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In contrast to the rectangularity of Coventry and West Greenwich, which are stacked above it, Exeter has the shape of a pistol aimed at Connecticut. Exeter adopted the name of the Devonshire city when it split from North Kingstown in 1742 and set up its own town government. Historically it has been an agricultural area, with farming giving way to grazing, woodcutting, and sawmilling in the rugged terrain to the west. Even today, it boasts no town of consequence, and much of its western portion, in the Arcadia Management Area, is forest preserve and state park. Its major rivers, the Queens to the east and the Wood to the west, never attracted more than small mills, often with histories of unstable ownership. During the nineteenth century, the town's most conspicuous public improvement was Ten Rod Road, so called for its exceptional 165-foot width. Running with remarkable straightness down the middle of the barrel of Exeter's pistol silhouette, Ten Rod Road was designed for driving cattle clear across the town to the harbor at Wickford. Now the eastern third of Ten Rod Road has been rechristened to accommodate a jog in Route 102 as Victory Highway. The New London Turnpike, cutting diagonally north-south across the barrel, close to the pistol grip, divided the town into quadrants—as its successors, Route 3 and Interstate 95, each slightly farther west, do to this day. As in West Greenwich, suburbanization has reversed a long-time decline in population.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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