Warren in Bristol County, Rhode Island — The American Northeast (New England)
Royal Pokanoket Burial Site
— Sowams Heritage Area —
The Sowams Heritage Area includes Barrington, Bristol, East Providence, Providence, and Warren RI, and Rehoboth, Seekonk and Swansea, MA. Sowams means "Southern Area” and was the historic home of the Pokanokets (later described as Wampanoags) and their leader - Massasoit (Great Leader) Osamequin (Yellow Feather) - who first met the Pilgrims in 1621 and ensured their survival.
Shaped into high mounds of sand and gravel by Ice Age glaciers, the area known as Burr's Hills provided a place for the Pokanokets to dig graves overlooking the setting sun, where the souls of the dead were thought to reside.
Burr’s Hills was purchased in 1854 by The Providence, Warren & Bristol Railroad to build a track from Providence to Bristol (now the East Bay Bike Path). Sand and gravel was used for construction road work until 1921 when the Town purchased the land for a park.
In the mid-1800's, centuries-old skeletons were found at Burr's Hills, land once owned by Samuel Burr (1707-1779).
Between 1869 & 1892, The Warren Gazette published reports of discoveries of "Indian relics” in the gravel at Burr's Hills.
In 1913, Charles Carr, George Hail Library Director and amateur archaeologist, obtained permission to excavate 42 gravesites on the northern side of the land. He found human remains as well as objects that Native People thought would be needed in the next life - wampum, iron tools, ceramic bowls and glass bottles of English and Dutch origin. Carr moved some items to the museum in Warren's library; others went to museums in Bristol and New York.
Beginning in 2007, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe petitioned the holders to return the more than 600 items that had been removed from the graves. With Town permission, they were reinterred in a vault in the park in 2017.
"In one of the graves were found a feather war bonnet, the remains of two fine muskets and a roll of gold lace. All these things indicate the burial place of a man of high rank, and the known fact that the red horseman's coat presented to Massasoit by (Plymouth colonist) Winslow was trimmed with gold lace, leads to the inquiry whether this was the grave of that great chief."
- Virginia Baker, Massosoit of the Wampanoags
painting by Ruth DeWilder-Major
Early 20th-century photo looking north on Water Street taken from the top of a sand hill where the parking lot is today.
A monument to the Massasoit Osamequin is located ahead in the park.
Karen Dionne Art Direction + Design / Warren RI
To learn more about the Pokanoket locations and history, go to SowamsHeritageArea.org., or scan with your smart phone to go to the site.
Erected 2020 by Warren Preservation Society, Inc.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial Sites • Colonial Era • Native Americans • Wars, US Indian.
Location. 41° 43.379′ N, 71° 17.067′ W. Marker is in Warren, Rhode Island, in Bristol County. Marker is on Water Street south of Haile Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Warren RI 02885, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Washington St. (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Middle Passage (approx. 0.4 miles away); Vietnam Memorial (approx. 0.9 miles away); Miles (Myles) Bridge (approx. 3.4 miles away in Massachusetts); Site of Jonathan Barney - Mason Barney Shipyard (approx. 3.4 miles away in Massachusetts); Myles Garrison House Site (approx. 3.4 miles away in Massachusetts); In the Miery Swamp (approx. 4.1 miles away); Crescent Park Looff Carousel (approx. 4˝ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Warren.
More about this marker. The marker is directly across from the Warren Town Beach, 100 yards west of a monument to the Massasoit Osamequin who was reburied in the park in 2017.
Regarding Burr's Hill. This is the site of one of two Royal Burial Grounds for the Pokanoket Tribe who occupied the area for 10,000 years. The Massasoit Osamequin, who met the Pilgrims in Plymouth and entered into a peace treaty in 1621 that lasted for half a century, was originally buried there in 1661 and then removed by Charles Carr along with the contents of 41 other grave sites. Burial items were sent to various museums, collected after 1990 by the Mashpee Tribe, and reburied at Burr's Hill in a sealed vault in 2017.
Additional keywords. King Philip War, Massasoit, Wampanoag
Credits. This page was last revised on November 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on September 10, 2020, by David Weed of Warren, Rhode Island. This page has been viewed 58 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on September 10, 2020, by David Weed of Warren, Rhode Island. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.