Pawcatuck, Pawtucket, Pawtuxet: Three Places in Rhode Island?

Pawcatuck, Pawtucket, Pawtuxet: Three Places in Rhode Island?

Submissions by Linda Matthews and by Joanne Lahr-Kreischer

Linda Matthew's Post to the Rhode Island Genealogical Web Mailing List

Morris County (N.J.) Library

(The following appears on the Whipple Website with Linda's permission and corrections. It originally appeared on the on December 10, 1997.)

Seeing the discussion about Pawcatuck and Pawtucket inspired me to complicate things further by adding Pawtuxet.

As someone has already said, Pawcatuck is in Connecticut, just over the line from Westerly, R.I. There was a long-standing boundary dispute between Rhode Island and Connecticut concerning all of the land in southern R.I.--just about all of what is now Washington County. There are lots of records of Rhode Islanders being thrown in jail in Connecticut for encroaching on what Conn. considered theirs, as Conn. at one time claimed all the land up to Narragansett Bay. Eventually, the line was established as the Pawcatuck River, separating Westerly and Pawcatuck. There was a lot of moving back and forth across the R.I./Conn. boundary, so the same family is often found in both states.

Pawtucket is in the extreme northeast. The part of the modern Pawtucket that is east of the Seekonk River was originally part of Rehoboth, in Plymouth Colony. Rehoboth was constantly being split up and recombined, and is a real mess. In 1862 that part of Pawtucket was ceded to R.I. In 1874, the part of Pawtucket to the west of the river was taken from North Providence, which had been set off from Providence in 1765.

Pawtuxet is a village at the mouth of the Pawtuxet River, and is in the present cities of Cranston and Warwick. The original Pawtuxet settlement was a part of Providence, but the settlers were a contentious lot, and for some years actually placed themselves under the protection of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Fairly early, the line between Warwick and Providence was established as the Pawtuxet River, so the southern part of the village of Pawtuxet became a part of Warwick. The part north of the river was a part of Providence until Cranston was split off in 1754.

I have seen more confusion between Pawtucket and Pawtuxet in R.I. records than between Pawtucket and Pawcatuck. Pawtucket means "Great Falls" and Pawtuxet means "Little Falls." I thought I should add the information about Pawtuxet because it was a very important early settlement. People not familiar with R.I. geography and just looking at a map might not find Pawtuxet and assume it is a misprint for Pawtucket. They were (and are) very different places.

Entries from the Official Gazeteer of Rhode Island(*).

Submitted by Joanne Lahr-Kreischer

(Joanne came across the following during a visit to the New England Historical & Genealogical Society Library, June 1998.)

Pawcatuck - river
in South Kingstown, Washington County, heading in Worden Pond and flowing west and south into Little Narragansett Bay. Forms part of Rhode Island-Connecticut boundary. (Not Charles.)
Pawtucket - city
in Providence County, northeast of Providence at Pawtucket Falls. Incorporated in 1862.
Pawtucket - falls
near center of city of Pawtucket, Providence County, where the Blackstone River falls into tidewater, and becomes the Seekonk River.
Pawtucket - reservoir
in Lincoln, Providence County, northeast of Olney Pond on Stump Hill. (Not Stump Hill Reservoir.)
Pawtuxet - cove
in Cranston, Providence County, on west shore of Providence River at the mouth of Pawtuxet River.
Pawtuxet - river
formed by union of its north and south branches at Riverpoint, in West Warwick, Kent County, flowing east into Providence River at Pawtuxet.
Pawtuxet - valley
the valley of the Pawtuxet River between Washington, in Coventry and Pontiac, in Warwick, Kent County.
Pawtuxet - village
in Cranston, Providence County, and in Warwick, Kent County, at Pawtuxet Falls on the west bank of Providence River.

* Official Gazetteer of Rhode Island / Compiled by the Rhode Island Geographic Board in Cooperation with the United States Geographic Board. -- Washington, D.C. : United States Government Printing Office, 1832. Page 62.