Troubled history haunts Smith’s Castle in Rhode Island
By THOMAS D’AGOSTINO
The history of Smith’s Castle in North Kingstown, Rhode Island goes as far back as 1637 when Roger Williams and Richard Smith established a trading post on the land for local tribes and colonists to swap goods.
Williams, the founder of the Rhode Island colony, felt it important to build a trading post in the area in order to make friends with the local tribes. Richard Smith migrated to present day North Kingstown to build a home there. It was at the time called Smith’s Blockhouse, located in what is still known as Cocumcussoc. Being on the water, it seemed perfect for trade until the outbreak of King Philip’s War in 1675. There had already been Indian attacks upon the land and fearing for his family, he built tunnels that ran under the house and out to Rabbit Island very close by.
After the Great Swamp skirmish, the English militia hiked through the cold and snow to Smith’s home where many were nursed back to health but some, unfortunately, succumbed to their wounds and rigors of the brutal ordeal. Forty in all were buried in a single grave on the site. The area is well marked and easy to get to.
Another tragedy took place at the home after the fight. Joshua Teft was tried and found guilty of treason for helping the Narragansetts during the confrontation. He was duly hanged, drawn and quartered. Seventy men were ordered to remain behind after the Great Swamp fight, using the blockhouse as a temporary garrison. The day after they left, the Indians burned the house down in retaliation for the Great Swamp massacre. It was rebuilt in 1678 and thrived throughout the ages. In the 18th Century, it became a thriving plantation and is now labeled as the oldest in the nation. The property is also part of the Rhode Island Slave History Medallion program which promotes public awareness in regard to the awareness of former slavery in Rhode Island.
During the Revolutionary War, soldiers stayed at the secluded territory and according to historians of the manor, a few skirmishes on the land resulted in the untimely demise of some soldiers during the war.
Combining the events from King Philip’s War, the hanging of Joshua Teft, casualties of the Revolutionary War and the families of the property who died of more natural causes, it is inevitable that there would be ghosts lingering on the property. The ghosts of the castle seem to be trapped in an eternal struggle to right the negative energy that holds them to the homestead. Phantoms of people in colonial attire are occasionally seen wandering through various rooms. Some appear out of nowhere then vanish into thin air. Various witnesses have seen a soldier in a revolutionary uniform walking along the grounds near the water. Perhaps he was one who met a sad fate at the house or he is looking out to sea for something. His aeriform presence is semi-transparent. Noises from inside the house give the curators and other guests a start, as many times the origin of the din is in the room they are in.
Voices and sounds of items falling are also heard by the docents who wear period clothing during tours to capture the mood and perhaps attract a few of the long deceased tenants of the house. There are reports of phantom slaves who died while hiding in the escape tunnels below the house. The tunnels have long been closed due to their dangerously frail condition yet the moans of the past and the apparitions of those who once tenanted there still permeate the walls and air of the ancient building.
Smith’s Castle is a very great place to visit even if you don’t see the four centuries of the “other” living history.
The house is located at 55 Richard Smith Drive off Route 1. Follow same directions for places above. The house is closed from Mid-December to Mid-April.
Call (401) 294-3521 for more details.