Vintage Rhode Island Prison Newspaper Articles

     A portion of the land presently occupied by the Providence Place Mall in Providence, Rhode Island, was once occupied by the Providence Jail.  The jail was constructed in 1838, and replaced an earlier jail that was located along Canal Street.  The Providence Jail remained in use until 1877, when a new state prison was built in Cranston.  The former Providence Jail was then used as a boarding house by the City of Providence until it was demolished in 1894.      

 Click on images to enlarge.

Portland Gazette & Maine Advertiser
September 8, 1806

Unknown Newspaper
May 11, 1826

Rhode Island Republican
August 21, 1823

Rhode Island Republican
June 30, 1825

Rhode Island Republican
November 10, 1825

Literary Cadet & R.I. Statesman
May 15, 1828

Herald of the Times
Newport, RI
June 30, 1830

Herald of the Times
Newport R.I.
January 2, 1833

Rhode Island republican
January 29, 1833

Herald of the Times
Newport, RI
June 27, 1833

Northern Star & Constitutionalist
Warren, RI
January 31, 1835

Alexandria Gazette
April 13, 1839

Herald of the Times
Newport, R. I.
May 19, 1842

The Voice of Freedom
Montpelier VT.
September 9, 1847

Sunday Dispatch (N.Y.)
February 28, 1848

New York Herald
December 2, 1850

The Rutland (VT.) Weekly Herald
November 7, 1872

Rutland Weekly Herald
November 7, 1872

New York Tribune
September 19, 1893

Providence News
April 10, 1893

Providence News
April 10, 1893

Providence News
April 10, 1893

The Morning Journal & Courier
New Haven, CT
September 19, 1893

The Providence News
July 20, 1894

The Providence News
November 25, 1903

Daily Kennebec Journal
September, 22, 1909

Norwich Bulletin
September 15, 1921

The Washington Times
April 21, 1930

     To see vintage Rhode Island Department of Corrections uniform insignia, click on the link below. 

      Vintage Department of Corrections Insignia

50 Years Ago – January 1973

50 Years Ago – January, 1973

By Jim Ignasher   

January, 1973

     Army first sergeant August Bruno of Esmond, was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. He was a veteran of World War II and took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

     Ralph E. Iannatelli of Greenville was home on leave while serving in the Air Force.

     Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Harry L. Latham of Georgiaville was awarded his silver pilot wings upon his graduation from flight school. He would be serving with the Strategic Air Command.

     Frank Albanese, Jr., of Greenville was appointed to the U. S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.   

January, 1973

     Navy Petty Officer 2/C Alfred D. Doucette of Georgiaville became a “Golden Dragon” when he crossed the International Date Line while serving aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Richard E. Kraus.

     Air Force Sergeant Charles D. Dawley of Greenville was serving at Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey.

     Cadet Lynette Blackmore of the Smithfield Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol was one of 120 cadets nationwide chosen to attend a national symposium in Dallas, Texas.

     A recent cold snap caused local ponds and lakes to freeze over thus allowing youths to try out their new ice skates they received for Christmas.

     The new Smithfield police station was dedicated on January 14. It was built on land donated by Bertram and Mary Mowry. Greenville resident John J. Dodd donated a 20 foot tall spruce tree that was planted on the front lawn to the station. The spruce had once been given to Mr. Dodd by the department’s deputy chief Adolph E. Schenck.   

January, 1973

     The newly completed Smithfield Ice Rink was opened to the public.

     The Smithfield Civil Defense Siren System was reactivated, and it was announced that tests would be conducted throughout the months for January and February so as not to alarm citizens.

     17-year-old Debbie Cerroni, a senior at Smithfield High School, was names Miss Junior Achievement at the organizations annual convention in Providence. Miss Cerroni represented a company sponsored by Sears & Robuck known as Model A.

     The Greenville Grange on Austin Avenue held an antique show and sale.

     The Rhode Island Army National Guard had proposed the building of a helicopter base next to their building on Washington Highway. More than 300 people attended a public meeting held at the Smithfield High School to voice their opposition to the plan. The town council unanimously voted against the plane, and the heliport was never built.   

January, 1973

      A local car dealership was advertising a 1972 Ford LTD for #3,195, and a 1971 Mustang Mach 1, with an AM/FM 8-track radio-tape player, for $2,395.

     The Smithfield Historical Society acquired a dilapidated train station with the intent of restoring it. The station stood on Brayton Road near Farnum Pike and dated to c. 1872. The building was moved to the property of the Smith-Appleby House Museum in Stillwater and after restoration, was put on public display where it remains to this day.

     President Richard Nixon announced that the United States would begin development of its space shuttle program.

     Hewlett-Packard released the HP-35, the first electronic pocket calculator capable of computing logarithms and trigonometry. The price was $395, which translates to about $2,800 in today’s dollars.

50 Years Ago – December, 1972

50 Years Ago – December, 1972

By Jim Ignasher   

December, 1972

    Airman Charles E. Pelletier of Greenville was serving at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.

     The Smithfield Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol took part in celebrations honoring the 31st anniversary of the founding of the C.A.P. Membership to the Smithfield squadron was open to all youths between the ages of 13 to 18. Older youth were eligible to become senior members.

     On December 7, Apollo 17 launched from Cape Kennedy with three astronauts and five mice aboard. This would be the last manned moon landing conducted by NASA up to the present day.   

December, 1972

     On December 9, The Smithfield High School Ecology Club held a paper drive. Residents were advised to drop off old newspapers and magazines at the high school to be recycled.

     On December 12, the William Winsor Parent Teachers Association held a Christmas Bazaar.

     The Smithfield Ice Rink was nearing completion, and a contest sponsored by the Smithfield Recreation Department, was held to select a design for the center of the floor that would be under the ice. The winner was Mary Natalizia of Georgiaville, who received a $35 savings bond. Other contestants, Roberta Smith, Greg Hall, and Paula Serapiglia, received awards for honorable mention.

     The awards were presented by the ice rink director, Stanley Lange.

     On December 16 the Greenville Grange held a Christmas Bazaar

     The Cranford Club of Greenville entertained patients at Zambarano Hospital.   

December, 1972

     Over one thousand citizens attended the annual Christmas Light Ceremony held at the Town Hall in Georgiaville. Music and carols were provided by the Smithfield Junior High Glee Club, and the Smithfield High School Orchestra. Upstairs in the council chambers Santa doled out gifts to the children, while adults could partake in coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts.

     The following night the annual tree lighting ceremony took place on the Greenville Common, which included a nativity scene, and an invocation given by Rev. Alvin Johnson, pastor of the Greenville Baptist Church, and Rev. William Bourdon, pastor of St. Philip’s Church.

     Music was provided by the Apple Valley Chorus, the Greenville Chorus, and Miss Olive Wilkes of St. Thomas Episcopal Church.

     Mrs. Mary E. Freeman of Greenville was appointed Chairperson of the Smithfield chapter of the March of Dimes charity.

     Members of Brownie Troop 53 of Georgiaville appeared on the local television show “Dialing for Dollars”, a show based on random telephone calls to viewers. If the person who answered the phone knew the password that was announced at the beginning of the show, they’d win money.   

December, 1972

     Five members of Boy Scout Troop 1 of Greenville were elevated to Life & Star Scouts. They were; Gerald Shirley, Charles Walsh, Timothy Walsh, Robert Ferguson, and Ronald DiNoble.

     To encourage the planting of more trees, the Smithfield Conservation Commission was taking orders for free sapling trees to be delivered in April in time for spring planting. The trees included Hemlock, Douglas Fir, White Spruce, and White Pine.

     A local business was advertising snow tires for $18.77 a pair. This did not include tax or installation. A new battery could be had for $21.86, and windshield de-icer for 87 cents a can.

     The Smithfield Neighborhood Association for Progress, (S.N.A.P.), elected new officers. Elected Chairman was Roy K. Becket; Vice Chair, Blanche Panzarella; Secretary, Beverly Viracco; Treasurer, Rev. William Bourdon.

 

 

50 Years Ago – November 1972

50 Years Ago – November, 1972

By Jim Ignasher   

November, 1972

     Navy Petty Officer Third Class David R. Young of Greenville was serving aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Intrepid. The ship had recently taken part in a training exercise termed “Operation Strong Express” off the coast of Norway. At the time it was the largest sea and air exercise ever conducted by allied countries of the North Atlantic.

     Navy recruit Fred W. Finlay of Esmond graduated from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

     1972 was an election year, and voter turnout was heavy. Out of 8,280 registered Smithfield voters, 6,416 voted. The town had three open polling areas, and the wait was reported to be two hours.

     The newly elected Smithfield Town Council for 1972 included: John F. Emin, Jr., Thomas F. Fogarty, Jr., John V. Clossick, Raymond Flynn, and Francis R. Bell.

     On November 7, Vincent H. Dexter, a local conservationist and historian, presented a slide show about the Woonasquatucket Watershed at the Greenville Baptist Church   

November, 1972

     A modern radio communications center began operation at the new Smithfield police station. The radio equipment took three days to install.

     Boy Scout Troop 3 of Greenville, under Scout Master Z. J. Czubak Jr., camped over night at the Buck Hill Scout Reservation in Burrillville.

     The Rally Point Racquet Club opened on Church Street. It is still in use today.

     If one went to the Apple Valley Cinema they might have seen, “What’s Up Doc?” a comedy starring Barbara Streisand and Ryan O’Neal; “The Salsburg Connection”, a spy thriller set in the Cold War; “The Other”, a thriller set in 1935 involving a small town and a series of gruesome accidents; or “The New Centirions”, a police drama starring George C. Scott and Stacy Keach.

     A local ford dealership was offering a 1969 Ford Country Squire station wagon. The ad read, “Excellent condition – a steal!” at a mere $1,995.

     A local fruit and vegetable business was offering egg plant at ten cents each, and butternut squash at eight cents a pound.   

November, 1972

     The Smithfield Traffic Safety Commission consisting of John F. Emin, Jr., Alonzo F. Thurber II, and Chief of Police Arthur B. Gould, determined that a stop sign should be erected at the intersection of Colwell Road and Mapleville Road, and that “no parking” signs should be placed at the cul-du-sacs on John Mowry Road.

     The Greenville Public Library celebrated its 90th Birthday. The original library had been in the center of Greenville next to St. Thomas Church, but moved to its present location in 1956.

     On November 25, to raise funds, a Tupperware Party was held at the Greenville Grange. For those who don’t know, the Tupperware company was established in 1946 by Earl Tupper, who later donated 220 acres of land to Bryant College, (University), in the 1960s, which enabled the college to relocate from Providence to Smithfield.

     On November 26, the annual community wide Ecumenical Hymn Sing was held at the Greenville Baptist Church. The theme was to pray for peace in a troubled world. All faiths were invited.

 

“When Lilacs Last In The Door-Yard Bloomed”

By Peg Brown

When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky at night,

I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring…”

–Walt Whitman, summer, 1865, on the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865

As I approached the soldiers’ encampment on May 16th, led by Capt. Richard Henry Toller Adams, Signal Officer, Army Corps, and Lt. Edmund Burke, we skirted a mature, fully bloomed lilac bush. I could only think how appropriate this setting could be. The event, held in conjunction with the opening of a new Smith-Appleby Exhibit of Smithfield’s role as an important link in the east coast railroad system of the 1870s, was a fully staged Civil War encampment including Union and Confederate soldiers and their civilian followers who had turned the lawn of Smith-Appleby into an authentic 1863 Civil War venue.

My escorts were in reality Ted Urbanski, Willington, CT, in his role as Chief Signal Officer, and Daniel Costa-Dupre, North Providence, in his role as Lt. Burke, whose character had enlisted at age 16. When I questioned enlistment at such an early age, Lt. Burke responded, “You only had to have two things to join the ranks—be over sixteen and have two opposing teeth so you could bite the tip off the rifle cartridge.”

The encampment was a tribute to the critical role the signal corps played on both sides during the war, featuring the technology that the 2nd RI Signal Corps helped to pioneer and implement. An Army surgeon, Major Albert J. Myer, is credited with founding the signal corps in June of 1860 when he finally convinced the US House of Representatives to approve $2,000 for the “manufacture or purchase of application for field signals.” Congress also approved one additional staff person for the Army to oversee the Corps.

The early Civil War signaling system relied on an elaborate code using flags. However, the tasks assigned to this unit including battlefield observation, intelligence gathering, and direction for the artillery, required a better system. The technology advanced rapidly, allowing telegraph “trains” (aka horse-drawn carriages) to travel long distances, and string “flying telegraph lines” transmitting information as far as 15 miles. As Lt. Burke explained, telegraph coders that could fit in a pocket (like a cell phone!), allowed individuals to scale a pole and tap into any line, usually along key railroad routes.

As with modern technological advances, special training was required. Both the Union and the Confederacy were forced to recruit officers from other tasks to be trained. In total, the Union eventually fielded 1,500 members of the signal corps; the Confederacy, 3,000. The Union strung over 53,000 miles of wire, allowing for the rapid transfer of information to Washington, DC. Lt. Burke cited, for example, the list of causalities from Gettysburg could be received at central headquarters in as little as 12 hours.

Also travelling with the troops were “sutlers” or “contractors” who often paid a bribe to be allowed to provide items not issued by the armies. These could include brandy for the officers, beer for the enlisted, paper, pen, powdered ink, utensils, and canned vegetables. Portraying a sutler at the Smith-Appleby encampment was Steven Salisbury a descendent of Salisbury family from Worcester whose ancestral home is now a museum. As with many of the reenactors, Steven often assumes other historical roles for other reenactments. For 46 years, he has been playing roles from the French and Indian War, King Philips War, and the War of 1812 among many others.

In 2011 there were over 30,000 individuals who participated in Civil War reenactments. Over 50,000 participated during the 150 Anniversary of the start of the war. Reenactors also often appear in movies, such as Gettysburg. As the film director stated, “they not only come with their costumes and weapons, but also with the stuff in their hearts and their heads.”

Author’s Notes:

  • The Signal Corps motto: “You can talk about us, but you can’t talk without us.”

  • Charles M. Latham, a member of Providence High School’s 1859 graduating class, was a member of the US Signal Corps. He was given a medal for bravery when he and 13 other Signalmen were sent to the Dakota Territory. During battle he was wounded in the heel and died of lockjaw in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

  • The 2nd RI Volunteer Infantry Regiment fielded 409 men at the Battle of Gettysburg. One was killed, five wounded and one reported missing.

  • During the battle of Gettysburg, the Signal Corp largely provided battlefield observation. There is a monument to the Army Signal Corp at the site of Little Big Horn.

  • There are several Civil War cemeteries in Rhode Island including RI Veterans’ Cemetery and a cemetery in Pascoag.

The Smithfield Raiders Football Team

Smithfield Raiders

By Peg Brown

     BOX

     The catalyst for this story is Sandra Achille, curator of the Smith-Appleby House, who received a recent donation of several historic Raiders photographs from former Raiders, including Bill Gardiner, among others. As she set up the display in the Town Room of the house, she remembered that some other memorabilia were stored in the archives. She uncovered several Raiders jackets, sweaters and other gear that had been donated by Melissa DeMeo when cleaning out her mother’s attic in Greenville. Melissa asked where these “lovingly preserved” items of her brother could find a new home. These seemingly unrelated events resulted in the Smithfield Times bringing together Bill and Charles “Buddy” Balfour, founder of the league—and this story of how a community galvanized around a pre-teen football program unfolded.

     Box

     The Smithfield Times intends this to be a two-part article with a second installment in the August issue. Recognizing the unique community involvement by hundreds or our Smithfield residents, we invite you to contact the author, Peg Brown, at pegbrown68@yahoo.com, to share your Raiders stories, anecdotes, memories and lessons learned that will be featured in August. If you have memorabilia you’d like to share, we would be delighted if you would let us know.

     ARTICLE Headline

     The Eagles Are Dead…Hail To The New Champions!…The Smithfield Raiders (The Observer, Thursday, November 17, 1966)

     The iconic ProJo sports writer, Bill Reynolds, once wrote: “If you’re looking for purity in college sports, go look in Division III…”

     If Reynolds had been covering what was happening in Smithfield for boys 9-12 over a decade during the 1960s and 1970s, he might have made similar remarks about purity in youth sports. The Smithfield Raiders, conceived, promoted, funded and energized almost exclusively by founder Charles “Buddy” Balfour, quickly engaged an entire community with a single focus: “Teaching the boys the fundamentals of football, developing leadership, sportsmanship and character in boys.” Core to Buddy’s philosophy was the issue of character development through discipline and the impact community pride can have on our youth.

     And the Raiders was not just about young boys. As the program developed, over 15 coaches were involved. Cheering the teams on were the Raiderettes, both “varsity and junior” squads (coached by Ann McKinley), a pep squad, a Woman’s Auxiliary, and a board of directors. The community was mobilized by Buddy’s commitment and vision.

     When he first put out the call for participants, he envisioned perhaps 10 or 20 would show up at Burgess Field for try-outs. Over 100 eventually vied for their chance to play. The turn out resulted in an A and B team, and several teams, such as the Georgiaville Jets and the Esmond Eagles, who played each other within Smithfield, giving everyone of whatever talent level the opportunity to be part of the Raiders family.

     At the time Buddy began the program, he was working as a pressman at the Providence Journal making a very modest salary—a salary he invested almost exclusively in supporting the growth of the Raiders program. He mentioned that in the early days, they “lit” Burgess Field with the assistance of his father who mounted a few bulbs on pieces of plywood which, when coupled with parents willing to leave their car lights on, allowed an “under the lights experience.”

     As the program and excitement evolved, food trucks appeared at games. Buddy recalls that his mother ran the first concession and his father collected tickets at the gate. Buddy made a deal to buy shoes which he sold out of his basement for $5 a pair so that the teams could have a uniform look. He borrowed helmets from surrounding football teams, and began raising money to provide the first-class look to his teams, his cheerleaders, and his players, many of whom didn’t have the resources for gear. When his team won the State Championship in 1966, he bought the entire team champion jackets, one of those donated to Smith-Appleby by Melissa DeMeo.

     The boys sold Readers’ Digests and other products, and Buddy and volunteers lined the fields, held practices three nights a week, double on Saturday. Special plays such as the Statue of Liberty and the 27 Slant were developed that led to many victories on the field. But win or lose, parties were held after every game in Buddy’s back yard for players and their parents.

     The Raiders team in 1968 had a special experience, arranged by Buddy who had a personal relationship with Leo Flynn of the Levittown Long Island Red Devils. In December the boys and their coaches boarded a bus bound for New York City. While the Raiders lost the game 19-7, their weekend stay with host families and tours of the Big Apple were the life experiences Buddy felt were so important to developing self-confidence and an independent spirit.

     Make no mistake. If you were a Raider, you followed the rules. Buddy had no problem in telling those who couldn’t follow the rules to essentially “take a hike over the nearest hill.” But in leaving, a former Raider was clearly giving up the many role models that the program provided.

     The games evolved into major community events. Homecomings were held annually, and a newspaper article in the archives indicates that “Miss Robin Marshall of Johnston, age 11 was crowed Homecoming Queen and presented with appropriate awards.” At the same game, there was also a band and “the large crowd was entertained by Miss Donna-Marie Muenzel of Warwick, one of New England’s top baton twirlers.” It was also in this game against Woonsocket that the Raiders were so far ahead “Coach Bud Balfour and staff used all of their players to give them the much-needed experience that only come from actual game play.” Again, sportsmanship reinforced.

     The program also received state recognition. In 1969 Lt. Governor J. Joseph Garrahy present a trophy to Buddy at a club 44 testimonial dinner attended by over 200 in recognition of his founding of the program in the early 1960s. As the newspaper reported, at the beginning of the program, “only thirteen boys came out for the team that now boasted 45 players, fifteen cheerleaders and a forty-member cheering section.” By 1969 the team had compiled a record of 33 league victories, four Division Championships, tied one and won the State Championship. In 1969 boosters were operating a concession stand, arranging homecomings, soliciting support for program ads to fund the program, had a formal publicity program and secured transportation. The Smithfield Fire Department, the Jaycees, Lions, Police Department, Town Council, Elks, and School Department also supported their seasons. Dr. Marz served as team physician. And Buddy, a graduate of North Providence High School, was just 27, married with two daughters, leading the Raiders growth.

     In 1967 The General Assembly issued a resolution congratulating Buddy and the Raiders not only for their 1966 State Championship, but “for encouraging organized and supervised sports program for the youth of the state.”

     Buddy will also tell you that there are certainly “Rhode Island stories” to be told. Such as how a pizzeria that didn’t open on Sundays could suddenly produce 50 pizzas with any toppings needed for that day—or how a few steak sandwiches and some liquid libation miraculously resulted in Barry Field being wired and professionally lit over just one weekend.

     But the important stories lie with you, our readers. Most of those involved with the Raiders are approaching retirement, and few young people probably have never heard of the Raiders. And that’s why we invite you to tell us for the next issue about your memories and life lessons learned by being part of this community-centered decade of competition, cooperation and local pride.

     Click here to see photos of the Smithfield Raiders.

    For Uniform Photos, Click Here

     Author’s Note:

     I purposely didn’t name individual members of the teams, because as Buddy indicated there must be close to 1,000. Please share your story with us. While it might not have been Camelot, it was a very special era in Smithfield history.

A Smithfield Lad’s Letters From The Front

A Smithfield Lad’s Letters from the Front…

By Peg Brown

     For every generation, the words–“The War” — mark a turning point. For my generation, that war was either Korea or Vietnam; for my father’s—World War II; for my grandparents—World War I. And for my great-great grandfather, perhaps the Civil War. During a recent Civil War reenactment at Smith Appleby house, a participant referenced a collection of 31 letters, dated between April 1864 and December 1865, largely unknown, that had been written by Second Class Private Lewis Anthony Waterman, the 14th child and 15-year-old son of George Waterman, owner of a cotton mill in Manville.

     Originally published by a fellow Army Signal Corps officer after his Lewis’ untimely death at age 19 of Scarlet Fever, these letters paint a picture of war and the battlefield that cannot be captured by simply walking the long-abandoned sites and viewing the graves of those who fought these battles. Only through survivor accounts can we capture the concerns and drudgery of life of those who actually served.

     While space prohibits including most of Lewis’ text, the few selected do offer a glimpse of the war time experience of a very young enlistee.

     An early letter to his brother sets the stage for his service: “Camp was overwhelming for me being only fourteen but I began to acclimate to a soldier’s life of early rising, drill, poor food etc. I had a hard time staying away from the vices of the army. Money was the worse vice for men as they would borrow from each other and have none to send home.”

Travel to the West:

“…an incidence of importance was the firing on the boat by bushwhackers near Jefferson City…” Fire was not returned as Lewis reported, “we were not trained on the weapons we were issued …”

Food and Entertainment:

“I turned fifteen today and sorry I did not have some good bourbon whiskey to celebrate with but then I remembered the last day I left Providence and prayed with Rev. Pratt about the vices I should encounter.”

“As for entertainment, I read newspapers, play dominos and checkers.”

“The Army rations are the best we have had in a long time. Had myself Fried Beef Steak, potatoes, gravy, Bread, Coffe (sic) and Tea…also beans, hominy…some boiled ham…and vegetables and rice.”

By September, 1864, rations were getting poorer, with no vegetables of any kind and little salted bacon and bread. Many solders were taking their meals in private homes for 5 cents a meal. The soldiers also heard the rumor that some recruits were being paid up to $1,600 to enlist.

Battle:

“Some bushwackers raided some places near the fort…some 700 chased after them causing them to lose about 150 men. We lost two men who could not control their horses.”

Camp Life:

Exciting news today, I got myself a wooden frame bunk off the ground.”

“I have new boots (but have been) told if I am not careful, they will be stolen by unodorax (sic) solders, so I will be sending them home until fall when Mother can send them to me.”

“Books here are expensive 15 to 25 dollars each, so hold on to mine and send me some in the fall…”

By May of 1865, Lewis was set to be discharged. Although he had initially said would never return to Providence, he changed his mind. Perhaps most poignant of all were his thoughts on the next stage of his life.

“My education is not such as I wish it was and as it might have been if I had not acted as I did while I had the chance. I am only 16 yet and there is chance for improvement. A year’s hard study will be the best thing for me yet.”

Author’s notes.

Lewis returned to Providence in December, 1868. When he knew he was dying of Scarlet Fever, he contacted his best friend, Sidney Greene, and entrusted him to finish the memoir he intended to write. Mr. Greene forward those notes and $250 for expenses to J. Willard Brown, who published his book in 1869. Portions of the profits were donated to the YMCA of Providence to help further young men’s education.

2nd Class Private Lewis Anthony Waterman is buried in the family plot in Swan Point Cemetery, age 19 years, 7 months and 17 days.

29 of the unpublished letters reside in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas; the Rhode Island Historical Society holds two. The letters have been copied, transcribed and published by Civil War reenactor Ted Urbanski, Stones River Publishing Inc, Willington, CT, May, 2021, and are available for those interested in learning more.

(All apparent misspellings and punctuation marks reflect those made in the actual letters.)

Meet the Keeper of the Stories of the Esmond Mills

Meet the Keeper of the Stories of the Esmond Mills, It’s Iconic Bunny Blankets, and the Lives of So Many Who Participated in One of Smithfield’s Historic Industries

By Peg Brown

     Sandra Achille, an historian by advocation and key source of the history of Esmond Mills, didn’t begin life expecting to collect hundreds of Esmond Mills “bunny blankets” together with the history of the changes that occurred in mill life throughout the twentieth century. In fact, it was not until she purchased a home in the shadow of the former mill that she began her journey as collector, archivist and story teller.

     Esmond had been known at various times as Allenville (build in 1813) and Enfield for a series of mill owners throughout the nineteenth century. However, Esmond, the final textile operator in this village, pulled down the pre-existing mills and moved most of the textile workers’ homes after buying the village in 1905. The home that began Sandra on her journey was one of the originals that remained on its original plot. Workers’ houses from the Esmond Mills era are generally well-preserved and many of the duplexes along the west side of Waterman Avenue (Farnum Pike) are designed based on the English model industrial towns of the early twentieth century. Esmond Mill, constructed of brick with impressive spandrel-arched windows, operated from 1905-6 until its closure in 1948. It then became the headquarters for Benny’s.

     There have been several histories written about Smithfield’s mill life and the growth of the town by local published historians such as Jim Ignasher, who has also written a history of the Smith-Appleby House, another of Sandra’s passions. It was actually in her role as “informal archivist” of Smith-Appleby House that I first met Sandra and learned of her extensive knowledge of the mill and its products. Several years ago, she had displayed much of her collection in the rooms of this historic home. Most recently we collaborated on a story of the Smithfield Raiders based on donations made to the “Town Room.”

     Sandra connected with Smith-Appleby House while she was attending her son’s school museum night at Old County School. She found herself chatting with Maggie Botelho, who has served in every executive volunteer board role for the house, and Deb Cote, who for decades has been volunteering and organizing both on and off-site educational programs mostly for children. Sandra was hooked!

     Over the past six years she, together with other volunteers, has worked to promote the mission of the Historical Society of Smithfield which owns the house, to collect, maintain and share the history of Smithfield. The Historical Society has hosted hundreds of open houses and special programs on site, as well as in every elementary school in Smithfield. In addition, collaborative historical projects have been undertaken with students from Bryant and URI.

     During our interview, Sandra recounted several very personal and gratifying moments she has experienced while volunteering. For example, she was contacted by one of Elijah Smith’s ancestors, the original owner of the home. Lee Smith from Arkansas who was inquiring about the last members of his family, Thomas and Elnathan Smith, spent a day with Sandra. She guided him to Providence to the search for the grave of John Smith Jr., the miller, who had a relationship with Roger Williams. In addition, she also attempted to take him to yet another relative’s grave in Harmony that unfortunately was land-locked and inaccessible. In addition to several other Smiths, Lee is also related to the Whipple family.

     She has also corresponded with Eva Rescinow of New York who was working on a book about important ballerinas that included Arlene Croce whose dad worked at the mill. Other interesting contacts pursued by Sandra, who also collects Indian trade and camp blankets made by the mills, include the author Barry Friedman, who has written the definitive book on these textiles. The book, Chasing Rainbows, has an entire chapter on the Esmond Mills. Not only was Barry a writer for Johnny Carson, but one of his most famous clients is Dale Chihuly, well know glass artist with roots at Rhode Island School of Design, but whose early and continuing interests are in native American textiles and baskets. Sandra actually purchased a blanket from Barry, which was in very good condition. However, because it was not 100 percent cotton, it is considered to have less value than other Indian and trade blankets.

     Sandra will have the opportunity to continue her passion and story-telling for and about the Esmond Mills, as she has been asked by Robert Leach, Chairman of the Smithfield Historical Preservation Commission, to be the Curator for the museum planned for the stone building, next to Smithfield Neighborhood Center, now undergoing extensive renovations. Sandra intends to donate much of her collection to that site for permanent public display.

     Author’s note: Many in town may know Sandra as the “Flower Lady.” From her extensive flower garden, she makes bouquets for anyone to take, and often distributes them to town offices and other sites. Last year she gave away over 120 such bouquets and in on track to break that record this year. One of her most heart-warming stories is of a woman who said she was taking a vase to put on her mother’s grave site.

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Smith-Appleby House is always looking for volunteers to continue its important community programming and to fulfill the mission of the Historical Society of Smithfield. In addition, the site and home are available for special events, including weddings and special photo sessions. Please visit the website, Smithapplebyhouse.org, for more information and for additional articles and photographs of Smithfield’s history and its people. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or have items to donate, contact Sandra at smithapplebycurator@gmail.com. To share Esmond Mill stories or artifacts, please contact Sandra directly, sandrachillie@gmail.com.

Vintage Rhode Island Department Of Corrections Insignia

    The Rhode Island State Properties Police were a state agency that patrolled the grounds of the state institutions which included hospitals and other facilities on state property in Cranston, R. I.  They were not part of the Department of Corrections, but at one time wore similar insignia.  The agency was disbanded around 1990.  

Click on images to enlarge. 

Current Issue Uniform Patch

     The following special unit patches have been worn at various times over the years.  

 

 

1974 Pistol Shoot Souvenir Patch

The Mysterious Skeleton of Putnam Pike

Originally published in Your Smithfield Magazine – October, 2010

THE MYSTERIOUS SKELETON

OF PUTNAM PIKE

By Jim Ignasher

    Few things would be more unnerving to the average homeowner than to be digging in one’s own yard and happen upon human remains. Fortunately such discoveries are rare, but at least one case occurred in Smithfield on the evening of April 11, 1977, when a man digging in his yard in the Greenville section of Putnam Pike literally unearthed a mystery that has yet to be solved.

     The man, who will remain anonymous to protect his privacy, had been removing a tree stump in order to widen his driveway when he uncovered a human skull. Smithfield police were called to the scene, and Patrolman John Whitecross later recorded in his report, “The skull had a full set of teeth and appeared to be that of a human. It was found approximately 3-4’ down in the ground and 20’ from the west corner of the garage.”

     It was apparent by the skull’s brown coloration that it was old. Of course the obvious questions were, who did it belong to, and how did it get there? Had the homeowner uncovered an unmarked grave, or were the bones connected to something more sinister?

     Smithfield police detectives Brian Burke and Joe Parenteau were assigned the case. There were no known cemeteries in the area, and further examination of the site showed no evidence of wood fragments, screws, or any other indications that the bones had been buried in a coffin.

     The state Medical Examiner’s Office was contacted, but the detectives were informed that a forensic investigator could not respond to Smithfield until the following day.

     The next morning Burke and Parenteau returned to the site, and began to carefully scrape away at the dirt where the skull had been found. After a few minutes they had uncovered several more bones which led them to believe that an entire skeleton was buried there. The depth at which the bones had been found left no doubt that they had been deliberately buried, and not simply covered by erosion.

     Shortly before noon a forensic investigator arrived, and after examination of the bones, determined they were between 40 to 100 years old. If the police were dealing with a murder, it was definitely an old one. The investigator said he would send two technicians to conduct a more through excavation. In modern terminology, this would be known as a “forensic excavation”, where the dirt would be sifted through a screen to be sure that no evidence such as small bone fragments, jewelry, or even a bullet was missed. However, this procedure was never carried out, for apparently the technicians felt further digging was unnecessary. According to the official police report, the two technicians arrived at 1:30 p.m. and only wanted to collect the bones that had already been unearthed by the detectives. The bones were taken to Providence for further examination and testing.

     In the meantime, Smithfield police continued with their investigation. Town records made no mention of any cemeteries in the area, and research of birth and death records of all previous property owners going back more than one hundred years proved fruitless.

     Detective Burke interviewed long-time residents of the area. One man remembered hearing from his grandfather that a “sick house” had once been located near where the bones were found. The sick house was where people with communicable diseases such as Small Pox were brought and kept in isolation during the 19th Century to prevent epidemics. Could the bones be that of someone who died at the so-called sick house?

     Police interviewed two women in their 80s who had lived in Greenville all their lives, but neither could remember any un-solved murders or missing person cases.

     One elderly gentleman recalled a legend about a Native American princess who had supposedly once lived in the area. Details were hazy, but it seemed she had wandered off sometime in the mid 1800s and was never heard from again; but was it fact, or simply a folktale?

     As one might expect, the case attracted the attention of the media, but there wasn’t much to report. On April 13, 1977, The Evening Bulletin reported that the Medical Examiner’s preliminary findings showed the bones to be of a young woman, buried, “more than 40 years ago, but not longer than 75 years ago.” It was also reported that investigators were still awaiting other test results.

     Two days later, Detective Burke received a brief preliminary report from the Medical Examiner’s office that stated the bones appeared to belong to one person; “…buried for over 50 years with no evidence of foreign material (such as jewelry or bullets, etc.) and no evidence of ante mortem trauma.” (“Ante mortem” means, before death.) The report stated additional tests were in progress and could take several weeks.

     On June 16, 1977, the Providence Journal reported that an orthopedic surgeon and anthropologist would study the remains for additional clues. It was further stated that the bones, “were buried no more than 50 years ago”, but their exact age was unknown. The article concluded with one of the investigators explaining that the case was “lagging because more recent deaths were given priority”.

     Three days later, a small news item appeared in The Evening Bulletin, under the headline, “Bones May Have Been Teenager”, which stated that according to the chief medical examiner, the bones, “may have been those of a teenage girl who died of tuberculosis 50 to 100 years ago.” (Discrepancies between the various news reports were never explained.)

     The medical examiner’s autopsy report does not offer much more in the way of clues. The report stated it was, “highly probable” the remains belonged to a white female, between 12 and 16 years old, who stood approximately 4’10” inches tall. The report went on to state that the person was, “probably in good health”, and that x-rays didn’t show any signs of disease, or signs of injury which would indicate foul play. Unfortunately, the report does not narrow down the time of death or state a cause.

     So, who was this young girl, and how did she come to be buried where her remains were found? The autopsy report would seem to indicate that it’s unlikely she died at the “sick house”. It also seems unlikely that she was a Native American since the autopsy report also states, “The teeth do not exhibit distinctive racial traits.”, and the race is classified as “Caucasoid”. (White)

     The Native American princess legend may have its origins in an actual incident that occurred in the Tarklin section of Burrillville in 1831. In that case, researched by former Smithfield resident Thomas D’Agostino, a woman named Hannah Frank, who was a Native American, but not a princess, was murdered by her two brothers who were opposed to her upcoming marriage to a Vermont peddler.

       Thus, the simple act of removing a tree stump uncovered a mystery that remains unsolved. Although no evidence of a crime was discovered, that doesn’t prove one wasn’t committed because a forensic excavation was never conducted. However, after all these years the question seems moot, for if a murder was committed, those responsible would surely have gone on to their final judgment by now.

     The story of this young girl may never be known. Who was she? How did she die? Perhaps the answers still lie buried with the rest of her bones under a driveway on Putnam Pike.

 

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