2012-07-05 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News


July 14 is Windmill Day, a time for remembering and celebrating the island’s agricultural past. This year, it is also a special salute to all the people who have helped preserve the mill in the 100 years since the historical society was founded. The mill will be open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. All Windmill Day activities are free, thanks in part to a legislative grant sponsored by Rep. Deb Ruggiero.

Windmill operation

Starting about 11 a.m., JHS volunteers will help millwright Andy Shrake raise the mill’s sails. Raising the sails is something like raising sails on a sailboat. One of the vanes is pulled down so that it is perpendicular to the ground. A large cloth sail is attached to the lines on the outer edges of the vane and carefully pulled up. Then the next vane is pulled into position. The whole process of adjusting the bonnet (the round top of the mill) and raising the sails is fascinating to watch.

Windmill Day is July 14, and the Jamestown Historical Society, celebrating its centennial, has big plans for the event. There will be food, Del’s lemonade, music and, of course, tours of the historic windmill. 
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAMESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY Windmill Day is July 14, and the Jamestown Historical Society, celebrating its centennial, has big plans for the event. There will be food, Del’s lemonade, music and, of course, tours of the historic windmill. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAMESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY Because we will not be milling corn, the gear that drives the millstone will be disconnected from the windshaft before the vanes are set into the wind.

Periodically throughout the day, if the wind is strong enough, the vanes will be allowed to turn. During the intervals when the vanes are not turning, society members will conduct tours of the mill. No visitor may go above the first floor of the windmill while the vanes are turning.

There are new signs explaining the operation and history of the windmill near the east wall of the field.

Food, music games

Richard Donnelly, master jonnycake chef, will be here again this year. (We in Jamestown, unlike most of the rest of New England, prefer to spell jonnycake without the “h.”) He will cook the little, flat cornmeal cakes on a griddle and serve them up with butter mixed with maple syrup.

Bruce Long is sending a cooler of slushy Del’s Lemonade along with the distinctive cups to ladle it into. We will also have bottled water and windmill-shaped ginger cookies.

Matt Bolles’s South County Rounders – with Matt on guitar and bass, Judy Bolles and Chris Heinzmann on fiddle, and Phil Smith on guitar and banjo – will play for the festivities. Their combination of folk, bluegrass and oldtime string band sound drawn from American traditional and contemporary folk music fits right in with the historic themes of Windmill Day. Matt has played at earlier Windmill Days, and we’re looking forward to having him back.

Jane Bentley is organizing sack races, a tug-of-war, bean bag, Frisbee tosses and parachute play for the children. The games should be as much fun for the adults to watch as they’ll be for the children to play. A zoo area will have small farm animals from Windmist and other local farms.

As the activities wind down at 3 p.m., the bonnet of the windmill will be turned off the wind to make sure than a strong gust doesn’t cause the vanes to turn unexpectedly. The brake will be drawn tight around the brake wheel. The sails will be lowered. Parking Don and Heather Minto, with the permission of Historic New England, are letting Windmill Day visitors park in a field at Watson Farm. The entry to the parking area is a little bit north of the windmill. There’ll be a sign at the entrance gate, and we’re rounding up volunteers to direct traffic inside the field. (If you are able to help, please call Linnea Petersen at 423-1820.)

Cars will park at the south end of the field nearest the windmill. A stile – a set of steps with a little bridge at top – is being installed so that people can climb over the stone wall directly across North Road from the windmill. Stiles were common in agricultural Jamestown before the advent of cars. This one was used by workmen to cross the Jersey barrier near the tollbooths during construction of the just-completed tunnel under the toll plaza. It was donated by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and Mark Depasquale of Site Resources.

One of Jamestown’s police will direct traffic at the temporary North Road crossing to make sure everyone gets across the road safely. For those who aren’t able to climb the stile steps, a drop-off place will be available just south of the entrance to the windmill. Parking is not allowed on the road or in the windmill field.


The Jamestown Windmill is maintained with donations. To encourage donations at Windmill Day, the society is giving away postcards with a donation of any size. Several postcards will be available. A variety of windmill scenes and a new postcard of Jamestown landmarks were designed and donated by Jessie Dutra. Donations received at the windmill are used exclusively for windmill maintenance, signage and grounds.

“Lost Jamestown” lecture

Over 90 people crowded the Jamestown Philomenian Library meeting room on June 22 to hear Jim Buttrick’s talk titled “Lost Jamestown.” During the presentation, which sponsored by the JHS and the Jamestown Philomenian Library, Buttrick showed over 50 slides of grand – and some not-sogrand – island buildings that survive now only in photographs and paintings.

The next “All About Jamestown” lecture will be Archie Clarke’s talk “Jamestown-Newport Ferries: 1873-1969” at the JHS annual meeting on August 9. Other presentations are planned for the autumn.


The society keeps the windmill and the museum open from mid-June through Columbus Day weekend. But they can only be open if someone is there to let people in and show them around.

We’re still signing up docents for both places. If you’d like to help, let us know by telephone to Linnea Petersen at 423-1820 or Rosemary Enright at 423-2674, by email to info@jamestownhis toricalsociety.org, or by talking to a volunteer at the JHS table on Windmill Day.

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