Rhode Island, United States
Jerimoth Hill is the name of the highest natural point in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, at 812 feet (247 m) above sea level. It was once one of the most controversial U.S. highpoints due to property complications, but it is now accessible to the public on weekends. Jerimoth Hill is located in Providence County in the town of Foster, near the Connecticut border.
For many years, hikers could not access Jerimoth Hill because a property owner, Henry Richardson, prevented them from accessing the highpoint. The highpoint itself, a small rock outcropping, is owned by Brown University, not Richardson, but his driveway was the only path that led to it.
The highpoint was donated to Brown University by Walter Raymond Turner, a Brown alumnus of the class of 1911. In 1938 he purchased the saltbox house to the west and the surrounding 360 acres. Turner also provided a right of way, straight north from the highpoint to Route 101. Unfortunately for them, it has since been overgrown.
Brown University has used Jerimoth Hill as an astronomy observatory location for decades, and they utilize their access easement to this land-locked parcel to view the heavens far from the light pollution of Providence, R.I. The actual high ground has been cleared of nearby pine trees for about a 200' square area. The actual highpoint itself is a rocky outcrop in the woods at the northwest edge of the clearing. A register lives in a mailbox for visitors to sign.
Richardson was once welcoming to highpoint visitors and let them cross his property without even asking permission, but this goodwill was ultimately abused to the point that he closed it off completely. Richardson became known for insulting, threatening or even using violence against visitors who tried to use his driveway. He also installed motion detectors around his property lines. In fairness to the property owners, it should be noted that visitation increased from once a month to more than once a day in the decade of the 1990s. Their musical instrument and music lesson business suffered from the constant visitation, as well as their privacy.
One man successfully got to the highpoint of Rhode Island, but in order to avoid harassment by Richardson, he went on a circuitous course and got to the top after two hours of bushwhacking and walking through bogs. This pattern of stealth visiting persisted throughout the 1990s. The co-editor of the Highpointers Club Magazine, Dave Covill, tried for years to persuade Richardson to allow Highpointers Club members to walk to the highpoint, and was ultimately successful in 1998. There was so much pressure on Richardson to let highpointers cross through his property that Richardson's partner Ed Bouchard finally gave permission to the hikers in 1998 by allowing hikers to get to the highpoint on five selected national holidays each year. The Highpointers Club provided "hosts" for these dates, and the Liaison to the Club passed from Dave Covill to Chuck Bickes to Stony Burk, who remains the official Highpointers Club Liaison to the Rhode Island state highpoint. The Club attempts to provide a liaison to each of the 50 state highpoints. These Open Access Dates continued through 2005, when Mr. Bouchard sold the property to new owners. Mr. Richardson died in 2001.
Highpointers once considered Jerimoth Hill less accessible than Mt. McKinley, as the Richardsons' driveway was heavily posted against trespassing. In June 2005, Jeff and Debbie Mosley bought the Richardsons' property, and soon created a path to the highpoint with the help of many volunteer Highpointers on Labor Day weekend 2005. As of August 2007, it is open every day, from 8:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. local (Eastern) time, whether visitors are Club members or not.
RI 101, the old Rhode Island and Connecticut Turnpike, passes over the hill.