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Little Compton Info

Little Compton, Rhode Island

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The first European settlers in Little Comptolate 17th-century conflicts with surrounding Native American tribes, notably the Narragansetts and Wampanoags. In 1675, Church built his homestead in Little Compton, just prior to King Philip's War. Today, a plaque on the side of West Main Road gives the location of his original homestead.

In 1682, Sakonnet was incorporated by the Plymouth Colony and renamed Little Compton. This is possibly a reference to Little Compton in Warwickshire, England. However, there is no direct evidence to substantiate this relationship. By 1747, Little Compton secured its own royal decree and was annexed to Newport County as a part of Rhode Island along with Tiverton and Bristol. Because Little Compton was once part of the Plymouth colony, all probate and land records prior to 1746 can be found in Taunton and New Bedford.

Sites of historic interest in Little Compton include the Wilbor House, built in 1692 by Samuel Wilbor, now the home of the Little Compton Historical Society. The entire town commons is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are about 57 historic cemeteries in the town. Colonel Benjamin Church and his family are buried in the Little Compton Commons cemetery, as is Elizabeth Pabodie, the eldest daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of Mayflower fame. The stones in the cemetery reflect a style of carving similar to that found both in Newport and in Boston during the same time period.

Little Compton is the location for one of two town commons in Rhode Island. The other is in Bristol. This is most likely a result of the town having been originally laid out by settlers from the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colonies. Land for the common was designated in August of 1677 and has been used ever since as both a religious and civic center for social activities in the town.

While there are only a few 17th-century structures still standing (these include the Wilbor house and Peabody house), there are many which date from the 18th and 19th century. The Quaker meeting house on West Main Road, Number 8 Schoolhouse (now used as part of the Town Hall), Town Hall, Wilbur's Store, and the United Congregational Church all pre-date 1900 and are centered around the town commons. Additional historic homes are scattered throughout the town and include the Asa Gray house, the Slicer house, Oldacre, the Brownell house on West Main Road, the Brownell house on Meetinghouse Lane, William Whalley Homestead farmstead on Burchard Ave. (on the National Register of Historic Places), and the Brownell Library on the commons.

Another distinctive feature of the town is the "Spite Tower" found in the village of Adamsville. Local lore claims that the tower was constructed to obscure the line of sight of a town local. While most stories involve members of the local Manchester family, there is no consensus as to the true history of the structure. According to the present day owner of the building, the "Spite Tower" was built above an artesian well. There was a pump that brought the water to a holding tank on the third floor that sent water, via gravity feed, to main house's water tank to provide running water. The building was constructed circa 1905. The chauffeur's residence was on the second floor of the tower.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 28.9 square miles (74.9 km²), of which, 20.9 square miles (54.1 km²) is land and 8.0 square miles (20.8 km²) (27.79%) is water.


There is only one school in Little Compton, the Wilbur and McMahon school. It was originally known as the Josephine Wilbur (or central) school. It had 12 classrooms and housed the town's K-12 facilities. It was renamed after additions were built in the mid 1900's. Approximately 350 students attend classes in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Located in the center of town, the residents simply refer to it as "Wilbur School." High school students usually attend Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, RI.

Rhode Island Red

The Rhode Island Red is a breed of chicken originally bred in Adamsville, a small village that is part of Little Compton. Little Compton is the only place in the United States with a monument dedicated to a chicken. In 1925, the Rhode Island Red Club of America donated funds for an elegant monument to the Rhode Island Red in Adamsville, near the baseball field and across the street from the Barn restaurant. The monument is now on the National Register of Historic Places. A competing monument to the Rhode Island Red was erected by the state in 1954, 1 mile (2 km) south of Adamsville. Some claim that it was not created for the poultry fanciers, but for the farmers who raised them commercially in great numbers in Little Compton.

Notable residents

  • Awashonks (ca. 1620 - ca. 1684), female sachem of the Sakonnet tribe
  • Sydney Richmond Burleigh (1853–1931), artist
  • Captain Benjamin Church (ca. 1639 - 1718), Father of American ranging
  • Christopher R. Hill (b. 1952), former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and current United States Ambassador to Iraq
  • Henry Demarest Lloyd (1847–1903), muckraking journalist
  • J. William Middendorf (b. 1924), diplomat, civil servant, and artist
  • Arden Myrin (b. 1973), cast member of MADtv
  • Elizabeth Pabodie (1623–1717), daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, recognized as the first white girl born in New England
  • Isaac Wilbour (1763–1837), Governor of Rhode Island, member of the United States House of Representatives, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island

Stores and restaurants

The majority of stores in Little Compton are in the center of town, the Commons. A Sovereign Bank is housed in a building that used to be the Post Office. Before that, it was the Simmons store, which is located in the neighborhood of Adamsville. One of the more famous restaurants in Little Compton is the Commons Lunch, known for its johnny cakes. It burned down in 2004, but has since reopened. A-1 Pizza has been on the Commons in Little Compton for over 35 years and serves fresh pizzas and subs. Other restaurants in town include Crowther's on Pottersville Road. The Art Cafe serves coffee drinks in a beautiful country setting. During the summer, many farm stands open, most of which are on West Main Road. These include the Last Stand, Walker's Roadside Stand, Gray's Grist Mill (home of the RI Jonnycake), and Young Family Farm. Peckham's Greenhouse at West Main and Peckham Roads attracts customers for its plants and gardening supplies. In Adamsville, Gray's claims to be the oldest continually operating general store in the country (although Brown & Hopkins in Chepachet may dispute); it is now an antique store. The Stone House, a resort on 122 Sakonnet Point Road, features two gourmet restaurants. 1854, was once known as the Tap Room, and is reminiscent of the Prohibition-era speakeasy that it's cellar was once rumored to be. 1854 serves modern comfort food. Pietra is located in the Wood Barn of the Stone House and serves Tuscan inspired cuisine with a local flair.


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,593 people, 1,475 households, and 1,041 families residing in the town. The population density was 172.1 people per square mile (66.5/km²). There were 2,103 housing units at an average density of 100.7/sq mi (38.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 98.75% White, 0.06% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.06% from other races, and 0.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 0.86% of the population.

There were 1,475 households out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.7% were married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4% were non-families. 24.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the town the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 5.1% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 29.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.1 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $55,368, and the median income for a family was $62,750. Males had a median income of $43,199 versus a median income of $28,676 for females. The per capita income for the town was $32,513. About 3.7% of families and 3.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.0% of those under the age of 18 and 2.4% of those 65 and older.

Attractions and sites on National Register of Historic Places


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