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Block Island was an island of the mainland state of Rhode Island in the United States. It is located 13 miles off the coast of the US state that was practically obliterated in the events of September 25, 1983. Only 9.734 sq mi in land mass, it was home to between 500 and a thousand people in the 1980's. In 2010, its population is estimated to be 500 people, but in claiming a full ten miles from the center of the island as territorial waters, the island has an area of 314.6 sq mi.
Block Island is a founding member of the Association of the Outer Lands - five counties from three former states that formed an alliance late in 1983. Repopulated after a brief time, the island sustains a population of around 500 and exports seafood to not only its fellow states, but to as far away as Delmarva and Aroostook.
The Niantic, whose tribe eventually merged with the Narragansett people, called the island "Manisses" which means "little island of Manitou". Archaeological sites indicate these people lived largely by hunting deer, catching fish and shellfish, and growing corn, beans, and squash. They migrated from forest to coastal areas to take advantage of seasonal resources. Artifacts found in the area suggest that American Indians inhabited the area as far back as 1300 BC. In 1662, natives on the island numbered somewhere from 1,200 to 1,500. By 1774, that number had been reduced to fifty-one. Due to intrusions by the Pequot and Mohegan in the early 17th century, the Niantic were split into two divisions; the Western Niantic, who allied with the Pequot and Mohegan, and the Eastern Niantic, who allied with the Narragansett. The Western Niantic defended their tribe by killing John Stone, a "renegade" Boston trader, who was known for stealing Pilgrim vessels, near the mouth of the Connecticut River. In the summer of 1637, the Western Niantic killed another Boston trader, John Oldham, near Block Island.
Though the Niantic were defending their own people, the government of Massachusetts, in August, sent a punitive expedition of ninety men under John Endicott to Block Island with instructions to kill every Niantic warrior and capture the woman and children, who would be valuable as slaves. Massachusetts Governor Henry Vane had ordered the "massacre all of the Native men on the island," but the Niantic fled into the woods, and the soldiers only managed to kill fourteen of them. Deciding this punishment was insufficient. This incident is seen as one of the initial events that led to the Pequot War.
A Brief History
In 1524 Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer of North America in the service of the French crown, became the first European to sight the island. He called it Louisa in honor of the Queen mother of France. However, later maps showed the name as Claudia, the name of the wife of King Francis I. He said that the island reminded him of the Island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. English colonists over a century later would mistake this reference for the much larger Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island, leading to the misnaming of the colony. In 1614, Dutch explore Adrien Block rediscovered the island and named it after himself. However, in 1661, when the island was incorporated into the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the government on the island took the name New Shoreham. The city of that name became the only incorporated town of the island to survive to the present day. In 1867, on the third attempt, the northern lighthouse was completed. Two previous lighthouses had been washed out to sea! These seas, though not hostile, did not wash up against any natural harbors. The first man-made harbor was built in 1870 with another to be built in 1895. Another lighthouse was build the southern end of the island in 1873. Standing at the "doorway" to Long Island Sound, Block Island was a major strategic lookout post in World War II. In fact, German U-boat U-853 was sunk in the waters off its shores in 1945 near the end of the War. Though the US government had offered to evacuate the island during the war, most of the islanders had opted to remain in their homes. They would stay put on their little resort island until the fall of 1983.
The events of the Third World War had completely destroyed mainland Rhode Island, leaving only Block Island with any vestige of the Rhode Island Government. The government tried to care for its small population, but was unable to cope. Block Island residents evacuated to Martha's Vineyard and Long Island.
The Association of the Outer Lands
Block Island became part of the Outer Lands after its formation and the old population started to move back to the island, as they saw themselves as the last remaining Rhode Islanders and felt a sense of duty to their former state, and by extension, the United States.
Relations with Long Island
Block Island is very closely tied to nearby Long Island, and is dependent on them for most of their resources.
After the disaster of the first winter, the government of the AOL moved to repopulate the island, establishing its capital at New Shoreham as being more secure against refugee and gang activity common on the mainland. Part of this resettlement was to plant crops where groves of trees and golf courses had once dominated. The island would become self-sufficient and begin exporting produce by 1995. It's primary customer would be the survivor community on Long Island, 14 miles to the west.