2008-03-06 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

The Jamestown Historical Society often gets questions about Jamestown history. Usually the questions come from someone searching for an ancestor who lived here or wanting to know the history of a house. We try to respond to them all. Sometimes we learn as much from the questioners as they learn from us.

In the past couple of months, these requests have been more diverse than usual.

Old South Schoolhouse

A telephone call from the curator of the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society started us on a search for an old schoolhouse. The PHS is having an exhibit about schools in the North Kingstown/South Kingstown/ Narragansett area. They had identified several private homes that were originally one-room schoolhouses, and the owner of one of them told the PHS that the school building had been moved from Jamestown to Saunderstown by ferry about the turn of the last century. The PHS was wondering what we knew about the school.

Of the three, one-room schoolhouses on Jamestown in the late 19th century, only one - the South School that stood on Southwest Avenue near Mackerel Cove - is unaccounted for. We know that it was sold at auction in June 1898 to Isaac B. Briggs for $25 and that he moved it. But where? A newspaper account suggests the Howland plat, but the land records don't support that. Since Mr. Briggs owned property at West Ferry, he may have moved it there and then to Saunderstown. But we haven't been able to trace the move. We're still trying. Can anyone help us?

Windmill in Yorktown

A very different kind of request came from the Yorktown, Va. Foundation. The board of the foundation had been approached by the Superintendent of the Colonial National Historical Park about the feasibility of rebuilding a 1781 smock windmill on the bluff above the York River.

Searching the Web, the board found our windmill, which they thought from the description was almost identical in configuration and size to the one that existed in Yorktown. They asked if we had engineering plans or technical drawings available that they could review and - if they proved helpful - purchase.

The best plans we found - and we didn't have them in our collection - were those that Bill Burgin did for the mill renovation in 2000. We've sent those on. Since Yorktown will be building their replica from scratch, they'll be creating their own drawing set, but ours will help that effort.

Remington Letters

A more usual request came through the historical society email. "I am looking for family information on Benjamin Remington, 1733-1820, married Hannah Martin 1734-1812." We sent biographical information from town records showing Benjamin Remington's service to the community.

As a "thank you," the society received "Lydia's Letters," a compilation of 54 transcribed letters from descendants of John Remington (1761-1847) between 1813 and 1896. Three of the letters were written from Jamestown. The book and letters are included in the current JHS exhibit in the Jamestown Philomenian Library lobby.

Bates Sanitarium Fire

The Jamestown Fire Department forwarded a question about a famous Jamestown fire.

In March 1931, a terrible fire at the Bates Sanitarium, which was on Conanicus Avenue across from the Bay Voyage, took five lives. Four of the victims were patients. The fifth was an orderly, Joseph Hardman, whose duty as a member of the sanitarium fire department was to lead patients to safety. He died trying to do just that.

The question came from Joseph Hardman's great-granddaughter. She wanted to know more details about how her great-grandfather had died. This question was easy to answer. The JHS Collection Committee chair, Sue Maden, has spent many years researching and writing about Dr. Bates and the sanitarium, and she was quite excited to talk with Mr. Hardman's family. We learned a lot, too, and have been given a photograph of Joseph Hardman to add to our collection.

Your Questions

The work that has been done over the past two years to catalog the collection makes it easier and faster to find answers. And as we find answers, we can add more information to the collection and the catalog. If you have questions about Jamestown history, send them to our email jhs@jamestownri. com or mail them to P.O. Box 156, Jamestown, RI or call 423-2674.

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