Smithfield Lions Club – 55th Celebration – 2007

Smithfield, R.I., Lions Club

 

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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.    

 

50 Years Ago – April, 1968

50 Years Ago – April, 1968

 

     Long before the advent of cable companies, satellite dishes, and hi-definition smart TVs, people adjusted the “rabbit ear” antennas on the top of their television sets to obtain the clearest picture. However, to get the highest quality reception one usually had to install a large aluminum roof antenna – something that has virtually disappeared from the American landscape, yet there are still a few to be found.

     If you can remember roof antennas, then you can likely recall that there were once stores that sold nothing but TVs and stereos. The proprietors stood behind their products, and even made “house calls” to repair them when a vacuum tube failed. (A vacuum what?)

     In April of 1968, one local TV dealer advertised that he would install a roof antenna on any cape or ranch style house for the low price of $89.88. This was $30 less than his normal price of $119.95.

     USMC Corporal Paul Battey of Greenville was home on leave after serving twelve months at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

     Stephen G. Lariviere, USN, of Georgaiville was home on leave after serving eight months in Iceland.

     Carl Peterson of Greenville, was home on leave before reporting for duty in Vietnam.

   On April 6, the Apple Valley Barbershop Chorus performed at the Smithfield High School.  

     At the weekly meeting of the Smithfield Civil Air Patrol Squadron, six cadets were singled out for recognition.

     Master Sergeant Gail Young was named Miss R.I. Civil Air Patrol of 1968, and received a trophy.

     Captain Paula Blackmore was selected to attend an Aerospace Orientation course at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

     Captain Rosalie Varin and 1st Lieutenant Lynette Blackmore were selected for Cadet Leadership School at Stead Air Force Base in Nevada.  

     Staff Sergeant Richard Larkin was selected to attend Advanced Jet Familiarization School, and Technical Sergeant Linda Fornaro was chosen to represent Rhode Island in the Girls Regional Exchange Program.

     Charles Greska was appointed the new Squadron Commander, thus succeeding Captain Edward Laurendeau, founder of the Smithfield Squadron, who was promoted to oversee regional communications.

     The C.A.P. squadron met every Friday night at the Esmond Recreational Hall on Esmond St.  

     On April 13, a town-wide litter cleanup was held. Volunteers met at the Town Hall in Georgiaville, and in the parking lot of the First National supermarket in Greenville. (Where Ace Hardware stands today.) The event was sponsored by the Smithfield Conservation Commission. Volunteers included local residents, members of Georgiaville and Greenville scout troops, and town officials.

     On April 19, Georgiaville Boy Scout Troop 1 held a family night dinner at the St. Michaels Church parish hall. The troop gave a first-aid demonstration and showed home movies of previous camp-outs. Several scouts received promotions. Bradley Boisvert was elevated to 1st class scout; David Loxson, Timothy Whitecross, George Courtot, and Donald Courtot were elevated to star scout; and Thomas Schwartz, Gregory Shepard, and Darly James were elevated to life scout.      

     April 20 marked opening day for fishing season. In the weeks leading up to that date, the R. I. Department of Natural Resources had stocked rivers and ponds with 46,000 trout.  

     If one was considering a swimming pool for the upcoming summer, one local retailer was offering a 16 by 32 foot in-ground pool, including filter, diving board, and one underwater light, for $2,195, if the order was placed before May 15.    

     At their April 22 meeting held at the Club 44 on Putnam Pike, the Smithfield Lions Club elected new officers. Robert Coyne: President. James Murphy: First Vice President. Stanley Lange: Second V.P. Gilbert Butterfield: Third V.P. Alfred Roy: Treasurer. Kenneth Jessop: Secretary. Alton Harris: Lion Tamer. Dr. John Pascone: Tail Twister.

     One local car dealership was offering a new 1968 Javelin, which was a sporty muscle car produced by American Motors Corp. designed to compete with the Ford Mustang.

     Other cars offered included a “fully-loaded” 1967 Ford Thunderbird for $3,475; a 1967 Mercury Cougar for $2,490; and a 1967 Pontiac Firebird for $2,795. By a show of hands, how many car enthusiasts would love to own one of these today?

     On April 25 it was announced that the tennis courts at the high school were once again open after being vandalized yet again. The culprits were still at large, and would likely be in their mid-60s today.

Smithfield’s Woonasquatucket Railroad

     Originally published in the Smithfield Times, April, 2018

Smithfield’s Woonasquatucket Railroad

By Jim Ignasher

 

A locomotive of the type that once ran through Smithfield in the late 1800s.

  In the February issue I wrote about Smithfield’s Air-Line R.R. This month’s article is about another rail line that has long since disappeared.      

     If someone today were to propose the construction of a railroad through Smithfield, they would likely face strong opposition. The town hall would be inundated with residents demanding the tracks be laid elsewhere, and not through their “back yard”. Yet one might be surprised to learn that there was a time when just the opposite was true, and the citizens of Smithfield eagerly awaited the construction of a new railroad.

     After the division of the town in 1871, Smithfield, as we know it today, was left without a railroad. However, there were those who hoped to remedy the situation by reviving the charter for the Woonasquatucket Railroad Company. The charter had originally been granted in 1857, with a plan to lay tracks that more or less followed the Woonasquatucket River from Providence to Massachusetts. Unfortunately, financial setbacks, followed by the onset of the American Civil War delayed the project for nearly fifteen years.

     In 1871 the idea was revisited and planning of the route was begun. Although everyone agreed that a rail line would be good for the town, there was much debate as to exactly where the rails should be laid, for every mill owner and farmer wanted the trains to pass as close as to their property as possible. It was finally announced that the proposed route would run through the villages of Esmond, Georgiaville, and Stillwater, and then continue on into North Smithfield, and Burrillville, which was good news to some, but not for Greenville.  

     On November 20, 1871, a meeting was held at Tobey’s Store in Greenville to discuss the possibility of constructing a branch line that would run from Stillwater to Greenville. If it proved successful, the branch line would later be extended to North Scituate and Chepachet. The meeting was well attended, and efforts to have the branch-line constructed continued for several years, but history has shown that it was never built.

     By the spring of 1872 construction on the main line was begun, but sometime between March and June the name of the railroad was changed to the Providence and Springfield Railroad. The project moved quickly, and on August 11, 1873, the line was open for business.

     Smithfield had four railroad stations: the Esmond Station located behind the Esmond Mills; the Georgiaville Station, located on Station Street; the Stillwater Station, located on Capron Road; and the Smithfield Station, located on Brayton Road just to the east from Farnum Pike. The stations became social centers where people could catch up on the latest news, mail a letter, or ride to Providence in less time then it took to ride a horse from one side of Smithfield to the other.  

     By 1878, the Providence & Springfield R.R. was running three locomotives, three passenger cars, and seventy-seven freight cars along the Smithfield route.

     During the 1890s the rail line changed hands three times; to the New York & New England Railroad in 1890, to The New England Railroad in 1895, to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad in 1898.

     The railroad had a great economic influence on the town as it allowed business owners and farmers to transport more goods to other markets than ever before, and at a lower price. It even played a part in World War I by transporting Esmond Mill army blankets destined for troops overseas.

     Unfortunately, just as rail lines eclipsed the horse-drawn stage coaches, improvements in roadways and automobile technology eventually eclipsed the “iron horses” of the rails. Passenger service along the Smithfield route was discontinued in 1931, and in 1962 the tracks that ran from Olneyville to Pascoag were abandoned and eventually removed. The only surviving rails known to exist were found under the asphalt of Esmond Street during road construction several years ago. Today they can be viewed at the Smith-Appleby House Museum next to the restored Smithfield Station.    

     As with all rail lines of the time, the Smithfield portion experienced its share of accidents. At a town meeting held on January 29, 1876, local citizens cited several instances of narrow escapes at rail crossings in town, and urged the Town Council to force the railroad to use flagmen. The council, however, didn’t have the legal authority to do so.

     The first known accident to occur along the Smithfield portion happened on Christmas Eve in 1878 when a wagon was struck broadside by a speeding train at the Brayton Road crossing. The driver survived, but his horse did not.

     According to town records, the first railroad fatality in town occurred in 1888 when a man was struck by a passing train. The exact location isn’t given.

     One of the more notable accidents involved a head-on collision between two trains on June 12, 1894 in the area of what is today the Stillwater Scenic Walking Trail. Ten people were seriously injured. The crash was blamed on human error.

     The Brayton Crossing was reputed to be one of the most dangerous for it was frequently traveled by those heading to or from Woonsocket. On April 15, 1925, it was the scene of what might be the worst accident to occur on the rail line. At about 7 p.m., a car carrying seven adults was struck by a southbound train. One man and three women were killed, and the others were severely injured.    

     Three years later on November 30, 1928, yet another accident occurred at the Brayton Crossing in which a husband and wife were injured when a train collided with their car.

     Other accidents are documented, but space does not permit their inclusion here.

     Until recently, it was thought that Smithfield’s only surviving train station was the Smithfield Station presently located at the Smith-Appleby House. However, recent information has come to light that Esmond may have had two railroad stations; a smaller one that was replaced by a larger one. The smaller one is indicated on early maps, and may possibly have been sold to a private party and relocated to Farnum Pike in Georgiaville. Research to confirm this continues.      

 

 

 

 

 

Written Record Of Smithfield’s First Town Meeting – 1730

Written Record of Smithfield’s First Town Meeting – 1730 

 

     The first town meeting for the town of Smithfield, R.I., was held in the home of Captain Valentine Whitman.  The house is still standing today at 1147 Great Road in Lincoln, R.I., and is open to the public. 

     Images courtesy of Robert Leach, Greenville, R.I.

Click on image to enlarge.

The original handwritten record of the first town meeting held in Smithfield, R.I., March 17, 1730

 

 

 

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.

Click on image to enlarge.

 

 

 

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

 

Click on image to enlarge.

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

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.

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