Jamestown Historical Society News
The original storage capacity of the JHS vault in the basement of the Jamestown Town Hall was 274 linear feet of materials. When we first moved into the area, we thought it was a lot. Two years ago, a report by the Conservation Assessment Program funded by the American Heritage Preservation and Institute for Library and Museum Services recommended that the society start planning for compact shelving.
We have been collecting material at a much faster rate than anticipated – in the past 12 months, 75 individuals or organizations have donated material for the collection. More than 1,200 records have been added to the database. So, as those of you who have visited the vault are aware, the existing shelves are filling up much more quickly than we had anticipated. Some shelves that we thought of as backup are almost filled. Our textile collection has overflowed the shelves specially purchased for it, and the large boxes of carefully folded and tissue-wrapped clothing now cover the top of shelves primarily devoted to archives.
The movable shelves will increase our storage capacity to 651 linear feet. Additional flat files, wall-mounted cabinets, and a worktable will also be installed.
A second recommendation from the report was that we separate the work area from the collection storage to increase the physical and environmental security of the collection. The town has agreed to let us put tables in the room adjacent to the vault. They will be for the volunteers who work six hours a week doing data entry and collection management. This will allow the entire vault area to be used for housing and protecting the collection.
The society is still looking for about $2,000 to pay for new electrical fixtures for the vault area. The current lights are barely adequate to illuminate the aisles between the fixed shelves. When moveable shelves are installed, their changing positions will obscure the current fixtures. If you are able to help, contact Dianne Rugh at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 156.
Installation of the new shelves will probably begin soon after the start of the new year.
Whenever a major storm threatens Jamestown, the historical society – like the rest of island – buttons down. Our major worry during a big wind is that the bonnet of the mill will blow off. The bonnet – the rounded structure at the top of the mill – isn’t physically attached to the rest of the building – it rests on a toothed rail so that it can be turned. The vanes – or sails as they are more properly called – are part of the bonnet and weigh it heavily in their direction. A secondary and more likely danger is that the shaft of a vane will break.
For Hurricane Sandy, Andy Shrake, our millwright, tied the windshaft, to which the vanes are attached, to the 3,500-pound grindstone, and then lashed the vanes to each other at the outer tips. The mill weathered the storm in fine shape, although a large branch broke off the birch at the southern edge of the field.
At the town’s Conanicut Battery Historic Park, where the society maintains the 1776 earthwork fort and a series of scenic trails, Sandy and the nor’easter that followed caused minor damage. Two large limbs – one from each storm – came down on the Prospect Hill trail. The battery committee used a chain saw to cut up and remove the trees, and it also cleared minor debris from the main trail leading to the battery and the Fallen Maple Trail. All trails are now passable.
Use of the society’s website to ask questions about Jamestown history continues.
The most interesting research this month involved a 1723 map of Jamestown that had recently been purchased by a New York collector. The map seems to be a copy by John Mumford of Joshua Fisher’s 1658 map with the names of owners updated to show who owned the property 65 years later. The Arnold brothers – Benedict, Josiah and Oliver – are shown as the owners of most of the property purchased by their father Benedict in 1657. Nicholas, Caleb, John and Edward Carr owned tracts of property, some of which had been purchased originally by Robert and Caleb Carr. A few of the names on the later map are new, as would be expected after more than half a century.
Many of the names on the 1723 map are hard to read, and the investigation included a search – conducted by an agent for the map’s owners – of Jamestown’s land records, which trace all land ownership back to Fisher’s 1658 map.
An email to info@jamestown historicalsociety.org from Sweden asked about a family member who had immigrated to the United States. There are 21 towns named “Jamestown” in the United States, not including a couple of townships and an Indian reservation. A search of Ancestry.com determined that our Swedish correspondent was looking for Jamestown, Minn. – a first for us, though we are often confused with Jamestown, Va. We sent him that information and his response was endearing: “My heart warms up to your goodness, thank you. ... If there is anything I can do for you, if you ever need information from the Swedish church records, just give me a shout.”