2011-06-02 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

The 1787 windmill on Windmill Hill will open for the season on Saturday, June 18, at 1 p.m. This first day also includes orientation of the volunteers. Linnea Petersen will be there to show them through the mill, to give each volunteer a booklet that explains its history and mechanisms, and to explain their duties.

The windmill will be open Saturdays and Sundays between 1 and 4 p.m. through Columbus Day. Of course, we’re always open by appointment.

Quaker Meetinghouse

The summer season has already begun at the meetinghouse. The Conanicut Friends are meeting there every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. On June 18 – the same day that the windmill opens – members of the group will host the Quaker Meetinghouse annual open house from 1 to 4 p.m. They will tell you about the history of the Society of Friends and explain the un-programmed worship practices of the faith.

Jamestown is rich in Quaker history. A Quaker meetinghouse was the only house of worship on the island from 1704, when Quakers built their first meetinghouse, until 1833, when the town built a 200-seat hall in the artillery green / town cemetery at the Four Corners for all denominations to use. The current meetinghouse was built in 1786 to replace an earlier building badly damaged by the British during the American Revolution.

Jamestown Museum

On Memorial Day, the museum was decked out in buntings and flags. A poster advertised the upcoming “Jamestown on Stage and Screen” exhibit, a topic selected in keeping with our yearlong “Jamestown and the Silver Screen” theme.

The exhibit features pictures, posters and memorabilia of movies and plays with some connection to our island. The history of the dramatic arts would not be complete without some active examples and thanks to a legislative grant sponsored by state Rep. Deb Ruggiero, local movies and videos will be seen on computers in the museum. In addition to the summer exhibit, a display devoted to the Jamestown ferries is being set up in the back room of the museum to replace the earlier exhibit that had to be disassembled when the museum was renovated.

The museum officially opens on Sunday, June 19, with an opening day reception from 1 to 4 p.m. Students at the Lawn Avenue and Melrose Avenue schools will have a sneak preview the week before.

After opening day, the museum will be open Wednesdays through Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. until Labor Day weekend and then for the same hours on weekends until Columbus Day.

Library Exhibit

Exhibits in the Jamestown Historical Society display case at the library change quarterly. Currently, certificates of all kinds are on display: certificates of birth, marriage, indemnification, naturalization, awards, military service, incorporation, membership, inspection and graduation. The earliest certificate dates back to 1744 and the latest is from 1986.

The display case is on the south wall of the lobby under the passthrough to the children’s room. Stop and take a look the next time you’re in the library.

Interest in History

Battery Day on May 14 was a great success. Reenactors in British and Colonial uniforms demonstrated how battles were fought in the days of bayonets and slowloading flintlock rifles. After the official ceremonies, the reenactors talked to the Cub Scouts and other children who attended about what they had seen, showed them how soldiers in the 18th century lived and what they ate, and drilled them around the battery grounds. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Two other events this past month caught the attention of the society, although the JHS was not directly involved.

Our Town Clerk Cheryl Fernstrom sought and received a $500 grant from the Joseph O’Neill Ott Fund of the Rhode Island Foundation to preserve and restore a town record book, “Intentions of Marriage, 1882-1896.”

A notation inside the volume says: “This book done away with after Feb. 1st 1896 by passage of new laws in relation to Marriages & recording thereof.”

Like all records of that era, the entries are in ink. Some of the ink is smeared. The pages are discolored and frayed. The grant will allow the town to have the pages cleaned, mended and encapsulated in Mylar.

At the Fort Getty Town Park Public Workshop on May 19, participants brainstormed all possible uses for Fort Getty Park. The proposed uses ranged from creating a private gated community to returning the park to open space. The participants then voted for the five uses that each preferred. Two uses dealt with the historic value of the park: “Adaptive Reuse of Existing Battery/Historic Feature” and “Historical Interpretive Signage.” Over 25 percent of the participants included “Adaptive Reuse” in their top choices, putting it among the top 10. More than 13 percent were interested in historic signage.


Whenever the windmill or the museum is open, a volunteer is there to greet the public and answer questions. To volunteer, please call or e-mail Tricia Frary, our volunteer coordinator, at 423- 1395 or tfrary@cox.net.

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