Little Compton, RI
Little Compton is a town in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was reported as 3,593 in the 2000 census. Little Compton is located in southeastern Rhode Island, between the Sakonnet River and the Massachusetts state border. It is the birthplace of the Rhode Island Red hen. The town has a total area of 28.9 square miles (74.9 km²), of which, 20.9 square miles (54.1 km²) is land and 8.0 square miles (20.8 km²) (27.79%) is water.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is a breed of chicken originally bred in Adamsville, a small village that is part of Little Compton. Little Compton is the only place in the United States with a monument dedicated to a chicken. In 1925, the Rhode Island Red Club of America donated funds for an elegant monument to the Rhode Island Red in Adamsville, near the baseball field and across the street from the Barn restaurant. The monument is now on the National Register of Historic Places. A competing monument to the Rhode Island Red was erected by the state in 1954, one mile south of Adamsville. Some claim that it was not created for the poultry fanciers, but for the farmers who raised them commercially in great numbers in Little Compton.
Little Compton originally belonged to the Wampanoag tribe, who were led by Awashonks, the sister of Metacom (commonly known as King Philip). They called the area Sakonnet (variations include Sogkonate, Seconit, and Seaconnet).
The first European settlers in Little Compton were Englishmen from the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts who sought to expand their land holdings by settling further on the periphery of the colony. They petitioned the Plymouth Colony, which granted them their land. There were 32 original owners of the land, one of whom was Colonel Benjamin Church. Church was well known for his role in the late 17th-century Indian Wars. In 1675, Church built his homestead in Little Compton, just prior to King Philip’s War. Today, a plaque on the side of West Main Road marks the location of his original homestead.
In 1682, the town was incorporated by the Plymouth Colony and renamed Little Compton. This is possibly a reference to Little Compton in Warwickshire, England. However, there is no direct evidence to substantiate this relationship. By 1747, Little Compton secured its own royal decree and was annexed to Newport County as a part of Rhode Island along with Tiverton and other towns. Because Little Compton was once part of the Plymouth colony, all probate records prior to 1746 can be found in Taunton, MA, United States.
Sites of historic interest in Little Compton include the Wilbor House, built in 1692 by Samuel Wilbor, now the home of the Little Compton Historical Society.
There are many historic cemeteries. Colonel Benjamin Church and his family are buried in the Commons cemetery, as is Elizabeth Pabodie, the eldest daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of Mayflower fame. The stones in the cemetery reflect a style of carving similar to that found both in Newport and in Boston during the same time period.
Rhode Island’s only town common is located in Little Compton.
While there are only a few 17th-century structures still standing, there are many which date from the 18th and 19th century. The Quaker meeting house on West Main Road, Number 8 Schoolhouse (now used as part of the Town Hall), Town Hall, Wilbur’s Store, and the United Congregational Church all pre-date 1900 and are centered around the town commons. Additional historic homes are scattered throughout the town and include the Asa Gray house, the Slicer house, Oldacre, the Brownell house on West Main Road, the Brownell house on Meetinghouse Lane, William Whalley Homestead farmstead on Burchard Ave., and the Brownell Library on the commons.
Another distinctive feature of the town is the “Spite Tower” found in the village of Adamsville. Local lore claims that the tower was constructed to obscure the line of sight of a town local. While most stories involve members of the local Manchester family, there is no consensus as to the true history of the structure.