The Historical Society of Smithfield

  • Group at the Smithfield BiCentennial 1931 Group at the Smithfield BiCentennial 1931
  • Myra Appleby at the Smithfield BiCentennial 1931 Myra Appleby at the Smithfield BiCentennial 1931
  • Two ladies at the Smithfield BiCentennial 1931 Two ladies at the Smithfield BiCentennial 1931
 Photos from the Smithfield Bi-Centennial in 1931

The record book has a gray, and age-spotted cover, however the handwritten entries are wonderfully clear.  It recounts the planning sessions for the Bi-Centennial of the birth of General George Washington, and during these meetings a group of citizens from the Town of Smithfield determined the need for a Society to preserve, and promote the history of their town.  The first entry was made 77 years ago, September 19, 1932.  The last entry in that record book was March 15, 1955.  

Membership dues were .50 cents per year, and new members had to be formally accepted into the Society.  There were 49 charter members, who’s who of some of the oldest families in Rhode Island: Cook, Farnum, Latham, Smith, Steere, Thurber, Whipple, and Williams.  

The entire focus of the Historical Society took a major turn in 1976, when several individuals learned that the former property of one of the Charter members, Myra Appleby, was up for sale.  The property had fallen into major disrepair, and following a meeting, each stepped forward into the kitchen of Mr. John Emin, and placed a ten-dollar bill on the counter.  It was from this bold move that the work to reclaim and restore a historic home began.  Wind whistled through holes in the wall, and certain floorboards and timbers were replaced.  There were many hands at work during that time, and untold hours spent in a labor of love.  

The museum has undergone several transformations over the years, however the character of the house remains unchanged.  Soot stained beams and time worn hearthstones in the keeping room; the decorative lambs tongue woodwork, and the chalk signature of Hugh Whipple, Smithfield, October 1755 still visible in the right light.  The Smith-Appleby House Museum reflects the best of workmanship and design for a home largely constructed in the 18th Century.  Also remarkable is that it is still standing today, much to the credit of the people who have cared for it over the years.  In stark contrast to our contemporary mobile society, seven generations of the Smith and Appleby families were in residence until 1959.  

The generations of the family represented hard working people who faced an uncertain fate moving to the outlands, and later sending their sons to join the Revolutionary War.  They were the descendants of John Smith, known as The Miller, who with Roger Williams left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to make a new start with freedom of religion, and thought.  

The Historical Society and the Smith-Appleby House Museum honor the traditions of the past, and the family that remained dedicated and steadfast to the land.  Borrowing from some words from an unknown source, preserving important Smithfield artifacts is the sort of goal, which gives continuing purpose to the society.  Having such purpose not only preserves but also amplifies wonderfully the intent of that original band of imaginative townspeople whose concern for the past has already endured 77 years. Recognizing the value of the past in helping us to deal effectively with the future, they banded together to preserve as much as they could for the future generations to learn from. 

Today, the Smith-Appleby House Museum is headquarters to The Historical Society of Smithfield. We would like to invite the people of Smithfield to join the Historical Society of Smithfield to continue the work of preserving not only the Smith-Appleby House but also our local Smithfield history.  Membership dues are now $10 per individual, or $20 per family per year.  Checks should be made payable to The Historical Society of Smithfield, 220 Stillwater Road, Smithfield, RI  02917.

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