Aquidneck Island

Aquidneck Island, officially Rhode Island, is an island in Narragansett Bay and in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which is partially named after the island. The total land area is 97.9 km2 (37.8 sq mi), which makes it the largest island in the bay. The 2000 United States Census reported its population as 60,870.

Aquidneck Island is home to three towns, from north to south: Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport.

Aquidneck Island
Rhode Island
Aquidneck Island map
Aquidneck Island highlighted in red
Aquidneck Island Rhode Island is located in Rhode Island
Aquidneck Island Rhode Island
Aquidneck Island
Rhode Island
LocationNarragansett Bay
Coordinates41°33′20″N 71°15′53″W / 41.55556°N 71.26472°W
Area37.8 sq mi (98 km2)
Length15 mi (24 km)
Width5 mi (8 km)
Highest elevation260 ft (79 m)
Highest pointSlate Hill
United States
StateRhode Island
CountyNewport County
Largest settlementNewport (pop. 24,672)
Population58,211 (2010)
Pop. density621.12 /km2 (1,608.69 /sq mi)


"Aquidneck" is derived from the Narragansett name for the island aquidnet.[1] Roger Williams was an authority on the Narragansett language, but he stated that he never learned the word's meaning.[2] It is unclear how it came to be known as Rhode Island, but the earliest known use of the name was in 1637 by Roger Williams, and it was officially applied to the island in 1644: "Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Ile of Rods or Rhod-Island." The name "Isle of Rodes" is used in a legal document as late as 1646.[3][4]

In 1524, explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano noted the presence of an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay which he likened to the Greek island of Rhodes. It is uncertain which island he was referring to, but the colonists who settled the area decided to refer to Aquidneck as Rhode Island. Another popular origin theory is based on the fact that Adriaen Block passed by Aquidneck Island during his 1614 expedition, described in a 1625 account of his travels as "an island of reddish appearance" (in 17th century Dutch een rodlich Eylande).[5] Dutch maps from as early as 1659 call it "Roode Eylant" or Red Island. Historians have theorized that it was named by the Dutch (possibly by Adriaen Block himself) for either the red autumn foliage or red clay on portions of the shore.[6][7]

In 1644, the settlements on Rhode Island (Portsmouth and Newport) united with Providence Plantations and Warwick to form the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and, eventually, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The entire state is now commonly referred to as Rhode Island, and the official name of Aquidneck Island is still "Rhode Island." The U.S. Board on Geographic Names addressed the issue in 1930 by using both names of the island on its maps. By 1964, the board decided that having two names was confusing, and "Rhode Island" was used exclusively as the official name. Attempts to change the official name to "Aquidneck Island" have been made as recently as 2004, but all of these have failed.[8][9]


Colonists settled on Aquidneck Island in 1638 in the region that the Narragansetts called "Pocasset" (meaning "where the stream widens"), the northern part of Portsmouth. They engaged Roger Williams to negotiate the terms of their purchase from Narragansett sachem Miantonomi. These settlers included William Coddington, Anne and William Hutchinson, Philip Sherman, William Dyer, John Coggeshall, Nicholas Easton, William Brenton, John Clarke, and Richard Maxson (Maggsen).[10] They bought the island for 40 fathoms of white wampum, 20 hoes, 10 coats for the resident Indians, and 5 more fathoms of wampum for the local sachem,[11] and Narragansett Sachems Canonicus and his nephew Miantonomi signed a deed for it. These first settlers founded Pocasset, but William Coddington chose Newport for a settlement the following spring (1639) because of its excellent harbor, and some of the settlers followed him there.

The British army occupied Aquidneck Island during the American Revolution from 1776–79. The Continental Army under command of Major General John Sullivan attempted to drive them out in the Battle of Rhode Island on August 29, 1778 but without success.


The island is home to Salve Regina University, the Naval War College, the Newport campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, and International Yacht Restoration School.

It is also home to two well known private boarding schools St. George's School in Middletown and Portsmouth Abbey School in Portsmouth. The island also contains numerous public and private primary and secondary schools as a part of the school systems of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth.


The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge (1969) connects Aquidneck Island to Jamestown on nearby Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay, and subsequently to the mainland on the western side of the bay.

Mount Hope Bridge, Bristol RI
Mount Hope Bridge
looking toward Aquidneck Island

The Mount Hope Bridge (1929), adjacent to Bristol Ferry and Common Fence Point, connects the northern side of Aquidneck Island in Portsmouth to the mainland at Bristol.

The Sakonnet River Bridge (2012) in Portsmouth, adjacent to Common Fence Point, connects the northeastern side of the island to the mainland at Tiverton over the Sakonnet River, a narrow saltwater strait. It is a replacement for a bridge of the same name built in 1956.

South of the Sakonnet River Bridge and its predecessor, in the area known as The Hummocks and Island Park, is the site of the Stone Bridge, built in 1907 on the site of an earlier wooden bridge and destroyed by Hurricane Carol in 1954.

The bridges replaced long-running ferries to the mainland and other Narragansett Bay islands.


  1. ^ Henry Schoolcraft, The American Indians (1851)
  2. ^ Henry Schoolcraft's History of American Indians. 1851.
  3. ^ Office of the Secretary of State: A. Ralph Mollis: State Library Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State, archived November 17, 2010 from the original
  4. ^ Staples, Hamilton B. (1882). "Origins of the Names of the State of the Union". Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society. 68. p. 368.
  5. ^ Nieuwe Wereldt ofte Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien, uit veelerhande Schriften ende Aen-teekeningen van verscheyden Natien (Leiden, Bonaventure & Abraham Elseviers, 1625). An English translation of the relevant text: Documentary History of Rhode Island (1916)
  6. ^ Elisha Potter, 1835. The Early History of Narragansett. Collections of the Rhode-Island Historical Society, v3.
  7. ^ Samuel G. Arnold, History of Rhode Island (1859). p. 70
  8. ^ USGS Feature Detail Report for: Rhode Island
  9. ^ Mark Patinkin: According to the map, there is no Aquidneck Island
  10. ^ Providence, RI: The Islands Archived 2010-04-10 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Rhode Island Geography

Further reading

  • Aquidneck Indian Council, "A Brief History of Aquidneck Island" [1]
  • Denlson, Frederic (1879). Narragansett Sea and Shore. Providence, RI: J.A. & R.A. Reid.
  • Seavey, George L. Rhode Island's Coastal Natural Areas.
  • "Aquidneck added to 2011 Map of Rhode Island". The Providence Journal, Monday, July 18, 2011, page A5.

External links

Coordinates: 41°33′20″N 71°15′53″W / 41.55556°N 71.26472°W

Battle of Rhode Island

The Battle of Rhode Island (also known as the Battle of Quaker Hill and the Battle of Newport) took place on August 29, 1778. Continental Army and militia forces under the command of General John Sullivan had been besieging the British forces in Newport, Rhode Island, which is situated on Aquidneck Island, but they had finally abandoned their siege and were withdrawing to the northern part of the island. The British forces then sortied, supported by recently arrived Royal Navy ships, and they attacked the retreating Americans. The battle ended inconclusively, but the Continental forces withdrew to the mainland and left Aquidneck Island in British hands.

The battle was the first attempt at cooperation between French and American forces following France's entry into the war as an American ally. Operations against Newport were planned in conjunction with a French fleet and troops, but they were frustrated in part by difficult relations between the commanders, as well as by a storm that damaged both French and British fleets shortly before joint operations were to begin.

The battle was also notable for the participation of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment under the command of Colonel Christopher Greene, which consisted of Africans, American Indians, and white colonists.

Battle of Rhode Island Site

The Battle of Rhode Island Site is the partially preserved location of the Battle of Rhode Island, fought August 29, 1778 during the American Revolutionary War. The battle took place in the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, located on Aquidneck Island north of Newport, and was the only major action of the war that took place in Rhode Island. It was also significant as the only battle of the war in which an entirely segregated unit of African-American soldiers fought. At the time of the action, the 1st Rhode Island Regiment consisted of companies of locally recruited African Americans with white officers. The two main areas associated with the battle were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.

Bristol Ferry Light

Bristol Ferry Light is a historic lighthouse in Bristol, Rhode Island, United States. It is located on the shores of Narragansett Bay at Bristol Point, the northern land point of Mount Hope Bay at the base of the Mount Hope Bridge.

The two-story square brick lighthouse was built in 1855, along with an attached 1 1/2 story brick keeper's house. Its use was discontinued in 1927 with the construction of the Mount Hope Bridge, and a replacement automated beacon across Ferry Road. Prior to the construction of the bridge, a ferry operated between Bristol and Aquidneck Island, and the light assisted the ferry service. The Bristol Ferry Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, at which time it was a private residence.

Conanicut Island

Conanicut Island is the second largest island in Narragansett Bay in the US state of Rhode Island. It is connected on the east by the Claiborne Pell Bridge to Newport on Aquidneck Island, and on the west by the Jamestown-Verrazano Bridge to North Kingstown on the mainland. The island comprises the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island. The United States Census Bureau reported a land area of 24.46 km2 (9.44 sq mi) and a population of 5,622 as of the 2000 census.


Corbitant was a Wampanoag Indian sachem or sagamore under Massasoit. Corbitant was sachem of the Pocasset tribe in present-day North Tiverton, Rhode Island, c. 1618–1630. He lived in Mattapuyst or Mattapoiset, located in the southern part of today's Swansea, MA.In the summer of 1621, he was involved in a minor altercation with the Plymouth colony involving the Patuxet refugee Tisquantum ("Squanto") at present-day Middleborough, Massachusetts. Corbitant had menaced both Tisquantum and his companion Hobomok for their close ties with the white strangers. Fearing for their lives, Hobomok was able to get away and escaped back to Plymouth, where he rallied the pilgrims under Miles Standish. Standish led ten men of Plymouth in arms to rescue Tisquantum from Corbitant. They attacked the Wampanoag village at Nemasket, but by that time Corbitant had released Squanto and withdrawn from the area. Corbitant was nominally obedient to the Great Sachem Massasoit of the Pokanoket. Although described as a "determined foe of the English," nonetheless, "with other hostile chiefs he signed a treaty of peace with the English in 1621."Tribes of the Wampanoag federation possessed hunting grounds at Cape Cod, Plymouth, Taunton, Attleboro, Middleboro, Hanson, Duxbury, Freetown, Somerset, Swansea, Mattapoisett, Wareham, and Fall River, in Massachusetts, as well as Tiverton, Aquidneck Island (Newport), Canonicut Island (Jamestown), Little Compton, Bristol, Warren and the lands west to the Providence River. About the year 1622 the Narragansett Federation under Canonicut seized the island of present-day Jamestown from Massasoit.

Dyer Island (Rhode Island)

Dyer Island is an island in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, United States. It lies off the west coast of Aquidneck Island and is part of Melville CDP, which itself is part of the town of Portsmouth. The island lies between Melville and Prudence Island and is uninhabited and has a land area of 0.12 km² (29.65 acres) and is only 13 feet above sea level.

The salt marshes of Dyer Island are among the last remaining in Rhode Island without mosquito ditches, and the island is home to various shorebirds.

In the seventeenth century, Dyer Island was named after William Dyer, the husband of the Quaker martyr Mary Dyer. William Dyer was one of the founders of Rhode Island, and in 1638 he sailed past the island and requested that it be granted to him, which was done according to Roger Williams and other affiants. William Dyer died in 1676 in Newport, Rhode Island. He is buried in the family cemetery which was located on the family farm in Newport not on Dyers Island in Narragansett Bay. Upon his death the island comprising some 29 acres (0.12 km2); was given to his son William.In 2001 the Island was purchased by the state of Rhode Island and is now part of the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, as well as JDSinc.

Fort Barton Site

The Fort Barton Site is the site of an historic American Revolutionary War fort, now located in a public park at Lawton and Highland Avenues in Tiverton, Rhode Island. All that remains of the fort are its earthworks, a roughly oblong structure about 150 feet (46 m) long and 100 feet (30 m) deep. The site was a defensive post overlooking the main ferry crossing between Tiverton and Aquidneck Island, which was under British control at the time of its construction in 1777. The ferry was used as a launching position for American forces during the Battle of Rhode Island in August 1778. The site was named after Lt. Col. William Barton who successfully captured the British General Prescott during a midnight raid on the British headquarters at Prescott Farm in what is now Portsmouth.Fort Barton was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Lime Rock (island)

Lime Rock is an island 600 feet offshore in Newport Harbor, in Narragansett Bay, in the U.S. state of Rhode Island. It was made famous by Ida Lewis, who was the lighthouse keeper of the tower built on it in 1854 which is now known as Ida Lewis Rock Light. In 1927 the island was sold to a Yacht Club and was connected to Aquidneck Island by a small causeway. A steel tower light was placed in front of the building, which remained an active light until 1963.

Middletown, Rhode Island

Middletown is a town in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 16,150 at the 2010 census. It lies to the south of Portsmouth and to the north of Newport on Aquidneck Island, hence the name "Middletown".

Miramar (mansion)

Miramar is a 30,000-square-foot (2,800 m2) French neoclassical-style mansion on 7.8 acres (32,000 m2) bordering Bellevue Avenue on Aquidneck Island at Newport, Rhode Island. Overlooking Rhode Island Sound, it was intended as a summer home for the George D. Widener family of Philadelphia.

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport is a seaside city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, located approximately 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Providence, Rhode Island, 20 miles (32 km) south of Fall River, Massachusetts, 73 miles (117 km) south of Boston, and 180 miles (290 km) northeast of New York City. It is known as a New England summer resort and is famous for its historic mansions and its rich sailing history. It was the location of the first U.S. Open tournaments in both tennis and golf, as well as every challenge to the America's Cup between 1930 and 1983. It is also the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and an important Navy training center. It was a major 18th-century port city and also contains a high number of buildings from the Colonial era.The city is the county seat of Newport County, which has no governmental functions other than court administrative and sheriff corrections boundaries. It was known for being the location of the "Summer White Houses" during the administrations of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. The population was 24,027 as of 2013.

Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad

The Newport and Narragansett Bay Railroad is a heritage railroad that operates on Aquidneck Island, Rhode Island. It was formed in 2014 from the merger of the for-profit Newport Dinner Train and the nonprofit Old Colony and Newport Scenic Railway.

Portsmouth Abbey

Portsmouth Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Portsmouth, on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, United States. The mission of the community is to seek God guided by the Gospel, the Rule of St. Benedict, and by prayer and work to sanctify themselves and their community.

Prescott Farm

Prescott Farm is a historic preservation of a colonial farm in Middletown (Newport County), Rhode Island. It spans 40 acres, and was in danger of demolition before Doris Duke, through the Newport Restoration Foundation bought it in 1973 and began restoration of the historical site. Notable features of it include an operational windmill (c. 1812), British General Prescott's Guard House, a county store (c. 1715), and a University of Rhode Island Master Gardener project with the purpose of simulating a historical vegetable garden through careful research on what crops where grown during that time period. The farm itself is typical of the farms on Aquidneck Island.

Sakonnet River

The Sakonnet River is a tidal strait in the state of Rhode Island which flows approximately 14 miles between Mount Hope Bay and Rhode Island Sound. It separates Aquidneck Island from the eastern portion of Newport County.

Thomas Hazard

Thomas Hazard (1610 - after 1677) was one of the nine founding settlers of Newport on Aquidneck Island (Rhode Island) in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He settled in Boston and Portsmouth before settling Newport, but later returned to Portsmouth. His descendants include Commodores Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew C. Perry and three colonial Rhode Island deputy governors.


WJHD (90.7 FM) is a non-profit non-commercial educational high school radio station broadcasting from a studio located in the school's science building. Licensed to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States, the station serves the Aquidneck Island area. The station is owned and operated by Portsmouth Abbey School, a Benedictine institution.

Wind power in Rhode Island

Wind power in Rhode Island is in the early stages of development. There are several small scale wind turbine projects in the state. As of December 2013 there were 11 turbines at 10 sites in the state. As of 2014 Rhode Island had 9 MW of wind power.Rhode Island’s first commercial turbine was constructed in March 2006 at Portsmouth Abbey on Aquidneck Island. Construction for the Block Island Wind Farm came on line in 2016.

Wreck Sites of HMS Cerberus and HMS Lark

The Wreck Sites of HMS Cerberus and HMS Lark are located in the waters of Narragansett Bay on the west side of Aquidneck Island near South Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Major rivers
Cities & towns
Islands and Peninsulas of Rhode Island


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.