2008-06-05 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

It's June- the month the Jamestown Historical Society opens the Jamestown windmill to visitors and mounts a new exhibit at the museum. This year the town and the historical society have a very special opening- the unveiling of the Land Agreement document display in the Town Hall.

Windmill Hill

Next Saturday, June 14, is the big day on Windmill Hill.

The historical society and members of the Society of Friends- better known as Quakers- will host an Open House at the Quaker Meetinghouse, offering an opportunity to learn both about the historic building and about Quaker teachings. The Quakers are the oldest religious group in Jamestown. They began holding Meetings in 1684 and built their first meetinghouse in 1709. During the American Revolution their meetinghouse at North Road and Weeden Lane was badly damaged, and in 1786-1787 the Quakers replaced it with the current building. The Friends still meet there every summer Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Quaker Meeting is open to all, and the meetinghouse is always open to visitors by appointment.

The windmill opens for the summer that day, too. It'll be open each Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. On the first day, June 14, new volunteers- and veteran volunteers, too, if they want a refresher- are invited to take a guided tour of the mill and pick up a booklet explaining how the mill works.

Visitors love our mill. The setting is beautiful. The views are spectacular. The peaceful quiet of the place is wonderful. See "Volunteers" below to learn how to become a "windmill sitter."

Jamestown Museum

The opening day reception for the 2008 museum exhibit - School Days!- is Sunday, June 29. Young women from Jamestown's Girl Scout Troup #621 will be serving refreshments on the new terrace and inviting everyone to enjoy history, pictures and stories about the island schools. The girl scouts have also volunteered to be greeters along with the adult docents on Sundays throughout the summer. We're thrilled to have their help.

The exhibit, curated by Harry Wright, draws on the multiplicity of information about Jamestown education in the society's archives as well as class pictures and articles borrowed from some of our members. If you have a picture from the Jamestown school that you'd like to see on display, let us know. Even if we don't have room to put it on the wall, we'll scan it in and include a copy in the supplemental material for people to see.

The museum is open every Wednesday through Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m., through Sept. 1.


Volunteers to man the windmill and museum are critical to keeping these historic sites open. New volunteers are always needed. If you're willing to spend one afternoon during the summer at the museum or the windmill, we'll gratefully add your name to our roster of volunteers. You can call me at 423-2674 or send an email to jhs@jamestownri.com.

And watch the Jamestown Press for our membership ads. If you are among the first 100 who become members this summer, you'll receive a windmill charm- in addition to being invited to our "members only" events.

Land Agreement Document Display

When the new Town Hall was designed, a niche for the 1657 Land Agreement- the signed contract among the future purchasers of Conanicut Island about how the land would be paid for and held- was built into the west wall of the hall between the Town Clerk and the Finance department offices.

Kim and Jeff McDonough generously donated a display case to fit into the niche and protect the document from environmental hazards- particularly light. A JHS committee, under the leadership of Ken Newman and with the help of Adams Taylor, an exhibit consultant who works with the Newport Historical Society and the Redwood Library, laid out an exhibit that explains the document. The display contains both images of the 17th century text and a page-by-page, modernized transcription based on a recent transcription by Nancy Logan. Kendra Davis and Emmy Lutes, juniors at North Kingstown High School, helped ensure that the explanatory material was understandable to nonhistorians and that all the important questions were addressed.

The wall is almost done. Bill Burgin is in the process of installing the display case- a complicated effort because of the intricacies of the design. The printer, Graphic Innovations, is in the final stages of creating the boards to be mounted. Sometime later in the month, at the convenience of the Town Council and the organizations that have funded this effort, the town and historical society will have a formal unveiling.

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