1638 Deed to Providence

The earliest land deed in the Providence City Archives dates from 1638 and confirms earlier verbal and written agreements between Roger WIlliams and the Narragansett sachems Canonicus and Miantonomo. [From https://sowamsheritagearea.org/wp/1638-deed-to-providence/]

The sachems drew their “signatures” with the symbols of a bow and an arrow, respectively, on the deed that granted land to Roger Williams. It was important to Roger Williams to establish a written record of his land agreements. 

Roger Williams had been banished, in part, for asserting the original right of the indigenous peoples to their land. By showing that he had purchased his land with their consent, he was making a powerful moral and legal argument. As he later explained, “Rhode Island was purchased by love.” Click here for a video of Loren Spears talking about the Narragansett concept of land ownership and here for one of John McNiff talking about the Deed.

With help from the Narragansett tribe he founded a colony based on his beliefs. March 24, 1638 the first land deeds were signed by the native people selling the lands and witnessed by Roger Williams and Benedict Arnold (Gov’r not American Revolution soldier).

Click here for a page on the signatures of early Indigenous leaders of Rhode Island.