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Newport was founded in 1639 and its eight founders and first officers were Nicholas Easton, William Coddington, John Clarke, John Coggeshall, William Brenton, Jeremy Clark, Thomas Hazard, and Henry Bull, who left Portsmouth, Rhode Island after a political fallout with Anne Hutchinson and her followers. As part of the agreement, Coddington and his followers took control of the southern side of the island. They were soon joined by Nicholas Easton, who had recently been expelled from Massachusetts for holding heretical beliefs. The settlement soon grew to be the largest of the four original towns of Rhode Island. Many of the first colonists in Newport quickly became Baptists, and in 1640 the second Baptist congregation in Rhode Island was formed under the leadership of John Clarke.
Peace did not last long in Newport, as many did not like Coddington's autocratic style. As a result, by 1650 a counter faction led by Nicholas Easton was formed. The Coddington/Easton divide would dominate Newport politics for much of the 17th century. Newport soon grew to become the most important port in colonial Rhode Island. A public school was established in 1640.