A Murder in Wickford 1670 presented at Smith’s Castle by Attorney James Murphy

On July 11, 1670 in the small village of Wickford in the Narragansett Country of Rhode Island, Walter House walked into the shop of Thomas Flounders. The two men spoke. And then they argued. The argument turned to blows. Flounders struck House with a piece of wood. At the conclusion of the argument, Walter House lay dead.” Thus begins the story of the first recorded case in Rhode Island in which an accused man faced execution on the gallows. Cocumscussoc Association Trustee James T. Murphy tells the tale in a presentation at Smith’s Castle on September 16, 2023. Click here for the hour-long video.

Murphy begins by noting that the homicide occurred not only in the heat of a summer’s day, but also in the midst of a hotly contested jurisdictional dispute between Rhode Island and the neighboring colony of Connecticut.

Following the discovery of House’s body, a “hue and cry” was issued throughout the Narragansett Country for the apprehension of Flounders and for a forensic examination of the body.

After describing the trial and the outcome, Murphy asks “What if?” – “By asking these questions and by formulating potential answers to them, we can perhaps see how easily history could have turned.”