Burrillville History

Burrillville Town Hall

    European settlers arrived in this area in the late seventeenth century.  In 1731 the Town of Glocester was incorporated, which included what is now present day Burrillville.  Fortunately, the land was divided horizontally which gave the upper part (Burrillville) access to many rivers and streams.

    After being incorporated as a town in 1806, farming became the predominant occupation of its settlers which continued throughout the nineteenth century.  Many of the town’s forested lands were cleared for fields and pastures during that part of our history.  

    Burrillvillle’s natural resources and, especially, its many waterways played an important role in the development of the town.    During the first half of the nineteenth century (1800s) the town’s larger waterways - the Clear, Pascoag, Branch and Chepachet river systems were harnessed to power the local textile mills.  As  early as 1807 a cotton mill was in operation in Pascoag.  During several war times, including the Civil War,  Spanish-American War and continuing through World Wars I and II, Burrillville mills manufactured cloth for soldiers’ uniforms.  
    The textile industry remained active into the twentieth century, but gradually, the mills ceased operating and departed to the Southern states because of cheaper labor.  Other mills were destroyed by fires and never rebuilt and others just remained idle.  This ended Burrillville’s dependence on the mills for employment for its residents.   

    Villages were created around the original mill complexes and even to this day, most residents still identify their neighborhood by the original mill village name.  So, if you hear our residents refer to themselves as hailing from Wallum Lake, Bridgeton, Pascoag, Harrisville, Glendale, Oakland, Mapleville, Mohegan, Nasonville or Tarkiln,  it is part of our tradition, but we are all very proud to be residents of Burrillville.      

    New homeowners are drawn to Burrillville for its attractive rural character and affordable housing.  Improved transportation and a changing economy have made Burrillville a bedroom community with much of the labor force commuting to jobs in other areas.  

    The former mill villages are no longer dependent on the mills’ fortunes, and most of these older settlements survive as attractive residential communities.

     Burrillville is situated in northwestern Rhode Island bordering both Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 2005, the population was estimated at 16,563.  The leading employers provide jobs for about 11% of the town's population.     

    The Town of Burrillville is a municipal corporation operating under the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island. The Town operates with a Town Manager/Town Council form of government with seven elected council members headed by a council president.

    The Burrillville School District is directed by a seven member School Committee.

    The Town has three elementary schools, a middle school and one high school. The students have many sports opportunities including leagues for baseball, football, soccer, and hockey along with Scouting programs for boys and girls.

    A very dynamic Parks and Recreation Department offers many activities to our residents throughout the year.  The Town owns the historic Spring Lake Beach which has been rehabbed and is now operated by the Parks Department.  

    The State of Rhode Island possesses many acres of land in our Town which include fishing and hunting areas for the locals.

    There are five energetic Fire Departments, including Rescue units, protecting us from one end of Burrillville to the other.    

    Over a dozen places of worship grace our villages, some of them dating back to the early years of Burrillville and others which are fairly new. But they all serve the same purpose, to bring religious freedom to our residents.  

    There are two working libraries in the town, one in Pascoag and the other in Harrisville.   A new Jesse Smith Library in Harrisville is being built on the former Stillwater Mill complex grounds.  When completed in 2007, it will be a state of the art facility.    

    With water, sewers, and  rubbish pickup throughout most of the town, we are now an up-to-date part of new development in this northwestern section of Rhode Island.

    Thanks to the foresight of our ancestors all the way up to the present generation of civil servants, the Town of Burrillville is continuing growth in a sensible way.   Burrillville is a wonderful place to live and we are mighty proud to be a part of it.

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