2013-04-04 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

I n the March column we noted that on March 6, 1781, Gen. George Washington rode across Jamestown on his way to meet Gen. Rochambeau in Newport. Toward the end of last month, with the help of the town’s Department of Public Works, we placed signs on Narragansett Avenue commemorating the historic transit.

The signs were inspired by the W3R (Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route) signs on Aquidneck Island and beyond. They indicate the route taken by Washington and Rochambeau after the meeting in Newport. However, this isn’t the first time that signs commemorating the event were placed along Narragansett Avenue. Signs were put up in 1931 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the visit.

Mick Cochran, who also designed the explanatory signs in Conanicut Battery Historic Park, designed the new signs. A tourism grant from the Jamestown Community Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation helped finance them.

Mick Cochran designed the Gen. George Washington signs that have been erected along Narragansett Avenue. 
Photo by rosemary enright Mick Cochran designed the Gen. George Washington signs that have been erected along Narragansett Avenue. Photo by rosemary enright Other products of the grant are two self-guided walking tours around the town. The first tour, issued last summer, provides a guide along Narragansett Avenue from East Ferry to West Ferry, pointing out historic buildings and sights along the way. The free brochure is available at many businesses in the village, including the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce in the Jamestown Press office at 45 Narragansett Ave. The second free walking tour brochure will be published this spring. It explores the Jamestown waterfront and historic sites at the Four Corners. Compact vault storage The collections committee is thrilled with the new compact storage system – installed with a grant from the Champlin Foundations – in the society’s vault in the lower level of Town Hall. The new shelves move smoothly on tracks, opening and closing in a single aisle. This essentially allows eight rows of shelves in an area that previously held five. The final shelving unit was installed on March 26, but most of the archives and artifacts had been returned to their proper shelves by March 19.

The system more than doubles the vault’s capacity. The new lighting also makes it easier to locate and retrieve material. If you’d like to see pictures of the whole transformation, visit us at Jamestown HistoricalSociety.org.

The volunteers are now working in the area outside the vault – a change recommended by the society’s Conservation Assessment Program advisors as a security and preservation measure.

The society will have an open house at the beginning of the summer, but please feel free to drop by and see the new facilities. Volunteers are there between 9 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or call 423-7202 during those hours to make an appointment to come at a different time. You can also email info@jamestownhis toricalsociety.org with a question or request.

Looking for laptops

Laptops, please! The JHS volunteers use laptop computers to catalog new and existing (but uncataloged) acquisitions, to search the archives in response to questions or for local projects, and to inventory the existing collection. If you have a laptop that you are planning to replace, please donate the discarded one to the society. Many of the laptops currently in use are old and quirky. One recently lost its spacebar. Replacements are very much needed.

Battery Day prep

Battery Day at Jamestown’s Conanicut Battery Historic Park is scheduled for May 18, Armed Forces Day. On that day, representatives of Great Britain, France and the United States – the countries that occupied the 1776 battery at some point in its history – will raise the flags of their respective countries over the fort. Re-enactors from British and American units will demonstrate how armed warfare was conducted – face to face with inaccurate and low-powered rifles – two centuries ago.

Clean up for the event started soon after the winter storms. The fight against greenbrier, bittersweet and poison ivy, as well as detritus left by inconsiderate visitors, continues. Another cleanup day is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. till noon, weather permitting.

Everyone is invited to help. Workers should dress to protect against briers and poison ivy, and bring their own tools, although some will be available. Call 423- 2674 or email us for more information.

New library exhibit

Last November, the society received an email out of the blue from Cheryl Vislay: “My greatgreat great grandparents, Ann Neal Goddard and Silas Gardner Shaw, were the keepers of the Beavertail Lighthouse during the years 1858 to 1862, and 1863 to 1869. Ann N. Shaw was assistant lighthouse keeper from 1864 to 1869.”

The email went on to explain the family’s relationship to Gov. Benedict Arnold, who in the late 17th century owned the land where the Beavertail Lighthouse stands.

This winter, Cheryl came to Jamestown to visit the lighthouse and donated pictures of her ancestors and a letter with the heading “Beaver Tail October 24th 1868” to the society. The gifts included a book giving some of the family’s history. When Emily Dunham Hall, the lighthouse keeper’s granddaughter, wrote the book in 1938, she gave the relatives she described different names – Cheryl republished it with the actual names and with pictures of the family.

The gifts are on display in the JHS display case in the entry to the Jamestown Philomenian Library.

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