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William Coddington.
William Coddington (1601 – November 1, 1678) was the first governor of Rhode Islandmarker.

Birth and migration to Massachusetts

Coddington was born in Boston, Lincolnshiremarker, Englandmarker. He migrated to the American colonies in 1630 with the original Massachusetts Bay Company. He served as its treasurer from 1634-1636. He was a leading merchant in Boston, Massachusettsmarker.

Coddington had married Mary Mosely in 1626. They had two children who both died shortly after birth. Mary died in 1630. In 1631 he married another woman named Mary.

Move to Rhode Island

In 1637 Coddington left Boston with some others due to religious differences. He supported Anne Hutchinson who had been exiled by the Puritans. Coddington, Hutchinson, and John Clarke conferred with Roger Williams in Providencemarker. Williams suggested that they buy land from the Native Americans on Aquidneck Islandmarker. This group founded the town of Pocasset, which is now called Portsmouthmarker. Coddington's name leads the list of signatories of the Portsmouth Compact of 1638.

In 1639 Coddington was deposed as leader of the settlement by Anne Hutchinson and Samuel Gorton. He set out with a small group of people, including John Clarke to found another town, Newportmarker. Aquidneck was later named the Isle of Rhodes or Rhode Island.

There were four main towns in what is now the state of Rhode Islandmarker. Providencemarker and Warwickmarker were in an area called Providence Plantations. Portsmouth and Newport were on Rhode Island.

Roles in early Rhode Island government

Coddington was the Judge of Portsmouth from 1638-1639. He was the Judge of Newport from 1639-40. He was the Governor of Rhode Island (united Portsmouth and Newport) from 1640-1647.

From 1643-1651 the towns of Providence Plantations were united with the towns of Rhode Island. Coddington opposed this union. In 1651 the area was divided in two again.

In 1647 Coddington's second wife died. In January 1649 Coddington married Anne Brinley. Together they had eight children, two of whom died in infancy.

From 1651-1653 William Coddington served as Governor and President of Portsmouth and Newport.

The four towns were reunited in 1654. In 1663 they became a Royal Colony, called Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Quakerism and later career

Sometime in the early 1660s Coddington became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). He (and later his widow) often hosted Quaker meetings in his home in Newport. George Fox himself visited this house in 1672.

From 1674-1676 Coddington was the Governor of the Royal Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was elected again in 1678.

Death, monuments, and legacy

Coddington died in office on November 1, 1678. He is buried in a small graveyard on Farewell Street in Newport. His grave is marked not only with the original, almost illegible marker, but a taller monument erected some years after his death.

The only known portrait of William Coddington hangs in the Rhode Island capitol building.

One of Coddington's sons, William Coddington, Jr., was Governor from 1683-1685.


William Coddington in Rhode Island Colonial Affairs: An Historical Inquiry by H. E. Turner, 1878.

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