Discovering the Sowams Heritage Area In East Bay Rhode Island and Nearby Massachusetts

  • Massasoit Burial Site, Burr's Hill, Warren

Sowams was a rich land, described as a “garden” by Miles Standish and prized by the Native tribes for its rich soil, abundant wildlife and access to the water that provided their food. A treaty in 1621 between the Pokanoket Tribe and the Plymouth Colony set in place a fifty year period of peaceful relations. A breakdown in those relationships, however, followed Massasoit’s death in 1661 and led to the devastating two-year King Philip War and the eventual colonial domination of the land.

Over the next 150 years, the towns of  Barrington, Bristol, East Providence, Providence, Rehoboth, Seekonk, Swansea, and Warren. were laid out in what was once Sowams, and nearly all traces of its original inhabitants were erased. What followed were years of continual development, the growth of towns, and the gradual loss of much of the original natural abundance that the colonist first encountered.

This web site is designed to identify the vestiges of that original pristine land and the evidence of the first steps in 17th century colonial occupation that transformed Sowams into what we have today. We invite you to explore the many remaining locations that can be identified and described on this site that still give evidence of Sowams in the 17th century and some of the important events that began the transformation of the land. We hope that your increased awareness of the history of this region will help you to appreciate not only what we once had but also what we still have that is essential to protect. 

This project is made possible in part through funding support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Council seeds, support, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders.

Click on any of the categories at the top of the page to see over 50 Heritage Area locations. Contact us below if you have a comment or would like to join us in this project: