Sin and Flesh Brook a horrific reminder of King Philip’s War
By THOMAS D’AGOSTINO
There are many relics of King Philip’s War, a conflict that has been proclaimed to be the most brutal and bloodiest war ever fought on American soil. The war was not only fought between soldiers from either side, villages and settlements were attacked and burned, killing women and children as well. The object of the war was, from both sides, to completely eradicate the other from the land.
Fort Barton in Tiverton, Rhode Island offers a 2.3 mile loop where hikers can explore an important parcel of history and take in some of the most stunning views the state has to offer. The trail is not hard to navigate being mostly flat and if you hear the sound of gunfire, do not be alarmed. What you hear is not a ghostly battle being replayed, but instead, the noise from a nearby firing range. If you see some indigenous people attacking a person dressed in very old minister clothing, that is not a reenactment. You have just witnessed the ghosts of Sin And Flesh Brook reliving the moment that gave the waterway its rather macabre name. Sin & Flesh Brook runs southwesterly from the area near Fish Road and Route 24, terminating at Nanaquaket Pond. The best place to see it and perhaps the ghosts is by hiking on the trails in Fort Barton Woods.
On March 28, 1676, at the height of King Philip’s War, Quaker minister Zoeth Howland mounted his steed and left his Dartmouth, Massachusetts home to travel to Newport, Rhode Island for a meeting. Traveling alone during this period in time was dangerous due to the raiding native parties traveling through the woods in small bands. Howland felt the Lord would protect him as he and his steed meandered along the small trail that would take him to his destination. He had covered fifteen of the thirty-mile trip when he tragically became a casualty of the war. When he reached the path in Tiverton, six hostile Indians ambushed him.
The Quaker preacher was tortured and killed. His mutilated body was found in an unnamed stream still running red with his blood. The stream became known as “Sinning Flesh River” in remembrance of the horrific event. Over the years, the name evolved to Sin and Flesh Brook.
People may now travel the paths along the river and the fort with ease of danger but Zoeth, still trying to get to his meeting, makes his way among the leaves and brush along the banks of the watercourse. People claim to have heard ethereal screams from the direction of the river and have claimed to even see the river run red with blood. Zoeth has made an appearance to more than one hiker on the trail that still traverses the area where he was killed. The ghastly event has played itself out, sometimes in front of astonished witnesses and other times when no one is there to witness it, just as there was no one when Howland met his fate. The trail loop is worth a visit whether you are looking for scenery or paranormal activity. Thanks to six Indians and a Quaker minister, Fort Barton is one of the places that harbors ghosts from King Philip’s War.
Sin and Flesh Brook is located on the eastern side of Tiverton. Follow directions above. Just past Nannaquaket Road will be Bridgeport Road. Take left onto Bridgeport Road and then right onto Old Main Road. The brook crosses under the road at its starting point where the little pond on the right is. The trail leads to Fort Barton, the small ruins of a Revolutionary War fort, as it snakes back and forth over the river.