When the British began their occupation of Newport in December 1776, Great Rock belonged to the descendants of James Barker (1617-1702), one of the eighteen original proprietors of Aquidneck Island. Isaac Barker, a descendent of James, also played an important role in Middletown's Revolutionary history when he used the lofty spine of Great Rock to stage an elaborate anti-British spy operation. Isaac began his spy activities in August 1778 by conspiring to "furnish regular intelligence" on British troop and ship movements to Lieutenant Seth Chapin (1754/55-1833), who was in charge of the American rebel regiment stationed a mile east across the Sakonnet River from Middletown at Little Compton. Assisted by a second cousin named Samuel Barker (1754-1831 ), Isaac signaled from the "highest land in that part of Middletown," or Great Rock, to Chapin's troops watching by spy glass from Little Compton. Since Isaac could reach Great Rock in ten minutes from his house, and since other "Barker Paradise Farm" houses stood in Great Rock's shadow, this operation proceeded for months with great efficiency and maximum security.
Yarnall, James L. and Nicholson, Natalie N.
""A Grand Landscape in Miniature:" Great Rock, Paradise Farm, and the Barkers of Middletown,"
Newport History: Vol. 70
, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/newporthistory/vol70/iss245/2