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Narragansett Indian Church

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1859. 1995, rebuilt. Indian Church Rd. (At the Health Center turn right onto Old Mill Rd. after about .25 mile, a small sign on left denotes Narragansett Indian Church Rd. Another .75 mile down a rough dirt road leads to the site.)
  • Narragansett Indian Church

Surrounded by uninhabited woodlands, this church dates its history to a Baptist congregation founded in 1750, which included among its early pastors the Reverend Samuel Niles, the prominent Indian preacher. Replacing an earlier wooden structure, the granite block walls of the current church rose in 1859 and give the moderate-sized building an impressive, stolid presence that overpowers the simple neoclassical wooden trim. Such detailing, along with the gabled front and placement of entry doors at either side of an elevated central window, is reminiscent of other public buildings in Charlestown from the mid-nineteenth century, such as the District 2 Schoolhouse and the First Baptist Church of Charlestown. The church walls, mostly regularly coursed and undressed, with quarry marks still visible, reflect the highly regarded traditions of stonemasonry among the Narragansett people and have withstood much since their construction. After two fires, the most recent in 1994, the wooden elements were rebuilt and the granite was cleaned to its present condition. Close by are meeting grounds used for an annual summer gathering and an adjacent small cemetery; farther north is a much larger cemetery with as many as 700 graves, largely unmarked. All clearly form a center for the spiritual and communal activities of the Narragansett tribe today.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Narragansett Indian Church", [Charlestown, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-CH14.

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