Pawtuxet means "Little Falls" in the native language, and this area was originally occupied by the members of the Sononoce Pawtuxet tribe, part of the larger Narragansett Indian nation, who used the area we know as Pawtuxet Neck as a feasting ground. In 1638, Rhode Island founder, Roger Williams, purchased the property extending south from Providence to the Pawtuxet River. Shortly thereafter his followers; William Arnold, William Harris, William Carpenter, and Zachariah Rhodes, settled along the fertile meadows of the Pawtuxet. Meanwhile, Samuel Gorton, the founder of Warwick, purchased the land south of the Pawtuxet River. Pawtuxet Village remains unique in that its northern section is in the town of Cranston, while its southern section is in another town, Warwick.
Early 18th century inhabitants took advantage of the power of the Pawtuxet River by constructing various mills, and took advantage of its excellent harbor by building one of America’s premiere shipping ports. The Pawtuxet Village Historic District boasts dozens of preserved Colonial structures among its scenic blend of homes and buildings. The mouth of the Pawtuxet River was a strategic location to settle, and gave boats a safe harbor and the village considerable importance in the triangular trade of the day, and shipyards for the coastal and West Indies trade were located here.
PV Plaque It was here in 1772 where Rhode Island patriots took the first organized military action towards independence by attacking and burning the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee. This was "America’s First Blow for Freedom" that led directly to the establishment of permanent Committees of Correspondence, unifying the individual colonies, and starting the process of the American Revolution. We celebrate this historic role of Pawtuxet Village by playing host to the annual Gaspee Days Parade each June.
During the early 1800s Christopher and William Rhodes formed the textile manufacturing firm which controlled the prosperity and swayed the destiny of Pawtuxet for more than half a century. It changed from a shipping port to a mill village with textile mills at either end of the Pawtuxet Falls. In the late 19th century, the Rhodes family developed one of Rhode Island’s top attractions, the famous Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet casino, dance hall, and canoe center. Trolley lines from Providence would carry vast numbers to the Pawtuxet area for a day of family fun and relaxation. Area merchants prospered, and to this day, Pawtuxet Village remains a central focal point in the lives of the surrounding population.