About The Farm
Mount Hope Farm, from Settlement to the Present
In its 325 plus years of history, there have been only a dozen owners of Mount Hope Farm. They include: Nathaniel Byfield, Henry MacIntosh, Isaac Royall, the State of Rhode Island, Nathan Miller, William Bradford, John Bradford, Samuel W. Church, Rufolph F. Haffenreffer II and Rudolph F. Haffenreffer III, the Haffenreffer family and the Mount Hope Trust in Bristol.
In the Settlement era, the Mount Hope Lands, comprised of Mount Hope and Poppasquash Necks, belonged to King Philip, Sachem of the Wampanoags. After his death in the “miry swamp” at the foot of Mount Hope in 1676, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony and Rhode Island all claimed this prized territory. By a royal grant, King Charles II of England awarded the land to Plymouth Colony on January 12, 1680. On September 14, 1680, the Mount Hope Lands, totaling 7,000 acres were sold to John Walley, Nathaniel Byfield, Stephen Burton and Nathaniel Oliver, four wealthy Boston merchants, for 1100 pounds.
Nathaniel Byfield (1653-1733) became the first owner of Mount Hope Farm and adjoining lands. Byfield lived in Bristol for 44 years and was active in judicial affairs and town development. He returned to Boston in 1724.
In 1702, Byfield sold Mount Hope Farm, consisting of about 550 acres, to his son-in-law Henry MacIntosh. His grand-daughter Elizabeth MacIntosh Royall, the wife of Isaac Royall, Jr., of Medford, Massachusetts, inherited the Farm in 1744. The Royall family was among the wealthiest and largest slave-holding families in New England.
Isaac Royall (1720-1781) began to build a 2 ½- story, gambrel roof, Georgian mansion shortly after 1745. In 1762 he leased it to Bennett Munroe “to be farmed.” Royall was a prominent loyalist and fled with his family to Halifax, three days before the Battle of Lexington. The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations then confiscated The Farm in 1776. The house was used by Generals Stark and Sullivan and the fields by the 2nd Rhode Island Continental regiment during the Revolution. In 1783, it was sold to Brigadier General Nathan Miller of Warren to pay officers and soldiers serving with Cols. Christopher Greene and Henry Shereburne. Miller shortly thereafter sold the Farm to William Bradford.
William Bradford (1729-1808) served Rhode Island and America with great distinction. He was a physician, a lawyer, a member of the colonial Assembly, and the first Deputy Governor (1775-1778). A leading Federalist, Bradford worked for Rhode Island’s ratification of the Constitution and became a United States Senator (1793-1797). In 1797, he returned to the quiet life at Mount Hope Farm, where he died in 1808.
Bradford willed Mount Hope Farm to his son John (1768-1834). John’s sister Ann, the wife of Captain James DeWolf, who owned abutting land, received 1/5 of the remainder of the estate. The Inventory of William Bradford’s estate reveals a complex agricultural operation that included 86 sheep, 55 lambs, 16 cows, 1 bull, 7 old and 33 young turkeys and large crops of corn and potatoes.
In 1836, John Bradford’s heirs sold Mount Hope Farm to Samuel W. Church (1803-1881), a wealthy Massachusetts grain and flour merchant. Church added the two story, hip-roof, Greek Revival middle section to the house, before moving with his 13 children to the old family farm on Poppasquash in 1854. A kitchen wing was added to the house in the 1890s and the Farm remained in Church ownership until sold by Church heirs to Rudolph L. Haffenreffer II (1874-1954), a Massachusetts brewer, in 1917.
The Haffenreffer family were industrial giants in Rhode Island, owning the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. from 1932-1942, the Mount Hope Bridge from 1932–1955, and the Narragansett Brewery from 1933-1965. They undertook extensive restoration of the Mansion and developed the Farm, adding extensive gardens and Cove Cabin, the Caretaker’s Cottage and the North Pasture House. Prize Guernsey cattle replaced traditional sheep in the Farm’s pastures.
Rudolph Haffenreffer II, a collector of “Cigar Store Indians,” carousel figures and mastheads had a true passion for Native Americans. His large collection of artifacts, housed in the King Philip Museum, became the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, and was part of the 1955 donation of 220 acres of Mount Hope Farm to Brown University. In 1877 a monument was erected by the Rhode Island Historical Society on Brown University lands;the monument commemorates King Philip and the site where it is believed he lost his life. His death ended King Philip’s War and brought peace to New England.
On July 4, 1976, Mount Hope Farm was listed in the National Register of Historic Sites and Places, because of its historic and architectural significance.
After the death of Rudolph (“Pete”) Haffenreffer (1902–1991) and his wife Virginia, the Mount Hope Trust in Bristol acquired Mount Hope Farm in 1999. The Trust purchased the property for $3.3 million with the support of a $1.5 million bond issue, approved by the citizens of Bristol with an 83 % margin, a State Open Space grant of $400,000, a loan from St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (that was repaid with the help of an “angel”), and a gift of $1 million by an anonymous donor.
Today, the Mount Hope Trust, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, operates Mount Hope Farm. Its mission is “to preserve and protect the integrity of its natural assets and its historical structures.” The Trust provides the public, visitors and guests with an extraordinary opportunity to learn, to understand, to explore, and enjoy five centuries of American history.