Long Wharf and the many wharves directly southward along the waterfront were the center of growing commercial activity from the mid 17th century to the mid 18th century. This activity helped propel Newport, prior to the War for Independence, to its position as one of the top five ports in colonial America along with Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, South Carolina.
Long Wharf extended by itself physically westward into the harbor until the basin on the north side was filled by 1907. All of the land you see today on the north side of Long Wharf is filled land. (See Map below)
Gravelly Point Pirates
Gravelly Point, in colonial times, was a small tip of land protruding out of the south from Long Wharf. This is the area to your immediate left today. (See map below)
At this point, on July 19th, 1723 a gallows was erected and 23 pirates were executed by hanging. These pirates were taken from the pirate ship Ranger which was captured by the HMS Greyhound on June 14th, 1723 after an eight-hour battle in the waters just east of Long Island. The hangings took place after a trial in the Town House in Newport on July 10, 1723 and represent the single, largest, mass public execution in the history of America. Between 1716 and 1726 over 400 pirates were hanged on both sides of the Atlantic. Some two thousand pirates had plagued the sea lanes before the leading merchant-nations united to rid the seas of piracy. The 23 pirates executed here were mostly in their teens and early 20s and were buried between the high and low water mark to ensure that their souls would never be at rest. This 280 year-old mass grave is believed to be along the edge of the parking lot on Goat Island, just to the north of the causeway.
George Washington Meets Comte De Rochambeau
On March 6th 1781 General George Washington arrived here at the head of Long Wharf to meet with General Comte de Rochambeau. The previous year, on July 11, 1780, a French Naval Squadron under Admiral de Ternay had delivered General Comte de Rochambeau, his staff and over 5,000 troops, to join Washington and begin planning for the battle with the British under General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. However, due to the British blockage of Newport, it was many months until Washington made his way by horseback to the anticipated meeting. Arriving by boat at Long Wharf, Washington was saluted by the French fleet at anchor and by the French troops standing as a honor guard at double rank on both sides of the street from the landing to the Colony House, where he was received in an official reception by Rochambeau. General Washington then proceeded with General Rochambeau to the Vernon House (Rochambeau's headquarters) at the corner of Clarke and Mary Streets, where General Washington was to be Rochambeau's guest.
Meanwhile, during the summer of 1781, a French fleet under Admiral de Grasse arrived from the West Indies to the waters off Yorktown Virginia. The armies of Washington and Rochambeau had joined forces in New York and then proceeded to march to Virginia. There, the French fleet had blockaded and trapped Cornwallis, forcing his surrender in October 1781, effectively ending the American War for Independence.
The Age of the Steamship and the Fall River Line
In the early 1800s, steamboats began to replace large sailing sloops as freight and passenger transport vessels. Prior to steamboats, a trip from Boston to New York, by sailing sloop and stagecoach, would take anywhere from 18 hours to a week, depending on winds and tides. Steamboats soon eliminated these long transits periods, especially when linked with the railroads, which developed at about the same time. By 1845, a railroad between Boston and Fall River, Massachusetts was completed. In May 1847, the steamer Bay State left Fall River after the arrival of "... the cars from Boston..." on the maiden voyage of what was to be call The Fall River Line. The Bay State was one of a succession of fast, large and luxurious steamboats capable of reaching speeds of 19 miles per hour. In 1885, the steamboat Metropolis, 342 feet long, 42 feet wide, completed a run from Fall River to New York in 8 hours and 21 minutes, setting a record which stood for 50 years.This now tranquil park was the busy landing site for the Fall River Line.
In 1862, the Old Colony Railroad completed its line from Boston to Newport. The new railroad connection transformed the whole Long Wharf area into a beehive of activity. Both during and after the Civil War, The Fall River Line busily connected with the railroad which brought heavy freight and passenger traffic to Newport. Although the terminus of the steamboat line was still Fall River, ice jams, during the winters from 1918 to 1936, frequently necessitated the terminus to be Newport. Transfers were then made to the railroad to complete the trip. Notables who rode the Fall River Line were Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, President Grant, Arthur, Harrison Cleveland and the two Roosevelts. The Depression created financial hardship for the line which went out of business after a line which went out of business after a labor strike in 1937.
State Pier #9
State Pier #9, directly to the west and abutting Mary Ferrazoli Park, was successfully rebuilt and renamed the Louis Jagschitz State Pier on October 20, 2002. The pier is home to commercial fishing boats, both inshore lobster boats and offshore draggers, and is the only state owned commercial pier in the Newport area. It serves as a testimony to the centuries-old working waterfront so representative of an important part of Newport's proud history.
Louis Jagschitz, better known as "Louie the Lobsterman", died on June 30, 2001 at the age of 80. He trolled the waters of Narragansett Bay till the day he died and represented those who made their living from the sea. With his Santa Claus-like beard and craggy visage, he became a walking tourist attraction featured in local and national publications.
This sign erected by the Friends of the Waterfront. Friends of the Waterfront is a public interest group devoted to the preservation of public access, maritime uses and rights of way on the Newport waterfront.
Have you seen this marker? If so, check in and tell us about it.
|Placed By||The Friends of the Waterfront|
|Marker Condition||No reports yet|
|Date Added||Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 4:52pm PDT -07:00|
|UTM (WGS84 Datum)||19T E 306284 N 4595672|
|Decimal Degrees||41.48926667, -71.32051667|
|Degrees and Decimal Minutes||N 41° 29.356', W 71° 19.231'|
|Degrees, Minutes and Seconds||41° 29' 21.36" N, 71° 19' 13.86" W|
|Driving Directions||Google Maps|
|Closest Postal Address||At or near 2 Washington St, Newport RI 02840, US|
|Alternative Maps||Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap|