Roger Williams believed in the separation of church and state and liberty of complete religious freedom. He maintained that the Indians were the rightful owners of the land and that the English Crown's grant of land for the colony was illegal. For these "dangerous opinions" the Bay Colony magistrates ordered him to be deported. Williams began an epic journey toward Narragansett Bay about mid-January 1635.
In the middle of a hard winter, Williams attempted to hike through the frozen New England landscape to the quarters of the Wampanoag sachem Massasoit at Swomans (Warren). He stayed there until spring and was given land in present-day East Providence to start a settlement. When the Plymouth Governor forced him the leave, Williams canoed across the Seekonk River, landing on the West Bank, and was greeted by the Narragansetts.
Williams then paddled around Fox Point and up to the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and the Moshassuck, where Narragansett sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi gave him land. He named it "in commemoration of God's Providence," and dedicated it as a shelter for "persons distressed for conscience." As a settlement grew, it became a haven for religious refugees.
To establish legal title, Williams went back to England twice and eventually helped get a Charter for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Williams barely made a living as a farmer and operated a trading post near Wickford while maintaining a household in Providence. He thought of himself, first and foremost, a friend to the Indians. Most of his life was spent in negotiations between the Indians and the authorities of Massachusetts Bay. He was respected by the Indians as was no other English man. Even King Philip listened to his council. When Canonicus, Sachem of Narragansett, lay dying, he asked Williams to close his eyes for him. Williams wrote, "When the hearts of my countrymen and friends failed me, His infinite wisdom and merits stirred up the barbarous heart of Canonicus to love me as his son to his last gasp."
Williams died at the age of 80 during the winter of 1683, having established a colony that was, in the words of the Royal Charter, "a lively experiment... with full liberty in religious concernments."
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|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Sunday, September 7th, 2014 at 6:32am PDT -07:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||19T E 301655 N 4632311|
|Decimal Degrees||41.81786667, -71.38808333|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 41° 49.072', W 71° 23.285'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||41° 49' 4.32" N, 71° 23' 17.10" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near 258 India St, Providence RI 02903, US|
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