Roger Williams's Landing Place Monument
Backstory and Context
Roger Williams’s Landing
Roger Williams’s and his company of Puritan settlers had been forced to leave their original Rumford settlement in 1636 after they learned that the land around Rumford belonged to the Plymouth Colony. Because Williams’s was a wanted man in the powerful Massachusetts colony (he was convicted of sedition and heresy in 1635), Williams and his friends packed their belongings into a single canoe and embarked on the Seekonk River. On the western side of the River, Williams was greeted by the Narragansett tribe. Williams stepped from the canoe onto Slate Rock, at the present site of the Landing Place Monument. Following the directions of the Narragansett tribal leaders, Williams and his crew continued down the Seekonk, headed into a small cove, and began a new colony (which would eventually become Providence).
This entire episode between Williams and the Narragansett tribe was first recorded in 1821, and it was based on oral, third-hand accounts. Some accounts stated that, because Slate Rock was well protected from the waters on the shoreline, the initials of the landing party should have been carved into the rock. Unfortunately, in 1877, Providence city workers used too much dynamite while trying to uncover more of Slate Rock and destroyed most of it. Pieces of Slate Rock, however, can be found in the Central Baptist Church and just inside Brown University’s Waterman Avenue gates. Pieces of Slate Rock were also sold in a catalog at a price of ten cents to $2.50 per chunk.
Like Plymouth Rock (which also has conflicting evidence of being the “first” landing site and being a landing site altogether), the Roger Williams’s Landing Place has little evidence backing its story. Nonetheless, the story is fundamental to Providence history. As such, the present-day monument was built in 1906 by sculptor E.C. Codman and designer Frank Foster, with the plaques cast by the Gorham Manufacturing Company.