2009-07-09 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright
The Jamestown Museum is now open for the summer. The updated exhibit on schools in Jamestown—Educating Jamestown: Then and Now—adds lots of new “then and now” comparison. Pictures of graduating classes from different eras decorate the panel at the rear of the museum, and there are two thick notebooks filled with more class pictures that we couldn’t fit on the wall. “Then and now” is also the theme of the new JHS coloring book (on sale at the museum for $3) with drawings by Martha Milot of historical objects from our collection and their modern equivalents.

One of the most delightful class pictures on display is that of the class of 1898. It’s a very formal picture of five young ladies in floor-length, high-necked white dresses and their handsome male classmate—his hair coiffed even more precisely than theirs — surrounding their teacher who is sitting primly in a straight-backed chair. This was the first graduating class from Jamestown’s Carr School and, in one sense, the first graduating class on Jamestown. Until 1897, children on Jamestown were taught in one-room schoolhouses in different parts of the island. “Grades,” as we know them, didn’t exist. Pupils left school when they got a job, or learned to read, or simply got too old or too big for the desks. In 1897, the first “graded” grammar school opened on Jamestown. It went through the ninth grade, and students had to pass an entry exam to continue to the tenth grade at Rogers High School in Newport. Of the six graduates in 1898, five, the Newport Daily News reported, had passed the high school entrance exam.

Visit the museum any Wednesday through Sunday between 1 and 4 p.m. and enjoy discovering more about the history and growth of our schools.

We are still collecting class pictures and trying to pin the right name to each face in the pictures we already have. If you can help either with pictures or with names, we’d love to hear from you.

Windmill Hill

The windmill opened on June 20 and will be open every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1 to 4 until Columbus Day. The first day was a busy one. We hosted a fraternal organization of emigrants from Barbados, now living in the Boston-Cambridge area, who traveled to Jamestown on a tour that raised money for education in Barbados. We visited the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and stopped at the Central Baptist Church summer festival before going to Windmill Hill.

The Conanicut Friends meetinghouse open house was that day, so some of the guests visited the meetinghouse before walking up North Main Road to the windmill. They were delighted with both places.

The JHS is always happy to show groups through our sites and will open any of them by appointment.


This month we are sending out renewal letters to remind our members and friends how important their dues are to the work we do. Since August 2008—we measure our year from September to September—we have produced the display at the Town Hall featuring the original 1657 Conanicut Island Land Agreement, mounted the updated exhibit at the museum, five separate exhibits at the library, and an exhibit at the school, and added to the material on display at the Recreation Center.

We sponsored a Battery Day, a house tour, multiple visits by students at the Jamestown Lawn Avenue and Melrose Avenue schools to the museum and windmill, and several group tours.

Hard-working volunteers have cataloged over 2,000 archives and scanned over 500 photographs, making the information more easily available to everybody.

The exhibits, the software, the website, the events all require funding. So when you get your letter, please take a minute to read it and respond.

As a member, you do get some special benefits. We have “member only” events at which you can meet new friends with common interests. Members receive a 10 percent discount on items for sale at the museum. Our biennial newsletter keeps members apprised of our progress and gives them more details about additions to our collection. For volunteers, there’s also the end of season Volunteer Party.

Collections Committee Plea

Volunteers are working tirelessly in the vault in the basement of Town Hall to computerize the society’s records—particularly information about objects in the collection. These computer records are made available on our website so that everybody can see and use what we have collected. These volunteers could use another computer. If you have a computer that you don’t use that has Windows XP or Vista, please consider donating it to the society. Sorry, the cataloging program we are using doesn’t run on a Mac. Call Rosemary Enright at 423-2674 for more details.

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