After the war, the settlement of Pettaquamscutt was rebuilt and English settlement of the region long-known as the "Narragansett Country" began with renewed vigor. Colonial English records indicate that in 1696, Nathaniel Niles bought a part of the Pettaquamscutt Purchase known as the “mill estate” for the sum of ₤200, which included most of the land that is today the village known as Wakefield, which has become the largest commercial center in South County. Based on the name of the purchase, apparently some kind of mill activity was already taking place along the Saugatucket River before Niles made his purchase, likely somewhere between the former textile mills on Main Street near the present day Saugatucket Bridge and Wakefield Elementary School on High Street, though no specific records of this earlier activity exists today. The Niles estate appeared in the 1703 survey of the King's Highway, which is today the Old Post Road or Scenic 1A.
Today Route 1 bypasses this compact area of Wakefield, where in the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century, the King’s Highway wended down Sugarloaf Hill to end at the western bank of the Saugatucket River. There is no evidence there was bridge over the river at that early date, and travelers forded the usually shallow waters and picked up the road on the far bank. In 1698, about a mile away to the east of the ford Nathaniel Niles donated land for a meetinghouse for the Society of Friends. The meetinghouse was completed around 1700, and by 1710 the local Kingstown meeting was associated with local meetings in Providence, Cranston and Warwick via the monthly Quaker meeting in (East) Greenwich (see Map 1).
In 1845, a schism emerged in the New England Society of Friends "between followers of Joseph John Gurney of England, who favored a more evangelical and pastoral route, and followers of John Wilbur of Hopkinton, R.I., who preferred a simpler unprogrammed form of worship." Despite calls for simplicity, the Quaker community had grown much larger over the course of two religious awakenings and the South Kingstown meeting became the monthly meeting site for Westerly, Richmond and Hopkinton meetings, while the number of Quaker meetings in Rhode Island had increased from 10 meetings in the early 18th century to 21 meetings by the 1830s (see Map 2).
The South Kingstown was a Wilburite meeting, and continued to meet at the same location in their rebuilt meeting house until the last quarter of the 19th century when the Quakers built a new meetinghouse about a mile away on Columbia Street and abandoned the site both for their meetings and as a burial ground.
This summer and fall, the archaeologists will continue to analyze the materials collected in their lab, where I hope to visit and follow-up on this investigation. Eventually, the report of the excavation will be given to the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, and most of the artifacts (e.g., nails, glass, and other rubble) will be reburied on the site.
"Wakefield" in Lost South Kingstown: With a History of Ten of Its Early Villages. Kathleen Bossy and Mary Kean (editors), Kingston: Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, 2004.
Friends Meetings in New England, 1710. Guide to the Records of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in New England) compiled by Richard D. Stattler New England Yearly Meeting Archivist, Published by the Rhode Island Historical Society, 1997, page 12.
Friends Meetings in New England, 1833. Guide to the Records of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in New England) compiled by Richard D. Stattler New England Yearly Meeting Archivist, Published by the Rhode Island Historical Society, 1997, page 13.
The Dead Come To Life A glimpse into what lies beneath South Kingstown's Historical Cemeteries. http://narragansett.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/the-dead-come-to-life.