In 1640, what is Rhode Island today (map on the right) was not a single political entity.
Most of today’s mainland section, then called Providence Plantations, was settled by Roger Williams in 1836. Aquidneck Island (map on the left), was settled by other European colonists who made a deal with the Narragansett people (an Algonquian American Indian tribe that inhabited the island and parts of what we now call Rhode Island).
John Clarke a physician and Baptist minister, and Roger Williams championed unification of the region and in 1644, the two settlements formally became a British colony, unified by a charter drafted by Clarke, adopting the name the “Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”
In time, the name appears to have been shortened in actual use and ultimately adopted the State of Rhode Island as its official name. . . . and
Thanks to a loyal and knowledgeable LegalBytes reader, I am told that “Rhode Island” derives from “Roodt Eylandt” or “Red Island,” so named by the Dutch explorer Adrian Block because of the red clay that lined the shore. Block Island, also an island and part of Rhode Island, is named after Adrian Block.