Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Most Interesting Story!!!!!!

It is amazing what can be found with google!!!
Reprinted from The Providence Journal
Thriving Villages
Now little more than bedroom communities, the villages in the far reaches of the state thrived with their own industry, entertainment and identity.
By BRIAN D. MOCKENHAUPTJournal Staff Writer
Tell someone in Providence that you're taking a trip to Burrillville or Foster, and you might hear some variation of the quip: "You better pack an overnight bag."
But one hundred years ago, that wasn't far from the truth. Most of the roads in the northwest corner of the state were dirt, cars were scarce , and travel was often by horse or foot. Now little more than bedroom communities, the villages in the far reaches of the state thrived with their own industry, entertainment and identity. There were the larger villages -- Pascoag, North Scituate, Harrisville -- and the smaller villages now all but forgotten -- Huntsville, Moosup Valley, Cherry Valley. "People who live in Cherry Valley are still quite proud of the fact that they live in Cherry Valley," says Edna Kent, Glocester's historian.
In Glocester, the center of town was Chepachet. At the start of the 19th century, it was known as a trading hub. Gradually it became a mill village, but the mills in Chepachet declined through the later part of the 19th century, Kent says. The last big mill, White's Mill, burned in 1897. It was burned, Kent says, for the insurance. "The gentleman who was the night manager, the superintendent, he had never taken a vacation and he was approached by this brother of the man who lived across the street from the mill and he said, `You work so hard, why don't you take the day off and I'll watch it for you.' And that night it burned. "As the story goes, that man never came to town again," Kent says. "He just couldn't set foot in town. It just broke his heart. He loved that mill." Kent says the burning of the mill, which employed many people at the time, "cast a pall over the community."
"At the turn of the century," she says, "it would have been rather quiet." But Kent says it wasn't just the loss of the mills that hastened Chepachet decline. In the mid-1800s, there was talk of bringing the railroad to Chepachet, linking it to Providence. The farmers, however, "were afraid the engines would cause the hay fields to burn. "They refused it," Kent says. "That's why it went to Burrillville." In Burrillville, business was booming and mills were everywhere. "That was the big industry here," says Joyce McKenna, president of the town's historical society. "That was about all there was. Farming wasn't much of an option." Pascoag and Harrisville were the centers of activity in Burrillville. For entertainment, there were music halls, a theater, and taverns. "Where there were mills, there were bars," McKenna says. "That was pretty much a given." And Burrillville had the railroad. So until 1914, when the electric trolley came to Chepachet from Providence, many people traveling into Glocester took the train to Oakland in Burrillville, then the stage coach into Chepachet. Though the mills were in decline, Chepachet was still a busy place. Henry Taft, who ran the giant Chepachet Inn, continued having his famous game dinners, featuring fish, venison, pheasant and grouse caught in the area. "He used to go hunting and fishing with his guests as well," Kent says. In 1902, the Rhode Island Automobile Club took over the inn. Automobiles were still an anomaly in the area. Some well-to-do owned cars; everyone else walked, rode atop a horse or behind one in a wagon or carriage. Nevertheless, Kent says, "With autos, it lost some of its intimacy." With autos, the village also lost its horse racing. Before cars were common in Chepachet, residents used to hold horse races down Main Street. "It was called the Half Mile," Kent says, and it ended in front of what is now the Brown and Hopkins store. While the auto ended the betting on horses, it also helped Providence discover Chepachet. The Providence Journal wrote this in July 1907: "One of the most picturesque and interesting of the older villages of Rhode Island, yet long one of the most inaccessible by the usual methods of transportation, Chepachet is being discovered by the automobilist as it was several years ago by the bicyclist, and is becoming one of the most popular runs out of Providence. "The distance is only 40 minutes or so by motor. It's a pleasant run of 16 miles through an interesting country. . . ." The trip became easier when the electric trolley came to Chepachet, running on the hour from 6 a.m. to midnight from Providence. Of course, Chepachet itself didn't get electricity until 1922. This meant no refrigeration in the early part of the century. During the winter, ice from ponds was sawn into blocks and carted to ice houses, where, with a thick layer of sawdust for insulation, the blocks could stay solid into the summer. Residents could have ice delivered to their homes, along with meat, fish, bread and milk. Those who lived in the country side mostly made due on their own, raising some crops and some animals, Kent says. But some things did draw them into the village.
In 1906, the townspeople held the first Old Home Days, at the Freewill Baptist Church. It was a daylong picnic and festival, held in August, meant to bring people together. And it showed, Kent says, just how different the country folk were from the village folk. Those coming into the town from the countryside would not offer "Good day" as a greeting but "How sare ye?" a throwback to Colonial times. In fact, Kent says, people from West Glocester often had different speech patterns from those from a village as close as South Glocester. "They just lived in the neighborhood, they didn't go anywhere," Kent says. "They came into town four or five times a year, the rest of the time they just stayed on the farm. They didn't have a chance to hear other types of speech." The celebration grew in size each year, though the church and the rest of the village was nearly burned to the ground in 1907 when fire destroyed several buildings after somebody put a pail of hot coals on the back porch of Bob Wade's general store. The stairs ignited and the fire soon spread to three nearby houses and several barns.
Kent says her mother in law, who was an organist for an East Providence church at the time, had driven a horse and wagon into Centredale, then taken the trolley to East Providence. "On her way back, when she got to the stable at Centredale, the man at the stable had told her Chepachet was on fire," Kent says. "Until the day she died, she regretted what she had done, but she whipped that horse all the way back." She returned in time to see the fire still burning. "At that time, we had no fire department," Kent says. "The only thing that really saved it was the winds shifted. The stiff breeze blowing to the south reversed and blew back on what had already burned."
All I can say is Thank Goodness!!!!

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