Beacon Pole Hill

Beacon Pole Hill
Map of the Town of Cumberland, RI by Newell Nelson, Published by Aaron White, Jr., Rouvés Lithography, Graphic Court, Boston, MA, 1838.

Beacon Pole Hill was the site of one of four colonial beacons in Rhode Island, used during the Revolutionary War. Beacon Pole Hill is 556 feet above sea level, higher than Diamond Hill, and it is the highest point of land between the Blue Hills of Massachusetts and Providence. The other beacons were located on Prospect Hill in Providence, Mt. Hope in Bristol, and Chopmist Hill in Scituate.

The beacon consisted of a 70 foot wooden pole with pegs inserted at intervals to allow someone to climb to the top, where an iron pot hung from a crane and was kept filled with pitch.

Noah (1728-1807), one of the sons of Nathaniel Ballou, had his homestead in the southeasterly portion of the “Ballou neighborhood”, near Beacon Pole Hill.

According to the “Elaborate History”, his original home was demolished, but the home built by Lucina Weatherhead “occupies precisely the same site.”  Noah’s house may have been located where the “Welcome Weatherhead” house is marked on the map, on the southeastern edge of Beacon Pole Hill.

Noah was in charge of the beacon.  When he and his older sons went to fight in the Revolutionary War, his 13-year-old son Eliel was given responsibility for the beacon.  One day Eliel saw a signal from Providence.  The colonial troops watching the British on Aquidneck Island needed food.  He came down from the hill, told his mother, and the neighborhood put together a wagon of food, which he drove to Bristol, receiving contributions along the way, and delivered the supplies to the colonial army. [1]

According to a document written by Raymond Sherman in the BVHS archives, the Woonsocket Chapter of the D. A. R. held a commemorative ceremony at Beacon Pole Hill on July 4, 1897, and at that time a replica of the original pole was built.  The chapter twice marked the site with bronze tablets, but they have been removed by vandals. [2]

This is a photograph of a late 19th century reproduction of the beacon, taken by Archie L. Sherman in 1907.  BVHS archives.

Replica Beacon

We believe that the  picture from the album shows one of the plaques, along with two of the group photographing the houses, a man and a teenage boy.

  1. “An Elaborate History, p. 210
  2. Document with information about Beacon Pole Hill, written by Raymond C. Sherman, Coventry, RI, in BVHS Archives

Previous            Next