Forgotten Miracles of Saint Patrick

Forgotten Miracles of Saint Patrick

 By Jim Ignasher    

Circa 1910 Post Card of St. Patrick

     It’s been said that everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrated with green beer, green clothing, and corned beef and cabbage.  Everybody knows the day is named for Saint Patrick, a Christian missionary who lived centuries ago and is known for expelling all the snakes from Ireland, but how many know that he had the ability to heal the sick and raise the dead?  Or why he used the Shamrock as a tool to spread Christianity across Ireland?   

     There are numerous miraculous legends attributed to Saint Patrick that were once widely known, but in modern times have fallen into obscurity.  For example, one story relates how a great freshet caused a well in Emptor to overflow with such ferocity that the quickly rising water threatened the lives of those living in the area around it.  Patrick took a piece of bread, and after dipping his finger in the water, made the sign of the cross on it.  Then he uttered a prayer after which the water suddenly stopped gushing forth.   

     Saint Patrick was born in Scotland to Roman parents somewhere around 379 A.D. (Sources vary.) However, Patrick wasn’t his given name, but one he adopted later.  His birth name was Maewyn Succat. 

     One of the earliest miracles to attributed to Patrick occurred at his baptism when a blind man named Gormus arrived after having a dream that Patrick could cure him.  While holding Patrick’s hand, he made the sign of the cross on the ground, and suddenly a spring of fresh water erupted from the earth.  Gormus washed his eyes with the water and his sight was immediately restored. 

     Patrick had been baptized on a large flat rock which came to be used in local disputes as a lie detector.  Anyone who gave false testimony while touching the rock would cause water to trickle forth from it.     

     As a young boy Patrick was charged with watching the family’s flock of sheep.  One day a baby lamb was carried off by a wolf and he was blamed for the loss.  That night he prayed that the lamb be returned, and the following day the wolf brought the lamb back and laid it at Patrick’s feet, unharmed. 

     There was a time when honey was widely used for medicinal purposes, and one instance records that Patrick was able to turn a bowl of water into honey to treat a sick woman.      

     While in his teens Patrick was kidnapped, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery to a pagan chieftain. After six years in captivity, an angel came to him in a dream and showed him a place where gold was buried.  He retrieved the gold, and some sources say he bought his freedom, others say he escaped, and fled back to Scotland.  In either case, he became a priest and later a bishop, and eventually made his way back to Ireland and began his ministry. 

     While ministering to the pagans, he used the three-leaf Shamrock to illustrate the Christian belief that the Holy Trinity, (The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), are one God in three Devine persons.  Over time he established hundreds of churches and converted thousands to Christianity, and is today one of the three patron saints of Ireland.   

     An ancient relic attributed to Saint Patrick is an iron bell that can be found on display at the National Museum in Dublin, Ireland.  The story behind it relates how Saint Patrick climbed to the top of a mountain now known as Crough Patrick.  There, in imitation of Jesus, he fasted for forty days.  During that time demons came and tormented him, but he stayed true to his faith.  As the evil entities grew more aggressive he prayed to God, and finally drove them off using the bell. 

     It’s recorded that Patrick resurrected the dead at least 33 times. In one case two daughters of the King of Dublin had died, and the King, who’d heard of Patrick’s miraculous abilities, sent for him.  The King promised Patrick that if he could bring the girls back to life he would convert to Christianity.  Patrick took the hands of the girls and appealed to God.  Suddenly the burial chamber was filled with light and the girls rose from death.  The King kept his word and was baptized.      

     Another account speaks of a dying Irish King named Echu who wanted to convert to Christianity.  He sent for Patrick, but died before his arrival.  Patrick brought the king back to life long enough to be baptized and receive Holy Communion, after which the king passed away a second time.      

     There was an incident involving of a powerful magician who interrupted Patrick’s teachings in front of a large crowd of people and blasphemed the Lord.  In the next instant the magician was killed by a bolt of lightning, and all in attendance converted.     

     One day a thief stole a goat that belonged to Patrick and ate it.  When accused, the man denied it, until the sound of a bleating goat was heard coming from the man’s stomach.  Then the beard of a goat suddenly grew upon his face, which some say is where the term “goatee” originated.  

     Of course the best known miracle attributed to Saint Patrick involves the banishment of snakes from Ireland.  The legend goes that he climbed to the top of a mountain overlooking the sea and ordered all the serpents in Ireland to assemble at his feet before he drove them into the water by beating a drum.      

    Patrick died on March 17, circa 493, and it’s said that there was no darkness in Ireland for twelve days after his death.  He’s reportedly buried in the graveyard next to Down Cathedral located in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.  

     There are those who claim some of the miracles surrounding Saint Patrick are mythical, yet they can’t deny the immense influence he had on the Christian world, the Catholic Faith, and the Country of Ireland.  Today there are thousands of cemeteries and churches worldwide named after him, as well as a special day on the calendar – March 17th.

      Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to one and all, for everyone can celebrate – Irish or not.     

50 Years Ago – March, 1970

50 Years Ago – March, 1970     


     Sp/4 Steven C. Pechie of Esmond was home for a twenty-day furlough before reporting for duty with the Strategic Air Command in Panama.

     1st Lieutenant Anthony J. Pascitelli of Greenville was serving with the United States Air Force.

     Air Force Sergeant Richard Johnson just completed a one-year tour of duty in Thailand.

     Army Private William Hession completed basic training at Fort Dix. 

     Staff Sergeant George Fitzpatrick of Esmond came home after serving four years in Vietnam.

     USMC Corporal Robert A. Gurney, Jr., of Greenville, was serving with the 1st Marines Air Wing in Vietnam. 

     Tec. Sergeant Kenneth W. Fuller was serving with the U. S. Air Force in Vietnam.

     Air Force Lieutenant Stephen S. Weyden of Esmond was home on leave before reporting for duty in Thailand. 

     Steve Boudreau, a 17-year-old junior at Smithfield High School, was working as a jockey.  On March 2nd  he won the second race at Narragansett while riding a horse named “I’m Sugar Pie”. 

     On March 6 The Beatles released their hit song, “Let It Be”.

     The movie “Airport” premiered in New York City.  The film had an all-star cast and was based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Arthur Hailey.  

     On March 7 there was a total eclipse of the sun, said to be the “eclipse of the century”.  Days before the eclipse, newspapers and magazines printed instructions for making a “sun box” for safely viewing the event.  This hi-tec device was basically a cardboard box with a pin hole in one end and a sheet of white paper at the other.     

     The Greenville Fire Department acquired a “Raysled”.  It was a small fiberglass boat with a square front designed for both ice and water rescues. 

     The Elks Lodge on Farnum Pike held a St. Patrick’s Day dinner dance that was well attended.

     Girl Scouts of the “Yankee Smithfield Neighborhood” celebrated National Girl Scout Week with their first father-daughter dance held at the Smithfield High School.  450 people attended, and it was hoped that the dance would become an annual event. 

     Mrs. Anthony Lancia was in charge of planning the event.

     At the dance, there was a brief ceremony during which Mrs. Thomas Hall was presented an award for her 35 years of service to the Girl Scouts.

     Jane Kaminski, Joanne Daigle, Charlene Winfield, and Deborah Vallee, served as the honor guard.  

The History of the Smith-Appleby House and Property


The Smith-Appleby House Circa 1905

     The historic Smith-Appleby House Museum located at 220 Stillwater Road in Smithfield, Rhode Island, is the headquarters for the Historical Society of Smithfield and is open to the public.  It is a “country mansion” of sorts; a home that began with one room, and was added on to over the ensuing years, thus making it unusual for a house of its vintage.     

   The oldest portion of the house dates to about 1696, built when Elisha Smith, (b.1680 – d.1766), came from Providence and constructed a single room home with a small loft, likely covered with a thatch roof.  (Today this room is called the Keeping Room, and is the first stop when giving tours.)   The house is said to have been a “stone-ender”, meaning, one wall was composed entirely of stone, which wasn’t unusual for the time.  This stone wall contained a large fireplace used for cooking and heat.  While there has been some debate in recent years as to the original house being a stone ender, the hearthstones, worn smooth by centuries of foot traffic, indicate they are original to the house.    

     When visiting the Smith-Appleby House, stop to consider the conversations that have taken place in the Keeping Room.  There people debated and discussed topics of their day such as the American Revolution, the American Civil War and slavery, as well as World Wars I and II.     

     Elisha Smith was a farmer, and he eventually acquired 721 acres of land surrounding the present-day house.  In addition to farming, he built two mills on his land. The remains of one of these mills can still be seen today at the rear of the house along the shore of Georgiaville Pond.        

     Elisha married Experience Mowry, and together they had ten children; seven boys and three girls.  As the sons got older, the land was subdivided into 100 acre parcels among them.  It doesn’t appear the girls inherited any of the land.   

     Elisha died in 1766 and was among the first to be buried in the cemetery located on the grounds of the house.

The remains of one of the mills built by Elisha Smith can still be seen today.

The remains of one of the mills built by Elisha Smith can still be seen today.

     With Elisha’s passing, the house went to his eldest son, Philip Smith, (b.1703 – d.1792).  Philip married Waite Waterman, whose father owned and operated the famous Waterman Tavern in Greenville.  Philip and Waite had seven children and were the owners of the house during the time of the American Revolution. 

     The next owner was John Smith, (b.1736 – d.1807), the son of Philip and Waite (Waterman) Smith.  He married Phoebe Ballou in 1761 and they had three daughters.  When Phoebe died, John married Waite Brown and they had two sons. 

     John died in 1807 and is buried on the grounds.  His will left half of the house and a portion of the farm to his wife, and the other half of the house and some land went to his youngest daughter Waite. 

     John’s daughter, Waite Smith, married Thomas Appleby on November 14, 1784 and moved to Wionkheige Hill where they raised five children.  When she inherited her portion of the Smith property in 1807 it is presumed that she remained at her home on Wionkheige Hill, while her mother continued to live in Stillwater at the family homestead.  Waite (Smith) Appleby passed away on October 15, 1843.

     With Waite Appleby’s passing, the house and property went to her eldest son John Smith Appleby who was born in 1787.  He married Patience Harris on June 18, 1809, and moved to the homestead where he farmed the land and ran a grist and saw mill.  A blacksmith shop was built later.  During this time period the house was also used as a school house to teach the children of Stillwater until a permanent school house was built.   

     Before 1850, Stillwater Road was located on the southern side of the present-day Smith-Appleby house where the upper end of Georgiaville Pond is today.  This means that the rear of the present-day house was once the front and faced the road.  This accounts for the rear door of the house being more decorative than today’s front doors.  

Today, this is the rear of the Smith-Appleby house, but it was once the front.  The Federal style door with sidelights was added about 1808/09.

Today, this is the rear of the Smith-Appleby house, but it was once the front. The Federal style door with sidelights was added about 1808/09.

     Stillwater Road was re-located to its present position to the north of the Smith-Appleby House with the creation of Georgiaville Pond.  Creating the pond was necessary to supply enough water to power the large mills downriver in Georgiaville, but doing so meant sacrificing the roadway.  The remnants to the old road can still be seen today when the level of the pond is lowered every autumn to relieve stress on the dam.  

This row of stones indicates where Stillwater Road used to be in the 19th Century.

This row of stones indicates where Stillwater Road used to be in the 19th Century.

Stillwater Road circa 1900

Stillwater Road circa 1900

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     The house was expanded during the late 1700’s with two rooms added to the north side and the fire places re-configured.  Further rooms were added around 1800 which included an add-on addition to the east portion of the house that doubled the size of the living space.  This addition was actually another house that came from Johnston, Rhode Island. In those days, if one wanted to add-on to their home, they had to cut the timber, mill the lumber, and build it themselves.  Another solution was to purchase an existing house, dismantle it, and re-assemble it at another site, which was less labor intensive than the first option.  

     A final addition was added about 1830 that includes the present day kitchen area and the room above it.

This vintage photo shows the kitchen wing addition that was added circa 1830.

This vintage photo shows the kitchen wing addition that was added circa 1830.

     John Smith Appleby died May 17, 1857, at age 70, and is buried on the grounds along with his wife Patience and four daughters. 

     With John’s passing, the house went to his Wife Patience (Harris) Appleby who lived there until her death in 1873.  The house was then left to her eldest son, John Smith Appleby Jr. who was born August 25, 1830. 

    John Jr. never married but continued to work the farm for the rest of his life.  Besides farming, he was active in local politics serving on both the Smithfield Town Council and School Committee. He also held the positions of Tax Assessor and Director of The National Exchange Bank in Greenville.  He is said to be one of the most successful farmers in the area. 

     John Smith Appleby Jr. died August 8, 1904, and is buried on the grounds.  Since he had no children of his own, he left the property to a nephew, Sidney Merton Appleby, (b. 1846 – d. 1929).  Sidney was the youngest son of John’s younger brother Silas Appleby.

     Sidney had married Sarah A. Cozzens of Cenrtredale on May 21, 1879.  They had one child, Maria C. Appleby who was born January 22, 1888. 

     When Sidney married, he moved to Limerock and worked a dairy farm.  Shortly after Maria was born, the family moved to the Angell Farm in Smithfield where Sidney’s father, Silas S. Appleby was living. 

     Sidney’s wife Sarah died in 1890.  In 1905, Sidney and Maria moved to the Smith-Appleby House along with two of Sidney’s sisters; Abby Harris, the widow of George Harris, and Clara Appleby who never married.  Sidney died December 23, 1929 and is buried on the grounds.  With his passing, the house went to Maria. 

Maria Appleby, center, with her father and two aunts, circa 1905.

Maria Appleby, center, with her father and two aunts, circa 1905.

Maria C. Appleby

Maria C. Appleby

     Maria Cozzens Appleby was a woman ahead of her time.  She was well known for her hard work and outdoor activities which included dairy farming and golf.  In the 1920’s, she built and operated Smithfield’s only golf course which stood on land now occupied by Route 295.   She was aided in her golf course venture by Abbie Sargent, who was a lifetime friend and companion.  Abbie and Maria lived in the large house together, but as time went on, Ernest Rehill was brought to live on the property as a handyman and grounds keeper.  Mr. Rehill lived in the small outbuilding to the rear of the house.

     Maria passed away on November 3, 1959 and was buried along with the other previous owners and their families in the cemetery on the grounds.  Maria’s Will provided for Abbie to live in the house for the rest of her life.  When Abbie died in 1963, she too was buried on the grounds. 

     With Abbie Sargent’s passing, the house and property went to a church group that auctioned off the contents of the home and sold the house to a Middletown man.  The property sat neglected for many years afterwards until it was sold to the Historical Society of Smithfield in 1976.


Smith-Appleby House circa 1915

Smith-Appleby House circa 1915

The Smith-Appleby House - October 25, 1976

The Smith-Appleby House – October 25, 1976

The Smith-Appleby House - 1976 (Frank Floor photo)

The Smith-Appleby House – 1976 (Frank Floor photo)

     It took quite a few years to restore the Smith-Appleby House to its former glory, and as one might imagine with a house of its age, maintenance is always ongoing.   Some of the restoration work was done by professionals, but the majority was carried out by volunteers. 

     Part of the restoration process included deciding what features to keep.  One room of the house still bore original stenciling done in the late 1700’s.  Another had a faux marbled floor done in the early 1800’s.  Other rooms had their original beaded 18th Century wood sheathing on the walls, wide planked floors, and decorative fireplaces.  All of these features were meticulously restored and can still be seen today. 

     The outside of the house required the replacing of rotted boards and sills, along with extensive painting and repairs made to the chimneys and roofing.   

     The grounds had to be cleared of decades of brush and growth, and are today continually maintained by volunteers.  Any major repairs to the house are funded mostly through grants and donations gathered by dues and monies collected from special events held at the house.

Ernest Rehill continued to live on the property as a caretaker in this building until 2002.  Today it is an office.

Ernest Rehill continued to live on the property as a caretaker in this building until 2002. Today it is an office.

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     The building which Mr. Rehill occupied dates to the 1800’s.  It is speculated that it was originally used for washing and baking before the kitchen wing was added around 1830.  A separate building for this purpose made sense to minimize the risk of fire to the main house and to reduce heat during the summertime.  It was built into the side of a hill which would allow any wash water to drain away from the foundation.  It is also conveniently located near the original well to the house. 

     Around 1989, an addition was added to the rear of the building around which doubled the size of the living space inside and added, for the first time, indoor plumbing. 

An interior view of Mr. Rehill’s living quarters circa 1950.

An interior view of Mr. Rehill’s living quarters circa 1950.


 The Barn

This photo shows a dairy wagon in front of the barn. The farm had dairy cows before 1920.

This photo shows a dairy wagon in front of the barn. The farm had dairy cows before 1920.

This posed photograph dating to about 1910 shows Maria Appleby with her father in the forefront surrounded by people presumed to be relatives.

This posed photograph dating to about 1910 shows Maria Appleby with her father in the forefront surrounded by people presumed to be relatives.

An early automobile in front of the barn circa 1915.

An early automobile in front of the barn circa 1915.

The rear of the barn as it looks today.

The rear of the barn as it looks today.

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The Railroad Station 

     Railroad buffs might be interested to know that Smithfield’s only surviving railroad station sits on the property.  It was built about 1873 and was originally located on Brayton Road just off Farnum Pike where it served as a “flag stop” station and post office. 

     A “flag stop” station was one where the station master would put out a red flag as a signal to the train engineer to stop and take on freight, mail, or passengers.  If the engineer didn’t see a flag, the train continued on without stopping.

     The station was used until 1931 when passenger service along the Providence to Pascoag line was discontinued.  Afterwards it sat vacant and fell into disrepair. By the 1970’s it was in poor condition and in danger of being demolished when it attracted the attention of the Historical Society of Smithfield.  After some negotiations, the station was purchased for $300 and brought to the Smith-Appleby House property in 1975. There it sat for almost five years before it was taken to the Davies Technical School in Lincoln, R.I. and given a complete restoration as part of a community service project.  It was returned to the Smith-Appleby house in November of 1980 and placed on a granite foundation.     

The railroad station before restoration - 1975

The railroad station before restoration – 1975

The train station after restoration.

The train station after restoration.

One stipulation by the historical society pertaining to the restoration was that the interior should be kept as original as possible.  This was done to preserve the character of the building which included initials and dates carved into the interior woodwork by local boys with their pen knifes.  The graffiti dates to the early years of the 20th Century and can still be seen today.

The interior of the train station was kept in its original condition. Graffiti on the walls dates to 1911.

The interior of the train station was kept in its original condition. Graffiti on the walls dates to 1911.


 The Cemetery 

     There is a historical cemetery on the property dating to the 1760’s located on a small rise to the east of the house, next to Stillwater Road.  Many of the former residents of the Smith-Appleby House are buried here.  It’s likely their funerals were held at the home, in a room presently called the “Best Parlor”.

     The oldest part of the cemetery consists of upright field stones used as markers.  Unfortunately, only one of them is marked in any way.  Many early family graveyards were done in this way for a variety of reasons.   The cemetery itself is acclimated east to west as was the custom of the day, with the thinking that one would rise up facing the sunrise on the Final Judgment Day.  

     The newer part of the cemetery dates from the 1800’s to 1963 and consists of marked stones, including those of Maria Appleby and Abbie Sargent, the last two people to be interred there. 

The Smith-Appleby House Cemetery, December 2006

The Smith-Appleby House Cemetery, December 2006

The graves of John S. Appleby and his wife Patience (Harris) Appleby

The graves of John S. Appleby and his wife Patience (Harris) Appleby.


The Well 

The well on the property sits conveniently between the old cook house and present-day kitchen.

The well on the property sits conveniently between the old cook house and present-day kitchen.


 The Privy 

Before the days of indoor plumbing, this privy served  the needs of the Smith-Appleby House residents. It was restored by Howard Lebeck in 1988.

Before the days of indoor plumbing, this privy served the needs of the Smith-Appleby House residents. It was restored by Howard Lebeck in 1988.

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Other Photos 

Fishing behind the Smith-Appleby House circa 1910

Fishing behind the Smith-Appleby House circa 1910.

The bridge across the river that once ran behind the house, circa 1910.

The bridge across the river that once ran behind the house, circa 1910.

The same location of the previous two photos in 2006

The same location of the previous two photos in 2006

Looking towards the stone dam behind the house, circa 1910. The house barely visible through the trees was moved to Capron Road at Stillwater Road to accommodate the construction of Rt. 295.

Looking towards the stone dam behind the house, circa 1910. The house barely visible through the trees was moved to Capron Road at Stillwater Road to accommodate the construction of Rt. 295.

The Smith-Appleby House after the Hurricane of 1938.

The Smith-Appleby House after the Hurricane of 1938.



A horse owned by Maria Appleby with apple orchards in the background, circa 1910.  This view is looking towards Capron Road. Today Rt. 295 runs where the apple orchards were.

A horse owned by Maria Appleby with apple orchards in the background, circa 1910. This view is looking towards Capron Road. Today Rt. 295 runs where the apple orchards were.

The Smith-Appleby House property in 1974

The Smith-Appleby House property in 1974

The house before restoration, circa 1977.

The house before restoration, circa 1977.




50 years Ago – February, 1970

50 Years Ago – February, 1970  



    The Bryant University campus is home to one historic barn and two 18th century houses which in February of 1970 stood exactly where the dome of the Unistructure is located today.  As construction preparations for the Unistructure were underway the buildings became the center of some local controversy.  The school had originally planned to move the structures to another location on campus so as not to look out of place amid the modern architecture, but some felt they should remain where they were.  Then the possibility arose that they might be sold at auction and removed from Smithfield all together.

     On February 5, members of the Smithfield Town Council and representatives of the historical society met with Bryant officials at the Town Hall, where an agreement was reached to retain the buildings on campus, but not at their original location.

     Today the buildings can be found on the campus portion of John Mowry Road.   

     1st Lieutenant Anthony J. Fascitelli, Jr., of Greenville, was serving in the U. S. Air Force.

    Airman 1st Class James P. Coupe of Greenville, was serving at Da Nang Air Force Base in Vietnam.

     PFC Howard R. Turner, Jr., of Esmond, was serving with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam.

     Sergeant Lea T. Lariviere of Georgiaville, had finished a tour of duty in Germany and was home on leave.  

     The Junior Naval Cadets of Smithfield announced the following promotions:

     Thomas Howarth to full lieutenant.

     Stephen Votolato to Distinguished Cadet.

     Dennis Straight and Paul Arella to Senior Cadet 1st Class.  

     Robert Varr to Senior Cadet 2nd Class.

     Keith Straus and Dennis Henlin to Senior Cadet 3rd Class.

     Gregory Straight to Cadet 1st Class.

     Richard Cardarelli and James Bicknell to cadet 2nd Class.

     Thomas Straus, Michael Barfato, and Robert Ferguson to Cadet 3rd Class.   

     Esmond Girl Scout Troop 894 held a meeting at the Esmond Recreation Hall where the following girls were made official Girl Scouts: Pamela Shaw, Karen Despres, Deborah LeBlanc, Danielle Desautel, Kathy Richardson, Diane DeCessere, Donna Cooke, Marilyn Maltais, Mary Sward, Beth Cerroni, Linda Parks, Marion Passano, Julie Cerroni, Laura White, Mary Webster, and Melony Sheppard.    

     The Smithfield Golden Agers held a meeting over which Mrs. Albina Whitecross presided.  Hostesses included Stella Hill, Mary Cardello, Ann Ethier, Blanche Belhumer, and Mae Creighton.    

     The Apple Valley Chorus placed 2nd in the annual Division IV Competition held in Norwood, Massachusetts.  The win made them eligible to compete in the Northeast District Competition in October. 

     The Apple Valley Chorus was directed by Roger Jordon. 

     One local car dealer was offering for sale a 1966 Ford “Country Squire” station wagon – remember them?  The vehicle was equipped with a luggage rack, 2-way tailgate, radio and heater, power steering and a V-8 engine with automatic transmission, all of which were dealer options at the time.  The price, a mere $1,495. 

     The same dealer was also offering a ’67 Mustang for $1,595, and a ’68 Lincoln for $3,395.

     A local oil company was advertising 200 gallons of heating oil for $30, plus tax, and cash on delivery.  For those doing the math, that came about seven cents a gallon.       




50 Years Ago – January 1970

50 Years Ago – January, 1970

    New Years Day of 1970 ushered in a new decade which America hoped would leave the political unrest of the ‘60s behind.  Unfortunately history proved otherwise. Yet in many ways the ‘70s were a time of positive change and technological advancement despite hair styles and clothing fashions. 

     Those of us old enough to remember mood rings, pet rocks, disco dancing, mussel cars, bell bottoms, puka beads, 8-track tapes, leisure suits, platform shoes, pong, black light posters, head shops, fondue pots, bean bag chairs, mini bikes, custom vans, waterbeds, and avocado green, copper-tone, and harvest gold kitchen appliances, do so with nostalgia of simpler times. 

     Cpl. Robert A. Gurney, Jr., of Greenville was serving with the 1st Marines Aircraft Wing in Vietnam.

     CW/4 Arthur E. Arcand of Georgiaville was serving at the 5th Field Hospital in Thailand.

     Airman Gary H. Seward of Esmond was serving in the U. S. Air Force.

     Army Sgt. Thomas St. Jean of Stillwater was stationed in Germany.

     MM 3/c Wesley Wyatt of Esmond was serving in the navy aboard the USS Samuel Gompers.

     PFC George J. Schenck was serving in the U. S. Army 82nd Airborne Division.    

     The Greenville Baptist Church celebrated its 150th year.  The Anniversary Committee consisted of Rev. W. Stanley Pratt, Rev. George Daniels, Fred Potter, Elizabeth Vaughn, Lloyd Stevens, Shelly Parker, Donald Brush, Andrew Winsor, Forrest Marty, Joseph Lopez, Glenn Rawlin, L. Dexter Aldrich, Dorothy Drowne, Robert Turner, and George Leach.        

     On January 5, the soap opera “All My Children” aired for the first time on ABC.  The show continued for 41 years before ending in 2011.    

     On January 9, the Redwood Witches 4-H Club of Greenville, headquartered at Redwood Farm, elected new officers.  President: Erin McQuiddy, V.P.: Debbie Winsor, Treasurer: Robin McQuiddy, Secretary: Kris Rylander, News Reporter: Cathy Carroll, and Refreshment Coordinator: Dianne McLaren. 

     On January 25, the movie “M*A*S*H”, based on the novel by Richard Hooker, premiered in New York City.  The television show of the same name ran from 1972 to 1983.   

     On January 26, musicians Simon and Garfunkel released their song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

     On January 30 the Smithfield Historical Society called a special meeting at the Town Hall to bring awareness to help save three historic buildings that once stood where the dome of Bryant University’s Unistructure is located today.   The buildings were saved, and relocated elsewhere on the campus.       


50 Years Ago – December, 1969

50 Years Ago – December, 1969

    U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Wilfred L. Noiseux of Esmond was honorably discharged and returned home after serving two-and-a-half years in Vietnam with the 3rd Marine Division.

    PFC Allen H. Uttley of Greenville was home on a14-day furlough. 

     On November 29 a fire of broke out at the Greenville Grange Hall which was located on Austin Avenue just in from Putnam Pike.  Thanks to the quick actions by firemen the building was saved, but it had suffered significant damage to its interior.    

     The building had once been a school, and one item of historical interest that was rescued while flames still threatened the structure was the large bronze school bell still hanging in the belfry.   

      While it served as a school, classes for grades 1 – 4 were held on the first floor, and grades 5 – 8 were held on the second.  The classrooms were heated with wood stoves.        

     Graduations were simple affairs as the classes seldom numbered more than five or six.  The school closed when the William Windsor School on Route 44 opened in the 1930s.

     The former Grange Hall remained standing into the early 1980s before giving way to “progress”.  Today a row of small businesses occupies the land.

     As for the historic school bell, it has survived, and is today displayed at the Winfield Funeral Home in Greenville.  If one looks closely at the bottom rim they will notice a few chips – “battle damage” suffered during its rescue as it was dragged from the fire.

     On December 12 the Reservoir Rangers Drum and Bugle Corps held their third annual Christmas party at the Balfour-Cole American Legion Post.  Sixty members of the corps and their parents attended.    

     Two DJ’s, Jim Pride, and Mike Sands, from radio station WICE broadcast their show live from the party, and gave away twelve long playing records, (Known as “LPs” in the 1960s) as prizes.

     On December 13 several inches of snow fell over the area, clinging to trees and creating a “winter wonderland” lending to the look of Christmas.  

     On December 14 the town held two events in celebration of the Christmas Season.  The first was the annual tree lighting ceremony held at 4:45 P.M. on the Greenville Common where a Nativity had been erected by the Apple Blossom Club.  The program included short addresses by church leaders from St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Greenville Baptist Church, and St. Philips Catholic Church, followed by Christmas carols and refreshments.  The tree was lit by Senator F. Monroe Allen.

     The second event was held at 7 P.M. at the Town Hall which had been decorated with lights and wreaths, as well as a Nativity on the front lawn.  Santa arrived on the back of a Georgiaville fire truck and distributed small gifts to children while adults sang Christmas carols and enjoyed refreshments. 

     Both events had been timed so that citizens from both sides of town could attend each of them.

     A meeting of Slack’s Pond residents was held where it was voted that the name of their association be changed from the Blue Gill Derby Association to the Slacks Reservoir Improvement Association. 

     Bryant College, (Now Bryant University), unveiled its plans for the new Tupper Campus to be built on “Memory Hill” on Douglas pike. The public was invited to view architectural drawings and models of the Unistructure and dormitories that were to be constructed.      

     On December 19 and 20, the Smithfield Drama Club presented “Kaleidoscope 70”, a song and dance variety show, at the Smithfield High School.  

     On the night of December 24th, NORAD radar control reported tracking a strange aerial object circling the globe while stopping briefly at every home. Military jets were scrambled to intercept and identify, but the mysterious aeronaut seemed to keep one step ahead, and was never sighted. One doesn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to solve this X-File.

    Merry Christmas.   




Smithfield Police Ordinance – 1937

     An town ordinance relating to the Smithfield Police Department was passed on May 28, 1937 establishing the structure, pay, appointments, and duties of police officers.  It is copied here from Council Record Book #9, pages 18 – 23.   

To view PDF file of 1937 ordinance, click on link below.

Staples Scan 11-19-2019_10-09-33-016

     Below is a copy of the Smithfield Police Ordinance adopted April 3, 1913.  It was repealed with the passage of the 1937 ordinance.

Click on images to enlarge.


Little Known Victorian Legends of Christmas Past

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine.

By Jim Ignasher


An old legend explains why robins were once a symbol of Christmas.

     Mention the words “Victorian Christmas”, and all sorts of idyllic images worthy of a Charles Dickens novel come to mind. And speaking of Dickens, we all know his tale, “A Christmas Carol”, but did you ever stop to think that it’s actually a ghost story? Although out of fashion today, telling ghost stories during the Holiday Season was once a popular pastime, as was the telling of ancient Christmas legends. These legends came in all forms. Some were designed to frighten children into being good, while others were more whimsical, or spiritual.  

     For example, every kid today knows the story of Santa Claus, a kindly white-bearded man who brings toys and gifts to good little boys and girls, but more than a century ago children knew a Santa that also carried a switch for whipping those who’d misbehaved. This “Avenging Santa” manifested from ancient legends of evil creatures such as the Krampus, or the witch Frau Perchta, who prowled the world at Christmas time snatching children who’d been bad.

     The European legend of Belsnickle relates to a man dressed in rags who roams the countryside carrying a switch in one hand and a bag of gifts in the other, dispensing both according to each child’s behavior during the previous year.  

     From Iceland comes the legend of the Jolasveinar, thirteen gnome-like creatures that come down from the mountains at Christmas time and play pranks on the populace by hiding things, slamming doors, and harassing pets and farm animals. Bad children were warned about them.

     Another story tells how children who hang their stocking over the fire place on Christmas Eve had better wait until morning to see what Santa brought, lest they find a stocking full of soot and ashes.        

     Before the days of electric lights, the Victorian’s lit their Christmas trees with small candles. There are a few legends surrounding the origins of the Christmas tree, some of which were likely obscure even in the 19th century. One of French origin tells of a thirteenth century knight who beheld a vision of a giant fur tree covered with lighted candles, some upright, others upside down, with the Baby Jesus resting at the top with a halo around his head. The knight asked a priest what it meant, and was told the candles symbolized human beings, both good and bad, and that Jesus was their Savior.

     Another legend, told in an 1885 newspaper, tells of a modern-day Jesus visiting earth on Christmas Eve, and asking a passer-by why people had trees lit with candles in their homes? The man, not realizing who he’s speaking with, explains that it’s Christmas Eve, and that those are Christmas trees, to which Jesus asks “And why is Christmas Eve celebrated? And what is the meaning of the Christmas trees?”      

     In response, the man invites Jesus to his home to eat with his family. After the meal, the man escorts his guest into the living room where a tree adorned with lighted candles stood in a corner. “Heinrich,” said the man to his son, “what is Christmas Eve and why do we plant the Christmas tree?”

     “Because it’s the eve of the birth of Jesus our Lord,” he replied, “and to commemorate His love and sacrifice we plant the Christmas tree and fill it with gifts for one another.”

     The children then sang some carols and Jesus was deeply moved. After blessing them he went on his way with tears of joy in his eyes. It is then the family realizes who their guest was. It is said that where every tear fell a new evergreen sprouted, so that there would always be enough Christmas trees throughout the land.  

     There’s also a legend involving St. Ansgarius explaining why the balsam fir was chosen as the first Christmas tree. Its triangular shape represents the Holy Trinity. It stands as high as hope, as wide as love, and bears the sign of the cross on every bough.  

     The pink Sainfoin flower also figures into Christmas. According to French lore, seeds of this plant were in the straw that lined the crib of Jesus the night he was born. When Jesus was placed in the bed, the seeds suddenly sprouted and grew into flowers that formed a crown about his head.

     In Spain it was said that rosemary gives off its sweet scent at Christmas because Mary hung the tiny frock which she’d used to wrap Jesus on rosemary bushes to dry.        

     Birds are also included in Christmas folklore, and were once a common illustration on early Christmas cards.    

     There’s one legend that tells how the common robin came to have red feathers on its chest. On the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a plain brown-feathered Robin sat watching from the rafters of the manger. There was a small fire burning to keep the Holy Family warm, but when they fell asleep the embers died down until just a few faint coals could be seen. Fearing that the baby Jesus would get cold, the robin swooped down and hovered over the coals flapping its wings. In a short time he’d fanned the embers back into flames, but in doing so scorched the feathers on his chest. Despite the pain, the bird continued to keep the fire going until morning. Ever since that night, the bird was no longer a plain brown, and has worn the red fathers as a reward for his gift of warmth.

     People once put bird’s nests in their Christmas trees for it was said they brought good luck.

     And lastly, a nice story called “The Christmas Tree Chair”, which was presented as fact in a 1909 newspaper. There was a man who’d saved the trunk of every family Christmas tree since his daughter was born. After thirteen years, he brought the wood to a furniture maker who created a rustic, but comfortable chair, which was presented to the daughter on Christmas Eve as an heirloom gift of a lifetime.  

     And to all, a good night.




Vintage Christmas Cards Reveal That Santa Didn’t Always Wear Red

Originally Published in the Smithfield Times magazine, December, 2016

By Jim Ignasher  


An early Christmas postcard depicting a blue Santa Claus.

     If someone was asked to describe Santa Claus, they would most likely provide a description of Santa as we know him today – a big guy in a red suit, white beard, carrying a sack full of toys, flying in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. However, if the question was posed more than a century ago the answer would be entirely different.

     Santa has appeared in many forms over the years, beginning as a religious figure (St. Nicholas) in the 4th century, before morphing into Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and finally the “jolly old elf” we know today.  

     The historical evidence can be found in antique Christmas cards produced between the 1870s and the 1920s, which offer an insight as to how Santa Claus has evolved over the last 160 years – give or take a decade. The origin of Christmas cards can be traced to the 1840’s, but it wasn’t until the later part of the 19th century that they became popular. These Victorian seasonal greetings were generally in the form of postcards, and were mass produced in countless designs that made the image of Santa Claus more popular than ever.

     Thomas Nast, an illustrator for Harper’s Magazine during the American Civil War and afterwards is generally credited with giving the world its first glimpse at what Santa might look like. Ironically, his first Santa illustration wasn’t revealed until after Christmas when it appeared on the cover of Harper’s on January 3, 1863. The black and white lithograph depicted Santa sitting in a sleigh pulled by reindeer wearing an outfit that made him look more like an early version of Uncle Sam than Saint Nick. Union troops are standing around the sled, and a banner saying “Welcome Santa Claus” can be seen in the distance.

     However, Nast continued to experiment with Santa’s image after the war, and in 1881 produced what is perhaps his best known version that laid the groundwork for what came later.

     Yet Nast wasn’t the only artist working on Santa’s image, and each had their own ideas as to how the man should appear, beginning with how he was dressed. Some had him in ankle-length heavy coats edged with thick fur, while others showed him wearing a long pull-over hooded garment, while still others depicted him dressed in a plain coat and pants with a red cape or shawl over the shoulders. And artists from Germany, Russia, Poland, and France, sometimes dressed him in the traditional vestments of their countries.

     Santa’s coats came in a multitude of colors, from greens, yellows, reds, and purples, to browns, blues, and even white. To make an observation, white doesn’t seem to make sense considering the guy spent his big night dropping down soot-lined chimneys. Perhaps that’s why many early illustrations depicted Santa’s coat(s) edged with dark fur instead of the bright white we’ve come to know. Santa’s boots and caps also varied in color and style from one artist to the next.    

A purple Santa.

     Despite Mr. Nast depicting Santa in a reindeer-powered sled, it’s interesting to note that many early representations had him walking his way around the world with the aid of a walking stick or cane, often carrying a Christmas tree or lantern in addition to his bundle of toys. And how he carried those toys also differed. Instead of the traditional cloth bag, some pictures show Santa with a large wicker basket strapped to his back, or one being carried by hand. There are other pictures that depict him with a knapsack, or pulling a small toy-laden sled behind him. Yet he eventually got around to the latest technology, for early 20th century images show him utilizing trains, balloons, airships, airplanes, and even flying automobiles, before he apparently decided that reindeer were more reliable for landing on rooftops.

     Some early postcards combined the religious aspect of the season where Santa can be seen making his rounds with a lighted church in the background. In some cases he’s accompanied by an angel, or the Baby Jesus riding on a donkey next to him.        

    One thing that every artist seemed to agree upon was that Santa had a white beard. It was only the length that was in dispute. Some had it nearly to his feet while others thought a short cropped beard was more dignified. As with the clothing, body shape and facial features were open to interpretation. Some depicted Santa as thin, or even gaunt, while others gave him a more rotund look. His face was usually depicted as unsmiling, or even stern, and he seldom wore glasses, but often carried a pipe. The pipe, by the way, didn’t go unnoticed by tobacco companies, who were quick to utilize Santa’s image to promote their products.              

     By the early 1900s the length of Santa’s coat began to grow shorter and it now included silver buttons. (One can wonder if this was more for the comfort of department store Santa’s which were beginning to appear.) Additionally, Santa’s simple rope or cord belt was replaced by a brown or black leather one sporting a shiny buckle.    

A red Santa with dark trim on his clothes.

     It’s generally believed that the “standard” image of Santa Claus that we’ve come to know today is due to the Coca Cola Company. In 1931, artist Haddon Sundblom created an illustration for a new ad campaign depicting a kind-looking, grand-fatherly Santa, wearing the soda company’s traditional red and white colors. The image was an immediate success, and helped solidify in the public’s mind as to what Santa Claus was supposed to look like. Coca Cola may not have invented the red and white Santa-suit combination, but their advertising certainly popularized it, and Santa has been commonly portrayed in that manner ever since.  

     Yet despite contemporary notions, there are many who feel that those “old world” Santa’s had a certain charm, which is why they’re still reproduced as figurines, tree ornaments, and even Christmas cards.


50 Years Ago, October, 1969

50 Years Ago – October, 1969


The Color Center
October, 1969

     Army First Lieutenant David L. Nuttall of Greenville was home on leave before reporting for duty in Vietnam.

     Army Private George Schenck of Douglas Pike graduated Fort Knox Armor School as an armor intelligence specialist.

     Air Force Staff Sergeant Peter E. Anthony of Greenville received the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service in Vietnam.

     Robert E. Murphy of Esmond was serving with the 1st Marine Division.

     Gene Bernardo, age 3, of Greenville experienced the thrill of a lifetime at Fenway Park during a game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. Gene and his father were Orioles fans, and despite his young age, Gene had memorized the names and faces of all the team’s players.

     One the day of the game, Gene, his father, and grandfather, had seats next to the Orioles dugout, and as players appeared Gene greeted them by name. Gene was dressed in an Orioles uniform, and carried a child-sized baseball bat.   When he said hello to pitcher Clay Dalrymple, the man reached up and swung the boy down to the dugout. The two then went over to the edge of the field where the athlete pitched to Gene. By now they had the attention of the entire stadium and the crowd began cheering, and when Gene connected with ball the crowd went wild.      

     An Associated Press photographer covering the game snapped a picture which appeared in newspapers throughout the county.

     Gene was also presented with a team autographed baseball.

     A Smithfield Chevrolet dealership was advertising the new 1970 Chevelle SS, 396 convertible. These cars sold for about $3,700 in 1970. According to an Internet search, fully restored, these cars can sell for more than $70,000 today.

     Speaking of a return on an investment, People’s Bank was offering 5% interest on savings accounts.

     The third annual harvest festival was held at Waterman’s Field on the shores of Waterman’s Lake. Attractions included skydiving, karate, and trick roping exhibitions, folk singing, a barbershop quartet, and square dancing, as well as clowns, a puppet show, rides and raffles. Musical entertainment was provided by “Pastel Shade”.  

     Today housing occupies the former fairgrounds.

     On October 15, students at St. Peter’s School on Austin Avenue held a brief ceremony honoring American servicemen killed in Vietnam which included a moment of silence, and the reading of a prayer written by 8th grader George Allen.  

     On October 18, a “country auction” consisting of new and antique items was held at the Greenville Baptist Church to raise funds for needed repairs and painting of the historic church. It was said to be the largest auction of its kind ever held in Smithfield.

   On October 19, St. Xavier Academy held its 25th reunion at the Club 44 on Putnam Pike.

     The Smithfield Jaycees were selling safety flares to raise money for “Operation Scoreboard”, the funds from which would be used to purchase an electronic scoreboard for the high school athletic field. Road flares are rarely seen today, but in the 1960s they could be found in the trunk of most automobiles to be utilized in case of an accident.

     The East Smithfield Homemakers honored some of their members for their long-time service to the organization. These included: Bertha Fagan, Viola Jarvis, Giles Minard, Mabel Whipple, Helen Booth, Evyonne Shepard, Julie Shepard, Mildred Matlese, Doris Johnson, Ann DiCotio, Mary Rossi, Barbara Hill, Margaret Lawrence, Eve Jenkins, and Mary Weeks.  

     Smithfield firefighters held a parade in Georgiaville to launch “fire prevention week”. The parade included apparatus from Smithfield and nearby towns as well as floats promoting fire safety. Afterwards firefighting demonstrations were performed in the parking lot of Mine Safety.    

     How many are old enough to recall a time when people routinely burned leaves in the fall? Sometimes neighbors would gather around small piles as they burned them at the curbside, socializing into the night. Permits weren’t required and a fun time was had by all.

     An advertisement which appeared in one local paper advised everyone that “leaf burning causes air pollution!” And keep in mind this was a time before “yard waste” pickup.

     The Greenville Public Library announced that it had obtained a 3M “209” automatic copier which would be available for public use. Today we take copy machines and scanners for granted, but in 1969 they weren’t commonly found in small-town libraries.    

   The second annual Scituate Art Festival was held in North Scituate to raise funds for the old Congregational Church in that village.  


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