This land was originally part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, known as Pocasset and home to the Wamponoag-Pocasset tribe. The Wamponoag-Pocassets were the Indians of Pilgrim fame who helped the English settlers survive the harsh early days and participated in the first Thanksgiving dinner.
Things were not so civil a half-century later when the warrior Metacom, given the English name Philip by his tribal chief father, led a rebellion against the British. he was aided in his cause by his widowed sister-in-law, Weetamoo, that translates roughly to “sweetheart.” During the King Philip War in the summer of 1675 Metacom and Weetaboo used the swamp here to hideout from British patrols. They might well have succeeded in defeating the British were it not for rival tribes in the region and on August 12, 1676 King Phillip was killed and the remnants of his tribe dispersed or sold into slavery.
Tiverton was originally incorporated in 1694, still a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After decades of bickering over the boundary between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, a Royal Decree landed the town in Rhode Island in 1746. The next year the town was incorporated.
Tiverton was a farming community and grew with no town center; the populace migrated to scattered small villages. The Four Corners area was laid out in 1710 on an 80-acre lot around a grist mill called Nomscot, which was the also applied to the village. The locals passed a law that a tavern could only be built where there was a four-way intersection and then made sure there wouldn’t be any built not building any roads across the Eight Rod Way that had been surveyed in 1679 as a road between Sakonnet and Plymouth Colony. The village had earned a new name.
In 1974 Tiverton Four Corners was designated a National Historic District. The privately owned buildings have evolved to contain antique stores, galleries and shops which translates into abundant off-street parking and our walking tour will begin at the four corners and go both ways on Main Road...
STANDING AT FOUR CORNERS, START AT THE NORTHWEST CORNER.
Andrew P. White Store
3883 Main Road
This store has anchored Four Corners since 1876. The Victorian styling includes a French Empire-influenced mansard roof, a bracketed cornice and a cupola on top. Andrew White operated a mill and icebox in town. With the town post office here as well, this was a popular gathering spot in Tiverton. The “P” stands for “Peregrine;” White was a descendant of Peregrine White who was born aboad the Mayflower while docked at Provincetown Harbor and was the first English child born to the Pilgrims in the New World. His parents, William and Susanna, named him “Peregrine,” which means: “one who journeys to foreign lands.”
LOOK OVER AT THE SOUTHWEST CORNER.
Arnold Smith House
3895 Main Road
This core of this shingled cottage with a gambrel roof dates to around 1750. Today it is an artist owned and operated gallery.
LOOK OVER AT THE SOUTHEAST CORNER.
Gray’s Ice Cream
16 East Road
Annie Gray sold the first ice cream on this site from the back window of her house in 1930. The ice cream was churned in Fall River and delivered down the road by horse and buggy. She shortly added space for a sit-down parlor and began making vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and coffee ice cream on site. Annie died in 1938 and her daughter Flossie operated the parlor for a few years but sold the business out of the family. Gray’s is still an institution in Tiverton Four Corners, however, and Marilyn Dennis, who bought the stand in 1981, still makes all the ice cream herself. Gray’s was named one of the 12 Best Places To Get Ice Cream In The U.S. by Gourmet magazine and was named “Best of Rhode Island” by Rhode Island Monthly magazine so many times it was inducted into its Hall of Fame. This southeast corner of Tiverton Four Corners has a much less tasty history, however. On the corner of this property once stood an upright stone post known as the Whipping Post that was in place form the earliest days of the village - it was erected in 1719. Public floggings were allowed in Rhode Island until 1812. The post disappeared in the 1950s and no one knows where it went.
LOOK OVER AT THE NORTHEAST CORNER.
3852 Main Road
The Soule family began in America with George Soule who arrived on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. His descendants are considered to include Dick Van Dyke and Richad Gere. The Soule who purchased this house, built just before the Revolutionary War, was a veteran of that conflict, in 1809 was Abner Soule. Abner operated a forge and took part in whaling. His son Cornelius, a sea captain, inherited the house and he passed it to his cousin Cornelius Seabury, a prosperous town merchant. The handsomely proportioned Federal-style house is presently the home of the Four Corners Art Center, established in 1793.
CROSS THE STREET TO THE EAST SIDE OF THE ROAD WHERE THERE IS A SIDEWALK AND TURN LEFT TO WALK NORTH ON MAIN ROAD.
3879 Main Road
Daniel Wilcox’s odyssey to Tiverton began in Lincolnshire, England. After arriving in Plymouth he married Elizabeth Cooke and eventually inherited this land from his father-in-law, who was a Mayflower survivor. In 1692 his house became a fortress after he led an small insurrection to protest the absorption of Plymouth County into Massachusetts Bay. Royal forces laid siege on the Wilcox home and he was eventually found guilty of “mutinous and riotous acts.” The current Federal-style residence, built back from the street, dates to 1809. The Davol family were storekeepers in the village.
Benjamin F. Seabury House
3842 Main Road
A vernacular frame house was oriented with its gable facing the street when it was built in the 1840s. It received a fashionable Greek Revival entrance treatment. Benjamin Franklin Seabury was the 11th of 12 children born to merchant Cornelius and Mary Seabury.
Union Public Library
3832 Main Road
The first library in Tiverton dates back to 1820 and it was not a spur-of-the-moment affair. A group of young men calling themselves the United Society seeking a “social library” drafted a club constitution consisting of 24 articles. Among other things it dictated what kinds of books would be available and how members would be admitted. The Society disbanded in 1845 but reformed in 1860 by selling shares at one dollar each and lending books for a nickel a week. The library continued until 1876. In 1889 the Union Public Library was established in Four Corners and in 1914 purchased this one-story, wood-shingled building constructed a half-century earlier. It once served as a Temperance Hall.
WHEN THE SIDEWALK END, TURN AROUND AND RETURN TO THE FOUR CORNERS. THE TOUR CONTINUES A SHORT DISTANCE TO THE SOUTH BUT THERE IS NO SIDEWALK AND NO SHOULDER ON THE LIGHTLY TRAVELED ROAD. THERE IS A STRIP OF GRASS ON THE WEST SIDE.
3908 Main Road
This farmhouse with gambrel roof and center brick chimney was constructed around 1730 by either Benjamin Chase or his son Abner. It has been restored and maintained in pristine condition by the Tiverton Historical Society, which acquired the property in 1964. The Cory was Andrew, scion of a whaling family. Benjamin Chase, by the way, married Amy Borden who was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Fall River axe-murderess Lizzie Borden.
3948 Main Road
This is where the village of grew up, around a primitive mill owned by Joseph and Stephen Taber. The thirty building lots that developed north of “Taber’s Saw and Grist Mill” became todays’ Tiverton Four Corners. In the middle 1840s William Pitt Brightman bought the then abandoned mill from the Wilcox family and built the masonry and stuccoed stone mill and a store. The little enclave became known as Pittsville and the mill would grind local corn for johnnycakes until after World War II. The long, two-and-a-half story wood shingle building on the mill pond was constructed in the 1870s as a community hall and became the local Grange Hall in the 1890s
TURN AND RETURN TO THE FOUR CORNERS AND THE BEGINNING OF THE TOUR.