Smithfield Town Meeting – 1855

Smithfield Town Meeting – June, 1855 

     The following newspaper article came from the June 16, 1855 edition of the Woonsocket Weekly Patriot.

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19th Century Map of the Enfield (Esmond) Mill

19th Century Map of the Enfield Mill Property, which is today occupied by the Esmond Mill complex


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1940 Survey of Esmond Mills


1940 Survey of Esmond Mills

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     Courtesy of the Smithfield Preservation Commission


1897 Smithfield R.I. Tax Receipt

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Police Tales Of Yesteryear


By Jim Ignasher    

     The evening of October 2, 1933, was one of those glorious autumn nights where the weather was clear and cool, and the stars twinkled brightly; perfect for romance. So it was that a young man and his favorite girl parked along wooded Ridge Road near the North Providence line. As the couple sat in the car anticipating what might come next, a man with a pistol emerged from the woods.

     “Stick ‘em up and hand over your dough!” he demanded, as if he were in some B-rated gangster movie.

     The couple was in no position to argue, and the young man quickly handed over two dollars, stammering that it was all he had.

     Instead of being angry, or running off, the robber then proceeded to tell the couple his life story, leading up to how he had recently been released from prison. His time in jail, he insisted, had been a “bum rap”, and swore he was totally innocent of the crime he had been convicted of. He then explained that the only reason he was robbing them was to raise enough money to leave Rhode Island so he could “go straight.”

   Sepia tone images of those long ago days of the Great Depression seem to reflect a simpler, gentler time, when family values were strong, communities were close, and everyone pulled together. However, the 1930s were also the days of John Dillinger, “Machine Gun” Kelley, and “Pretty-Boy” Floyd, hailed by some as modern day Robin Hoods, robbing banks and committing cold-blooded murder in flamboyant style. Although Rhode Island was spared such notoriety, Smithfield’s police officers still had crime and other problems to deal with. All of the stories contained in this article are true, culled from a collection of Depression Era newspaper clippings donated to the Historical Society of Smithfield by former town resident, Dorothy E. Reynolds.          

     On July 8, 1934, a West Warwick man was arrested in Georgiaville for “reveling”, but not before he put up a tenacious fight with officers. He appeared before the Ninth District Court in Gerogiaville where he pled guilty and was fined $100, which was a huge sum of money in those days.  

     The following month Officer Henry Passano was called to the Stillwater Country Club to investigate a report of a lost wrist watch. The complainant, a Woonsocket man, claimed he removed the watch while washing his hands and forgot it. When he returned later it was gone.

     On a warm August afternoon in 1937, Chief of Police Alfred La Croix was patrolling along Farnum Pike when he encountered two pretty teenage girls clad only in bathing suits walking home from Georgaiville Beach. After speaking with the girls, he drafted a proclamation banning the practice of strolling along public highways in such attire. The ban, which also applied to non-Smithfield residents, did not include sun suits or short pants.

     Apparently traveling peddlers had become a nuisance for that September Smithfield’s Town Council adopted a new ordinance requiring all peddlers operating in town to have a license. However, certain vendors, such as butchers, fish dealers, and farmers, were exempt.

     On October 4, 1937, a seventeen year- old youth accidentally shot himself in the leg while hunting in the woods off Capron Road. Severely wounded and unable to walk, he began shouting for help. Fortunately, his cries were heard by Maria Appleby and members of the Stillwater Country Club who went to his aid.

     Later that same month, Chief La Croix and School Superintendent Aaron F. Demorganville conferred about the possibility of using older students to establish a junior police squad for the purpose of crossing school children at intersections. The youthful “officers” would be equipped with a white traffic belt, a badge, and a hand-held stop sign.

   On October 21, 1937, Smithfield police held their first policeman’s ball with more than 300 people in attendance. Proceeds were used to buy uniforms and equipment for the department.

   The Ninth District Court docket for May 26, 1938 shows that a Greenville man was fined $20 for operating his motorcycle at an “estimated” speed of 58 mph on Farnum Pike. Two other men were fined $5 for operating motor vehicles without a license.

     An amusing tale concerning the courtroom wood stove happened on June 24, 1938, when the janitor, following orders, started a fire to remove dampness from the building. He apparently did his job a little too well for the resulting heat from the roaring fire, compiled with normal June temperatures, forced a temporary recess.      

    On the night of February 23, 1939, Walsh’s Roller Skating Rink in Georgiaville was destroyed by fire. Firefighters battled the blaze in strong icy winds while police dealt with hundreds of onlookers. Mr. Walsh vowed to rebuild.  

     A sad incident occurred in April of 1939, when a family of squatters living in a tar paper shack in the woods of Hanton City, sent for a doctor for their sick baby. Upon arrival, the doctor discovered the baby girl dead in her make-shift crib. It was determined the child suffered from severe malnutrition, and died of suffocation due to an overheated woodstove. Conditions in the dwelling were described as “deplorable”. When Smithfield police went to investigate they found the shack deserted. The family, which had two other children, ages 3 and 5, was said to be headed for California. The baby was given a proper burial in at town expense.

     A Pawtucket man was slightly injured on April 23, 1939, when his hastily repaired two-seater airplane crashed at Smithfield Airport, located where Bryant University stands today. The crash was blamed on a “bad welding job” and the mechanic responsible was promptly fired. The plane was owned by the Smithfield Airport Club, an organization consisting of young men interested in aviation.

     On March 21, 1940, Smithfield police and firefighters were called to the Lister Worsted Co. Mill in Stillwater after a bolt of lightning struck the 180-foot smoke stack and blasted the top half away. Tons of debris crashed down through the roof of the mill injuring three workers, damaging equipment, and igniting a small fire on the roof. Damage was estimated at $50,000.  

     It is said that lightning never strikes twice. However, the same chimney had also been hit by lightning in 1938, causing $8,000 in damage.

   One week later, Officer Charles Sullivan was injured when he was struck by a motorist while directing traffic outside Walsh’s Dance Hall on Farnum Pike in Georgiaville. The driver claimed he had not seen the policeman.

     More than just old newspaper accounts survive to give a glimpse of what the job was like for a Smithfield police officer during the Depression. In September, 2009, Smithfield’s deputy chief of police, Richard P. St. Sauveur, discovered an old iron key that once locked the cell of the Georgiaville bridewell. Before Smithfield had a police station, prisoners were lodged in one of two rented bridewells, a.k.a. jails, one on either side of town. The artifact is presently on display at the Smith-Appley House Museum.

     Yes, in many ways times were simpler then, but these stories illustrate that the job of a police officer has always been tough and challenging.

50 Years Ago – January, 1968

50 Years Ago – January, 1968

     Fifteen ladies from Smithfield were named as captains in the 1968 March of Dimes fundraising campaign. The March of Dimes is an organization dedicated to preventing birth defects. Those named were: Mrs. Albert A. Apshaga, Mrs. Francis R. Beaudry, Mrs. John K. Boyle, Mrs. George J. Chasse, Mrs. Charles V. Day, Mrs. John J. Dolan, Mrs. Bernard J. Ferro, Mrs. Norman W. Hawkins, Mrs. Henry N. McCutcheon, Mrs. Robert E. Reall, Mrs. Roland Robenhymer, Mrs. Robert O, Sparling, Mrs. Allen B. Schwartz, Mrs. William J. Walker, Mrs. Frank N. Zangari.

     On January 7, the price of mailing a letter went from five cents to six cents.

     Some of the newest citizen-volunteer government groups in town included the Township Preservation and Development Council, dedicated to improving the appearance of Smithfield and preserving its heritage.

     A group calling themselves The Citizens for the Preservation of Smithfield was formed to fight a zoning change which would allow an apartment complex to be constructed on Rt. 44 near Maplecrest Drive.  

     The Smithfield Tax League consisted of citizens concerned about the town’s rapid growth rate, and future need for more services which would equate to higher taxes.

     On January 12, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co., (AT&T), announced plans to begin instituting what we’ve come to know as the 9-1-1 emergency call system. It was estimated that the cost would be 50 million dollars, and the installation of routing equipment around the country would take several years.

     On January 13, a thick column of black smoke visible for miles was seen rising from the Sparling Mills on Austin Ave. The Greenville Fire Department responded and discovered the cause to be the intentional burning of spools and other debris.

     Army Staff Sergeant Clifford W. Silvia died in Vietnam on July 17, 1967 from combat wounds received a few days earlier. In January of 1968 he was awarded the following medals posthumously: the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Honorable Service Award. The medals were presented to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Silvia, at a special ceremony.

    Airman 1/C Terrance M. McCaffrey of Greenville participated in an emergency airlift operation to drop bales of hay to sheep and cows stranded in heavy snow on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona. His Air Force unit flew 161 sorties and dropped 858 tons of hay.

     Marine Corps Corporal Hawkins W. Hibbs Jr. of Greenville reported for duty at the Marine Aerial Refueling Transport Squadron 252 at Cherry Point, N. C.

     Walter G. Bouchard, U.S. Navy, was promoted to Chief Petty Officer. He was serving aboard the U.S.S. White Plains, AFS-4.    

     Boy Scout Troop 1 of Esmond, under the leadership of Scout Master Roland Robenhymer, participated in “Operation Freeze Out”, and spent a weekend camping at Camp Yawgoog.

     Participating scouts included: Mark Kocon, Paul St. Jean, John Bateman, Alan and Kenneth Lemieux, Joe Robenhymer, Brian Millard, and Paul Lambarde.

     The Mothers of Twins Club held a meeting on January 18.    

     A “Snowflake Dance”, sponsored by the Smithfield Recreation Department, was held on the 19th at Anna McCabe School.

     Speaking of schools, how many remember the “Bombardier”? It was a mini tractor-bulldozer that the town used to clear sidewalks of snow within a one-mile radius of the schools so kids didn’t have to walk in the streets.  

     A contest was held by the Greenville Library to see which student(s) could read the most books between October 1st and December 30th.   The winners were announced in January. First place went to Priscilla Albrechit, who read 156 books. Other winners included: Linda Sachuk, 102 books; Lori Pagnozzi, 101; Paula Mackinlay, 90; and Mark Adams, 69.  

     Specifications for a new post office building in Greenville were approved. The new building would be twice as large as the old one, but a site had yet to be chosen.

     In January of 1968 a proposal was put forth to build a large ski resort in the Buck Hill Management Area of Burrillville. Smithfield Senator F. Monroe Allen announced he was in favor of the plan, for even though it wouldn’t be in Smithfield, it would certainly benefit local residents who enjoyed winter activities. Unfortunately, the resort was never built.



50 Years Ago – December, 1967

50 Years Ago, December, 1967

By Jim Ignasher


     Fifty years go stores everywhere advertised their Christmas sales with ads that depicted everything from Santa Claus, to winter scenes, to religious depictions of the Holy Family. One retailer advertised a solid-state portable stereo phonograph, “Designed with the teen in mind”, for $88. Another had 3-speed, reel-to-reel, mono-tape recorders for sale at $77. These items were considered Hi-tech for 1967. Today’s teens can use their hand-held phones to do what these bulky items did, and with better sound quality too.      

     The Family Store, once located at 625 Putnam Pike was selling wool coats for $30, and The Village Pharmacy in Greenville Center was selling five pound boxes of chocolate for $8.50. Unfortunately both stores are no longer in business.    

     Fresh cut Christmas Trees could be had at local farms and at a few lots along Rt. 44.

     On December 10, a “Gala Christmas Frolic” was held by the Smithfield Democratic Town Committee at the Dillon Knights of Columbus Hall on Douglas Pike in North Providence. Tickets were $5 per couple.

     The Rhode Island Chief’s of Police Association held their annual Christmas party at the Club 44 restaurant on Route 44. Smithfield’s police Chief Arthur B. Gould was in attendance.

     The Smithfield Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol held their Christmas party at the Smithfield Recreation Center in Esmond.  

     The new St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Georgiaville opened its doors after holding services for the last time at the “old” St. Michael’s Church which at the time stood on Homestead Avenue. (The 95-year-old building was later torn down.) The old church held 400 parishioners; the new one was designed to hold twice as many. The altar of the new church is made of Monet Verde Marble from Italy.

     U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Apprentice James M. Gallagher of Greenville was attending Radar Training School in New York.  

   Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Robert L. Higginbotham Jr., of Greenville was serving in Vietnam.

    U.S. Navy Seaman Recruit David A. Brann of Greenville completed basic training.

     Troop 55 of the Smithfield Girl Scouts toured the Rhode Island State House and got to meet then Governor John Chafee. Rosemarie Cullen was the troop leader.

     On December 16, Santa Claus arrived in Greenville Center riding a shiny red fire truck to be there for the annual tree lighting ceremony. There had been much preparation for his anticipated arrival.

     Smithfield’s Apple Blossom Garden Club had erected a wooden Crèche which contained figures of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

     Colored lights had been strung, and at the given time, were illuminated by Senator F. Monroe Allen of Greenville.  

     Mrs. Olive Wilkes of St. Thomas Episcopal Church played the carillon chimes while the youth choir of the Greenville Baptist Church sang Christmas carols.  

     Santa had plenty of candy canes to give away, courtesy of The Village Pharmacy.  




50 Years Ago – October, 1967

50 Years Ago – October, 1967

By Jim Ignasher

     October 1, 1967 marked the 60th anniversary of the Greenville Grange, an organization that promoted community and agriculture.

     Henry S. Turner and a group of other influential citizens are credited for the formation of the Greenville Grange which held its first meeting in 1907 in the vestry of the Greenville Baptist Church.

     The officers elected at that meeting were: Henry S. Turner, Master; Nicholas S. Winsor, Overseer; Mrs. Henry Eldredge, Lecturer; Thomas K. Winsor, (aka “The Apple King”), Steward; Frank Colwell, Assistant Steward; James Winsor, Chaplain; Mary M. Steere, Treasurer; Mary B. Lamb, Secretary; Frank Grant, Gatekeeper; Mary Barden, Ceres; Lizzie A. Hill, Pomona, Alice Blanchard, Flora; Jennie A. Winsor, Lady Assistant Steward.

     The organization initially held its meetings at the church before deciding to utilize the upstairs portion of Wilkinson Hall which once stood across the street from the Baptist Church on the corner of Austin Avenue and Route 44, where a dry cleaners and law office are located today. The first floor or Wilkinson Hall was occupied by the Smithfield Market, but the upper floors were used for meetings and entertainment,

     Wilkinson Hall burned to the ground in 1916, necessitating the grange meetings to once again be held in the church. A short time later the Greenville Grange began to hold its meetings in the back room of Tobey’s Store, which once stood on the corner of Route 44 and Smith Avenue, on the site now occupied by Wood Items and More. Tobey’s store burned on January 23, 1924, and was replaced by the brick building that stands today.

     In 1939 the Greenville Grange acquired the former Greenville School, a building that dated to 1874, and converted it to a Grange Hall. The school stood on Austin Avenue, just in from Route 44, until the 1980s when it was demolished to make way for new development.

     On October 10, 1967, the Grange held an open house party to celebrate the anniversary and invited the public to attend. In preparation of the event, the building had been refurbished and painted. Presiding at the celebration was Master Joseph Connetti.

     State Master Woodrow Tucker presented awards to Greenville Grange members for community progress, membership growth, and home economics.

     Music was provided by Priscilla Lowell and her orchestra.

     On October 3, the Bernon Library, that in 1967 stood at 15 Homestead Ave., and the Esmond Free Public Library, which occupied the former Esmond Recreation Hall at 7 Esmond Street, merged together to form the Esmond Free Public Library Corporation. The name was changed shortly afterwards to the East Smithfield Public Library.

     At the time of the merger it was hoped that a new library building could be built within the next three years. Meanwhile, the library would continue to operate at both locations.

     Airman 2/C Brian P. McCaffrey of Greenville was home on leave before his deployment to Vietnam.

     Airman 1/C Thomas D. Paiva of Esmond was serving with the Air Force Security Police at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam.

     Lieutenant (j.g.) Warren Manchester was appointed commander of the Smithfield Junior Naval Cadets.  

     The annual Smithfield Harvest Festival was held at Waterman’s Lake on October 8. Besides the traditional games and rides, entertainment included a trick-motorcycle exhibition performed by New England’s champion rider “Chubby DeCubellis”, as well as a multiple parachute drop by members of the North Central Sky Diving Club.

     Square dancing music was performed by Russ King & Co., and dance music for the “younger generation”, (Who would be in their 50s and 60s today.) was provided by a group called “The Pastel Shaydes”. (Their spelling.)

     Bryant College, (Now Bryant University), announced that it was going to develop the 220 acre parcel of land on Route 7 it had received as a gift from Earl S. Tupper. One local newspaper reported that the campus would be known as “Tupper Campus on Memory Hill”. (How many knew that? I didn’t.)

     The land included several buildings, one being a former aircraft hangar, and the other being the Captain Joseph Mowry House that dates to 1708. The hangar is now gone, but the Mowry House still stands.    





50 years Ago – September, 1967

50 Years Ago – September, 1967


     September is the beginning of apple harvest time. Some orchards that are no longer in existence include Matteo’s Farm, and Homestead Orchards on Swan Road, Larry Sasso’s Orchard on Mann School Road, Brown’s Orchard on Pleasant View Avenue, and Harold Stewart Apples on Smith Avenue.  

     In entertainment news, on September 3, the television game show, “What’s My Line” aired its last show. It had been on television since 1950.

     On September 7 “The Flying Nun” starring Sally Field premiered.

     On September 11 “The Carol Burnett Show” made its debut and ran until 1978.

     On September 10 the Smithfield Raiders pre-teen football team played the North Providence Rockets at Burgess Field. The event was preceded with a parade that started at the First National Store in Greenville center and ended at the ball field. The Raiders won, 28 – 12.

     The Reverend George E. Daniels became the newly appointed Pastor of the Greenville Baptist Church.

     Frederick C. Mueller and Dennis J. Rylands, both of Esmond, were studying to be priests.

     The Balfore-Cole American Legion Post #64 on Pleasant View Avenue inducted Albert H. Thornton and Luigi A. Ceroni as lifetime members, which is the highest award the post can bestow on a member. Both men were former post commanders.

     This was only the second time in the post’s 30-year history that such an honor had been given. Ten years earlier, the late Raymond C. LaPerche had received the honor.

     Ralph E. Iannitelli of Greenville completed a four week U.S. Air Force Reserve Officers Training Course at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

     PFC James J. Motta completed basic training and was home of leave before being deployed to Vietnam.

     SP/5 Raymond L. Mandeville of Georgiaville was also home on leave after serving 12 months in Vietnam.

     Lieutenant Bruce Warren of Greenville completed Army Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.  

     T/Sgt. Kenneth E. Bessette of Esmond was serving with the Military Airlift Command in Yokota, Japan.

     Fireman Apprentice Gary C. Comfort of Greenville was serving aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker U.S.S. Eastwind.

     U.S. Air Force S/Sgt. Joseph A. L. Blais of Esmond received the Air Medal while serving in Vietnam.

     Air Force Airman Arthur P. Polcicelli, Jr., of Greenville recently completed basic training, and had been selected for advanced technical training at Chanute Air Force base in Illinois.

     U.S. Marine Sergeant Joseph T. Coleman of Stillwater completed his tour of duty in Vietnam.

     On September 17, eight tourist were killed, and seventy-eight others were injured in an accident involving the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

     On September 19 the Smithfield Jaycees opened their annual membership drive by hosting a dinner at Club 44 on Putnam Pike. Men aged 21-36 were invited to attend. The Smithfield chapter of Jaycees had received it charter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1962.      

     Newly formed Georgiaville Boy Scout Troop 1 held its first meeting at the Smithfield Junior High School on September 21st.  

     Newly established Cub Scout Pack 43 of Greenville held a meeting at the Greenville Baptist Church.  

     Newly organized Cub Scout Pack 44 of Georgiaville/Esmond held its first meeting at the Portuguese American Club.

     On September 29, Gladys Knight and the Pips released their hit song, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”.


50 Years Ago – February, 1968

50 Years Ago – February, 1968

     Between Saturday, February 10, and Wednesday, February 14, four un-named residents of the Greenville area reported sighting unidentified flying objects, (U.F.O.’s), over the Hawkins Pond – Slacks Reservoir area off Greenville Avenue. The objects were said to be saucer shaped, about forty feet in diameter, with pulsating lights similar to a theatre marquee around the edges, and making a noise like “a refrigerator about to break down.”   The objects hovered in place not far above tree-top level, before shooting off at a high rate of speed.

     One man reported that a UFO hovered over his car after he’d stopped on Winsor Avenue for a better look, and remained motionless for about a minute before moving away.      

     One possible explanation put forth was that Navy helicopters from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station were practicing night maneuvers – but this was unconfirmed.

     U.S. Army Private First Class Edward G. DiPanni, Jr., of Greenville, was awarded The Purple Heart medal for serious combat wounds received in Vietnam. PFC DiPanni was serving with the 4th Engineer battalion, 4th Army Division when he was wounded at Duc Pho. It was reported he would be at a military hospital for several months recuperating.    

     Airman Roger N. Mowry of Douglas Pike graduated as a medical specialist from Air Force Technical School.        

     A double full-page ad in a local newspaper announced that land located at the corner of Farnum Pike and Washington Highway would be soon be developed into a large resort-recreational area known as Green Valley. The project would include a professional sized hockey rink that would be one of the largest in New England, as well as a ski area, dance hall, and parking lot large enough to accommodate “thousands” of automobiles. The ad predicted that one-third of the project would be completed by December 1, 1968.  

     Of course, no such resort was ever built, and the land it was to be constructed on is still undeveloped. And it happens to be for sale.

     On February 9, the Redwood Witches 4-H Club held a meeting at Redwood Farm on Austin Avenue, and the following officers were elected;

     President; Paula DeMeo, Vice President; Dianne McLaren, Secretary; Robin McQuiddy, Treasurer; Kristy Rylander, News Reporter; Cathy Carroll, and Refreshments Coordinator; Erin McQuiddy.

     1968 was the 100th year anniversary of the founding of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and members of Smithfield Lodge 2359 on Farnum Pike took part in the nationwide centennial celebration activities. At the time, the Smithfield Lodge was the newest in the state with 250 members.    

     The Cranford Club, a local civic organization, held a meeting at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church hall in Greenville. The guest speaker was Oscar Rathier, the assistant administrator of Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville, who spoke of new programs developed to help disable children. The club donated $100.    

     Reverend Philip Shear was installed as the new pastor of the Greenville Baptist Church on February 28.      

     Fuel oil was for sale from a local vendor at 28 cents a gallon, plus tax.

     The Village Pharmacy, once located on Putnam Pike in Greenville center was advertising Valentines Day candy specials.

     The Reverend W. Stanley Pratt of the Greenville Baptist Church was offering classes on handwriting analysis, also known as Graphoanalysis.        

     Applications were being accepted for the Town & Country Swimming Club, located on Farnum Pike across from the Elks Lodge. Amenities included an Olympic sized pool, tennis courts, golf nets, an exercise room, handball court, two saunas, and a dinning room and lounge.      

     An ice skating party held for Smithfield adults was held at a rink in Burrillville. Afterwards, a social gathering was held at the Smithfield Sportsman’s Club.

     Junior Girl Scout Troop 757 of Greenville held a rededication ceremony at the Greenville Baptist Church. Awards were presented to Debbie Patt, Kathleen Martin, Melanie Adkins, Susan Catlow, Paula Mollo, Lisa Neri, Sheila Ingham, Lainie McQuiddy, Lynn Jordin, Claire Shawcross, Barbara Shealey, Cynthia Santangini, and Catherine Bilson.

     Members of Brownie Troop 922 were invited guests.

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