Newport Tower: Mill or Mystery?
It could be the remnants of a 17th-century windmill, or it could hold the secrets of a great treasure that has gone undiscovered for over 700 years. Newport Tower seems simple enough, but that hasn’t stopped people from finding a mystery in these stones, whether one truly exists or not.
The 28-foot high tower stands in Newport, Rhode Island's Touro Park, on what was once the property of Rhode Island Governor Benedict Arnold – the great-grandfather of the infamous traitor of the American Revolution with the same name. Arnold even mentioned “my stone built wind mill” in his will, which scholars say clearly explains the purpose of what later became known as the Newport Tower.
Over the years, investigations have been done into the stone and excavations done around the tower that have all pointed to it having been constructed in the mid-to-late 17th century.
Yet that hasn’t stopped a number of alternative theories from popping up over the years as to what exactly Newport Tower is, theories which may have been debunked or never given much credence at all, yet the legends surrounding them never really seem to go away.
There are two theories that tie Newport Tower to Dighton Rock back here on the SouthCoast. One is that both are linked to Portuguese explorers such as Miguel Corte-Real, who disappeared in 1502. The mysterious markings on Dighton Rock, markings which have still not been decoded to this day, could be some kind of directions to something and Newport Tower was allegedly built as a watchtower to overlook what that something was.
The other theory is that both Dighton Rock and Newport Tower date back to the time of the Norse visitations to our area, with one since-debunked notion that the tower was actually a church built in the 11th century.
In 1841, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his poem “The Skeleton in Armor,” about a mysterious skeleton discovered in Fall River in 1832 along with metal, bark and cloth artifacts. Longfellow’s poem suggested that the skeleton was that of a Viking explorer who was also responsible for the construction of Newport Tower.
Perhaps the most intriguing theory for modern-day mystery lovers is the idea that Newport Tower is tied into the story of the Knights Templar. These Christian warriors from the time of the Crusades are alleged to have sailed to the Americas in order to hide the Templar treasure, a rumored bounty of some of the most valuable treasures known to man. Scott Wolter of the hit History Channel series America Unearthed is among those who believe that Newport Tower is connected to the Templars.
So which explanation is the right one? Evidence seems to point to Newport Tower being more mill than mystery, but it’s still fun to speculate that this stone structure holds more power than just having been used to grind down Colonial-era corn. It just might have a little magic in its walls, too.