September 1, 2014
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Historic Homes
Hopelands, Rocky Hill School part 2
Don D'Amato
Terry Spencer
The swans gliding on the Greene River (Potowomut) remind us of the beauty of the area. It is as beautiful today as it was at the time of the Greene and Brown families.

On first glance, Potowomut seems separated from the rest of Warwick, but if we remember that travel in the 1600s was much easier by water than by land we can see that the “land of fires” was a natural extension of Old Warwick.

After the Great Swamp Fight destroyed the once powerful Narragansett tribe and King Philip’s War was over, the Greenes wee unhampered in their move to Potowomut. In 1684 James Greene, son of John the founder, established his home on Hunt’s River at what was to be called “The Forge.” Two years after James established himself there, his nephew, Thomas Greene, built his home near the moth of the Potowomut River near Marsh Point. The house he built in 1686 is included in one of the wings at Hopelands. Thomas Greene drowned in the winter of 1698-99 and his son, John Greene, inherited the Potowomut homestead. This John Greene was one of Warwick’s most prosperous farmers, owning vast herds of cattle, sheep and horses. He gave his homestead to his eldest son, Richard. For 20 years the Greene “mansion house” was the scene of great hunting parties and lavish entertainments. The guest list included both wealthy colonists and British officials. This high style of living gave Richard Greene the title of “King Richard.” He ruled the large estate in a manner that would be envied by many of the royalty of Europe.

When the hostilities between the colonists and the British erupted in 1775, Richard made it very clear that he thought the colonists’ action was “a rebellion against lawful authority.” He became a major supplier of valuable information as well as scarce and much-needed provisions to the British. The name “King Richard” became synonymous with “Tory” and “traitor.” Friends and neighbors, who once felt honored to be invited to his home, now openly hated him. Rebel colonists, in an attempt to stop Richard from trading with the British, threw so much debris into the Potowomut River that no ships could sail up to the estate. It was many years after the war before the debris could be cleared and Potowomut was never again to be an important trade center of the 18th century.

Hated by his neighbors, deeply in debt, and suffering from a painful disease, Richard abandoned his beautiful home and lands to his creators and fled to the safety of British-occupied Newport. He died there in 1779, an exile in his own country.

Among Greene’s chief creditors were the Browns of Providence. While the Greenes had amassed great wealth through agricultural pursuits, the Browns had become rich through the maritime trade. One of the famous brothers, Nicholas Brown, wanted to buy Greene’s estate. He intended to give it to his daughter, Hope, when she married. Nicholas died before the marriage took place, but when Hope Brown married Thomas Poynton Ives in 1792, her uncles John, Joseph and Moses gave her the estate as a wedding present. The estate became known as Hopelands.

The story of Hopelands will be continued.


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