50 Years Ago – October, 1968

50 Years Ago – October, 1968


     The first annual Providence County Grange Fair was held Columbus Day weekend at Waterman’s Field at Waterman’s Lake. Attractions included a midway, carnival games, rides, and food concessions.

     Opening day was designated “Pawtucket-Blackstone Valley Day”.

     Day two was designated “Northern Rhode Island Apple Country Day” during which the Apple Blossom Queen and her court, the Grange prince and princess, the Dairy Queen, and Miss Rhode Island, were all on hand to take part in the crowning of the Providence County Grange Harvest Queen. (That’s a lot of royalty for a fair!).

     The day was marked with agricultural events and contests which included calf roping, cattle and sheep shows, and a greased pig chase and greased pole contest.

     The third day was designated “Providence County Horse Lovers Day”, and featured a horse show.

     Mayors and town officials from all over Providence County attended the event, as well as Rhode Island’s governor.

     It was also on Columbus Day weekend that the volunteer fire companies of Smithfield held a parade that went from the high school, down Pleasant View Avenue, and culminated at Greenville Plaza. (Where the hardware store is located today.) The purpose was to celebrate the launch of a year-long fire safety campaign known as “EDITH”, (Exit Drills In The Home).

     The program was to assist families in creating escape plans as to how they’d exit their homes in the event of a fire.

     The program was implemented by Chief Norman Segee, with assistance from Lieutenant Harold French, and the president of the Smithfield Jaycees, Leon Carney.

     When the parade was over, firemen put on fire-fighting and first-aid demonstrations.

     Navy gunner’s mate Richard N. Kanea of Greenville returned home after his third tour of duty in Vietnam as a gunner on an assault boat.

     Lieutenant Stephen S. Wyman of Esmond was married in the chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

     On October 11, NASA launched Apollo 7, with the three-man crew of Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham, aboard. The goal was not to travel to the Moon, but to orbit the earth and test the Lunar Module docking capabilities with the Command Module while broadcasting live television. This was the first time live television had been broadcast from space.

   The town dump was once located on Ridge Road at the North Providence town line. By the fall of 1968 it had grown significantly, leading area residents to complain about the smells, frequent fires, and thousands of rats, prompting local officials to look for alternative ways to discard trash. It was reported that from October, 1967, to October, 1968, the town had deposited 10,000 tons of garbage at the dump, and it was projected that by 1990, that amount would double.

     The Smithfield Conservation Commission presented the Apple Blossom Garden Club with a citation commending the organization for its town beautification efforts. In recent months the club had landscaped the Greenville Common and the Panzarella-Silvia Vietnam Memorial on Whipple Road at Douglas Pike, and was currently in the process of planting trees and flowers at Greenville Plaza.     

     The Smithfield Conservation Commission, with support from the Greenville Grange and the Apple Blossom Garden Club, put forth a proposal to turn a section of vacant land at the intersection of Austin Avenue and Putnam Pike into a memorial park honoring all volunteer firemen who’d served in the town of Smithfield. The plan included landscaping, tree planting, a monument, and a parking area. History has shown that the park was never built.

     On October 20 the Raymond C. La Perche School was dedicated. Mr. La Perche had served in various leadership capacities within the Smithfield School Department for 41 years before retiring in 1963.

     The IGA supermarket in Greenville was offering three pounds of Macintosh apples for 29 cents.

     Peoples Bank at the Apple Valley Mall was offering 5% interest on all savings accounts, compounded monthly.




50 Years Ago – September, 1968

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

     Incoming freshmen at Bryant College were invited to a “down on the farm’ barbeque at “Memory Hill”, the future site of the Bryant Unistructure. Students were introduced to faculty and administrators. These students would graduate in 1972, the year the Smithfield campus opened.

     Army Specialist James J. Motta of Georgiaville was discharged from the army after completion of his service in Vietnam.

     Staff Sergeant David M. Balfour Jr. of Esmond was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service as a crew chief aboard an F-4C aircraft in Vietnam.

     Angus Bryant of Mountaindale Road completed his tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force.

     Army Specialist John M. Cullen of Greenville was serving in Vietnam.

     Airman Jeffrey R. Sweet of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Air Force, and would be assigned to Logistics Command at Chanute Air Base in Illinois.

     Seaman Apprentice Ernest F. Littlerick, Jr. of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Navy.

     A carnival to benefit muscular dystrophy was held at 103 Dean Avenue in Esmond by Karen Shea, Joann Cunningham, Jeris and Cheryl Noducci, Kathy Wyatt, Polly and Marie Parsakian, and Bill Kerwin. A total of $48 was raised.

     The Maplewoods neighborhood in Greenville was still under development. A two-story garrison colonial on Peach Blossom Lane was advertised at $25,600. The home featured a two-car garage, fire place, 1.5 baths, and a walk out basement.

     Speaking of construction, two Greenville youths, Robert Lyons and Donald Morse, built a five story tall tree house behind a home on Beverly Circle. A photo was featured in a local newspaper.  

     In September of 1968, the television shows 60 Minutes, Adam-12, Julia, and Hawaii Five-O aired for the first time.    

     On September 15 the Smithfield Raiders pre-teen football team went to North Attleborough to play the Plainville Packers. The Raiders won, 27 to 13.  

     On September 17 the St. Michael’s Ave Marie Guild elected new officers. President: Mrs. Rose Farnsworth, Vice President: Mrs. Jemny Arruda, Recording Secretary: Mrs. Ann Tobin, Treasurer: Mrs. Joanne Serapiglia, Corresponding Secretary: Mrs. Marion Drummond.

     On September 18 People’s Bank at the Apple Valley Mall held their grand opening. The public was invited to stop in and receive a free lollypops and balloons, and to register to win a color television. (The TV was won by a couple from North Providence.)

     The bank also offered the choice of “a rugged all purpose lantern”, a wool blanket, or a “handsome” 21-inch plaid suitcase, to anyone who opened a new account.    

     On September 20 Cub Scout Pack 43 of Greenville held a meeting.

     On September 26 the East Smithfield Homemakers held a meeting at the Esmond Recreational Hall.

     On September 28, Smithfield launched a “town wide cleanup” spearheaded by the Conservation Commission. The program was scheduled to run through November 9.

Apple Lore And Fruits Of The Harvest

Originally published in The Smithfield Times, September, 2018.

Apple Lore, and fruits of the harvest

By Jim Ignasher

     According to ancient Greek mythology, the god Zeus held a wedding banquet in honor of Peteus and Thetis, and many of the gods and goddesses were invited. However, the goddess Eris was omitted from the guest list, for she was after all, the Goddess of Discord. Not one to be snubbed, she came to the celebration anyway, and brought with her a solid gold apple to be presented to the most beautiful woman in attendance. The goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, immediately stepped forward to claim the prize, and it therefore fell to Zeus to decide who should receive it. Yet Zeus knew when to delegate authority, and passed the decision to a Trojan mortal named Paris.      In what may have been the world’s first (mythical) beauty contest, Paris decided on Aphrodite because she’d promised to use her powers to give him the world’s most beautiful (mortal) woman, Helen of Troy. Aphrodite kept her word, but unfortunately Helen was already married to the Greek king Menelaus, who as one might imagine wasn’t pleased. And thus it was that the Apple of Discord is said to have caused the Trojan War.  

     September marks the beginning of the local apple harvest, and the start of the autumn season. Before long tourists will descend on Apple Valley to take advantage of what the orchards have to offer, yet it’s likely that few have ever considered the historical significance of the humble apple, or its incorporation into folklore, legends, and fairy tales, religious illustrations, music, business logos, and even commonly used expressions.  

     For centuries the apple tree has been depicted by artists in their renderings of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which early on gave the fruit its “forbidden” reputation. The poisoned apple in the German fairy tale of Snow White, first published in 1812, didn’t help the apple’s reputation either. There’s also the lesser known yarn of William Tell, who is arrested for failing to show proper respect to a self-important nobleman. As punishment, he’s forced to shoot an apple off his son’s head from fifty feet using a bow and arrow. Tell is successful, and then kills the nobleman with a second arrow. There are also several versions of a legend about a king’s garden, in the center of which grew a tree that produced golden apples.

     Then there’s the historical figure, Sir Isaac Newton, a real person who lived from 1643 to 1727, who is said to have “discovered” gravity while sitting under an apple tree where a piece of fruit dropped on his head. While the facts of the story may be in question, it’s true that Newton was a mathematical genius known for his “laws of motion”.

     Another man of legend associated with apples was John Chapman, (1774 – 1845), more commonly known as Johnny Appleseed, who roamed the American countryside planting thousands of apple trees. He’s often depicted wearing a pot on his head for a hat, and carrying a bag of apple seeds. There’s even a museum dedicated to him in Urbana, Ohio.

    Songwriters have been putting the apple to music for centuries. Two well known melodies made popular by the Andrews Sisters during WWII are “I’ll be With You In Apple Blossom Time”, and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me.)”    

     Greenville, R.I., was once home to the undisputed “king” of apple growers, Thomas K. Winsor, whose massive apple orchards once covered the land now occupied by Maplewood Estates off Austin Avenue. T.K.’s business not only sold apples locally, but shipped them cross-country and world wide, which was quite an accomplishment in a time before standard refrigeration.

     And there’s a reason why Smithfield is known as “Apple Valley”, for at one time dozens of orchards covered the local landscape, but today that number has dwindled to a mere handful.

     As a point of fact, most 18th and 19th century farms had apple trees, and our colonial forefathers are known to have drunk copious amounts of hard cider, apple-jack, and apple brandy, for it was usually safer than drinking water, which before the days of modern purification systems often contained a variety of harmful microbes. Thus it might be true that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

     It’s also interesting to note that there are literally thousands of varieties of apples, but not all are as pleasing to the eye, or as sweet tasting, as those grown for commercial sale today.

     There was once a time when apples were routinely given to school teachers as gifts. How this tradition got started is unclear. Some say it dates to a time when teachers in poor rural communities received partial payment in the way of food supplies, while others say it’s because the apple is a symbol of knowledge.

   “As sure as God made little green apples”, we’ve incorporated apple lingo into some common expressions. For example, someone might say you’re “the apple of their eye”, but a person who gives false flattery is said to be an “apple polisher”. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a “bad apple”, or “rotten to the core”. It simply may be a case of “the apple not falling far from the tree.”

     Something can be “as American as apple pie”, and “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel.”

     A person who “upsets the apple cart”, might hope for a “second bite at the apple”.

     When arguing, one might compare “apples to oranges”, and conclude with “how do you like them apples”?  

      Yet apples aren’t the only fruit connected to common expressions. Some people have been known to “go bananas”, while others have ruled “banana republics”.

     At work, we may get a “plum assignment”, and it’s all “peaches and cream”; but if we don’t, we get “sour grapes”, and are reminded that “life isn’t always a bowl of cherries”.      

     Some get along like “two peas in a pod”, and fog can be as “thick as pea soup.”      

     Someone in trouble is said to be “in a pickle”, but maybe they don’t “give a fig”, and remain “cool as a cucumber”.

     A person can “extend an olive branch”, “dangle a carrot”, be a “couch potato”, or just “full of beans”. And don’t even get me started on meats and dairy.

     Now one final thought. Did you know that there are more apple orchards in Smithfield, than in New York City, a.k.a, “The Big Apple”? Just sayin’.

     Happy harvest.




50 years Ago – August, 1968

 50 Years Ago – August, 1968


     A plaque citing Smithfield’s Cranford Club for their “loyal and dedicated service” provided to the patients at Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville over the previous five years was hung in a place of honor in the waiting room at the hospital.

     The Cranford Club of Smithfield was a local charitable organization established by Miss Orra A. Angel on October 30, 1905. It was initially a women’s organization with eight charter members, and quickly grew to twenty-five members, and was eventually capped at seventy-five.

     According to a history of the club published in 1930, “The name “Cranford”, a name which the late Rev. James Colwell, rector of St. Thomas Church and Superintendent of Smithfield schools, was wont to ascribe to our quiet village, was derived from the classic “Cranford”, and suggested by Mrs. Henry F. Jenckes.”

     The organization was active in community affairs as well as providing for the patients at Zambarano Hospital until it disbanded in the 1980s.  

     U.S. Army PFC Michael Keach of Greenville returned home after serving in Vietnam. Meanwhile, his brother John P. Keach was serving in the navy aboard the U.S.S. Fiske.

     David A. Bann of Georgiaville was home on leave from the navy.

     U.S. Navy Ensign Andrew H. Aitken of Greenville graduated flight training.  

     On August 3, United Artists released the movie “Hang ‘Em High”, starring Clint Eastwood. Eastwood played an innocent man who survived a lynching and is later appointed a U.S. Marshal.  

     The Farnum Heights Association elected new officers. John J. Sasso was elected president; Donald Provonsil was elected vice president; Gertrude Sasso was elected secretary; and John Palumbo was elected treasurer.

     A proposal was made to merge the Greenville and Esmond post offices and call it the Smithfield Post Office. Apparently there was great confusion with postal addresses at the time between Smithfield’s villages, as well as those in the neighboring villages of North Scituate, Chepachet, and the town of Lincoln. History has shown that the merger never took place.

     The Steere Family Association held its 36th annual reunion.

   Residents of Hawthorne Road in Greenville’s “Olde Smithfield Village” held their first annual block party, while residents of the Maplewoods neighborhood held a clam bake.

     There was a time when television sets resembled large pieces of furniture. One local merchant advertised a Zenith 23 inch color TV console with dual speakers for $589.95, and a swivel base model for $569.95. Both had “modern styling” with “oil finished walnut veneers.” Those old enough to remember these behemoths will recall that it took two people to move them around. And they didn’t come with remotes either.    

     On August 19, NASA announced that a lunar landing was possible for 1969.

     On August 21 the annual water carnival was held at Georgiaville Beach. Youths who’d participated in the town sponsored swimming classes since June 24th had the opportunity to compete in various events to demonstrate the skills they’d learned. Trophies were awarded to Richard Blanchard, David La Fond, Andrea Petit, Blake Ricci, David Hendrickson, and David Petit.

     A national dry cleaning chain, of which there was a franchise in Greenville, held a national “back to school sweepstakes”.   All one needed to do to enter was to visit the store and fill out an entry form. The grand prize was a brand new 1969 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon. Second prizes included four Magnavox color TV stereos. Third prizes included fifty portable tape recorders. Fourth prizes included one-hundred-fifty sets of encyclopedias, and one-thousand Shaeffer pen and pencil sets would be given away as fifth prizes.  

     On August 26, the song “Hey Jude” by the Beatles was released in the U.S. It went on to become a number one hit.  





Elephants And Other Curiosities

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, August, 2018

Click on images to enlarge.

Elephants and Other Curiosities

By Jim Ignasher

     Question: How much does and elephant weigh?

     In the summer of 1963, knowing the answer would earn you a free ride on Dolly, a circus elephant with the Hunt Brothers Royal International (traveling) Circus.

     Guessing Dolly’s weight was part of a publicity campaign aimed at promoting the circus which would be erecting the “big top” at Burgess Field located off Pleasant View Avenue in Greenville on July 31st, but more about that later.      

     For those unaware, which until recently included me, there was a time when traveling circuses used to visit Smithfield on an annual basis. This fact was brought to my attention by Mrs. Anne Allen of Greenville, whose property once abutted Burgess Field, and who supplied the photos for this article.

   “The most fun of all,” Anne explained in a recent interview, “was watching the circus set up.” She went on to explain how the circus would come in at first light,    and people of all ages would set their alarm clocks so they could wake up at 4:00 a.m. and go to watch. All the kids in the neighborhood, including her own, would be there.

   Among the circus employees were the performers, who would sit outside their trailers drinking coffee and conversing with the local children while the massive “big top” tent went up. Some of the older youths would participate in the set-up process and be rewarded with free tickets to the show.  

     The Hunt Brothers Circus began operation in Kingston, New York, in 1892, and by 1963 was reported to be the “largest rolling tent show” in America. The circus toured the northeastern portion of the United States sometimes appearing in seven towns in as many days. Life on the road wasn’t easy, but those who lived and traveled with the circus wouldn’t have had it any other way.        

     Circus life had its own lingo. Perhaps most people know that the clowns waited in “clown alley” outside the “big top” awaiting their cue from the “ring master”. But how many know that an elephant was a “bull”, and a “bull man” was its handler. Or that an “ace note” was a dollar, a “fin” a five dollar bill, and a “saw buck” a ten, any of which could be used to “duke” or pay someone. “Floss” was cotton candy, which one could buy at the “floss joint”. However, if one was in the mood, they might wander over to the “grease joint” for a hamburger, conveniently located next to the “garbage joint” where novelties and souvenirs were sold. And getting “itchy feet” meant it was time to take everything down and move on to the next town.    

     Hunt Brothers Circus advertised 50 acts which appeared in three rings under the big top – hence the term, “three ring circus”. There were acrobats and jugglers, trapeze artists and tight rope walkers, lion tamers, and of course, clowns. Dolly wasn’t the only elephant owned by the circus; there were at least two others, as well as a menagerie of trained seals, monkeys, and a pure-bred Arabian horse named Hajiian that had an appetite for pickled herring.      

Hunt Brothers Circus
Burgess Field, Greenville, R.I.

     The performances would generally last two hours, with one in the morning, and the other that same evening. By the following day the entire circus would be gone as if by magic.  

     The circus was conducted under the auspices of the Smithfield Babe Ruth League, which would hold regularly scheduled ball games at Burgess Field. Thus it was that Burgess Field was chosen over other open areas of town such as Waterman’s Field at Waterman’s lake, today occupied by condominiums, but was once the site of the annual Firemen’s Carnival.

     In 1965 the famous King Brothers Circus came to town, and like Hunt Brothers, also occupied Burgess Field. King Brothers would reportedly travel to twenty states within the course of a year, visiting 200 cities from coast to coast. Like Hunt Brothers, it too had elephants.

     Getting back to Dolly and the Hunt Brothers; the contest to guess her weight was announced in the July 4th edition of The Observer , which printed an entry blank for the “Ride-The-Elephant Contest”. Besides a free elephant ride the winner who guessed the closest would receive four photos of themselves sitting atop of Dolly as proof that they’d actually rode an elephant. Initially, any child between the ages of 7 and 17 was welcome to enter, but then some adults complained that they too should be allowed to compete for an elephant ride. The following week the rules had been broadened to include those up to the age of 70. (It was thought that nobody over the age of 70 would be interested.) In the end the complaining was for naught, for there were actually two winners, and both were under 17. Two girls, Jo-Ann Simpson, 13, of Esmond, and Jeanine Falino, 8, of Centerdale, had both submitted the guess of 6,500 pounds. Dolly’s actual weight was 6,508 pounds.

     Since the girls had tied, both got to ride Dolly. One at the morning performance, and the other at the evening show, no doubt giving both a memory that would last a lifetime.

50 years Ago – June, 1968

50 Years Ago – June, 1968

By Jim Ignasher

     On June 9th members of the Greenville and Georgiaville Fire Companies held a firemen’s memorial parade. The procession began at Old County Road and proceeded down Farnum Pike to the Georgiaville Fire Station.  

     Smithfield has lost four firefighters in the line of duty. Raymond W. Segee was stricken while responding to an alarm in October of 1956. Robert D. Brown suffered fatal injuries on April 2, 1960, when he fell from a moving fire truck responding to a brush fire. Eugene E. Dorgan fell from a moving fire truck while responding to an arson fire on September 6, 1964. And Leo Kennedy, Sr., perished during a training exercise on October 29, 1979.

     Air Force Staff Sergeant Peter E. Anthony of Greenville was assigned to the 366th Combat Support Wing in Vietnam as an Electrical Power Production Specialist.

     U.S. Army Special Forces Major Roger L. Schenck graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor degree in Military Studies. He was now en-route to serve a second tour in Vietnam.

     U.S. Air Force Sergeant Donald Shaw of Esmond was serving in Turkey. His brother, Sergeant Edwin Shaw, Jr., was serving in Nebraska.

     Robert J. Buonaccorsi of Greenville returned home after serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. It was announced that he would begin teaching in the Smithfield School System in September.

     Cub Scout Pack 44 held a meeting at the Portuguese American Club where tenderfoot graduation certificates into Boy Scouting, and Arrow of the Light awards were presented to Jay Shirley, Clifford Barrett, Richard Giguere, and Joseph Paquette.

     A freshman semi-formal dance was held in the cafeteria of the Smithfield High School. Freshman class advisor Mr. O’Neal, and Mr. and Mrs. MacNamara served as hosts. Music was provided by “The Concepts”.

     158 students became the first senior class to graduate from Smithfield High School. The ceremony was held in the courtyard, but was interrupted by a sudden rain squall which drove the approximately 800 people in attendance indoors.      

     Suggested Father’s Day gifts at a local retail store included a pipe and tobacco, a box of cigars, or a cigarette lighter. (Not the disposable lighters we think of today.)

   For the dad that didn’t smoke, there was Hai Karate, English Leather, or British Sterling, after shave lotions. How many remember those?

     Construction on the new Route 6 expressway from Olneyville to Johnston was underway. The six million dollar project was expected to be finished June 30, 1969.

     Miss Linda Aitken of Smithfield was the 1st runner up in the Miss Rhode Island Pageant. She also wore the crown of Miss University of Rhode Island.

     How many remember that Greenville had a miniature golf course located on Route 44 at the A&W? It was billed as, “A pleasant garden spot for a couple or especially an entire family to enjoy a competitive recreational golf game.”

     A group of children held a carnival at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Picard on Tucker Road in Greenville to raise money for the Summertime Charity for Underprivileged Children. Those running the carnival were; Cathi Mancini, Barbara Mancini, Margy Mancini, Marion Picard, Lori Cook, Beverly Cook, Cheryl Dionne, and Gary Conroy.

     If one went to the movies in June of ’68, perhaps they saw the following: “Bandolero!”, a western, starring Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, and Raquel Welch, and George Kennedy. Or perhaps they viewed “The Green Berets” starring John Wayne, David Janssen, and Jim Hutton, or the comedy film, “Never A Dull Moment”, with Dick Van Dyke and Edward G. Robinson. Then there was “The Thomas Crown Affair”, a thriller featuring Steve McQueen, and Faye Dunaway.

     If anyone under 30 is reading this they’re probably saying, “I’ve never heard of any of these people.”

Tales Of Georgiaville Pond

A Disaster Averted, And Other Tales Of Georgiaville Pond

By Jim Ignasher

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine – May, 2018

      Some may recall that about four years ago the water level in Georgiaville Pond was significantly reduced to allow for work on the flood gate of the Georgiaville Dam. During that time the remains of a mysterious wooden wall were revealed. It began a short distance off the beach and ran in a straight line to one of the tiny islands located about two-hundred feet to the north. Questions arose, but nobody knew its origin or purpose, and after the gate was repaired, the water level returned to normal, and the wall was soon forgotten.

     However, recent evidence has come to light that suggests the curious wooden wall dates to the 1890s, and once played a role in saving Georgiaville, Esmond, and other municipalities further down the Woonasquatucket River from possible catastrophe.

     For those unaware, Georgiaville Pond is a man-made reservoir on the Woonsasquatucket River that was created in the early 1850s to supply waterpower to the Bernon Mill during the summer months to keep it operating at peak capacity. The upper portion of the pond begins behind the historic Smith-Appleby House on Stillwater Road, and as a point of fact, prior to the reservoir being built, Stillwater Road once ran behind the Smith-Appleby House, but was relocated to its present location to accommodate the anticipated rise in water level.

     Dam failures were a common concern in the 19th century, and by the 1870s those living below the Georgiaville Dam began to worry about a possible failure, even though there was no indication that one was likely. Yet some might argue that the worry was valid, for at that time the water level in the reservoir was much higher than it is today, with literally billions of tons of water pressing against the dam. Should a failure occur, the massive onslaught of rushing water would overwhelm other dams located downstream causing a succession of further failures all the way to Providence. If that occurred, the loss of life and property would be enormous.  

     The obvious solution was to reduce the water level of the reservoir, which some weren’t prepared to do, so Providence officials saw to it that whenever heavy rains fell, horse-mounted riders would be stationed at the dam ready to spread the alarm if a failure seemed imminent. However this was a reactive, not pro-active solution.

     By 1882, the state was petitioned to order the water level to be permanently lowered by nine feet, but it’s unclear what action was taken. Then, in May of 1889, the infamous Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood occurred, killing over 2,000 people and causing millions in property damage. Barely three months later, a small dam failed in the Fiskeville section of Cranston killing three people. Some newspapers compared it to the Johnstown Flood, one calling it “Johnstown on a small scale”.

     In light of these events, Smithfield was ordered by the state Supreme Court to reduce the height of the Georgiaville Dam by several feet, which would force a permanent reduction in water volume contained in the reservoir.

     In 1894 de-construction on the dam was begun, and photographs of this massive project, on glass negatives, have recently been donated to the Historical Society of Smithfield by Roger Beaudry.

     Thus the remains of the wooden wall are what are left of a temporary dam built to divert water while the reduction of the Georgiaville Dam took place.

     Georgiaville Beach is located on the southern shore of the reservoir, and the parking lot happens to be where the first Georgiaville Baptist Church was constructed in 1857. It’s been said that baptisms were conducted in the water just off the beach. With the completion of the present church on Farnum Pike in 1906, the old church fell into disuse and was eventually raised.

     During the winter months blocks of ice from the pond would be cut and stored in two massive ice houses that once stood along the western shore next to the former Providence & Springfield Railroad tracks. On April 20, 1919, fire tore through the buildings, and when it was over, the buildings were gone, but the stacks of ice blocks remained.    

     Ice harvesting was dangerous, and one of the earliest recorded drownings at the reservoir happened in December of 1858, when a 32-year-old man fell through thin ice.

     And there have been numerous other drownings ever since. One case in particular involved a sad twist of irony. On August 30, 1872, 16-year-old Frederick Kendricks was one of the few to survive the sinking of the steamship S.S. Metis off Watch Hill, R.I. One year later, Frederick drowned within a few feet from shore while swimming in Georgiaville Pond.

   The exact number of drownings to have occurred in Georgiaville Pond is unknown, but many have been connected to a large island which seems to beckon beachgoers to try to swim to it. As far as I know, the island has no name, but perhaps it should.

     A strange incident occurred at Georgiaville Beach one afternoon in 1981 when a man drove up to the gate, and gesturing behind him, told the parking attendant that he was going to put his boat in the water. Yet strangely, he wasn’t towing a boat. He then proceeded into the parking lot, and after lining up with the boat ramp, gunned the engine and drove full-speed into the water! Momentum carried the car about twenty feet from shore before it sank. Stunned onlookers stood by as he climbed out the driver’s side window, swam to shore, and calmly walked away.

     Smithfield police were called and arranged for the car to be removed from the water. Meanwhile it was learned that the incident stemmed from a domestic squabble, and the car belonged to the man’s wife. Once it was pulled ashore via a tow truck cable, officers checked to make sure it was empty. It was.




50 Years Ago – May, 1968

50 Years Ago – May, 1968

By Jim Ignasher

    On May 30, the Panzarella-Silvia Memorial was dedicated at the intersection of Whipple Road and Douglas Pike.

     Army Lieutenant James F. Panzarella was the commanding officer of Company A, 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Army Staff Sergeant Clifford William Silvia was attached to the 25th Medical Battalion of the 25th Infantry Regiment. Both men were from Smithfield, and both were killed within a few weeks of each other while serving in Vietnam.

     The dedication ceremony began with a parade which left the Town Hall at 8:45 a.m. The procession included family members of the servicemen, civic leaders, members of the Town Council, buglers and drummers, police and fire vehicles, as well as numerous townspeople showing their support.    

     David A. Brann of Greenville was serving aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Boxer.

     Lieutenant Steven F. Wyman of Esmond was cited for his outstanding performance during his flight training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

   U.S. Army SP4 Paul Trask was serving with the 124th Transportation Battalion.

   U.S. Air Force Sergeant Angus E. Bryant of Spragueville returned home from duty in Germany where he’d been stationed for three years.

     Ralph Iannitelli of Greenville was presented with the American Legion Reserve Officers training Corps Gold Medal for Military Excellence at the 16th Annual Air Force ROTC Presidents Review held at Denison University.

     The Apple Blossom Club of Smithfield received the Carolyn B. Heffenreffer Silver Bowl Award, and the National Council Blue Rosette for Achievement Award in Home and Garden, for their work relating to civic beautification within the town of Smithfield. Among their recognized projects was the planting of nine pink-flowering Hawthorne trees in Greenville center.  

     Those present to receive the awards were Mrs. Harry Judson, Mrs. Joseph Casale, Jr., Mrs. Elwood Kelley, Mrs. Richard Illingsowrth, Mrs. Prescott Williams, Mrs. Adrien Leboissonniere, Mrs. Raymond Shirley. Mrs. Roland Smith, and Mrs. Lionel Jarvis.

   On May 10 the Smithfield High School band gave a spring concert in the school auditorium.

     Leon Carney of Greenville was elected President of the Smithfield Jaycees.

     Boy Scout Troop 3 of Greenville held a Mother’s Day breakfast on May 12. Eagle Scout William LeBlanc was the main speaker. Michael Kiely and Richard Gill were voted to attend the Order of the Red Arrow, an honor for which they were selected by the rest of the troop.

     Old Stone Bank was offering a Capitol Savings Account that would yield 5% interest per year.

     Miss Linda E. Aitken of Greenville won the Miss University of Rhode Island beauty contest and the right to compete in the Miss Rhode Island pageant on June 22.   

     The 8th Annual Apple Blossom festival was held May 19th at the Smithfield High School. Entertainment included music, dancing, and a contest in which young women competed for the title of Miss Apple Blossom Queen of Rhode Island for 1968.

    Perhaps there are some who remember a building that once stood on Route 44 in Harmony known as the “Cutler Stand”, a.k.a, “The Philip’s Place”, and “The Old Tavern”. The building, which dated to circa 1800, was slated for demolition in May of 1968, but certain architectural features such as doors, windows, and fire places were to be salvaged.   

     On May 22 the United States nuclear submarine, U.S.S. Scorpion, was lost with all hands about 400 miles west of Azores. Theories as to what happened range from a catastrophic internal malfunction to a torpedo strike. Today the remains of the vessel lie in 9,800 feet of water.


The Smithfield Meeting House Lottery of 1807

Originally Published in Your Smithfield Magazine- July, 2014



By Jim Ignasher

Click on image to enlarge.

All images are from the archives of the Historical Society of Smithfield. See more images below.

     Question: How many lottery tickets survive more than 200 years?

     Answer: Not many.

     That’s why the discovery of an envelope containing dozens of old tickets and paperwork from a long ago Smithfield lottery is so significant, for not only have the documents survived, they are in remarkably good condition considering they date to 1807!

     The tickets were for a lottery held to raise funds for a “Meeting House”, which in the early nineteenth century generally meant a church, and not a town hall as one might imagine today. Such lotteries were common for that era, often used for building projects such as schools, bridges, and roads, and even houses of worship. All such lotteries had to be sanctioned by the state to be considered legal.

     Discovering such a find raises some interesting questions; where was the meeting house built, and is it still standing?  

   The tickets were printed on plain white paper (Now yellowed with age.) using a printing press. The printer had taken the extra time to include fancy scroll work on each ticket which no doubt added to the labor costs, but helped to deter counterfeiting.

     Each ticket reads:


THIS Ticket shall entitle the bearer to receive the Prize that may

be drawn against its number, agreeably to an act of the Legislature of

the State of Rhode Island, passed at October Session, 1807. Subject

to a deduction of 12 ½ per cent.”

Each was signed Anamias Mowry, Manager.

     Every ticket is hand numbered and was printed in a series of “classes” from one through six. Evidently quite a few tickets of each class were sold due to the numbers printed on them. For example, one second class ticket was numbered 1495, and one sixth class ticket was numbered 1729.

     In 1807, the Town of Smithfield included the present day towns of North Smithfield, Lincoln, the City of Central Falls, and a portion of Woonsocket south of the Blackstone River. When one considers the fact that at the time of the lottery, the entire town had a population of less than 4,000 people one can surmise that this was a big lottery for the day.

     Included with the tickets was a document titled; “A COPY OF THE ACT FOR THE MEETING HOUSE LOTTERY” which reads as follows:

     State of Rhode Island                                            In General Assembly

   And Providence Plantations                                   October Session AD 1807

      Upon the motion of John Slater and others, praying that they may be enabled to raise the sum of four thousand dollars, by lottery, to be appropriated to build a meeting house in the Town of Smithfield. It is voted and resolved, that the payor of said petition be granted and that Seth Mowry, Robert Harris, Enos Mowry, and Anamias Mowry, of us therein named be appointed managers of said lottery, who are hereby empowered to raise said sum of money in one or more classes, provided they shall first give Bonds to the general treasurer, in the sum of forty thousand dollars conditioned for the faithful discharge of the trust hereby reposed in them –

 A true copy

Witness Samuel Eddy Secry.    

     There was also a piece of paper with accounting costs of managing the lottery submitted by Anamias Mowry.   It reads;

     “The account of Anamias Mowry Jr., one of the managers of the Smithfield Meeting House Lottery. The accountant charges himself with the following number of tickets – viz.”

     In the first class 333 tickets at 2 dollars each.           666

     In the second class500 tickets at 3 dollars each     1500

     In the third class 500 tickets at 3 dollars each         1500

     In the forth class 800 tickets at 3 dollars each        2400

     In the fifth class 700 tickets at 3 dollars each         2100


                                                                                     $ 8166

     The envelope did not contain any tickets from the fourth class, yet there were tickets from all of the other classes including a sixth class which was not mentioned in the itemized list. On the opposite side of the same piece of paper was an itemized list of expenses incurred by Mr. Mowry in the performance of his duties as manager of the lottery.

     “The accountant prays allowance of the following charges and payments – viz”

      1807 Nov. 13 to my going to Providence to give bank cash

     to the treasurer and other expenses                                                             $ 2.00

     Dec. 3 to my going to Providence to send a copy of the Act

     authorizing the lottery to the general treasurer                                            $2.00

     To cash paid for copying and postage                                                             .50

     To tickets unsold in the first class fifty one at two dollars each             $102.00

     To cash paid for prize tickets in the first class                                         $565.50

     To tickets in the hands of Seth Mowry that were in

     a policy of his and mine.                                                                         $58.00

     To cash paid for prizes in the second class                                             $1850.63

     Add to this sum                                                                                           $3.50

     To cash paid for tickets in the third class                                              $1366.75

       Add to this sum recd. of Arnold Mowry                                               $10.50

       Add to this sum                                                                                    $24.50






     One interesting thing about this document is that the math is wrong. When the figures are added up it should come out to $3985.88 and not $3927.88, a difference of $58. This was most likely an oversight, but the actual final total should have been $8017.83.   Where the additional $4031 came from is not indicated.

    So, what was the Smithfield Meeting House and where was it located?

     A book by Thomas Steere titled, “History of the Town of Smithfield from its Organization in 1730-1, to its Division in 1871”, published in 1881, makes a small notation about the 1807 lottery on page 62 that reads;

     “1807. October. John Slater having petitioned therefore, Seth Mowry, Robert Harris, Enos Mowry, and Anamias Mowry were empowered to raise four thousand dollars by lottery, to be appropriated to building a meeting house in the town of Smithfield.”

     John Slater was born in England in 1776, and came to America in 1803. In 1807 he built a mill along the Branch River in what is today known as the village of Slatersville in the town of North Smithfield. That same year he obtained permission to hold the Smithfield Meeting House Lottery to erect the first church or “meeting house” in the village.

     Houses of worship were important to village development in early America, for they represented civilization, propriety, and community stability. As a point of fact, the old Smithfield Meeting House has survived, and according to the Town of North Smithfield website, it still stands at 55-57 Green Street, however it was originally located a little farther down the road where the Congregational Church stands today. After serving as a meeting house, it became a school, and is today a private residence.            

     Lotteries such as the one to build the Smithfield Meeting House are no longer used to for building projects, but one has to marvel at the fact both Meeting House and the lottery tickets sold to build it are still in existence. Will anyone today think to save useless lottery tickets? And how many modern public buildings can we expect to still be standing in two hundred years?  

All images are from the archives of the Historical Society of Smithfield.

Click on images to enlarge.

Image used in book, Remembering Smithfield, Sketches of Apple Valley, by Jim Ignasher – 2009

A rare example of three connected tickets.

Obverse side of ticket #1154

Reverse side of ticket 1154.





The Stillwater Country Club

The Stillwater Country Club

(Click on images to enlarge.)


A scorecard from the
Stillwater Country Club.
Donated by Charles Letocha, 2018.

     Golf enthusiasts might be interested to know that Smithfield once had a golf course where Interstate 295 and Stillwater Road intersect.  Furthermore, the golf course was maintained and operated, not by a staff of greens-keepers, but solely by its owner, Maria C. Appleby, (born, 1888 – died, 1959).       

     Maria came to Smithfield in 1905 with her father and two aunts to live in the Smith-Appleby House, which is today the Smith-Appleby House Museum located at 220 Stillwater road.           

     Today the property surrounding the Smith-Appleby House consists of several acres, but in 1905 the property was much larger.  The area where Route 295 passes today was still part of the Appleby farm, used primarily for grazing livestock.  At some point in the early 1920s Maria decided to turn that portion of the property into a six-hole golf course, and thus established the Stillwater Country Club. 

     Maria was a hardy and industrious woman, and she did most of the work of building and maintaining the golf course by herself. 

     The fairways required lots of watering, which was done through a piping system using water drawn from the nearby Woonasquatucket River. 

     Grass mowing was originally accomplished by attaching a mowing machine to a horse, but later an old automobile was utilized.

     The tee-off areas also needed constant attention.

     The country club had a clubhouse, which consisted of a barn on Stillwater Road across from the Smith-Appleby House.  The barn reportedly burned down in the 1950s.     

Stillwater Country Club
Scorecard, Reverse Side

     During the winter months Maria took college courses in business and agriculture to gain more knowledge in running a golf course.

     The Stillwater Country Club was a success, with a membership list that included 75 dues-paying members.      

     At some point the golf course was expanded from six to nine holes.  One version puts the year of expansion at 1933, but others tell how the expansion didn’t come until after Maria sold the property in 1959. 

     The property of was sold in early 1959 to a couple from Attleboro, Massachusetts, for the sum of $40,000.  Maria passed away at her home just a few months later on November 3, 1959, and is buried in the family cemetery on the Smith-Appleby House property.    


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