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Cumberland was originally settled as partMassachusetts, wand was later transferred to Rhode Island following a long and drawn-out boundary dispute. The town was named after Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland. William Blackstone was the first European to settle Cumberland. He preached his brand of tolerant Christianity (He left Boston after a disagreement with Puritanical theological practice) that became an inspiration to Christians. He lived on a farm in the Lonsdale area of Cumberland, where he grew the first type of American apples, the Yellow Sweeting. 

Cumberland was where the cannons and cannonballs for the French and Indian War and the American Revolution were made. Also, Cumberland was the home of the Valley Falls Company, the original predecessor of Berkshire Hathaway, which is now one of the world's most successful companies.

Cumberland is also credited with making the first power looms in America, which were used at the Capron Mill in Uxbridge, until around 1820, when the Bernat Mill fire leveled the Mill.

Cumberland is the location for the headquarters of the Ann & Hope chain of discount stores, the first of its kind in America.

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