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, 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.