Rhode Island History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Rhode Island History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Rhode Island history.

Around 6000 BCE, the first people to inhabit the geographic region that later would become Rhode Island arrive after migrating across the land bridge between Asian and North America. During the thousands of years before European arrival, the Native Americans living in the region include the Nipmuc, Pequot, Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes.

Rhode Island, measuring only about 48 miles long and 37 miles wide, is the smallest of the U.S. states.

17th Century Rhode Island History Timeline

1614 - Dutch explorer Adriaen Block visited the island now named for him.
1634 - William Blackstone was the first Rhode Island settler.
1636 - Providence was founded as a Rhode Island settlement by Roger Williams.
1638 - The Portsmouth compact was signed. A picture of the plaque in Founders Park, Portsmouth taken in May of 1997 by Elliot J. Wilcox (98 kb).
1639 - The Newport Compact, which formed the basis of the settlement, was signed in April by John Clarke, William Coddington, William Dyer, Nicholas Easton, John Coggeshall, William Brenton, Henry Bull, Jeremy Clarke and Thomas Hazard.
1643 - Samuel Gorton founded Shawomet, Rhode Island's fourth settlement. The town was named Warwick a few years later in honor of the Earl of Warwick.
1643-44 - Name of Aquidneck changed to "the Isle of Rhodes, or Rhode Island."
1652 - First record of African slaves.
1663 - Charles II granted the Charter of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations July 8. It remained the constitution until 1842.
1664 - Seal of the colony "Mottoe, Rhode Island and Providence, with the word HOPE over head of anker."
1675 - The decisive battle in King Philip's War was fought against the Narragansett.

18th Century Rhode Island History Timeline

1708 - First census taken; population 7,181.
1724 - Rhode Island established property ownership qualifications for voters.
1730 - Census taken; population 17,935.
1748 - Census taken; population 32,773.
1755 - Census taken; population 40,414.
1772 - British trade restrictions angered the colonists. They burned the British revenue cutters Liberty and Gaspee. See also Gaspee Historical Archives
1774 -

  • Census taken; population 57,707.
  • The Connecticut and Rhode Island colonies prohibited further importation of slaves.

1776 - May 4 - The colony declared its independence.
1776-1779 - Newport was occupied by the British.
1778 - Generals John Sullivan and LaFayette won a partial victory, but failed to oust the British.
1779 - British forces evacuated Rhode Island in October of the Revolutionary War.
1780-1781 - French troops under General Rochambeau were stationed in RI.
1782 - Census taken; population 52,347.
1784 - Emancipation act passed providing for gradual abolition of slavery. All children born after March 1, 1784, were free.
1786 - Farmers struck against merchants who have refused to accept the depreciated paper money.

1790 -

  • Statehood, May 29, 1790 (13th of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution)
  • The first successful US cotton mill established by Samuel Slater and David Wilkinson.

19th Century Rhode Island History Timeline

1812 - Rhode Island refused to participate in the War of 1812.
1840 - Population over 100,000.
1841 - Providence lawyer Thomas Wilson Dorr founded a People's Party to liberalize the Rhode Island charter of 1663. He submitted a new, liberal constitution to extend suffrage in the state to those who didn't own property.
1842 - Dorr's Rebellion in Rhode Island forces the state's conservatives to abolish the Charter of 1663 and expand suffrage.
1843 - Present state constitution was adopted.
1877 - State Flag established.
1897 - New State Flag adopted.

20th Century Rhode Island History Timeline

1910 - Population over 540,000.

1930 - America's Cup Yacht Race held off Newport

1935 - The "Bloodless Revolution" - Democrats replaced Republican dominance in House and Senate

1936 - Rhode Island celebrated 300 year anniversary

1938 - Hurricane killed about 600, caused signifcant damages

1954 - Hurricane Carol struck, 19 killed, 3,800 homes lost, over $90,000,000 in damages

1955 - Severe flooding caused property losses

1968 - State's first enclosed, climate-controlled mall opened

1969 - Newport Bridge opened between Jamestown and Newport

1976 - Rhode Island hosted Tall Ships Regatta

1978 - Blizzard of 78 worst snowstorm in history, 21 lives lost

1980 - Claudine Schneider first woman elected to Congress

1989 - World Prodigy, 500-foot tanker, spilled millon gallons of fuel near Newport

1996 - Tug towing barge caught fire, millions of gallons of fuel oil spilled near South Kingstown

21st Century Rhode Island History Timeline

2003 - Nightclub fire in West Warwick, 100 die

2009 - Prostitution outlawed

2010 - Rainstorms caused flooding, forced thousands from homes, property damage over $200 million

2011 -

  • State Senate approved bill allowing civil unions for gay couples
  •  Hurricane Irene knocked down trees, power lines, left over 500,000 without power


US History Overview
US History Guide
America's history is not static. It's fluid. It changes, grows, becomes richer, and more complex when any individual interacts with it.