Jamestown is a town located in Newport County, Rhode Island, in the United States. The population was 5,622 at the 2000 census. Jamestown is situated almost entirely on Conanicut Island, the second largest island in Narragansett Bay.
Humans arrived in the area about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, when they settled near streams and rivers. Ongoing melting of glaciers caused the sea level to rise, covering low-lying areas and eventually filling Narragansett Bay. The rising sea forced humans to higher elevations, and submerged most traces of the earliest inhabitants. The oldest human artifacts found on Conanicut Island date from around 3000 BC.
In 1524, the Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano and his crew visited Narragansett Bay. In 1636 or 1637, "Dutch Island" was used by fur traders. In 1638 the English made arrangements to use Conanicut Island for grazing sheep.
Ferries were in operation between Conanicut Island and Newport by 1675. In 1678, Conanicut Island was incorporated as the town of Jamestown. There were about 150 residents. The town was named for James, Duke of York, who would become King James II in 1685.
By 1710, many of Conanicut Island's current roads were in place. In 1728, the town of Jamestown built a windmill for grinding corn, which used the sea breeze for power since there was no source of running water to turn a waterwheel.
On December 10, 1775, 200 British and Hessian troops landed at East Ferry on Conanicut Island and marched to West Ferry, where they burned the ferry house. As they returned to East Ferry, they destroyed many buildings, including fourteen homes; which caused more than 200 of Conanicut Island's 556 residents to flee to the mainland.
In December, 1776, a British fleet arrived in Narragansett Bay and occupied Newport. The British took over the colonial militia batteries at Fort Dumpling (now part of Fort Wetherill) and the Conanicut Battery at Beavertail (just south of Fort Getty, at the end of Battery Lane). The British left Narragansett Bay in October 1779. As they departed, they destroyed the fortifications they had occupied, and burned Beavertail lighthouse.
By 1784, Beavertail Light was back in operation. In 1787, Jamestown rebuilt the Jamestown Windmill and Quaker Meetinghouse that had been destroyed during the occupation.
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