2008-11-06 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

The windmill, the Quaker meetinghouse, and the museum are now closed for the winter season. The Society of Friends held their last meeting at the Quaker meetinghouse on Oct. 26. The windmill and the meetinghouse can always be visited by request, and now with the renovation of the museum, we are now able to offer winter visits to the museum, too. The School Days! exhibit will remain up at least through November. To visit any of the sites send an email to jhs@jamestownri.com or call 423-0784 at least a week before your proposed visit.

Bench for the museum

The final action in the renovation of the museum—and also of the summer season—was the arrival of a new bench for the front deck. The bench, generously donated by Diana Smith, was delivered on time for some late visitors to enjoy it. Next summer it will provide a spot in the sun for visitors and docents alike to watch the activity on Narragansett Avenue and admire the Town Hall across the way.

Library exhibit

The JHS display in the library this November honors Jamestown's veterans. Jamestown men and women have served in every war since the colonial era. Medals, letters, uniforms, flags, and other mementos of their service are displayed, and a notebook on top of the display case contains copies of relevant newspaper articles, photographs, and other material. Among the items on display is a flag that has flown in Iraq—provided by the American Legion. Also a photograph of the large, multi-panel "Role of Honor" that stood in front of the firehouse and listed all Jamestowners— both full-time and seasonal residents—who served in the armed forces in World War II. A series of photographs by Joe Logan and Varoujan Karentz, taken for the 2005 JHS summer exhibit of flags on Jamestown, hang on the wall near the display case.

The exhibit is part of a cooperative effort of the library, the Conanicut Island Art Association, the American Legion Arnold Zweir Post 22, and the JHS to commemorate Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Finding relatives and

preserving the past

Early in October, an e-mail arrived in the historical society mailbox: "my husband and I are in the U.S. from the UK and hope to visit Rhode Island . . .. My great-grandmother's brother, Samuel Smith emigrated to the U.S. in 1861 and lived in Jamestown until about 1930. I should be very grateful if you could let me know whether you have any knowledge of this family and anyone interested in tracing their family history. Kind regards Barbara Eccles"

Samuel Smith, who died in 1932 at 97 years of age, was an important man in late 19th century Jamestown. He was a florist who had large greenhouses on Clinton Avenue and shops in Boston, Providence, Newport, and—at least for a time—New York. According to family lore, he introduced the gardenia to the florist industry. He brought his nephew, Albert Boone, over from England to help in the business. His sons Samuel Jr. and John both served on the Town Council. (John was Town Council President when the Jamestown Bridge was built). Members of the Smith and Boone-Lyons family still live on the island.

We responded to the e-mail with some of the information we had and contacted several Smith descendants, both in and out of Jamestown. Less than a week later, the Eccles—Barbara and Bob—were sitting in the Jamestown Historical Society vault with Barbara's cousins Betty Carr Loughlin and Nancy Smith O'Brien, exchanging family stories, pictures, and genealogical information from both sides of the Atlantic. Nancy's brother, Dick, who now lives in Florida called in during the course of the morning to talk to his newly found cousin. Betty and Nancy, two of Samuel Smith's 20 grandchildren, live in Massachusetts now but both grew up in Jamestown. They took us on a walking tour of downtown Jamestown to point out family buildings.

The Trattoria Simpatico had been one of the family's homes— although in the meantime it has been moved from Union Street to Narragansett and enlarged. The connection of the Smith family with the Jamestown Design building—at one time the Smith florist shop—is commemorated with a memorial plaque on the front. The apartment building at 10 Narragansett Ave. was once the Bay Shore Hotel, run by Bridget (also known as Delia) Smith, Samuel Smith's second wife and mother of his eight children. Tricia's Tropi-grille had been the Smith florist shop in the mid 20th century. The Smith descendants decided to eat lunch there in memory of the past.

The members of the JHS Collections Committee who facilitated the meeting acquired new information for the society's collection— including a genealogy for the Samuel Smith family from about 1650 to the present, a copy of Bridget and Samuel Smith's wedding picture from 1883, and pictures of Samuel's youngest sister Annie and her family who remained behind in England.

And we had fun learning more about Jamestown's past.

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