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Aquidneck Island

aquidneck island, aquidneck island farmers market
Aquidneck Island, officially Rhode Island, is an island in Narragansett Bay and in the US state of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations, which is partially named after the island The total land area is 979 km2 378 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 geographically: Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 History
  • 3 Schools
  • 4 Bridges
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links


"Aquidneck" is derived from the Narragansett name for the island aquidnet1 Roger Williams was an authority on the Narragansett language, but he stated that he never learned the word's meaning2 It might mean "floating-mass-at" or simply "at the island", though other sources claim that it means "Isle of Peace"3

It is unclear how Aquidneck Island came to be known as Rhode Island 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 to which island he was referring, but the colonists who later settled the area decided to refer to Aquidneck as Rhode Island The earliest known use of the name Rhode Island was in 1637 by Roger Williams The name was officially applied to the island in 1644 with these words: "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 164645

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 Eylande6 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 shore78

In 1644, the settlements on Rhode Island Portsmouth and Newport united with Providence Plantation 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, even though the official name of Aquidneck Island is still "Rhode Island" The US 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 of the island Attempts to change the official name to "Aquidneck Island" have been made as recently as 2004, but all of these have failed910 A compromise was reached in 2011 when the RI State Department of Transportation allowed "Aquidneck Island" to be added to state maps as a variant appellation This variant was employed as a result of the 2006 decision by the US Board of Geographic Names to allow "Rhode Island" and "Aquidneck Island" to co-exist on nautical maps


English colonists first settled on present-day Aquidneck Island in 1638 in the region that the Indians called "Pocasset" meaning "where the stream widens", the northern part of Portsmouth At one time, Aquidneck Island was controlled by the Wampanoags, whose leader Sachem Massasoit greeted the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1620 Aquidneck Island was used primarily as a hunting territory, although it was probably a summer residence, as well

As many as nine in ten of the Wampanoags were killed by epidemics in 1617–19citation needed The Narragansetts were unaffected by the diseases, and they fought for control of Aquidneck Island and other places The Wampanoags regained control over their territories

A group of European settlers engaged Roger Williams in 1638 to negotiate the terms of their purchase of the island from a sachem named 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 Maggsen11 Aquidneck Island, at the time, was the royal seat of Miantonomi The settlers could have the island in exchange for 40 fathoms of white wampum, 20 hoes, 10 coats for the resident Indians, and 5 more fathoms of wampum for the local sachem12 Narragansett Sachems Canonicus and his nephew Miantonomi were in control of the island at the time, and they 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

Aquidneck Island was occupied by the British during the American Revolution from 1776–79 The Battle of Rhode Island on August 29, 1778 was an unsuccessful attempt by the Continental Army under command of Major General John Sullivan to drive out the British and retake the strategic port city of Newport


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
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:http://booksgooglecom/booksid=UmYFAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22Henry+Rowe+Schoolcraft%22&hl=en&ei=B74rTMbTOcGBlAeTuPWvCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=rhode&f=false
  3. ^ Rhode Island Geography
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ Hamilton B Staples, "Origins of the Names of the State of the Union", Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, vol 68 1882: p 368
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Elisha Potter, 1835 The Early History of Narragansett Collections of the Rhode-Island Historical Society, v3
  8. ^ Samuel G Arnold, History of Rhode Island 1859 p 70
  9. ^ USGS Feature Detail Report for: Rhode Island
  10. ^ Mark Patinkin: According to the map, there is no Aquidneck Island
  11. ^ Providence, RI: The Islands Archived 2010-04-10 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Rhode Island Geography

Further readingedit

  • Aquidneck Indian Council, "A Brief History of Aquidneck Island" 1
  • Denlson, Frederic 1879 Narragansett Sea and Shore Providence, RI: JA & RA 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 linksedit

Media related to Aquidneck Island at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 41°33′20″N 71°15′53″W / 4155556°N 7126472°W / 4155556; -7126472

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