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North Smithfield, Rhode Island
Forestdale school house from the nineteenth century
Forestdale school house from the nineteenth century
Location in Providence County and the state of Rhode Island.
Location in Providence County and the state of Rhode Island.
Country United States
State Rhode Island
County Providence
 • Total 24.7 sq mi (64.1 km2)
 • Land 24.0 sq mi (62.3 km2)
 • Water 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2)
361 ft (110 m)
 • Total 12,558
 • Density 522/sq mi (201.6/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
02824, 02896
Area code(s) 401
FIPS code 44-52480
GNIS feature ID 1219815

North Smithfield is a town in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States, settled as a farming community in 1666 and incorporated into its present form in 1871. North Smithfield includes the historic villages of Forestdale, Primrose, Waterford, Branch Village, Union Village, Park Square, and Slatersville. The population was 12,588 at the 2020 census.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 24.7 square miles (64 km2), of which, 24.0 square miles (62 km2) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) of it (2.83%) is water. North Smithfield is in a New England upland region. The Branch River and Blackstone Rivers provided much of the power for the early mills in the town.


In the 17th century British colonists settled in North Smithfield developing a farming community that they named after Smithfield, London in England. The town was part of Smithfield, Rhode Island until it was incorporated as North Smithfield in 1871. The first colonization occurred after a Native American, "William Minnian, (or Quashawannamut) "of Punkkupage" (present day Canton, MA) of Massachusetts Bay on May 14, 1666, deeded approximately 2,000 acres" to John Mowry and Edward Inman who partnered with Nathaniel Mowry, John Steere, and Thomas Walling in dividing up the purchased tract. In the early 18th century, a Quaker colony developed in what is now North Smithfield (then Smithfield), which extended into south Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Today North Smithfield is part of the John H. Chaffee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. The Blackstone Valley is the oldest industrialized region in the U.S. A local North Smithfield industry today, Berroco Yarns, is a continuation of an original family owned woolen company first established in this valley by Daniel Day in 1809.

Mowry home
A rare "stone-ender" known as the John Mowry, Jr. or Sayles House on Wesquadomeset (Sayles) Hill near Iron Mine Hill and Sayles Hill Roads in North Smithfield, demolished in the 20th century

The village of Slatersville was largely built by Samuel Slater and his brother John Slater beginning in 1803. It is a well-preserved original New England mill village with worker housing and commercial buildings and a church on a village green. This village is in fact America's first planned industrial mill village. Samuel and John's family owned this mill and the village until the turn of the 20th century.

Union Village, along Rhode Island Route 146A achieved local prominence as an important stagecoach stop on the route along Great Road. Union Village was also home to a hat shop, taverns, an academy and the Union Bank from which the village got its name.

In the nineteenth and early twentieth-century, North Smithfield "was served by several trolley and railroad lines; now all are gone save one. A freight-only spur line of the Providence and Worcester Railroad extends from the main line in Woonsocket and terminates [in Slatersville] at the Providence Pike" where it "primarily serves a single customer, a steel supplier called Denman and Davis," a company in Slatersville which is now part of O’Neal Steel, Inc...


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 3,052
1880 3,088 1.2%
1890 3,173 2.8%
1900 2,422 −23.7%
1910 2,699 11.4%
1920 3,200 18.6%
1930 3,945 23.3%
1940 4,196 6.4%
1950 5,726 36.5%
1960 7,632 33.3%
1970 9,349 22.5%
1980 9,972 6.7%
1990 10,497 5.3%
2000 10,618 1.2%
2010 11,967 12.7%
2020 12,588 5.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 10,618 people, 3,954 households, and 2,957 families residing in the town. The population density was 441.7 inhabitants per square mile (170.5/km2). There were 4,070 housing units at an average density of 169.3 per square mile (65.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.32% White, 0.42% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.52% Asian, 0.08% from other races, and 0.45% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 0.47% of the population. 41% reported either French or French Canadian ancestry, 12% Irish, 12% Italian, and 8% English.

Mosque North Smithfield RI
Masjid Al Islam mosque on Sayles Hill Road in North Smithfield

There were 3,954 households, out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.0% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.2% were non-families. 21.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 22.4% under the age of 18, 5.7% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $58,602, and the median income for a family was $67,331. Males had a median income of $43,133 versus $30,748 for females. The per capita income for the town was $25,031. About 1.9% of families and 3.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.8% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.

Historic places in North Smithfield

Peleg Arnold tavern North Smithfield RI
The Peleg Arnold Tavern, built around 1690, was home to Peleg Arnold

Adjacent cities and towns

Houses of worship

Image gallery


North Smithfield Middle School 2017 Rhode Island
North Smithfield Middle School, opened in 2008–2009

The North Smithfield School District consists of four active schools:

  • North Smithfield High School, the only public high school in the town, was ranked 5th out of 51 public high schools in Rhode Island in 2016.
  • North Smithfield Elementary School was built in 1989 and is now used for preschool-fourth grade.
  • North Smithfield Middle School was built for the 2008–2009 school year and now holds grades 5–8.
  • Dr. Harry L. Halliwell School was built in 1958, and used for grades 3–5. The school was decommissioned in the summer of 2019. Before it became a school, it was a sheep farm.
  • The Kendall Dean School was built in 1936 but is no longer used as a school. It is currently being used as an administrative building for the town.

Notable people

Judge Peleg Arnold by Arnold Steere 1815
Chief Justice Peleg Arnold was a resident of Union Village in North Smithfield.
  • Peleg Arnold, delegate to the Continental Congress (1787–1788); Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court (1795–1812)
  • Ella Maria Ballou, essayist, stenographer
  • Emeline S. Burlingame, evangelist and suffragist
  • Joe Connolly, outfielder for the Boston Braves (1913–1916)
  • Henry Hobbs, football player and coach
  • Jeff Jillson, international hockey defensman
  • Robert E. Lafleur, youngest elected official to the North Smithfield School Committee, at age 20 (1977–1999, 2004–2015); longest serving school board member in Rhode Island
  • Tim McNamara, Boston Braves and New York Giants pitcher (1922–1926); died in North Smithfield
  • Joseph O'Donnell Jr., Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island
  • David Rawlings, musician; guitarist with wife Gillian Welch
  • John Slater, industrialist, founder of Slatersville
  • John Fox Slater, businessman, philanthropist, abolitionist, supporter of freed slaves
  • R. E. Streeter, Christian writer; founder of the Pastoral Bible Institute in 1918

Images for kids

See also

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