"History of Barrington Village"

A lecture/slide show, presented by Bradford Smith Mr. Smith, a native of Barrington, received a PhD in History from Penn State. Presentation was held Feb. 26, 1997 at the Barrington Public Library; sponsored by the Barrington Preservation Society

The following is a summary of the talk as recalled by Kenneth A. Mason. The scope of the lecture was to describe the history and architecture of that area of Barrington near the present Congregational (White) Church, which is located at the intersection of Federal and County Roads. Until the mid-1800's this was the center of activity in the town.

Mr. Smith first discussed his research methods (research of documents and oral history). Sources of land records included:

  • Barrington Town Hall (post 1747 records)

  • Warren Town Hall (1717-1747 records)

  • Swansea Registry of Deeds (pre-1717)

  • Taunton, MA Registry (from when Barrington was a part of Massachusetts)

county road

In the (late) 1600's families started settling in Barrington. Most early homes were located in the southern part of town, in the Tyler Point area; a church was then sited either there or on Jenny's Lane (the historical record is not clear on this). In the early 1700's a number of homes were built in the northern part of town, near Hundred Acre Cove. Around 1730 it was decided to build a new Congregational Church. There was a long and vociferous debate between the northern and southern factions of the town over where the church should be located. The northern faction faction won and the church was constructed in 1734.

Mancini's StoreMr. Smith proceeded by discussing a number of old homes in the area both in terms of their history and architecturally.

There was a lengthy presentation on the John Martin house, built around 1680. It is of the Rhode Island stone-ender style, and originally consisted of only a few rooms. John Martin died in 1713. His estate is recorded; it includes two beds, a chest of draws, eleven plates and assorted pots among other things. Around 1750, the house was enlarged to a five-room plan. The Martins at this time had a farm of 200 acres and were a relatively wealthy and influential family in Barrington. Mr. Smith showed slides of the inside of the house today, including the original foundation.

The Samuel Allen house was built around 1730. It still stands at 409 County Rd. Mr. Allen was a shoemaker and one of two delegates to the R. I. Constitutional Convention in Newport. He cast one of two deciding votes to approve the U. S. Constitution. Note that Rhode Island was the last state of the thirteen to give approval.

Barrington was on the stage route from Providence to Newport until the 1850's when the stage ceased operation due to the building of the railroad in the 1850's. There were two taverns on that route in Barrington. The Bowen-Bicknell-Remington tavern was located on County Road north of the church, and is no longer standing. Joseph Kinnicutt operated another in 1780, it also stands no more. In 1840, Joseph's son, George built another, which still stands at 509 County Road. George was postmaster at this time and the building served as both the Barrington Post Office and as a stagecoach office. Evidence indicates that this was a major gathering place for men of the town. A considerable amount of whiskey and rum was consumed there; it is unclear if the consumers were mainly local menor transients.

The Bicknell family owned large amounts of land in the area and the Bicknell farm on Federal Road was acquired by the Episcopal church of R. I. in 1898 for the founding of St. Andrews School. On the school grounds is the parsonage for the Reverend Francis Horton, once the minister for the White Church.

In 1805, a new one-story Congregational Church of Federal-period architecture was built. In 1852 it was remodelled and raised to accomodate a vestry underneath. The 1852 steeple was destroyed in the '38 hurricane and had to be rebuilt. In the '60's a new function building for administration, Sunday school, etc. was built.

congregational churchMr. Smith discussed several other structures in the area, some since gone. The Royal D. Horton house, a striking Victorian with Mansard roof still stands a bit north of the church on County Road.

With the coming of the railroad, the center activity in Barrington shifted to Drownville (West Barrington) with its manufacturing companies. The Barrington Shopping Center was built in the '50's and the town's activity shifted to it.

As a result of the conflict between the north faction and the south faction of town, the cemetery was placed midway in between the two, as was the town hall.

After the talk, there was a reception with refreshments in the Preservation Society's museum. The 150 attendees seemed quite pleased by both the content and the style of the talk. Mr. Smith has obviously done a lot of work on this subject.

Photo of County Road and the White Church in 1861. Barrington, RI
Courtesy of the Barrington Preservation Society
The notes from this lecture were taken and submitted by Ken Mason