Visitors to the Coggeshall Farm Museum encounter a New England farm at work in the years following one revolution — the war that brought independence from Great Britain — and leading up to a second — the Industrial Revolution.
The Coggeshall farmhouse is a time capsule nestled in the Federal Period, on the cusp of major social and technological change that would usher in new ways of understanding agriculture and the world.
At Coggeshall Farm Museum, you will have the opportunity to step back into the 18th century, observing and participating in household skills, such as hearthcooking, hand-sewing and spinning. Coggeshall is also helping to preserve heritage breeds and heirloom varieties of vegetables using simple, organic methods common in the late 1700s.
Established during the daw of the nation we call the United States, the Coggeshall Farmhouse was built during the mid- to late-1700s. In 1803, a newspaper advertisement mentioned a "dwelling house, almost new," believed to be a reference to the farmhouse. A 1799 deed from a gentleman by the name of Shearjashub Bourne also mentions the farmhouse, which leads us to believe it was constructed between 1785 and 1799.
Coggeshall offers a window into the turbulent steps the infant United States made suring the first years after the ratification of the Constitution. Instead of being a place dedicated to the great leaders like George Washington and John Adams, Coggeshall depicts the lives of everyday farm families who build our nation from the ground up. This living history museum plays an important role in preserving the structure, artifacts, techniques and activities of daily life on a Federalist era farm.
Undoubtably, on your journey to our farm museum you will enjoy the picturesque vista of salt marsh and farmland that is Poppasquash Neck. It is likely that the Wampanoaq occupied this land prior to 1680 and beyond.
The lands surrounding this neck and the nearby town of Bristol would stand witness to the conflict commonly known as "King Philip's War" (1675-1676), which marked the end of native soverignty in much of New England. "King Philip" is the European name given to one of the leaders who engaged in open warfare with the English Colonists. The real name of this leader was Metacom or Metacomet. He was Sachem of the Wampanoag and not a "king." The name Philip was given to him during attempts to Christianize him.
The nearby town of Bristol was established soon after win the 1680s. English colonists soon began to settle and farm Poppasquash Neck. Nathan Byfield, one of the four original propieters of Bristol, purchased the land that would become Coggeshall Farm.
The American Revolution had devastated maritime facilities and trade that had traditionally sailed out of Newport, Boston, and New York. Bristol rose, for a time, to become the main port of the Northeast. It also became the tip of what is sometimes called the "little triangle trade," a system of trade that heavilty involved the importation of African captives to be sold into slavery, and molasses that would be turned into rum.
By the time of the Federalist Era in the 1790s, Bristol had also become known for the export of onions, rum, horses, mules, dairy products, and wool. This increased the value of farmland on Poppasquash Neck and attracted new buyers, including John Brown of Providence and the DeWolf family of Bristol, two names which at this time were deeply associated with the African slave trade.
The museum's name comes from some of its more famous 19th-century occupants. Wilbur and Eliza Coggeshall were tenants at the farm beginning in the early 19th century. Their son, Chandler Coggeshall, went on to become active in state politics and in 1888 helped to found the State Agricultural School, known today as the University of Rhode Island. Although a common local name in the late 18th century, there is currently no evidence that Coggeshalls were living at the farm during the time period depicted by our living history interpreters.
It is believed that the name "Poppasquash" is derived from the Wampanoag words "Papoose-Squaw" or from words like "Popomshaonk" n. from "Popomshau", which means going to and from, or "Poponasaumsuog", which means winter fish. The Wampanoag may have lived in this area prior to 1680 and beyond.