Barrington is best known today as a place of beautiful homes, country estates, tree-lined streets and boat-filled harbor. It has a high median income and high education level. Originally, Barrington was known as Sowams, the residence of Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag Indians.
In 1653, the Pilgrim Fathers, including Capt. Miles Standish, Gov. William Bradford and others bought the land between Narragansett Bay and the Taunton River from Massasoit. In 1637, this area was incorporated under the name of Swansea, as part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In 1746, by royal decree, it was made part of Rhode Island, together with Bristol, Tiverton, Little Compton and Cumberland. In 1747, the name was changed to Warren in honor of Sir Peter Warren of the British Navy. Barrington was taken from Warren and incorporated as a separate town on June 16, 1770.
In the early days, Barrington was a farming community and in the 19th century became popular as a summer resort. Photos and artifacts of these earlier ways of living may be seen in the Barrington Preservation Museum. Historic cemeteries with stones dating from the 1600s are located in the Allin and Tyler Point Cemeteries. Nature lovers, birders and hikers may enjoy the Osamequin Bird Sanctuary on the banks of 100 Acre Cove.
Warren has grown from a settlement of 18 houses in 1653 to a community with a population of 11,400 within its 6.2 square miles. Although a small town, residents support 11 churches, many family-owned businesses and more than 30 restaurants.
Incorporated into Rhode Island from Swansea, Massachusetts in 1747, Warren was named for Sir Peter Warren who commanded the British fleet that cooperated with troops from New England in capturing the fortress at Louisberg. The town was pillaged and burned by Hessian troops during the Revolutionary War.
After the Revolution, ship building, maritime trades and whaling flourished in Warren. In the mid-1800s many mills were built in Warren. The ethnic diversity found in Warren today stems from those who came to work in the mills including French Canadians, Italians, Poles, Irish and Portuguese. The College of Rhode Island (now Brown University) was founded in Warren in 1746 and held its first commencement there before relocating to Providence.
Antiquing is now a major draw for tourists and residents alike, in small shops along Water Street, Main and Child streets, and along side streets in the downtown area.
Bristol, located along Narragansett Bay, was the site of the first battle of King Philip's War in 1675. This was a rebellion by Wampanoag Indians against settlers who bought land from King Philip's late father, Sachem Massasoit. Philip was defeated, his Indian name, Metacom, was given to one of East Bay's main roads. As a result of the war, Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts
retained Bristol lands, finally releasing them, together with the towns of Barrington, Tiverton, Little Compton and Cumberland in 1747. Sailing and ship building have played an important role in the life of Bristol since the 17th century. In the 1700s Bristol was a major port for the slave trade and later privateering flourished. During the American Revolution, Bristol suffered several attacks by British troops. The Joseph Reynolds House on Hope Street served as headquarters for the Marquis de Lafayette and his
staff in 1778.
Today, Bristol retains an historic character with many handsome homes built in the 1800s, some designed by noted architect Russell Warren, gracing the tree-lined streets. Visitors come from far away places to enjoy Bristol's scenic beauty and the oldest celebration of the Fourth of July in America, stroll along its waterfront, shop in its many stores and dine in its fine restaurants.