Things Most People Don’t Know About Jamestown

Things Most People Don’t Know About Jamestown

Jamestown, Rhode Island, is a small town just west of Newport on Conanicut Island. At only nine miles long, this is the second-largest island in Narraganset Bay and has just over 5,000 residents. In the 1600s, it was home to many English settlers with sheep before eventually becoming a destination for summer trips in the late 19th century.

The town is rather quiet and has plenty of farmland, historic forts, various historic sites, excellent places to scuba dive, and beautiful beaches. If you’re interested in spending the warm afternoon watching sailboats or kayaking amid tall ships and bridges, this is the perfect spot for it. On the other hand, there are several loops to cycle, golf courses, plentiful dining options, and many parks. Not unlike its neighbor of Newport, just much quieter and with a slow-paced lifestyle.

Consider Jamestown Newport’s quiet neighbor who knows they are awesome, but they’d rather not brag about it. To really get to know them, you’ll have to visit and explore and dive deep into what they have to offer. The area has plenty of history and stories to be shared, and the Jamestown Historical Society is no stranger to telling them. Though it’s hard to say what’s accurate or simply folklore, there are several books written on the town's history that highlights everything down to the smallest detail. Here are some little-known facts about Jamestown, RI, its history, and what it entails.

It’s filled with 19th Century real estate

Jamestown truly became a destination in the late 19th century, and many of the homes on the island still stand today, though several were burned during the American Revolution. The Cajacet house, built by Captain Thomas Paine – not to be mistaken for the writer – is likely the oldest house on the island. It’s also been called the “Thomas Paine House” and is a two-story house built in the 1690s. It was altered a few times between the 18th century and again in both 1882 and 1915.

The home has had several owners through the years, starting with Captain Paine and then the Vose family, who redid the home in the 1950s. Despite renovations, the home still stands true to its roots and even has Thomas Paine’s tombstone out front. As the story goes, the women working in the yard during that time mysteriously disappeared from the island. People began looking at what they had been doing in the yard to find a simple gold coin. This is just one of many reasons many believe they have pirates' treasure.

There is plenty of pirate history

From the late 1600s until roughly the mid-1700s, Newport had its fill of pirate ships raiding the area. Whether they were bringing back treasures, facing trial, or their ships were raiding the area, history has found that they were plentiful. Captain Kidd’s treasures also play a role in the history of Jamestown, and since he had a history with Captain Paine, the finding of the gold coin makes plenty of sense. There are instances in the early 1700s when Newport began attacking merchant ships, changing the relationship entirely. The legends talk of buried treasures, pirates haunting the area, watery graves, and pirate victories. What we consider pirates were actually well-trained, often coming into piracy from the Royal Navy or other merchant vessels. This gave them a vast knowledge of what it meant to be at sea and navigate warfare.

Though there is plenty of history, most don’t know how much of it is factual versus stories, but again, there are several books on the subject from locals who sought to find the truth. The local historical society has plenty more information on pirates in the area.

Known for its Quaker population

Jamestown also had Quakers living in the area during the British occupation. Nicholas Carr, a Quaker who built the Carr Homestead in 1657, is said to have defied the British during the occupation. His great-great-grandfather was also from the area and was one of the original signers of the purchase agreement of Jamestown. The Carr Homestead, or simply “The Homestead” is a beautiful farmhouse featuring two and a half stories of traditional Rhode Island architecture. There’s a large brick chimney, side shingles, a five-bay facade, and a gorgeous front entry. The land also features stone walls, multiple sheds, and other features of a farm as that’s what it was used for until the 20th century.

In 1684, the Conanicut Friends Meeting began in response to the growing Quaker population. A meetinghouse was built in 1786 so Quakers could worship in silence together. This home provides plenty of physical remnants of past practices such as separate entrances, hinged partitions, and simplicity. A true testament to the philosophy of the Quakers and a fascinating site to behold.

It’s home to Beavertail State Park

Though not exactly a secret, Beavertail State Park offers some of the most incredible views along the New England coast and is popular for sightseers. You’ll also find opportunities for fishing, hiking, treasure hunting, and lighthouse tours. Also featured here is the beautiful lighthouse, the third oldest in America, complete with a museum. If you’re looking for expansive panoramic views of Narraganset Bay, this is the place to find them. It’s located on the southernmost tip of the area and has a collection of artifacts and conversations about the history of the lighthouse. As the most visited landmark in Jamestown, it’s certainly not something you’ll want to miss.

You’ll also be able to hike the two-mile trail along the cliffs which offers views of the homes and historic buildings that grace Jamestown. Plan a picnic and enjoy an afternoon in the sun on the cliffs overlooking the Bay, or stop at any of the restaurants in the area.

There you have some of the little-known facts about Jamestown, RI, and a touch of the history that emanates from the area. If you’re considering a look at real estate in Jamestown, RI, or want to know more, contact Mansions and Manors. We are happy to serve you.

*Header photo courtesy of Unsplash

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