Hanton City

Posted By on September 17, 2016

Hanton City

3.6 miles; Smithfield, RI

Oh, very nice! Another “bucket list” hike; one I’ve been meaning to see forever. Hanton City is the site of an old abandoned village in Smithfield, Rhode Island, that was settled some time in the 1600’s, so pre-Revolutionary War. There are several theories surrounding its founding on this Wikipedia page:

The first theory is that the residents of Hanton City were a small band of runaway slaves united to live in secrecy in the wilds of then extremely rural Smithfield. This theory seems unlikely given the logistics of a renegade group of people’s ability to procure the building materials and basic supplies needed to create even the most rudimentary settlement (let alone the outside goods required to maintain day-to-day life).

The second theory is that the residents of Hanton City were all pariahs afflicted with a communicable disease that mandated their isolation from the general populace.

The third theory is that those who founded Hanton City were Loyalists: colonists who remained loyal to the king of England during the American Revolution. It is uncertain whether these Loyalists were forced to live in exile by the historically fiercely independent Rhode Islanders or whether they chose of their own volition to form an enclave of the politically like-minded. Several Tories from Newport were exiled to Smithfield and Glocester in 1776, including Thomas Vernon whose diary was published.

Although it is now protected by the Smithfield Land Trust, there is no public access to the property because it is surrounded by private property. I joined a group from the land trust on a guided tour of the site.

There was an abundance of old cellarholes, what looked like a corn crib foundation, several wells, and an old quarry.

Old Well #1

Old Well #1

Here is one of the wells we viewed. I was quite impressed by how tidy and neat the old stonework was. It was pretty deep, too, although we didn’t hear or see any water at the bottom. Not surprising considering the area is in the throws of a drought.

Cellar Hole

Cellar Hole


Cellar Hole with "Shelf"

Cellar Hole with “Shelf”

A couple of the probably half-dozen cellar holes on the property. In the second photo you can see a small shelf built-in to the side wall. It wasn’t particularly deep—not sure what its function was.

Old Well #2

Old Well #2

And here is another of the old wells on the property. We also saw a small granite quarry, where they did “Plug and Feather” stone cutting! I love coincidences like this. I would never have known what plug-and-feather meant except that I’d just seen a very good example of it on a boulder on a hike last week, with the hardware still in place.

Since this is not a property that is currently open to the public, I’ve opted not to publish any information about the trails or the exact location. But keep an eye on the Rhode Island Land Trust Days Meetup Group. That’s how I found out about this hike. In fact, Meetup.com is an excellent way to find out about group hikes in general. Even if you don’t attend the hikes, you can always find out about properties to visit on your own.


5 Responses to “Hanton City”

  1. Chris says:

    I wrote to you a year or so ago asking about this place. I finally found it today after years of wanting to see it. I’m psyched.

  2. Attilio Bettega says:

    Hanton City isn’t hard to get to at all and it’s not really inaccessible either. The main road Hanton City Trail off Decotis Farm Road is actually PUBLIC PROPERTY yes it’s a public road that anyone can walk, bike or even drive down if your vehicle is capable of doing it without breaking the suspension or oil pan. Notice that there are chunks of very dilapidated asphalt as the road is owned by none other than the town of Smithfield!

    Off the road is private property but no one really enforces it. I’ve found most of the ruins and they are scattered in different places around the area and I have only seen a handful of other hikers also looking for the ruins. It’s always the same few cars parked there on Decotis Farm Rd or Rocky Hill Rd.

    There are other ruins that are accessible off the Vernal Pool Loop which is a Fidelity Trail. Now there are youtube videos showing you how to get there. It’s not that secretive just please be respectful and don’t touch anything. The stuff is not easy to see, most of it is just off the trail but at a different elevation is impossible to see from when you’re walking. If you don’t see the exact location on a video or someone who already knows it shows you then you will never find it!

    The area is filled with other secondary fire trails even off the gas line. I have spent over a year exploring, mountain biking and hiking the area and still find new things. Looking forward to late fall best time to go is before snow falls or just after snow melts so you can see everything as the brush can hide what you’re looking for.

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