The history of this village began many years before European contact, as it was part of a well-traveled passage of the Native Americans. These prehistoric paths along the coast eventually became the foundation of the Old Post Road around 1703, which provided for the establishment and commerce of Cross' Mills.
With the ancient site of Fort Ninigret just 1/4 mile to the southwest on the 'Pequot Trail', one of the earliest written records in existence of this area was made by Capt. John Mason during his famous march from Narragansett Bay on his way to Connecticut to fight the Pequots in 1637. However, there are references to an earlier date relative to Dutch and Indian trade dating as far back as the late 1500's to early 1600's at this site. Here, then, lived the Niantics, subsidiary to the larger Nahahiggansick (Narragansett) Tribe to the Northeast.
By the late 1600's, this village, though sparse of homes, was an established community. Many who settled here were listed as 'freemen' in 'Misquamocuck' (Misquamicut), of which present day Charlestown was then a part of. Cross' Mills was the only village between Westerly and Tower Hill for many years.
The Village derived its name from the Cross family, one of Charlestown's founding families, who immigrated here from Scotland. Joseph Cross, son of original settler, John Cross, purchased the mill in 1709. Historian William Franklin Tucker, in his "Historical Sketch of the Town of Charlestown in RI, from 1636 to 1876", writes regarding the mill …
"The first information relating to a grist mill is found on record in Sachem Ninigret's deed to the colony, dated March 28, 1709. This mill then belonged to Joseph Davill and was in good working condition at that time. It was located on the brook at Cross' Mills, where the present one stands; but I am unable to find in my present researches, the exact date when the mill was first built. This is the only grist mill in the town, and Peleg Cross and his heirs have held possession of it for a long time…"
For the next 300 years, the Cross Family held positions of community and government leadership. The village became the center of town with a grist mill, postal service, blacksmith, store and eventually a school, church and meeting hall, and provided a stopping point for weary travelers as well as many statesmen making their way north to Providence or Boston along the Old Post Road.
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