2008-08-14 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

Annual Meeting The Jamestown Historical Society (JHS) will hold this year's annual meeting today, Thursday, Aug. 14 in the Jamestown Philomenian Library meeting room. The business meeting starts at 7 p.m. with reports from the president and the treasurer. The Nominating Committee chair will then preside over the election of officers and directors.

At 7:30 p.m., our guest speaker, Dr. Robert M. Thorson, will present, "Stone Walls in Jamestown and throughout New England." Dr. Thorson, professor of geology at the University of Connecticut, has written three books - one of them for children - about New England's stone walls. "By studying stone walls," he writes, "you'll see the unending struggle of Yankee farmers — and also find signs of the melting and carving that have shaped the earth."

A summer visitor to Jamestown, Dr. Thorson spent his sabbatical year here a year ago. A stone on top of the wall near the Friend's Meetinghouse on Windmill Hill attracted his attention. He pointed it out to the JHS and explained that it was probably a headstone from an 18th century grave. The stone is now in the JHS collection.

Come and learn how 17th and 18th century agricultural methods shaped the face of New England. Everyone is invited.

Land Agreement Display

In 2005, the JHS purchased the 1657 Conanicut Island Land Agreement—a pre-purchase contract among 101 colonists that specifies the participants in the purchase, names the men responsible for the negotiation with the Narragansett, and lays down rules for the initial governance of the island when and if a "firm and fair" settlement with the Narragansett tribe is reached. For the past year, the document has been on display in the Jamestown library while its permanent home was completed in the Town Hall.

The exhibit is now complete. A display case, designed especially for the document and purchased with funds donated by the McDonough family, is built into the wall on the hallway between the Town Clerk's office and the finance department. Surrounding the case are three large panels explaining the document's background and content. A copy of the 1658 map of the island and two copies of the complete text of the document—one a photocopy of the original and the other a modern transcript—complete "the wall."

The Jamestown Rotary Club and the Jamestown Lions Club each contributed toward the construction of the display and for literature about the meaning and importance of the document. We are very grateful for their support. Emmy Lutes and Kendra Davis, both seniors at North Kingstown High School, have chosen as their senior projects to produce brochures especially aimed at children.

The display will be dedicated in mid-September.

Library Display

Summers of yesterday were on our mind last month as we put together the display in the case in the library foyer. What to do for summer fun hasn't changed very much on the island over the last 150 years. Swimming, sailing, fishing, golfing, tennis, clamming, picnicking, and walking on the beach retain their attraction, although cars have supplanted horses for both pleasure and mobility and we now see more kayaks than canoes on the bay. But what we wear to play has certainly changed. The library display shows a typical 19th century bathing costume, made of wool and reaching to the knees. Even for tennis and canoeing men typically wore trousers and tie.

Laurel Richardson, as part of her intern experience, played a major role in the exhibit preparation.

Fall Events

Put Friday, Sept. 12 and Saturday, Sept. 13 on your calendars. Saturday is the annual JHS House Tour. One of the houses on the tour is Riven Rock, the house where "Dan in Real Life" was filmed. On Friday, a "members only" cocktail party will be held at a historic house that will not be on the house tour. Watch for details in the Press.

Our Program and Development committee chairs are planning other events for the fall and early winter. You'll learn more about them in this column. If you're a member and we have your email address, you'll get an invitation to each event via the Internet—and save the society the cost of printing and postage. To get on the email list, send an email to jhs@ jamestownri.com.

Visit Us

Please try to stop by our sites in the next few weeks. The School Days! exhibit at the museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. until Sept. 7. We're hoping to extend the season with weekend openings and for special tours throughout the fall. The windmill is open weekends from 1 to 4 p.m. through Sept. 17. The Conanicut Battery Historic Park is always open during daylight hours.

Group tours—especially for educational purposes—are always welcome. In the past month, we've given special tours for interns from the Newport Historical Society and for television and magazine reporters looking for places to visit close to home.

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