Tag Archives: Separation of Church and State

My Colonial States Trip~Part 20

1 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Rocket Plane


I started my last day of this trip with another attempt at visiting the First Baptist Church in America. I drove the 15 miles into Providence, RI and this time had no trouble driving right up to the church. I parked and walked across the street to take a picture of the church and read the plaque out front. Of course the church was closed at that time of the morning, so I just moved on to the next place I wanted to visit before leaving Providence.

It wasn’t far to the Roger Williams Museum and National Memorial where I learned what a dedicated individual Roger Williams really was. He originally came to this country in early 1631 with a group of Puritans, who landed in Boston, MA hoping to find religious freedom in the newly formed Massachusetts Bay Colony.


 He left Boston later that year to accept a ministry position offer in Salem, MA whose inhabitants believed more along the lines he did. When Salem withdrew their offer, Williams accepted an offer in Plymouth, MA for the same reason. By 1633 Williams was still at odds with local clergy over his “radical” beliefs (the separation of church and state) and the Massachusetts Bay Colony wanted him gone.


In 1636 his persecution as a “separatist” came to a head when the Massachusetts Bay Colony convicted him for his “new and dangerous opinions” with plans to deport him back to England. He fled south from Plymouth, some 50 miles or so, to spend time with the Wampanoag Indians, and later traveled to the headwaters of Narragansett Bay where he founded the colony of Providence (later to be called Rhode Island), on land deeded to him by the Narragansett Indians.


Williams established a trading post just south of Providence in 1637 and was instrumental in founding the First Baptist Church in America (which I referred to in Part 19 and above) in 1638. He returned to England in 1643 to secure a charter for the colony of Rhode Island, and again in 1651 to defend that charter against another grant that would have split the colony. In his later years Williams would succumb to ill-health, brought on by a lifetime dedicated to the colony he had founded and his struggling to keep it together, along with his constant battle with the “establishment” for religious freedom for all people everywhere. Below is a photo of the monument in Providence, dedicated to Williams with the figure of Clio (the muse of history) who is shown inscribing Williams’ name and the date (1636) when he founded the colony of Providence, which would later become the state of Rhode Island.






—–To Be Continued—–

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