Undiscovered places offer a bit of wonder, and I had that in spades on an early morning walk at Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, Rhode Island. Mount Hope Farm is a non-profit, running a bed and breakfast, educational programs and a camp. Walking the grounds is a time warp, with mossy old stone walls lining the road and running perpendicular off into the woods. They say this land has been farmed since the 1680’s, and there are places on this walk that feel like you could be stepping into that time. This land was once called Pokanoket, where the Wampanoag lived for untold centuries. It’s said that the first Thanksgiving actually happened here in 1621, when Pilgrims were welcomed by Massasoit. Walking the land, it whispers convincingly of those early days.
When Massasoit died, his sons had a very different experience with the English settlers. The oldest, Wamsutta, took the name Alexander and his younger brother Metacom took the name Philip, which would become more famous. Alexander would die after getting roughed up by the English during an interrogation. Philip would unite tribes and wage war against the English in King Philips War. The land around Mount Hope was the heart of operations for Philip, and it’s where he would ultimately be killed in 1676. His wife would be sold into slavery in the West Indies. Not all whispers are pleasant.
This land was eventually the property of the Royall family, which made their fortune from the slave trade. For all the beauty here now, there’s a healthy dose of human tragedy whispering through the grounds. Eventually the land was sold to a loyalist who fled during the Revolutionary War, and old New Hampshire friend General John Stark and General Sullivan would use the land as an encampment for the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment during the Battle of Rhode Island.
Walking the farm, I’m thrilled to see the land preserved, but also used as a functioning farm. And for all the whispers, this farm has a strong foothold in the present. The Mount Hope Bridge is omnipresent, rising solemnly over Narragansett Bay, spanning the gap between Portsmouth and Bristol. The bed & breakfast, run out of the Governor Bradford House, is a wonderful place to stay and immerse yourself in history. The barn hosts weddings and a great farmers market every Saturday morning. The Mount Hope Farm – Montaup – is very much alive and well.