Hanton City
The Lost Settlement of Smithfield
by: Amber VanTine

When one thinks of a ghost town, many would conjure up images of the Wild West with long desert roads, rolling tumbleweeds and worn down old buildings. But here in the Northeast our ghost towns look more ominous. Perhaps it has to do with the rubble that one finds, the abandoned burial sites or because it’s hidden to the naked eye until a curious individual just happens upon it by chance. Nothing would be more exciting or terrifying than coming across a burial site in the woods. One I’m sure would conjure up images of ghostly shadows wandering in the woods at night looking for another victim to claim, or a ghoulish figure waiting in the brush. Such a thing I’m sure many people wouldn’t think of when it comes to their town. But that is not the case when it comes to Smithfield and its lost settlement.
Smithfield by definition is your typical town. An urban area that has a name, boundaries and local government, or to put it plainly it’s an area of land that’s larger than a village but smaller than a city. In 1660 you could say that Smithfield was first settled though it was within the Providence boundaries, but by 1731 it became its own town by splitting from Providence and the rest is history. The colonial era of any city or town is always a source of fascination because of the mystery and secrets behind it, and Hanton City is that mystery.
Hanton City is called the lost settlement of Smithfield; a ghost town to many. By definition a ghost town is called as such when it has failed certain economic activities (industrial or agricultural) or succumbed to natural or human made disasters. Some examples would be harsh winters, pollution, lawlessness that is uncontrollable, war, etc. The only remains left of this settlement is a foundation of a building, a stone wall, a burial site and a dam for irrigation. So what happened at Hanton City? What caused this settlement to fail while others thrived? The theories and speculation of this lost settlement are quite interesting. Some say they were plague victims, loyalists who were loyal to the crown that were exiled, runaway slaves and more. However, the answer might be far simpler that everyone originally thought. Historian Jim Ignasher claims that the settlement was first settled by three families the Paine’s, Hanton’s and Shippee’s. He speculates that they may have been given the land as payment for being involved in King Philips War from 1675-1676. Over time it appears that the families slowly moved away from Hanton City and because it was so small once the oldest of the settlers died in 1900 that was the end of Hanton City. I know it doesn’t seem as exciting as lepers and loyalists, but it does seem the most plausible, and though I’ve never personally been to Hanton City from the pictures I have seen it looks to be a very odd place to have a farm. I can imagine with the poor soil quality and lack of sunlight during the spring and summer months due to all the trees farming would have been very difficult.
However, regardless of what theorists might have to say or what the townsfolk speculate about the lost village, and why it might have failed I think that Hanton City provides an air of mystery and ghostly presence to the town of Smithfield. It provides the curious hiker who stumbles upon the old settlement a glimpse into the past. A past that isn’t as lost as we thought…