Warren is located on Rhode Island's scenic East Bay, between Providence and Newport. Warren is a unique town with both sandy beaches and rolling farmland. You can explore our shops, galleries, theatre and restaurants or ride down the stunning East Bay Bike Path that stretches from Providence to our neighbor, Bristol. If you have more time, stop by our local library--Warren is steeped in Native American and colonial history and continues to be one of the last working waterfronts in the area. We hope you enjoy our Town and come to see us again.
History of Warren
Warren sits on the east bank of the Warren River, an arm of Narragansett Bay, and is bounded by the towns of Barrington, Bristol and Swansea, Massachusetts. A 1748 census indicates a population of 380 people in the town, 30 of whom were Native Americans. Warren received its name from the British naval hero, Admiral Sir Peter Warren, who had been victorious at the battle of Louisburg in June 1745.
The aboriginal name of the peninsula upon which Warren and Bristol are located was Pokanoket, and on the site of Warren stood the Indian village of Sowams, the headquarters of the famous Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit, the friends and ally of the Pilgrims. In 1621, Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins journeyed through the wilderness from Plymouth to Sowams, their visit being, probably, the second ever paid by Europeans to Rhode Island, the first having been made by Verazzano and his companions nearly a century before. In 1623, Winslow, accompanied by John Hampden, again visited Sowams, and, by the use of simple remedies, restored to health Massasoit, who lay at the point of death. Massasoit displayed his gratitude by rendering all possible service to the English during the remainder of his life.
As early as 1632 a trading post was established at Sowams by the Plymouth settlers and, for sometime, this post was in charge of Plymouth Colony. In 1636, Roger Williams, banished from Salem, fled to Sowams where he was sheltered by Massasoit until he was enabled to make a settlement at Providence. In 1653 Massasoit, and his eldest son, Wamcutta, deeded Mount Hope Neck together with sections of Rehoboth and Swansea, Massachusetts and Barrington, Rhode Island, to William Bradford, Miles Standish, and others of Plymouth. Previous to this sale of land; however, the English had planted a settlement at Sowams about a mile and a half east of that Indian village.
After the death of Massasoit, relations between the Indians and the European settlers became strained. The opening scenes of the tragedy of King Philip's War were enacted in Warren which then formed a part of the township of Sowams, incorporated 1668. During this war the English settlement of Sowams, consisting of about eighteen dwelling houses, was completely destroyed. Soon after the close of the war, however, the territory which now comprises the town was surveyed and laid out and the rude cabins of settlers again dotted the green sward.
At a very early date the inhabitants of Warren began to engage in maritime pursuits. In 1760 the town was well known as a whaling port. Ship building was carried on to a considerable extent.
The breaking out of the Revolution seriously affected Warren's commercial prosperity. The town suffered much during this war. On May 25, 1778, it was raided by a body of British and Hessian troops, the Baptist meeting house was burned, the powder magazine blown up, dwellings ransacked, property ruthlessly destroyed, and women and children terrified. A number of boats collected for use in an expedition against the enemy, were also burned, and several citizens taken prisoners. From the blow inflicted by this invasion, Warren did not recover for a long time.
Within ten years after the close of the Revolution, however, commerce revived, and ship building became an important industry. For more than half a century Warren was famous for the fine vessels launched from its yards. These vessels largely commanded by Warren men and manned by Warren crews, engaged in whaling, merchant service, coasting, and the West India trade.
With the decline of commerce, toward the middle of the last century, the attention of the citizens of Warren naturally turned toward manufacturing. Warren's first cotton mill was erected by the Warren Manufacturing Company in 1847.