2010-04-01 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright
The Conanicut Battery Historic Park will have a new trail this summer.

Dillon Walsh and Nathan Hopkins planned, cleared and marked the trail as their Eagle Scout projects. The trail starts at the northeast corner of the parking lot, heading north. It then loops around to the west and turns south to end at the field near the 1776 earthworks.

The scouts planned the path the trail would follow last fall, working with Dennis Webster, the Friends of the Conanicut Battery representative on the JHS Board, and Greg DiGasper, JHS Building and Grounds committee chair, as well as a committee member with Boy Scout Troop 1 Jamestown. They wanted to be sure that people walking on the new trail would feel secluded in the surrounding woodlands.

Walsh and Hopkins presented their plans to the town and the JHS in December, intending to do most of the clearing during the dead of winter when the foliage would be gone. The severe snowstorms slowed the work a bit, but they finished the interior part of the path on schedule. The final phase, cutting through the undergrowth at each end of the trail and putting up signs, is to be completed at the last moment so that park visitors won’t be tricked into following a dead-end trail and have to retrace their steps.

Library exhibit

While farming had been the primary business on the island until the 1870s, the number and variety of businesses mushroomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Real estate and insurance agents, retail stores and rental agencies, and maintenance specialists for all kinds of equipment joined the more traditional farming and building trades. Most of the businesses were locally owned and operated.

A new exhibit was mounted in the JHS library display case last month. The case is on the south wall of the inside lobby under the pass-through to the children’s area. This one is devoted to Jamestown merchants and businessmen. The objects on exhibit range from a record book kept by Abbott Chandler, who ran a boat livery at East Ferry, to a not-verypolitically correct ashtray from the Narragansett Cafe. Chandler’s book is of particular interest because it demonstrates the interlocking interests of business and town – the first few pages contain records of arrests Chandler made when he was police constable in 1893. The first two arrests were for using indecent language on the street – an offense that carried a fine of “$5.00 and cost.”

The 1915 Jamestown and New Shoreham Directory, on display at the Jamestown Philomenian Library, carried ads for Jamestown businesses. The 1915 Jamestown and New Shoreham Directory, on display at the Jamestown Philomenian Library, carried ads for Jamestown businesses. Legislative grant received

Encouraged by Representative Deb Ruggiero’s interest in the JHS vault, which she visited earlier this year, the JHS applied for a legislative grant to help mount the summer exhibit on farming in Jamestown. Last week, Deb met with us to give us the $1,000 grant. We talked to her about the exhibit and showed her some of the material that will be included. She told us that she believes strongly that it’s important to support local business and that our local farms contribute to the historic and the economic fabric of our island.

Grants and gifts are always welcome. They are particularly welcome when they are accompanied by the personal interest and appreciation of the grantor. We thank Deb both for obtaining the money for us and for her personal interest in what the society is doing.

Computers, computers,

computers

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9 a.m. until noon, a group of volunteers meets in the JHS vault in the basement of the Town Hall. In the vault right now are four computers, one printer and one copier – in addition to all the archives and some of the objects in the collection. Each computer runs a program called PastPerfect, a database program that contains data about the material the JHS has collected over the past 100 years.

Because the society just began computerizing the records five years ago and much of the collection is still not described in the database, most of the volunteers sit down in front of the computers and enter data. Sometimes, a volunteer will transcribe a document to make its content more easily available. Because newsprint contains acid, disintegrates quickly and can damage other records, someone else may be using the copier to preserve the content, if not the original record. Visitors stop in during these hours to do their own research or to ask for help.

When summer comes, one of the computers will be moved across the street to the museum so that visitors there can search the database, look at copies of photographs in the collection and read the transcribed documents.

The society needs two more computers. The PastPerfect program isn’t designed to run on Macs, so we need PCs with recent operating systems – Windows 98 or later. If you or your company is upgrading to a new system, please consider giving us your old computer.

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