February 5

This Day in History

General Interest

Feb 5, 1631:

Roger Williams arrives in America

Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island and an important American religious leader, arrives in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England. Williams, a Puritan, worked as a teacher before serving briefly as a colorful pastor at Plymouth and then at Salem. Within a few years of his arrival, he alarmed the Puritan oligarchy of Massachusetts by speaking out against the right of civil authorities to punish religious dissension and to confiscate Indian land. In October 1635, he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the General Court.

After leaving Massachusetts, Williams, with the assistance of the Narragansett tribe, established a settlement at the junction of two rivers near Narragansett Bay, located in present-day Rhode Island. He declared the settlement open to all those seeking freedom of conscience and the removal of the church from civil matters, and many dissatisfied Puritans came. Taking the success of the venture as a sign from God, Williams named the community "Providence."

Among those who found a haven in the religious and political refuge of the Rhode Island Colony were Anne Hutchinson,like Williams, exiled from Massachusetts for religious reasons; some of the first Jews to settle in North America; and the Quakers. In Providence, Roger Williams also founded the first Baptist church in America and edited the first dictionary of Native American languages.

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