Prudence Island

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Coordinates: 41°37′01″N 71°18′59″W / 41.6170°N 71.3164°W / 41.6170; -71.3164

Prudence Island, shown in red, in the inner part of Narragansett Bay
Prudence Island Light in the early twentieth century
A more recent view of the Prudence Island Light, with the Mt. Hope Bridge in the background.
The Prudence Island Schoolhouse, built in 1896 (with indoor plumbing and a kitchen added to the side in 1951). On the corner of Broadway and Mt. Pleasant Ave.

Prudence Island is the third largest island in Narragansett Bay in the U.S. state of Rhode Island and part of the town of Portsmouth. It is located near the geographical center of the bay. It is defined by the United States Census Bureau as Block Group 3, Census Tract 401.03 of Newport County, Rhode Island. As of the 2000 census the population was 88 people living on a land area of 14.43 km² (5.57 sq mi).[1]


The Native American name for the island was "Chibachuweset" (or "Chibachuwese"), and the Narragansetts originally offered it for sale to John Oldham if he would settle there and set up a trading post. Oldham failed to meet the condition, so in 1637 the Narragansetts sold the island to Roger Williams and John Winthrop with each man retaining a one-half interest. Williams and Winthrop hoped to farm pigs on the island. Williams named the island "Prudence" and shortly afterwards purchased and named nearby Patience Island and Hope Island. Williams sold his half interest in Prudence Island while in England on behalf of the colony, and Winthrop willed his land to his son Stephen.[2][3]

In colonial times, the island was used mainly for farming. During the American Revolution, the British forces under Captain James Wallace raided Prudence Island for livestock and engaged in a skirmish with American forces, losing approximately a dozen soldiers. In the 20th century, farming began to decline and the island began to attract summer residences. In World War II, the U.S. Navy established an ammunition depot on the 400 acres (1.6 km2) southernmost of the island. In 1972, the Navy turned the base over to the State of Rhode Island, leaving bunkers, roads, and a large deep-water pier.

Along with nearby Hope Island and Patience Island, the former Naval Base is now home to the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, as well as the former Garland Estate on the northernmost part of the island. The Farnham Farm is a national historic site. The island is served by ferry service to Bristol, Rhode Island. Parts of the 2012 film, Moonrise Kingdom, were filmed on the island and nearby Jamestown, Rhode Island.[4]

Summer Colonies on Prudence Island[edit]

There are several different summer colonies on the island, named after either their plat names or by the original owner of the land / subdivision. These are in order from the south:


  1. ^ Block Group 3, Census Tract 401.03, Newport County United States Census Bureau
  2. ^ Letters of Roger Williams. 1632-1682. Now first collected, Oct. 28 1637, (Providence: Printed for the Narragansett Club, 1874) pg. 70 (accessed through The Library of Congress on July 19, 2009)[1]
  3. ^ Samuel Greene Arnold, History of the state of Rhode Island and Providence plantations Volume 1, (D. Appleton, 1859) pg. 105 [2]
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Unknown (1970). Chippaquasett: Indian Name of Prudence Island, Circa 1895 (Map). Cartography by Francis Curran.
  6. ^