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Benedict Arnold (21 December 1615 – 19 June 1678) was president and then governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, serving for a total of 11 years in these roles. Coming from Somerset, England, he was born and raised in the town of Ilchester, likely attending school in Limington, nearby. In 1635, at the age of 19, he accompanied his parents, siblings and other family members on a voyage from England to New England, where they first settled in Hingham in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In less than a year they moved to Providence on the Narragansett Bay at the request of Roger Williams. In about 1638 they moved once again, about five miles south to the Pawtuxet River, settling on the north side at a place commonly called Pawtuxet. Here they had serious disputes with their neighbors, particularly Samuel Gorton, and as a result put themselves and their lands under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, a situation lasting for 16 years.
Learning the native languages at an early age, Arnold became one of the two leading interpreters in the Rhode Island colony, Roger Williams being the other. He was frequently called upon to interpret during negotiations with the natives, but on one occasion was accused by them of misrepresentation.
In 1651 Arnold left Providence and Pawtuxet with his family, settling in Newport where he began his public service which would last continuously until his death. He quickly became a freeman, Commissioner, and Assistant, and in 1657 succeeded Roger Williams as President of the colony, serving for three years. In 1662 he was once again elected President, and during the second year of this term the Royal Charter of 1663 was delivered from England, naming him as the first Governor of the colony, and offering broad freedoms and self-determination to the colony.
A bold and decisive leader, Arnold was elected for two additional terms as governor, the last time following the devastation of King Philip's War. He died on 19 June 1678 while still in office, and was buried in the Arnold Burying Ground, located on Pelham Street in Newport. In his will he left to his wife his "stone built wind mill," which still stands as an important Newport landmark. His many descendants include General Benedict Arnold, best known for his treason during the American Revolutionary War, and Senator Stephen Arnold Douglas who debated Abraham Lincoln in 1858, and lost to him during the 1860 presidential election.