Cumberland was originally settled as part of Rehoboth, which was purchased from the local Native Americans by the Plymouth Colony. It was later transferred to Rhode Island as part of a long-running boundary dispute.
William Blackstone (also spelled William Blaxton in colonial times) was the first European to have settled and lived in Cumberland. (He was also the first European to have settled in Boston, but left there when he and the newly arrived Puritans disagreed about religion.) He preached his brand of tolerant Christianity under an oak tree that became an inspiration to Christians worldwide. He lived on a farm in the Lonsdale area of Cumberland, where he cultivated the first variety of American apples, the Yellow Sweeting. The site of his home is now occupied by the Ann & Hope mill.
The popular tourist destination "Nine Men's Misery" is a tomb found on the grounds of a former Trappist monastery (Monastery of Our Lady of the Valley), part of which was destroyed in a fire in 1950. The Trappists donated the monastery to the town and part of the building was converted into the Edward J. Hayden Library in 1976.
Cumberland was the site of iron works that made cannons and cannon balls for the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
A machine shop in Cumberland made the first power looms for woolens in America. These were reportedly used at the Capron Mill in Uxbridge,around 1820, that burned in a recent spectacular Bernat Mill fire.
Cumberland is in the lower Blackstone Valley of Rhode Island and in the John H. Chafee, Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, New England's historic National Park area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 28.2 square miles (73.2 km²), of which, 26.8 square miles (69.4 km²) of it is land and 1.5 square miles (3.8 km²) of it (5.17%) is water. View on Google Maps Hybrid
The only large deposit of Cumberlandite, an iron-rich mineral, is found off Elder Ballou Meeting House Road in northern Cumberland. Though the ore was used to make cannons during the colonial era, the resulting casts were of poor quality and prone to cracking. A major geologic feature of the area is Diamond Hill, a massive outcropping of white quartz. The hill once was host to two small ski areas and is now a town park.
There were 12,198 households out of which 33.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.9% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.9% were non-families. 22.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the town the population was spread out with 24.2% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.7 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $54,656, and the median income for a family was $63,194. Males had a median income of $41,073 versus $29,188 for females. The per capita income for the town was $25,592. About 2.9% of families and 3.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those age 65 or over.
Cumberland also has a large and active second and third generation Portuguese-American community. Many of these Portuguese-American citizens immigrated from Portugal into the area to work at the factories in Cumberland and the adjacent cities of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Central Falls, Rhode Island. There are several Portuguese American Festivals that celebrate the cultural history through out the year. These include the São João or Saint John's Festival that is held in the month of June at the Clube Juventude Lusitana and the Our Lady of Fatima Festival which is held at Our Lady of Fatima Church on Labor Day weekend. The celebrations include traditional Portuguese music, dance and parades.
For many years, the district held the distinction of the lowest per pupil spending in the state using comparative financial data from the Rhode Island Department of Education. Since 2003, however, the taxpayers have provided substantial resources to the schools through bonds to improve the school facilities at Ashton School, JJM Cumberland Hill School and Cumberland High School.
Thanks to the financial generosity of the citizens of the Town of Cumberland, major renovations have been completed at Cumberland High School as part of the "CHS 2010" program. Originally opened at its Mendon Road location in 1961, Cumberland High School was formally rededicated on September 27, 2008 after five years of construction and renovation. A new facility, known as the Wellness Center, was built, including three basketball courts, an indoor track, health and physical education rooms. Also, new music and art rooms have been constructed in the location of the former gymnasium. The final phase of the renovations and additions include a new 15-classroom science and technology wing and a new servery and cafeteria seating 600 students.
There is one private school in Cumberland. Mercymount Country Day School is run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, a Roman Catholic order which has its New England regional headquarters in Cumberland.
A popular event, Cumberlandfest, is held each year usually during August at Diamond Hill Park on Diamond Hill Road. This event features a carnival, with rides and various venues, as well as live entertainment and a small fireworks show. This event attracts thousands of people every year.