A Historical Perspective on the PettaquamScutt Rock and Narrow River

Rhode Island is full of several natural endowments. Since the time of the native Indians, residents have enjoyed a highly aesthetic and beautiful scenery brought by natural artifacts like the Pettaquamscutt Rock and the Narrow River. These two have their histories, which make them areas of significance to the region. However, millennials and even some of the older population are oblivious to these histories.

As part of our commitment towards promoting the culture and history of the Pettaquamscutt region, this article will be examining the accounts of these two regional symbols.

The Pettaquamscutt Rock


The Pettaquamscutt Rock is a historical symbol in the South Kingston, Rhode Island area of the United States. It represents an era of change in the city. Also known as Treaty rock, it was the scene of treaties between white settlers and local Indians in the 17th century. It was the location where Roger Williams bargained with the Narragansett sachems to allow peaceful co-existence between the white population and the native Indians.

Pettaquamscutt rock is a cliff behind a park, covered with highly sharp quartz nubbins. It’s a source of tourist attraction, where rock climbers have a good time. The Rock is estimated to be about 50 feet high and 40 feet wide, and climbers can get on it from anywhere. It affords an excellent view as it overlooks the Narrow River, another city treasure.

Historical Overview of the Rock

It’s not unusual to see rocks, even large ones in Rhode Island. One might also wonder why the Treaty rock is unique and accorded much importance since it’s not the only big Rock in the area. However, certain factors make the Pettaquamscutt Rock unique. One of them has to do with it serving as a gathering point for the original owners. It’s a point where significant decisions regarding the region materialized.

When English dwellers first came into the country, the land surrounding the Rock, west of the Narragansett Bay, was an open space. The forests were not much and free from bushes and weeds as the local Indians took care of the area by periodically burning over the region. During this time, the Treaty Rock was visible to a great length and easily accessible from the Narrow River. It was a natural meeting place and point of convergence for the Indians.

In March 1638, the English settlers led by Roger Williams bought and obtained confirmation of title to some of the lands from great Indian leaders. On the same day, he bargained with them the agreement through which other notable English settlers like William Coddington, William Dyre, and a host of others acquired the Island of Aquidneck for some significant amount. These purchases made the peaceful settlement of Portsmouth and Newport possible.

Twenty years later, in 1658, the men regarded as the buyers of Pettasquamscutt met at the Rock to strike a deal with the sachems for land traits, which gave English settlers the title to what we now refer to as South Kingston and some parts of Exeter and North Kingston.

The Narrow River

Also known as the Pettaquamscutt River, this water body serves as a naturally-positioned boundary between the Narragansett, South Kingston, and North Kingston towns. It’s estimated to be seven-mile long, connected to some basins fed by a small stream. Although a small section of Rhode Island, the river is a habitat that promotes the rich biodiversity of plant and animal life. Since its establishment in 1970, the NRPA has taken it upon herself to protect it.

The mouth of the river of ideal for swimming and riding boats, but poses a challenge to bigger water vehicles when the tide is low. As you travel along the river, you can see the Pettaquamscutt Rock sitting beautifully on the left. Up north of that is the Cajoot Graphite Mine site.

The Narrow River is known for its hard water content; a state attributed to several activities that had taken place in the area in history. Making the water usable usually requires the introduction of water softening agents like aquisana filters and softeners.

The river also has a reputation for the high volume of salt in its surrounding areas, which has severely affected its usage over the years. Residents around the neighborhood use water softeners that are salt-free to get water drawn from the river in usable condition.

Like the Rock, the Narrow River is a good source of tourist attraction and recreational activities owing to its many histories and controversies.


Rhode Island’s history wouldn’t be complete and accurate without talking about the Pettaquamscutt Rock and the Narrow River. They’re part of the several elements that make up the identity of the state. The Pettaquamscutt Historical Society Museum and Library dedicates herself to bringing more history and contents your way.

Marie Gills

Marie Gills

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