propose to vote, six months; who have registered seven days in the town clerk's office; have paid a tax, or done military duty, within the preceding year; and in all other male citizens (naturalized foreigners) who, in addition to the preceding qualifications, possess real estate in the town or city where offering to vote worth $134 over all encumbrances, or which rents for $7 per annum.

Population-- in 1790 was 69,110; in 1800 was 69,122; in 1810 was 77,031; in 1820 was 83,059; in 1830 was 97,133; in 1840 was 108,830 and in 1850 was 147,544.  Number of Slaves in 1720 was 952; in 1800 was 381; in 1810 was 103; in 1820 was 48; in 1830 was 17 and in 1840 was 5.

History-- The first permanent settlement by Europeans, within the present limits of Rhode Island, was made at Providence, in 1636, by Rev Roger Williams, who had been banished from the Massachusetts colony for his peculiar religious opinions.  This settlement was called the "Providence Plantation."  The next settlement was made at Portsmouth, in the northern part of Rhode Island, in 1638, which, the year following, received the name of the "Rhode Island Plantation."  In 1643, when the four colonies of Massachusetts entered into articles of confederation, under the title of the "United Colonies of New England," under the pretence that the Providence and Rhoda Island plantations had no charter, and that their territory was claimed by Plymouth, and Massachusetts, they were excluded from the confederacy.  The year following, Roger Williams obtained a free charter from the British parliament, and incorporated the two plantation under one government, which continued in force till 1663, when a new charter was granted by Charles II.  The latter is the venerable charter under which the people lived and prospered, until its constitution was amended in 1842.  The first general assembly was held at Portsmouth, in 1647, when the executive power was confided to a president and four assistants.  The constitution of the United States was not adopted in Rhode Island until 1790, after it received the assent of all the other states.

1850 Counties of Rhode Island

County Description Area in sq miles Courts held at Pop in 1850
Bristol eastern boundary, between Narraganset & Mt Hope bays 40 Bristol 8,514
Kent central part on Narraganset bay 186 East Greenwich 15,068
Newport comprising several islands in Narraganset bay & a portion of the mainland 136 Newport 20,007
Providence northern part 380 Providence 87,986
Washington south boundary, Atlantic ocean on south, Narraganset bay on east 367 South Kingston 16,543

Newport, RI

Postal town, seat of justice of Newport Co and capital, together with Providence, of Rhode Island, situated on the southwest side of the isle of Rhode Island, at the main entrance to Narraganset bay, 30 miles south of Providence.  It occupies a gentle eminence fronting harbor, from which it presents a fine appearance.  Its pleasant scenery, embracing many spacious views of the ocean and its rocky shores, its healthy climate, abundance and variety of fish in its waters, and its interesting historic associations and relics of early times, render Newport, on of the most attractive places of summer resort in the country.  Not far from the town stands a curious monument of antiquity, the Old Tower.  Its age and origin are unknown, and have been the subject of much learned but fruitless disquisition.

Newport harbor is one of the most accessible, safe and capacious in America.  Long before the Revolution, it gave to the town a rapid growth and prosperity which at one time, seemed likely to outstrip that of New York.  Here, at different periods anchored the British fleet, and occupied the town as well as the surrounding country. Here, also, the French fleets entered, under Count D'Estaing and Admiral de Ternay. From these naval operations Newport suffered greatly, but soon recovered its former vigor, and continued to be one of the chief commercial ports in the Union, until the manufacturing success of Providence diverted the tide of enterprise into other channels.  Manufactures and commerce are still extensively prosecuted.

Population: In 1810 was 7,907; in 1820 was 7,319; in 1830 was 8,010; in 1840 was 8,333 and in 1850 was 9,563

Providence, RI

City, the seat of justice of Providence Co and Capital with Newport of the state of Rhode Island; the second city in population in New England.  Is situated at the head of Narraganset bay, on the Providence river, 42 miles southwest of Boston, and 173 miles northeast of New York.  The older part of the city lies on the east side of the river, and though many of the streets partake of that irregularity, which seems peculiar to olden times, they contain many splendid stores, warehouses, dwellings, and public buildings.  Ascending by an abrupt acclivity from the river, the streets and houses become more regular, many of the residences being of a superior style of elegance and structure, and affording delightful views of the harbor and the surrounding country.  Crowning the elevation, are the buildings of Brown University, a flourishing institution.  Crossing the river by one of the bridges, the west part of the city is laid out with more regularity upon ground less uneven.  Here is the "Arcade" the largest and most important edifice in the city, built of granite, and adorned with a Grecian Doric portico and columns.  It is 225 feet long, 80 feet deep, and 72 feet high.

The name of the city, which it received from the Rev Roger Williams, its founder, may serve to indicate its prosperity.  Its location upon a spacious and convenient harbor, sufficient for a great number of the largest vessels, the manufacturing facilities of the surrounding districts, their facility of access to the city, and the enterprising spirit which has improved and adapted these advantages, are the sources of its increasing wealth and population.  The Blackstone canal, beginning at Worcester and winding through the productive regions and manufacturing towns of Massachusetts, brings large stores to its market.  On Pawtucket river, and other streams of Providence county, are extensive factories of cotton, wool, machinery, calico printing and dyeing; and within the city are also various similar establishments.  These are chiefly kept in operation by capitalists of Providence, and employ more than $3,000,000 of capital.  This city communicates by railroad with Boston, Worcester, and Stonington, and in a great measure, has dispensed with the steamboat lines which traversed Long Island sound and the Atlantic to New York, Boston and other places.

The population in 1810 was 10,071; in 1820 was 11,767; in 1830 was 16,833; in 1840 was 23,171 and in 1850 was 44,512.

Smithfield, RI

PT, Providence Co, RI, situated on Blackstone river, 16 miles north of Providence; from Washington 413 miles.  Its resources consists in a favorable position in a region naturally productive, and affording lime and several useful stones, and in the extensive water power, which keep numerous manufactories in active operation.  A number of these are congregated at Woonsocket falls, on the Blackstone, where there is a pleasant village of the same name.

Population in 1810 was 3,828; in 1830 was 6,857; in 1840 was 9,534 and in 1850 was 11, 504.

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