Kent County Times Article - Natural and Cultural Resources groups
Villages - Rice City, Cov. - Rice City once known for its 'seedier' side
By: Greg Elias , Daily Times Staff
RICE CITY - Though it has become a sleepy New England village, Rice City was once a hotbed for the seedier side of 19th Century society and a historic crossing ground.
Samuel Gorton, an English Sectary (dissenter from the Church of England), bought land from the Narragansett Indians at what is now Warwick with 11 other associates, according to Jeanne Lavoie of Greene, a parishioner at the Rice City Church. The land eventually became parts of Coventry, Warwick and all of West Warwick.
In 1672, after most of the original purchasers of the land had died, their descendents divided the land into two tracts along what was known as the "Seven and 10 Line," named for the number of people each tract was allotted to. The land north of the line was allotted to the seven, with the land south going to the 10 purchasers' descendents.
According to Lavoie, brothers Adam and Gabriel Love came to New England in 1730, buying land on the side of the Seven and 10 Line that was allotted to the seven. The land they bought was close to the current location of the Rice City Church.
Adam Love built the first home in Coventry, a log domicile that was located where the Plainfield Pike (formerly Great North Road) and Lionel Pierson Road meet. Lavoie said that by the latter 18th Century most residents were sheepherders and loggers, among other duties, as the land was too hard to be farmed.
The land that would be known as Rice City, according to Lavoie, was a major stop along the route from Providence to Willimantic, Conn., and was home to one of the most renowned taverns along the way. Samuel Rice was the tavern keeper at the Rice City Tavern, which he also built. Rice's brother owned the land the tavern was built on. Lavoie said the tavern was built between 1796 and 1801, and described Rice City at the time as being "like Sin City."
She said the tavern attracted the worst elements of society and was a haven for gambling, drinking and "loose women." Rice, who Lavoie said was known to have a flair for the flamboyant and spectacular, held an all-day opening party for the tavern. According to Lavoie, Rice climbed a ladder to the roof of the tavern during the night, proclaiming, "This house will be known as Rice Tavern!" and, while gesturing wildly, named the town Rice City.
According to Lavoie, Rice was later converted and became the clerk of the Rice City Church. Lavoie said much of her information was gathered from documents from Western Rhode Island Historical Society articles from the 1940s.
When railroad lines were built through the town and surrounding areas during the middle of the 19th century, stagecoaches, carriages, and wagons became obsolete. This severely affected traffic along Plainfield Pike, slowing activity in the area.