Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tiverton, Massachusetts or Fall River, Rhode Island: Making Sense of the Long Boundary Dispute

In an blog post from earlier this month I shared a little Fall River History and received the following comment:

Roger Williams said...

I think you should blog about the turning point in Fall River's history - the day in 1862 when much of present day Fall River was traded by Rhode Island (along with a player to be named later) to Massachusetts for East Pawtucket and East Providence. I know you're big on analyzing baseball deals, so I'm surprised you haven't chimed in on who got the better deal here.

In order to comment on what happened between Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1862, we must first look at the history that led up to it. I find myself back in colonial New England, back to a time where the King of England ruled over the lands I now call home. While I sift through events that took place over 350 years ago, The Rhode Islander and our present day Roger Williams explores this boundary dispute and others that have shaped and continue to shape Rhode Island.

March 1, 1862 wasn't really a "turning point" in Fall River's history, but instead was the resolution of nearly 200 years of boundary dispute between Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

When Roger Williams secured a charter for the Rhode Island in 1643 there was no conflict with the claims of the Plymouth Colony, however a second charter issued in 1663 did impede on territory claimed by the Plymouth Colony and Plymouth immediately dispatched representatives to the King to defend her claim. In response the King, Charles II, appointed commissioners to review the matter, these commissioners found in favor of Plymouth, a decision confirmed by the King in 1664.

In 1691 by the orders of a new King, William, a new charter was issued combining the Plymouth Colony with the Massachusetts Bay Colony to form the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The new charter defined the southern boundary as "to the south sea or westward as far as our colony of Rhode Island". Since Rhode Island's own charter had never been legally abrogated, this once again drew into question exactly what was the boundary between the two colonies. It would almost 50 years before that question was again brought to before the King.

In 1740 Rhode Island once again applied to the crown, this time George II, for a re-examination of her Eastern border. The King appointed 15 commissioners, 8 who met in Providence. Although the commissioners found in favor of Rhode Island the decision was appealed by both sides. The King, however, confirmed the decision in 1746 and Little Compton, Tiverton, Bristol, Barrington, Warren and Cumberland became part of Rhode Island. By the decision of the King both Massachusetts and Rhode Island were to appoint 3 commissioners to mark the official boundaries per the written instructions of the King. Rhode Island immediately appointed its commissioners who marked the boundaries. Massachusetts upon learning of this accepted Rhode Island's findings and took no immediate measures to examine the boundaries on her own.

In 1791, under renewed difficulties between the states Massachusetts and Rhode Island both assigned commissioners to ascertain the boundaries between the two states. However the two states disagreed in their understandings of the directions of the King and Massachusetts claimed that Rhode Island had infringed on her territory. Amazingly neither side was able to completely resolve the issue and it would continue to linger for decades.



Dr. Momentum said...

Oddly enough, I was just wondering about this the other day. I will enjoy reading your series of posts on this subject.

Lefty said...

And I'm glad to have you read them, any feedback is most welcome.

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