R 38
97-H 5449
Passed in House
Jan. 22, 1997

H O U S E   R E S O L U T I O N


WHEREAS, About 1635, William Blackstone, reputedly the first European settler near Shawmut, later the site of Boston, left that region to avoid religious intolerance and settled near the river that would later bear his name, in today's Lonsdale section of Cumberland. Although trading posts had existed earlier, Blackstone was the first European to settle in what is today Rhode Island; and

WHEREAS, The area that was originally known as "Attleborough Gore" was ceded by royal decree in 1747 to Rhode Island. This land would become the towns of Warren, Barrington, Bristol, Tiverton, Little Compton and Cumberland, renamed to honor the English nobleman, Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland. Incorporated on January 27, 1747, Cumberland became a part of Providence County in February that same year; and

WHEREAS, Like other New England towns, Cumberland's population greatly increased in the eighteenth century. Most of these settlers were farmers, although serious efforts to establish industries occurred as well. The most important factors spurring growth were the area's abundant minerals, forest resources, and water power sources on the Blackstone River, Abbott Run and smaller streams; and

WHEREAS, Cumberland's abundant forest resources, including oak, pine, and other trees helped to sustain the town's economy by providing wood for heating, charcoal for the iron works and lumber for residential and commercial construction. Lumber processed at the saw mills was sold to boatyards in Providence, Boston and Warren; and

WHEREAS, During the nineteenth century, Cumberland was transformed from a dispersed rural town to a collection of villages set in a sylvan and agrarian landscape. Industry and transportation developments were the motivating forces, and the western part of town along the Blackstone River corridor was most dramatically altered; and

WHEREAS, The Blackstone Canal, completed in 1828, which ran alongside and sometimes within the river, helped open up interior sections of the valley. The Providence & Worcester Railroad, opened in 1847 on a route parallel to, and occasionally on top of, the canal provided passenger and freight service up and down the valley; and

WHEREAS, Industrial growth was accompanied by a tremendous growth of population, industry, and commerce in the Valley Falls end of town. At the same time, similar but more intense growth occurred in the northwest part of town. In 1867, this development was politically confirmed when Woonsocket split off as a separate town, and Cumberland's civic center moved from Cumberland Hill southward to Valley Falls; and

WHEREAS, The southern end of Cumberland at Valley Falls lies just one mile north of the site of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket where, in 1790, Samuel Slater introduced the first efficient, water-powered textile machinery in the country. Ten years later, the Industrial Revolution reached Cumberland when the town's first cotton textile mill was erected at Robin Hollow in Valley Falls. A second mill was established in 1818 at Happy Hollow, now Valley Falls, and by mid-century, mills were also operating on Broad Street in Valley Falls and at Manville. The Industrial Revolution's impact was fully felt in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the town's major mills were built; and

WHEREAS, The nineteenth century was also a time of active geological exploration, and efforts to exploit mineral resources were made throughout Cumberland. Relatively large-scale mining took place at Iron Mine Hill and in the area west of Diamond Hill, where a large granite quarry was worked. Other mining attempts, such as the copper mine at Copper Mine Hill, produced relatively low economic rewards; and

WHEREAS, With its early textile mills and choice location, along the Providence & Worcester Railroad, Valley Falls became the new seat of government in 1868. Industrial growth and civic stature prompted the construction of dense neighborhoods of single and multi-family housing, as well as commercial and institutional building. By 1870, more than 100 buildings existed along Broad Street, Diamond Hill Road, and the streets in between; and

WHEREAS, At the turn of the century, Cumberland Hill became the focus of town government, commercial and institutional growth. The earliest recorded community library, founded in 1819 by the Cumberland Literary Society, was housed in the Academy building; and

WHEREAS, Despite a tremendous increase in population and industrial prosperity during the nineteenth century, most of the town remained farmland and forest, and Cumberland retained a strong agricultural economy, particularly in dairying and fruit production. The compact mill villages were separated from each other by countryside. As late as 1898, the area beyond Berkeley was described as a "country of farm houses, orchards, open fields, stone fences, and timber-covered hills."; and

WHEREAS, In the first decades of the twentieth century, Cumberland continued much as it had throughout the previous century. After World War II, however, Cumberland's strong rural-urban dichotomy gradually diminished because of the mobility afforded by the automobile and the pressures of suburban residential growth in the ring around the urban centers of greater Providence and nearby Woonsocket. The town's population remained steady from 1900 until the 1940's, then more than doubled between 1950 and 1980; and

WHEREAS, Agriculture continued to be an important activity, but began to taper off by mid-century and has now almost completely disappeared. Since World War II, the town has undergone substantial suburbanization and, during the 1960's, the town's population increased by almost 41% to a total of more than 26,000; and

WHEREAS, To this day, Cumberland has managed to retain several different types of historical environments. Along Abbott Run Valley and in the northern part of town, open farmscapes reflect a long-standing agricultural tradition. Scattered about are Native American sites, quarries and mines, early mills, burying grounds, farm complexes, and villages. In the Blackstone Valley are the larger urban clusters and mill villages, mostly late nineteenth century in origin. These are important reminders of Cumberland's industrial heritage, which began in the seventeenth century and flourished in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Between the villages and scattered about the town are more recent buildings -- houses, farms, schools, factories, and businesses -- which are an important part of Cumberland's historical continuity, reflecting changing perceptions, economic trends, and ideals; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby commemorates the 250th Anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Cumberland. In many ways a microcosm of all of Rhode Island, the proud and diverse history of Cumberland mirrors the eclectic history of the Ocean State; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and he hereby is authorized and directed to transmit a duly certified copy of this resolution to the Cumberland Town Council.

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