Burying our heritage
To the Editor:
It is hard to find an appropriate comparison? I consider the iconic remains of Greece or Rome. What if the last of the stone remains of these civilizations were removed for “progress” so that it would be easy to totally forget the lives of those who have been there before the modern era?
Here in Warwick, we have quietly experienced the same loss without fanfare. On August 1, 2018 we lost the oldest structure in Warwick history. The remains of the Stone Castle site, the only site to not be burnt down during the King Philip’s war of the late 1600s. The stonewall stood for nearly four centuries and the stone foundation of the house had remained set in the ground on the site.
For those not well versed in Warwick history, a little lesson is in order. The home and stone wall built on the site between the Elk’s club on West Shore Road and Oakland Beach four corners, was originally the property of the Greene family. Greene, along with Samuel Gorton, Robert Potter, John Wickes and others were the original purchasers and settlers of the city of Warwick. They paid for the land and had documents that proved they paid for the land. They even were able to get a charter from England to establish a colony. That was important because most of the founders of Warwick were those who had been banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony.
The King Philip’s war between Philip, born Metacomet, was originally between Plymouth and Wampanoag, not with the Samuel Gorton followers and Narragansetts. But the war spread in ever widening circles and involved the Narragansetts at the great swamp fight, despite their original plan to stay out of it. The Gortonites also had not had any plans to be involved in the war. My ancestors, Warwick Town Clerk John Potter and his wife Ruth Potter, the son and daughter-in-law of Robert Potter, left Warwick during the war and lived in Portsmouth. This was the same place that Robert Potter had fled to from Massachusetts a generation before. John and Ruth’s daughter Ruth was born on Portsmouth during the war.
John Wickes decided to remain on the mainland. He held up in the stone castle. He was safe until he made the fateful decision, during a lull in the fighting, to search for his livestock, and then he was killed. I am alive today because John and Ruth Potter made the decision to leave property to protect life.
There have not been any other remaining structures from the early colonial period.
The Greene family cemetery is in the woods next to the Elks club.
On August 1, 2018, the construction team summarily bulldozed down the remaining 4-century-old stonewall and buried the stones of the old house’s foundation.
Could I ask the new owner to at least put up a sign or plaque or more fittingly a stone with a note to this important chapter in Warwick’s history?
Member of the Warwick Historical Society
12th generation in Rhode Island
Editor’s note: Developer Hugh Fisher said that a plaque outlining the historic significance of the area has been made and will be erected on the site.