1855 Map showing Toll House

Today Turnpike Avenue is a town road, but it didn’t start out that way. As its name implies, it once was a toll road. In 1804 the “Rhode Island Turnpike Company,” – with business partners Artemus Fish, Abraham Barker, Peleg Fish, Isaac Fish and others, petitioned the State Assembly to make a shortcut to Bristol Ferry and charge people to use the road.  The Assembly granted this request a year later, but added some rules.  The company had two years to create the road or the charter would be void and they could not make the road on any land they had not paid for already.  The capital stock was set at sixty shares at $50 for each share.

According to the charter, the route was “beginning at the fork of the east and west roads near Mr. Job Durfey’s and from thence on a southwesterly course, until it shall meet with the east road near the corner of the orchard late belonging to Mrs. Bathsheba Fish.”  A “turnpike” (a pike or pole on a swivel that was turned to let the travelers through after they paid their toll) was set up in a toll house by the Methodist meeting house near Dexter Street.  The Turnpike ran a mile and three quarters.  By 1853 there was a suit filed against the turnpike company, but it existed until 1864 when the owner, Gardner Thomas, donated the turnpike road to the town.