The history of Touisset Point, the Town of Warren and the Touisset Point Community Club are intertwined. Ours is a unique location with a special sense of place connecting current and future residents to those who enjoyed our little corner of the world throughout the ages. To best appreciate what we have today, it is helpful to take a look back at who and what came before us.
Native American and Colonial History
Touisset comes from the Native American Wampanoag name Toweset which is translated variously as “at the old field” and “at the corn field.” Before the arrival of European settlers, and evidenced by shell piles and arrowheads unearthed by later residents, Touisset Point was, at least seasonally, inhabited by Native Americans who enjoyed the bounty of the land, air and water.
The meeting and mixing of freshwater from the inland sources of the Kickemuit and Cole Rivers and saltwater of Mount Hope and Narragansett Bay refreshed and fed by the Atlantic Ocean tides creates breeding grounds, nurseries and habitats for a wide range of marine creatures and aquatic vegetation, which, in turn, provides sustenance for many land-based creatures and a variety of birds. These waters also provide nourishment and wonderful opportunities for recreation and travel for people throughout time.
The word Kickemuit, also from the Native American Wampanoag lexicon, has undergone a number of different spellings over time includingCecamuet, Kecamuet, Kickimuitand Kickamuit, and translates, in English, to “at the great spring,” referencing a freshwater water source near the banks of what is today the Warren River. Today, Massasoit’s spring is commemorated by a plaque at the foot of Baker Street in downtown Warren. When the Pilgrims landed on the shores of Plymouth, many Wampanoags lived in the area known as Sowams, which includes what is now Warren and Barrington in Rhode Island and Swansea and Somerset in Massachusetts. Just prior to the establishment of colonial Plymouth, a plague killed a significant number of Wampanoags, including many of their warriors, leaving them vulnerable. In 1621, a delegation from Governor Bradford of Plymouth first met with the Wampanoags’ Chief Sachem Massasoit who ruled the area named Pokanoketwhich included all the land from Plymouth west to Narragansett Bay. Two years later, Edward Winslow, a member of the first delegation, learning of Massasoit’s illness, helped restore his health and won the Sachem’s friendship for the English.
By 1632, an English trading post was established on the west bank of the Kickemuit River, now part of East Warren. In 1653, Massasoit sold a large section of Pokanoket to some English settlers including the Sowams Lands which, in 1667, were incorporated by the Court of Plymouth as the town of Swansea, Massachusetts. This area included the present towns of Warren and Barrington, Rhode Island and Somerset, Massachusetts. Mount Hope Neck, the central part of present Warren and Bristol was reserved for the Native Americans.
After Massasoit’s death in 1661, his oldest son Wamsutta, also known as Alexander, became the Wampanoag’s Sachem. In 1665, the death of Alexander on his way home from Plymouth, after his forcible arrest on a false rumor that he was plotting an uprising, strained the past friendship between the English and the Wampanoags. In 1669, Wamsutta’s brother Metacomet, also known as Metacom and King Philip, sold Hugh Cole and others five hundred acres in Swansea on the west bank of the Cole River. With that purchase, Touisset Point passed from the Wampanoags to the English settlers. A year after this purchase, Cole and some other town officers traded Dormit Smith ten acres on the Kickemuit River in exchange for ten acres of Mattapoisett, now South Swansea.
Metacomet had a camp at Mount Hope Point in what is today part of Bristol. On the hill, called Montaupby the Native Americans and Mount Hope by the colonists (which gave that point of land and surrounding bay its name), and visible from Touisset Point, there is a location known as King Philip’s Seat, overlooking Mount Hope Bay. That is where Metacom held council with his followers.
Growing mutual distrust and fear bred bad relations between the Wampanoags and the English settlers, and, on June 20, 1675, a coalition of Native American tribes, led by Metacomet engaged the colonists in what is now known as King Philip’s War. During the War, 12 colonial towns were destroyed and many Native Americans and colonial settlers were killed. The War ended shortly after Metacomet was tracked and shot by a scout for Benjamin Church. This marked the end of local Native American resistance to the English colonial settlers. For more detailed information on King Philip’s War click here.
Following peace in 1677, settlers, who had been driven from their homes by warfare, returned to rebuild Sowams. The Sowams Purchase of 1653 was divided into farm and building lots. Development of the main part of Warren began in 1682 with the “Brooks’ Pasture First Division” of lots extending from the old Bristol line (Franklin
Street) north to present-day Wood and Liberty Streets. In 1725, Brooks’ Pasture Second Division occurred dividing the north section of Warren. The old Back Road or Bristol Highway, now Metacom Avenue, was the original Native American trail from Mount Hope. This trail becomes Market Street going north, and passes King’s Rock on the Warren-Swansea line. This grooved flat stone is thought to be the communal corn-grinding stone of the Wampanoags. (See sowamsheritagearea.org/wp/kings-rock/) Main Street was the Native American trail from Poppasquash in Bristol north to the present bridge to Barrington.
In 1746, by Royal Decree of the English King, George II, Swansea and Barrington, with a small part of Rehoboth evolved into the Town of Warren, named after Commander Sir Peter Warren, an English naval officer famous for his involvement in the surrender of the French city of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia in 1745. For more on Sir Warren, click here.
Warren’s first town meeting, a tradition which continues into the present, was held on February 10, 1747. The first census of 1748 listed the Town’s total population at 380 including 30 Native Americans (by 1782, only three Native Americans remained). The Captain John Mason Homestead on Maple Road, Touisset Point, dates from 1720 and has undergone many renovations. The old Mason family cemetery on a knoll overlooking the Cole River lies just east of this house. At one time, the Mason family owned all the land on the south part of Touisset.
At the time of the American Revolution, Warren was the center of thriving and renowned shipbuilding, and marine-related industries, including the slave trade, flourished on the banks of the Warren River at the site of downtown Warren. Inland, the land was primarily devoted to agriculture. Some of the old names are recognizable today, Cromwell and Caleb Child operated a shipyard at the foot of Miller Street, and Jesse Baker and his four sons operated a cooperage (barrel-making) in town. Warren sailors engaged in American coastal trade, West Indian (Caribbean) commerce, and some whaling. On May 25, 1778, the British and Hessians raided Warren and, in the Kickemuit River, captured and burned an American-owned fleet of seventy large, flat-bottomed boats. The British force then went to Warren and set fire to the Baptist church and parsonage. On this occasion, some Warren women surrounded and captured a British drummer.During the Revolution, Warren’s 1776 population of 1,005 (including 98 slaves) was reduced to 789 by 1778. Businesses were destroyed, twenty-three vessels were lost, shipyards were empty, farms neglected, and the population was destitute. It took many years for Warren to recover, though it remained a major maritime center for whaling ships and ships to California during the Gold Rush, until about 1860.
Following the battle of Rhode Island on July 13, 1778, the Marquis de Lafayette took charge of troops on the eastern shore of the Bay, moving his troops from Bristol to Warren, joining at Windmill Hill. During the severe winter of 1778-1779, Windmill Hill was abandoned and troops were quartered in the wharf buildings and private Warren houses. The French army under Count Rochambeau arrived in July 1780. French troops were quartered on the old Windmill Hill site in October. Warren’s Burr’s Tavern, originally located on the southwest corner of Main and Washington Streets, was where General, later President, George Washington was entertained while visiting Warren on March 13, 1781.
United States merchants, including Warren residents Ebenezer Cole, Caleb Eddy, Samuel and Sylvester Child, resumed the slave trade after the Revolution despite the 1787 Rhode Island General Assembly act forbidding Rhode Islanders from engaging in slaving and the 1794 U.S. Congress’ action making it a federal crime to violate state laws against the slave trade and imposing strict penalties on slavers. From 1803-1807, approximately 600 slaves were illegally carried from Africa to the Charleston, South Carolina market in Warren ships. By 1808, the U.S. Congress abolished the Atlantic slave trade.
In 1846, following a century-long boundary dispute between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, an interstate line was agreed upon, running from Birch Swamp through Touisset. Although, due to the absence of recognizable markers, the actual line was not well-defined. According to Simeon Borden of Fall River, a surveyor at the time, “Between King’s Rock and the bay at Toweset (sic), I could not find anything in the form of a monument, excepting a stone set in a wall. No person pretends to know very exactly where the line is.”
Touisset Point’s Summer Community History 1870 –1930
The development of Touisset Point as a summer community began in the 1870s when some Rhode Islanders and others bought or rented farmhouses as summer homes. Among the early summer folk was Theodore Francis Greene who later became Governor of Rhode Island (1933–1937), served as United States Senator (1937–1961), and after whom the State’s main airport is named. Green’s biographer noted, “The favorite summer home was a farmhouse at Touisset, Rhode Island. There they went year after year, for it was an ideal place for children, and they led a plain, happy, healthy life – boating, bathing, and roaming over the farm.”
In 1901, the Coggeshall farm development was laid out on paper as a neat array of symmetrical lots, fifty feet wide and generally a hundred feet deep, with streets named, though by no means paved. Bradbury and George and Coggeshall Streets ran north and south, and Brownell ran east to west, paralleling Mount Hope Bay. Brownell turned right into Emery Road at the west and left onto Bayview Avenue at the east. Enough land was left between Brownell Street and the bluff to allow house lots fronting on Mount Hope Bay. Owners of these waterfront lots had direct shoreline access. In addition, four residents-only deeded right-of-way easements were established for the use and shoreline access of those owning inland lots within the Coggeshall development.
At this time, the end of Touisset Point Road opening on the Kickemuit River became a gathering place for residents’ bathing and boating. Mrs. Josiah Coggeshall (Minnie to her neighbors) established a small store in a building in back of the “Clover Leaf” house (#35 Touisset Point Road) at the intersection with Bayview Avenue.
The sale of lots and building of houses was a gradual process, and, even twenty years later, the area west of Bradbury Street was overgrown with vegetation. Homans’ Grove, above Chase’s Cove, provided a view across Touisset Point and down Mount Hope Bay, and picnickers in the Grove could see the Fall River boats go by and the puffs of steam preceding the sound of the whistle when they rounded Mount Hope Point. The first two decades of the twentieth century were horse and buggy days, and at least one of the cottages of this period (Hiram Cushman’s) provided quarters for horses, as well as people. Another means of access to the Point was by way of the Consolidated Electric Railroad Line which ran from Providence to Fall River, with a station house and stop in Touisset, Massachusetts. The stationhouse, now a private residence, still stands on the left side of Pearse Road when leaving the Point next to the now abandoned rail line. Many of the summer visitors came from Pawtucket or Attleboro and changed railroad cars at Providence. A local man, Job Davis, would bring travelers in his horse and wagon, for a fee, from the station to the Point.
In the early 1900’s, the Coggeshalls took in boarders. A Mrs. Orr said of boarding with Josiah and Minnie at the farm, “Those suppers of squid and Johnnycakes still remain in my memory.” There was no electricity or telephone except at the Coggeshall Store, which had been moved to what is now the Touisset Point Community Club’s Rural Station when Josiah and Minnie moved to the farmhouse in 1906. At night, after the evening milking of the Coggeshall farm cows, residents went to the Store for milk. Water was obtained from the Coggeshall well, which served as the basis for the current Touisset Point Water Trust system.
While houses were still few and far between, some families were well established. Mrs. Marion Manchester White recalled, in the first decade of this century, her parents bought three Brownell Street lots from the Coggeshalls and put up a tent in which they lived, and also a separate cook-tent. They had to carry drinking water from the Coggeshall farm and used a rain barrel to collect water for their other needs.
Mr. Coggeshall charged a dollar for driving anyone to the Touisset Railroad Station, but youngsters would more often walk, saving the dollar for spending money. One long-time resident remembered the Depression years, when “We would take the electric train to Fall River and go to the dime-store for lunch, then to the movies, and back again.”
On the Kickemuit shore, at the end of Touisset Point Road on the north side, there was an oyster-house, projecting into the river. The oyster house was destroyed in the 1938 Hurricane, but the land it stood on now connects to the private boat docks. Oysters were plentiful in the Kickemuit, and Mount Hope Bay was a major source as well. The Hurricane of 1938 and oyster blight decimated the industry and, although some oysters are now found locally, the wild fishery has not returned.
A few houses then stood on the north side of Brownell Street including the Hewins (now #21) house, and the Patterson (now #15) cottage, but most of the land to the north was vacant all the way to the Coggeshall farm.
A new era of building began in 1918. In that year, the T. Stewart Littles began coming to the Point, along with the Ramsbottoms and the Orrs, who all built substantial houses. At first, they rented the houses for $60, then $70, and $90 a month. These were good rents before the installation of electricity, but the many merits of Touisset Point were, even then, appreciated and valued.
During the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition, Touisset Point witnessed more than a few rum-runners bringing their cargoes of illegal liquor into Mount Hope Bay and used the Kickemuit River shores as a drop-off points. Locals knew the safe passages and channels of the Bay and River, often better than law enforcement officials who found it difficult to safely venture up the unmarked channels.
Over time, the Touisset Point bluffs facing Mount Hope Bay were strengthened by the placement of large boulders from nearby farmlands. After major storms which sometimes undermined the shoreline, new boulders were added. During President Franklin Roosevelt’s term as United States President, his Works Progress Administration (WPA 1935-1939) helped shore up the Touisset Point bluffs by creating concrete abutments along the shoreline.
Spar Island, a patch of land in the middle of Mount Hope Bay, which was further built up using material dredged from the Fall River ship channel, was once declared private property. Warren resident William C. Monast went through the process of claiming it as his property and subsequently built a structure on it where he sold hot dogs and magazines to visitors in boats. Some current Touisset residents were among those who occasionally frequented the joint and note some of Monast’s magazines were worth the trip for youngsters with heaving hormones. A nod is as good as a wink!
Touisset Point Community Club History 1919-2019*
The following Club highlights to the 1970 are drawn from various sources including a synopsis of existing Board Meeting Minutes. Further relevant information is welcomed.
1919:A Club is Born
One Sunday afternoon early in 1919, some Touisset Point residents proposed forming a tennis club and, on July 4, 1919, it was formally organized, with George R. Ramsbottom as the first President. This was the beginning of the Touisset Point Tennis Club (which later became our beloved Touisset Point Community Club). Josiah Coggeshall leased the land for two tennis courts, “on a lot (now #18 Bradbury Street) beside Miss Minnie Linton’s cottage” (now #4 George Street) to the Club.
At the new Club’s first meeting, membership was opened to all families “living below the Hyde cottage, with the exception of the Dows.” The Dows lived on Stonegate Road (beyond the then stated membership border); Lillian Dow was the Club Secretary.
At the second meeting, Club bylaws were drawn up and accepted, and it was agreed that “all male members of the Club constituted the committee to make all decisions about building the tennis courts” through a combination of hired labor and volunteer efforts. Apparently, the new Club courts left a good deal to be desired, in this early phase. According to Club member Stewart Little (no relation to the famous mouse of the same name), “When they were dry, they made the Western dust-bowl storms look like amateur ones. And when they were wet, they were mud”.
The first Club social event was a picnic supper held in the Grove [below 11 Touisset Road]. The Club’s Board of Governors set the policy, still in practice today, that Club events are paid by solicited funds, not out of Club dues. A swim float located in front of the Blair cottage (owned by several Pawtucket families) was donated to Club. Thirty households joined the Club in the first year.
1920s: Acquisition of land; high demand for tennis
Tennis proved increasingly popular and Club membership grew rapidly during the 1920s. Problems of capacity and maintenance of the two Bradbury Street courts led the Club to rent 6 lots from Josiah Coggeshall (80, 81, 82, 92, 93, 94, where the courts are today) and build four clay tennis courts in an effort to meet the high demand. The lots were purchased in 1922 at a cost of $300 apiece. The Club began the process of incorporating as a non-profit social club in order to obtain a mortgage for these properties. Funds were raised from social events and bridge parties as well as a raffle on a Ford car (the cost of the car was $366; the raffle raised $679). Through the 20s and early 30s the mortgage on these land purchases was paid off bit by bit as funds came in. The social life of the community was, from the outset, much as it is today — with water sports, bridge games, dinners, and dances in addition to tennis tournaments for children and adults. Minnie Coggeshall’s Dance Hall (“Casino” – little house) was rented for Club social activities, which included Community sings every Sunday evening. The Store where Minnie sold household necessities to summer residents became a Rural Postal Station in 1922.
Josiah Mason was hired to maintain the courts and Josiah Coggeshall to bring in the rafts at the end of the season.
Four additional lots (78, 79, 95, 96, adjacent to the tennis courts) were purchased in 1923, plowed and seeded for use as a playing field. Non-Club members who were resident in Touisset for short periods were permitted to use the tennis courts for a seasonal fee of $10.
1930s: Merger with Yacht Club; Incorporation as Community Club of Touisset Point, Inc.; acquisition of buildings; criteria for membership
The Casino and Store (which served as a Rural Postal Station) were originally rented by the Club. The Store was managed by various tenants and provided many of life’s daily necessities to summer residents. It was a popular gathering spot for children of the community to buy ice cream and candy before the movies, which began being shown at the Club House in the mid 1930s. Both buildings were purchased in 1938 and the land on which they stood was purchased in 1940. The playing field area was increased by the 1937 purchase of lots 75, 76, 77, 97, and 98. The fields were used for horseshoe pitching, archery, and baseball.
The Yacht Club, which had existed separately from the Tennis Club, was merged with the Tennis Club in 1934. The name was officially changed to The Community Club of Touisset Point and incorporated as a non-profit social club in 1935.
The Board budgeted $125 a season to hire a caretaker for the tennis courts and the float. A recreation director was hired to teach tennis, archery, and swimming.
The Board aggressively sought to expand Club membership. There were 109 households as members by 1936. However, Jewish and Catholic residents, were unfairly and unfortunately excluded.
1940s: Renovations and repairs; water supply; “talkies”; sailing; and shuffleboard
A Mr. Thomas was contracted to renovate the newly acquired Club House for a bid of $1200. The plans were drawn up gratisby A.J. Lapine. Club women were responsible for furnishing the kitchen. Flag pins were sold to raise $35 for fireplace accessories. Donations for the renovations included knotty pine for the walls, furniture, and considerable labor from member volunteers. The Board decided against hiring a full-time employee to maintain the grounds and properties and instead to rely on member volunteers. To this end, they purchased a power mower! Repairs to the Store were ongoing (shingling in 1944; kitchen and separate living quarters for tenants in 1946; floors in 1947). Additional repairs to the Clubhouse were also required, along with constant work on the tennis courts and float.
The supply of water to residents became an issue of serious concern during these years. Al Ratier had been operating the well water system which, though on Club property, did not belong to the Club. The Board formed a committee to investigate the possibility of obtaining water from the Town of Warren. In 1949, the Bristol County Water Authority reported that: a) it was impossible to bring water across the Narrows because of the tide rip; and b) the cost to install pipe from Butterworth’s Corner [Child Street] was prohibitive. At the time, the estimate was $106,697 to lay pipe and install hydrants and $20,099.25 to replace pavement. An estimate of $50,000 for water delivery was obtained from the Swansea Massachusetts Water Authority, but no decision was reached.
Club membership dipped to around 75 households during the 1940s, but social activities continued apace, including several successful sailing regattas. Talkies were introduced on movie nights in 1940. A jukebox was installed in the Club House in 1942, and a Junior Club was formed to provide teen social activities. Funds were allocated for a shuffleboard court. The popularity of summer activities led to several attempts to control the number of Club guests and non-members using Club facilities. After residents petitioned the Town, an ordinance was passed in 1945 to prohibit parking and “dressing and undressing on the highways and beaches.” The responsibility of abutting residents (not the Club) for maintenance of the four, deeded, private rights of way off Brownell Street was specifically articulated (for more information see: Rights of Way on TPCC website).
1950s: Water system installed; youth population explosion
The Board purchased Mr. Ratier’s water system: well, pump, tank, pipes; and embarked on an extensive (and expensive) program that included a new well and pump near George Street and installing new pipes on Brownell Street for distribution to residents’ homes. Water was available only in the summer. The Board was constantly challenged to obtain payments from the 44 water subscribers and sought to keep water expenses from draining other Club funds.
These were the halcyon days at the edges of memory of many current  residents. Janet Frazier, who had summered in Touisset all her life (daughter of Marion Manchester White), organized the growing population of youth and children with dance classes and musical variety shows. The Junior Club waxed and waned as teen enthusiasm is wont to do. A Junior-Junior Club was formed for the younger children (under nominal supervision of the teens) as a service and social organization, with responsibilities for beach clean-up and Clubhouse duties in addition to beach cookouts and evening parties. Sailing, swimming, and tennis competitions defined the days; evening movies and treats from the Store were a weekly highlight.
All these amenities attracted young people from across the Narrows and from neighboring farms, leading several Board members to propose increasingly complex schemes to limit guests and outsiders. The continued exclusion of Jewish residents from Club membership was a painful display of adult intolerance that dismayed the more open-minded youth.
1960s: High demand for organized youth programs; facilities showing wear and tear
Several families established year-round residences, contributing to ongoing issues with water distribution.
Summer activities continued to be the main focus of Club attention, with checkers, shuffleboard (with lights for nighttime play), ring toss, badminton, and croquet added to the always-popular tennis, swimming, and sailing. There were youth sailing lessons and competitions along with highly competitive adult races. Sweet’s Pier (on Mount Hope Bay at #40 Brownell Street) was crowded with sailors and spectators for Wednesday night races, barbecues, and fireworks. The high demand for access to programs led to a limitation of the membership area to Touisset Point (including Shell Road), Calder Plat, Touisset Point Road up to and including all of Maple Road [no mention of Stonegate or the Highlands] in 1966. However, by 1969, several residents of the Highlands were accepted as members.
The Store ceased to be a Post Office Rural Station after 1965, and it struggled to keep up sufficient business to stay open. There were problems of vandalism and general deterioration of all Club properties — buildings, floats, tennis courts. Members donated much of the material needed for repairs, and volunteers undertook a great deal of the work.
1970s: Huge increase in year-round residences; formation of Social Committee
A number of families moved to Touisset as year-round residents. Where there had been only two year-round water subscribers in 1965, there were 50 by 1981.
1970s and Beyond: Stories to be continued…
The information above was collected, written and edited by current residents and TPCC members Rick Massie (#15 Brownell Street) and Jacque Russom (#2 George Street). They drew on a range of sources including past resident and Club member Ben Clough’s Club History, local history sources, and the Club’s Board of Governors’ Meeting Minutes.
Relating the history of Touisset Point and the Touisset Point Community Club is an ongoing project and the participation and contributions of current and past Club members and residents are welcomed!
Please send your Touisset Point and Club-related stories, in writing, via email to: