Events

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Annual Meeting – Sunday April 21, 2024,  2:00 p.m. at The Towers, Narragansett

Join us as we hold our 2023 Annual Meeting. Attendees will be apprised of the progress we have made on the Windmill Building and other eforts, as well as our plans for the future. Our esteemed guest speaker will be RI Secretary of State Gregg Amore.

Mr. Amore brings to the office 27 years of teaching experience at East Providence High School where he taught Advanced Placement U.S. History and U.S. Civics and Government courses. He was recognized as teacher of the year by teh DAR in 2008. He also served as a state legislator for East Providence in 2012. 

We look forward to seeing you there! 

PAST EVENTS:

November 2nd — Talk on the Narragansett/South Kingstown Split

On November 2nd, 2023 Richard Vangermeersch will gave a talk on the Narragansett/South Kingstown split. This event was part of the South Kingstown 300 Celbration and took place at 7:00 p.m. at the South Kingstown High School Auditorium. There was no charge for this event.

October 29th, Opera on The Great Swamp Massacre

URI Canonchet Concert featuring music and poetry by Geoffrey Gibbs, will be given Sunday, October 29th at 7:00 pm. The concert was held at the URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston RI.

See https://web.uri.edu/music/events/      for more information.

The featured musicians are Yohji Daquio (soprano), Ethan Bremner, (tenor), René de la Garzs (baritone), Alexey Shabalin (violin), Ceili O’Connor (guitar), and Philip Martorella (piano). The works featured are “Silcock’s Mohawk Songs”, “Three Portentous Songs” (dedicated to the victims of the fires and floods that have plagued the Earth this year), and three scenes from an opera “Canonchet” inspired by the research of the URI retired professor, Richard Vangermeersch.  Canonchet was the 17th century renowned chief of the Narragansett Indigenous Nation. 
Silcock is a Mohawk maiden who was Geoffrey Gibbs’s great-great-great grandmother. She lived at the time of the American revolution. The Narragansett Nation which had retreated from their village to a fort in the Great Swamp was massacred by Colonial troops in 1675. The fort was burned to the ground. The opera is about this event and the killing of Canonchet. 

Geoffrey Gibbs and René de la Garza are both retired URI professors. Gibbs has put on URI concerts of his music almost every year since 1965. René de la Garza has been featured in three of Gibbs’ operas.

For more information on the concert, please contact Dr. Geoffrey Gibbs— geoffgibbs@uri.edu

Boon Street Walking Tour — SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 17, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO MADE THIS TOUR A SUCCESS! ESPECIALLY OUR VOLUNTEERS, ARNOLD LUMBER for their sponsorship, Kaitlyn Pimental of RE/MAX and her marketing team for marketing and registration assistance, and The Contemporar Theater for their wonderful participation! And thank you to the public, for attending!  

Enjoy learning about 7 historic buildings on this walking tour, as you are escorted by performers from the Contemporary Theater Group. The tour will

begin at the corner of Central and Boon Streets, and end with a sneak peak of the recently renovated train station. Visit the wonderful shops, restaurants and galleries on Boon Street, play “Gilded Age” games (1:00 – 3:00) and enjoy live music from a Barbershop Quartet (2:00 to 3:30) at Leroy Thompson Memorial Park.

There is no charge for this event, which is being held as part of ‘Gansett Days, but we would gratefully accept donations. We encourage pre-registration online to ensure the day goes smoothly! Please register at this link

Buildings to be highlighted include:

  • Idlewild

  • Seafield Cottage

  • The Presyterian Church

  • The Telephone Building

  • Papas General Store

  • The Gladstone Spring House

  • The Narragansett Pier Train Station

Thanks to Arnold Lumber for sponsoring this event! 

Thanks also to RE/MAX for providing marketing support, and The Contemporary Theater for their participation.

 

Pirates and Privateers of “Rogue’s Island” – September 12, 6:00 p.m. 

On Tuesday, September 12th at 6:00 p.m. at the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library historian Brian L. Wallin gave a talk on Pirates in Narragansett Bay. 

Their ships slipped in and out of Newport harbor and Narragansett Bay in the 17th and 18th centuries. Privateers sailed with official government authorization to capture enemy merchant vessels, and shared their bounty with the government. But, some went into business for themselves and flew the black flag of piracy. Their often bloody cruises brought fortune to some and ended at the gallows for others. Because of its importance in colonial trade, Rhode Island left out the welcome mat for pirates and smugglers. Eventually, however, England reached its limit of patience. In 1723, 26 pirates, captured off Block Island, met the hangman in Newport. Before long, colonial America would rise up in revolt and privateers substituted for a colonial navy.

This lavishly illustrated lecture discounts many myths of piracy, and includes the stories of a number of Rhode Islanders who sailed far and wide seeking treasure. In fact, they may have left some behind in the Ocean State. Who knows? Dead men tell no tales, as the buccaneers would have said.

This event was co-sponsored by the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library and The Narragansett Historical Society.

 

The Coast Guard’s War on Rumrunners – August 8th, 6:00 p.m. CANCELLED

Unfortunately this event was cancelled due to illness. The same talk will be given on August 23rd at the South County Museum at 6:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, August 8th at 6 p.m. at the Clarke Cener (170 Clarke Road) author and historian Christian McBurney will give a talk about the Coast Guard’s efforts to prevent rum running in Narragansett Bay during prohibition. The Coast Guard vessels in Narragansett Bay and other Rhode Island waters fired thousands of machine gun and one-pound cannon rounds. . . at fellow-Americans, though ironically During World War I and World War II, army and navy fortifications and artillery pieces surrounded Narragansett Bay, but no shots were ever fired in anger.

The Coast Guard ws targeting crew members on rumrunners who, using speedy powerboats, had picked up illegal liquor from supply ships stationed at “Rum Row”—an area beyond the twelve-mile zone off the coast of southern New England and Long Island. The rumrunners, operating at night or in foggy conditions, on their return voyages would cruise up Narragansett Bay to assigned drop off points to unload their liquor. Because buying and selling alcohol was illegal under Prohibition laws then in force, the profits from a successful voyage could be enormous.

The Coast Guard became the lead federal government agency fighting the “Rum War” at sea. Coast Guard patrol boats insisted on inspecting vessels suspected of carrying illicit liquor, and if they did not stop after being signaled, they were targeted with live ammunition from large caliber weapons—machine guns or one-pounder cannon. Christian McBurney identified 29 shooting incidents in which the Coast Guard fired large caliber guns at rumrunners, striking the craft, in or near Rhode Island waters. In several incidents, hundreds of machine gun bullets were fired. It is a wonder that more men were not killed and wounded.

For more information, see the Small State Big History website

There is no fee for this talk, but the Narragansett Historical Society would gratefully accept donations to offset our costs for hosting this event. 

Clam Cake Land: The Origins and Enduring Popularity of a Local Summer “Sacrament” Explained

On July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Clarke Center (170 Clarke Road) Great Clam Cake and Fritter Guide author Carolyn Wyman gave a fun and interesting talk on the communal consumption of clam-flavored doughnut holes and how this treat was a near-sacred summer ritual in Rhode Island and almost nowhere else, and how Clam cakes’ origins as a filling first course at Victorian clambakes hold the key to this mystery.

Wyman’s talk, which based on her newly released book, dug deep into the history, culture and cuisine of this cultish regional specialty, which was first served at pavilions and amusement parks surrounding Narragansett Bay in the mid-to-late 1800s, including the still fondly-remembered Rocky Point and Crescent Park.

Carolyn presented stories behind the roadside restaurants and drive-ins that replaced the resorts as clam-cake sources when cars replaced  steamboats and trolleys as Americans’ favorite mode of transportation, including the 103-year-old James Beard Award-winning Aunt Carrie’s, the 1930’s lunch-shack-turned-local institution that is George’s and the sea wall-situated former bait shop Monahan’s.

The Great Clam Cake and Fritter Guide (Globe Pequot, $21.95) is the definitive clam cake history, cookbook and travel guidebook, discussing artistic and event tributes to this food and containing more than 20 recipes and 50 restaurant profiles. Carolyn Wyman is the Rhode Island native author of seven previous food books, including The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie BookBetter Than HomemadeSpam: A Biography,  Jell-O: A Biography and The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book, about the favorite fatty food in her current hometown of Philadelphia. But she was weaned on clam cakes and stuffies and still has Del’s and coffee milk running through her veins.

A book signing followed the 45-minute illustrated talk.

 

Lecture on the South Kingstown/Narragansett Split – Nov. 10, 2:00 p.m. Peace Dale Library

Dr. Richard Vangermeersch spoke about the Narragansett/South Kingstown split.

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The area was settled about 1675 and was named for the Narraganset Indians, who were defeated and dispersed during King Philip’s War (1675–76). Originally part of South Kingstown, it was set off as an enclave of its own in 1888 and was incorporated as a separate town in 1901. 

This talk will take place at the Peace Dale Library on Thursday November 10, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. 

This event was jointly sponsored by Peace Dale Library and the Narragansett Historical Society. 

Cornerstone Playhouse Concert – Nice Work If  You Can Get It

What a wonderful treat this was! A concert of 1930s musical theater songs was held on Thursday, October 6th at 7:30 pm at the Clarke Building, 170 Clarke Road, Narragansett.

Our friends at the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce graciously organized this event as a fundraiser, as all profits will be donated to the Narragansett Historical Society’s Windmill Restoration Project Fund to “Finish It for Shirley,” who was a Cornerstone Playhouse fan and a lifelong supporter of the performing arts.

Peg Fredette did a fantastic job producing this event. The vocalists, Allison Lindsay and Daniel Kamalic were fantastic, and the pianist, Gerald Moshell, was not only an excellent musician but also walked us through the history of the 1930’s (when the windmill building was constructed) through musical storytelling.

Ocean Road 10K — October 2.  Thank you to all how ran, and ESPECIALLY to all who volunteered! You were fantastic! We couldn’t do this without you! 

September 11 — Dr. Richard Vangermeersh, Research and Writing Workshop

Dr. Richard Vanngermeersch held a research and writing workshop, providing tips and inspiration, and using “Women of Narragansett” to highlight his approach. The talk highlighted interesting tid bits and stories about women of/with ties to Narragansett. Sue Bush also participated in this presentation. 

Dr. Richard Vangermeersch is Emeritus Professor of Accounting from URI. He has lived in Narragansett since 1971. His expertise is in the history of accounting. Since his 2004 retirement from URI he has refocused much of his efforts on researching local history, developing expertise in several topics and in several instances supporting novelists and other writers.  In addition, he has been very involved with numerous organizations’ histories as they celebrated milestones and anniversaries. 

August 14 — Dr. Joanne Pope Melish, Slavery in South County

Dr. Joanne Pope Melish presented information about slavery in South County, and described the regional economy’s reliance upon slavery and the “triangle trade.”

Joanne Pope Melish is Associate Professor of History Emerita at the University of Kentucky, where she also directed the American Studies Program and co-directed the Africana Studies Initiative for several years. Dr. Melish received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University. She is the author of Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and “Race” in New England, 1780-1860 (Cornell University Press, 1998) and many essays on race and slavery in the early republic and on slavery in public history and pedagogy. Joanne has directed or co-directed several NEH-funded residential summer teacher institutes and workshops on race and slavery in early New England and has served as a consultant to a number of historic sites. Currently she is a Visiting Scholar in the American Studies Department at Brown University. 

July 10 — Bella Noka, The story of Tarzan Brown

On Sunday July 10th, we had the unique opportunity to learn about well-known local legend, “Tarzan” Ellison Myers Brown’s, and his accomplishments from several members of his family. The discussion was led by Tarzan’s niece, Bella Noka. Tarzan was born in Westerly, RI and was a member of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island. While he would become a stone mason, Tarzan is most known for being a two-time winner in the Boston Marathon, 1936 (2:33:40) and 1939 (2:27:30), as well as holding speed records at all seven checkpoints and setting a course record in 1939. In 1936 at age 22, he became the youngest winner of the Boston Marathon. He also ran the marathon in the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin.

In the 1936 Boston Marathon, Tarzan sped out of the starting gate and had an early lead. But as the Newton hills approached, Johnny Kelley, the defending champion, caught up to Tarzan. Kelley patted Tarzan, and then passed Tarzan. From that point on, Tarzan would pass Kelley, Kelley would pass Tarzan, with Tarzan ultimately winning the race. “A newspaper reporter the next day called the final hill where Tarzan had broken Kelley’s spirit ‘Heartbreak Hill.’  The legend of Heartbreak Hill was born!” (The Legend of Tarzan Brown, Westerly Life, March 13, 2019.)

We enjoyed hearing stories from Tarzan Brown’s relatives, and hearing Native American drumming and singing. Thank you to all who participated and attended. 

 

June 12 — Brian Wallin, Down to the Sea by Rail

By the 1870’s, Narragansett Pier was firmly established as a summer resort. At first, it was a vacation spot for people of means, but by the turn of the century, it became a popular daytime destination for residents of Providence and other communities, thanks largely to the scenic and affordable Seaview Trolley Company that ran from East Greenwich down to the Pier. The line also carried freight and the products of local farmers. There were grandiose plans to run the line into Wakefield, but the line ran smack into the competing Narragansett Pier Railroad right in the middle of the town’s Main Street. The omnivorous New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, which had been assembling a transportation monopoly in New England also threw a curve ball at the Seaview, with a surprise alternative service. Sadly, tracked trolleys in Rhode Island fell victim to the arrival of the automobile age after World War One. By 1920, the Seaview would be bankrupt, its tracks torn up and sold for scrap. Today, its only visible remains are the power lines along the right of way, now under control of National Grid. This well-illustrated tale takes a ride on the Seaview, with some detours to share stories of the people and places that made the line so popular in its heyday.

About Brian Wallin:

Brian L. Wallin is a graduate of Stonehill College and earned his master’s degree from American International College. He spent the first 20 years of his career as a radio and television news reporter, anchor and producer in New England also contributing to the NBC, CBS and ABC networks. He broadcast the America’s Cup yacht races between 1967 and 1983 for national and international news organizations. He has served as an adjunct professor at Providence College and Salve Regina University and is currently on the faculty of the URI Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).  He had a career in health care management, and is a past president of the New England Society for Healthcare Communications and of the North Kingstown (RI) Rotary He is a trustee of the Varnum Continentals historic militia in East Greenwich (RI), a docent at the Naval War College Museum nd a member of the US Naval Institute. Brian continues to do voice-overs and documentary narrations. 

Brian is a frequent lecturer to audiences across the state on Rhode Island history. He writes for specialty publications and is a contributing author to the on line journal of Rhode Island history, www.smallstatebighistory.com. Brian is the co-author of “World War Two Rhode Island,” a book about the war’s impact on the Ocean State, published by the History Press.