Patience Brayton: Passionate Quaker Abolitionist
by Leslie Patterson
Patience Greene Brayton, an early abolitionist of the 1700s, was a member of the Quaker Meeting House in Somerset. Research by Somerset historian Diane Goodwin shows Patience and her husband Preserved Brayton lived for many years on Rock River Farm in South Rehoboth. Diane and Mary Ann McDonald of the Somerset Historical Society described the life of this remarkable woman at a talk at the Carpenter Museum in early December.
“Dangerous radicals,” those Quakers
The Quakers, organized in the 1600s as the Society of Friends, fled persecution in England, but found more persecution in New England. “We say the Puritans came here for religious freedom, but it was only for their own religious freedom,” said Mary Ann. Although the Quakers were also Christian, their beliefs were very different. Not only were they pacifists, they also believed in rights for women.
The Puritans were especially threatened by the Quaker view that no clergy was necessary to intercede between man and God. Since the Puritan society was a theocracy with ordained ministers in charge of both religious and civil matters, they thought the Quakers were dangerous radicals, Mary Ann explained.
She lived in the 1700s and Rehoboth was her home.
Remains of Brayton Hill, known later as the Thurber Mill in Rehoboth
Stripped and banished by Puritans
“In the early days of the colonies, it was common for Rhode Island Quakers who lived near the Massachusetts border to keep extra clothes in their meeting house because Puritans often marched Massachusetts Quakers to the state line, stripped them and banished them,” Mary Ann said. She reminded her audience the statue of Mary Dyer outside the State House in Boston commemorates one Quaker woman who was hanged for her beliefs in the 1600s.
Mary Ann noted that while those in the Plymouth Bay Colony (of which Rehoboth was part) were not as cruel to the Quakers as the colony to the north, the Quakers were still very much outsiders. In 1677 after King Philip’s War, land in Plymouth Colony near Mt. Hope Bay was for sale. By 1680 there was a Quaker settlement. In 1701, the Quaker Meeting House, a small one-story house, was built in Somerset (which was then part of Swansea) on Prospect Street. For the first time in 1717 a “recorded minister” was chosen there. This was a member of the Quaker congregation chosen by the others to speak out on a specific topic, and only that topic.
She felt “no peace” about slavery
Patience Greene was born to a Quaker family in North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1733. She married Preserved Brayton, a well-off farmer in Massachusetts, who owned a few slaves himself. Slavery was so accepted at that time that even some Quakers had slaves. Mary Ann noted Rhode Island was a center of the slave trade in the North, especially Bristol and Newport.
Shortly after their marriage the Braytons freed their slaves. But just freeing their own slaves was not enough. Patience felt compelled to speak out against slavery and to travel far and wide to do so. She was chosen at the Somerset Meeting House as a recorded minister who would speak on the evils of slavery. Although Patience was a busy mother, she felt “no peace” until she spoke out at other meeting houses and churches, even down South.
From Rehoboth to Georgia on Horseback
On May 9, 1771, she set out with a woodsman as a guide to go south as far as Georgia, the southernmost English colony at that time. With no roads to speak of, they traveled on horseback as much as 45 or 50 miles on a good day. “Although she always thought of herself as shy, Patience must have been a good speaker because many people came to hear her. She was unstoppable. When the travelers got as far as Virginia, she saw Southern slavery up close for the first time and was horrified at seeing the flogging posts and branding irons,” Mary Ann said.
Desperate after losing a child
“When Patience arrived in Baltimore there was a letter awaiting her from her husband, who wrote to say one of their children had died. She wanted desperately to go home but felt she had to push on. She had been gone for a year when she returned home after this exhausting trip. She learned her youngest child had smallpox and the child sadly died soon after.
After the Revolutionary War, the American Society of Friends sent her to Great Britain as their representative. She was not allowed to see the king but wrote an address on slavery to George III. When Patience died, at age 66, on July 30, 1784 in Massachusetts, four states had declared slavery illegal.
She made people see slavery with new eyes
“She was one of the earliest voices against slavery; she was really 100 years ahead of her time,” said Mary Ann. “She raised the consciousness of people around her, back when everyone just saw slavery as part of life. She made them see slavery with new eyes, at great personal cost to herself.”
It has always been assumed the Braytons lived in Somerset, but the will of Preserved Brayton’s grandfather from 1761 refers to the family’s farm as Rock River Farm in Rehoboth, located near Mason and Davis Streets in South Rehoboth.
We know about Patience through a published journal printed in 1802 -- “A Short Account of the Life and Religious Labors of Patience Brayton, Late Of Swansey, In The State of Massachusetts.” The Carpenter Museum has a copy of this historical document. For those interested, there is a link to a PDF version of the book at carpentermuseum.org.
More Memories of North Rehoboth School
By Janice Rogala
When I wrote about North Rehoboth School in the fifties, I fully expected to move on to my memories of Palmer River School in the same time period. But, last month’s memories raised a number of questions. North Rehoboth School was dedicated in 1940. I have a wonderful grainy newspaper photo that alas does not scan well. The citizens of Rehoboth must have been so proud of their wonderful new school.
When I attended, my teacher for first grade was Mildred Waite. I have enclosed a photo of her here and I have to say she looks so much younger here than I remember her. But perhaps that was just a matter of perspective because at age six almost everyone looks old. I believe Mrs. Waite was the principal at that time. That means she carried on her fulltime classroom duties and dealt with everything else needed to run a school in her spare time.
Doing research for this column has been so much fun. I got to talk to my favorite teacher from my North School days, Nancy Carpenter. She was Nancy Walker when she started and taught for a few years before she married Joe Carpenter and had their daughter Polly. She reminded me the Superintendent then was Mr. Gustin. My grandfather, Walter Hagar, was the janitor at North at that time and he would sometimes mention Mr. Gustin in his stories to me. Grandfathers always have such wonderful memories to pass on to willing little ears.
Sometime after Polly was born, the new superintendent stopped at the Carpenter home and asked her to return to teaching. Mr. Bailey must have been a busy man recruiting teachers for the growing school population because I believe he did the same thing when he brought Muriel Wild on board to teach home economics at Anawan.
The post war baby boom must have hit Rehoboth schools full-force in the early fifties. Mrs. Carpenter also recalled that before they started a school lunch program, she could take her students into the kitchen and teach measuring there. That must have been fun. She also remembers watching students skating during their recess times during her first tenure there.
Thanks to my cousin Holley, I also have more information about Doris Johnson. Luckily, Emily Hagar, my aunt and Holley’s mom, kept a great record of all her children's lives. Therefore, Holley and her sisters have journals and pictures from their days growing up in Rehoboth.
Mrs. Johnson was our fourth grade teacher. She had lived in Rehoboth since 1912, attending Rehoboth Schools (and being hit full in the face by my dad's snowball). She was active in the area 4-H program and served as a camp counselor. In 1927 her marriage to D. Lee Johnson was reportedly the first marriage of two 4-H members in the US. She later was instrumental in organizing the Edwin R. Wyeth 4-H Scholarship.
She began her teaching career in a one-room school on Prudence Island after graduating from Attleboro High School at age seventeen. She began teaching at North Rehoboth School in 1947, became principal in 1956 and retired in 1973. It was through efforts of people like Doris and Dorothy L. Beckwith that the Hornbine School was restored and is still in use today for children throughout the area to learn about early school days in our community.
I had not known that Doris was among those who stated the Rehoboth Fair (serving as its secretary from 1932 to 1949) and the Anawan Blood Bank. She was on the building committee for the North Rehoboth School and the study committee for the present high school. She served two terms on the school committee. She did all this and was the mother of four.
My last article raised some questions. If my neighbors and I went to North Rehoboth School and the kids from the south end of town went to Pleasant Street School in the forties and early fifties, where did the children in the center of town go to school before Palmer River School opened?
Friend Peggy wrote that she went to kindergarten and first grade at Norrington, a private school, and then to Palmer River in second grade. I guess I always assumed that Anawan was for grades one through eight until Palmer River opened.
Jim Amaral and Lorraine Lachapelle both grew up on Summer Street. They say they went to North School until Palmer River opened in 1952. All the center children were schooled there for their elementary years.
The town came together for grades five and six and then went on to Anawan for grades seven through nine. Neither Holley nor I remember them at North. Was there another classroom in the cafeteria that we don’t recall?
Tom Charnecki went to Pleasant Street School. He also does not recall any kids from the center of town at his school in the late forties or early fifties. I think I may need to take a trip to the library to clear this mystery up.
On Facebook there is a group called North Rehoboth School Holds A Lifetime of Memories that is mainly for students in the seventies.
You may enjoy looking them up.
Memories of Palmer River School
By Janice Rogala
I am not part of that huge generation that followed World War II, the Baby Boomers. I was born during the war. My mother told me that when she had to tell my Grandmother Hagar that her youngest son had been killed in the Battle of the Bulge, the only thing she could think to do was to hand me to her to hold.
That being said, I think I benefited greatly because of the Baby Boomer wave that was pushing right behind me. Rehoboth school committees and townspeople could see what was coming and they hastened to get ready. They had to build a new school for the wave of little students waiting for those bright yellow school buses.
Palmer River School was opened to house students in grades one through four who lived in the center of town. I believe that at that time there was one class of each grade in the front wing. Then all the children in town came together in another wing that housed three classrooms of grade five students and three classrooms for grade six. That opened up Anawan School for grade seven through nine before Rehoboth students were separated again to spend their last three years of high school in other communities.
I remember going to the open house that was held when Palmer River was first opened, probably in 1952. We were all so impressed with our beautiful new school. Rehoboth citizens were proud and rightly so. We had a huge gymnasium that converted to a lunchroom and back again. Janitors lowered green lunch tables and benches from the walls like Murphy beds and then back up again for gym classes and town meetings. There was a real stage with heavy burgundy velvet curtains, if memory serves me right.
Also, in the front wing there was an office for the principal, David Smith, and his secretary, Dorothy Gray, I think. There was also a health room with a dentist chair and nearby was a real library with books and encyclopedias and a big globe. I was so excited because I knew that all these riches would be mine some day when I finished fourth grade.
Growing up in the north end of town, I didn’t have too much opportunity to visit the new school until I went there in fifth grade. But I’ll bet most kids of school age in the fifties will recall standing in a long line on a Saturday at Palmer River School’s gym. All the other Rehoboth children were there also to get their polio vaccinations. I can remember it as a few drops on a sugar cube or as an actual needle.
Finally, in fifth grade, all the children in town who were my age came together at Palmer River School. For the first time I didn’t know all the teachers. And all the kids in my class were not my neighbors. School was no longer within walking distance to my house. I looked around the classroom and knew some of my classmates but who were these other kids? Where was Jane? Who was going to help me with math? Where were Rocky and Holley? They had been part of my life forever but when we got off the bus, they had been sent elsewhere. I tried to feel grown up because I was, after all, in fifth grade, but I can remember being very nervous.
I recall the fifth grade teachers. Mr. Tanner was in the first classroom. Mrs. McBreen was in the middle and Mr. Jones was in the last room. The two men were a big shock; all our teachers had been women. Students never changed classes; the teachers did. Mr. Tanner would come to our room to teach Social Studies, my favorite subject, and Mr. Jones was the math teacher. Mrs. McBreen then would be teaching us all English. The three rotated throughout the classes each day, teaching the same lesson three times. This is not as simple as it sounds. It is not easy to keep each class at the same place and sometimes you forget what you said to the class when you have already said it twice before! (I know because I have done it.)
Another memory I have from Palmer River is that an elderly lady or an elderly gentleman would come each week to take certain students out for piano lessons. Well, they probably weren’t all that elderly. My teacher was Mrs. B. I never was all that good but I do remember one day when Mrs. McBreen stopped the class so we could all listen to a student play. It was Susan Dupouy and she was so good. I went home and practiced extra hard that night.
Sixth grade was across the hall. The teachers were Mrs. Bailey, the superintendent’s wife, Mrs. Munroe, and Miss Blackledge. The students were all fascinated with Mrs. Bailey’s hair. Sometimes it was gray but sometimes it would be purple. A few weeks later it appeared to be blue. Each Monday we would come to class wondering what color it would be. Many years later whenever I watched the British comedy “Are You Being Served?” on PBS, I would think of Mrs. Bailey.
She must have had the same hairdresser as Mrs. Slocum. Math was never my favorite subject but I did enjoy it when Jane Munroe was the teacher. She had all kinds of ways to make those strange concepts make sense. Using regular household items such as empty egg boxes or tin pie plates, she taught all those abstract ideas and made them come alive.
Many years later, when I was in college training to be a teacher, I came to recognize that the little town of Rehoboth had given her children a very good start in life. Many of the ideas that were being taught as new or innovative had been part of my education back home. Often when I was developing a lesson for a class assignment or my student teaching, I would think of a teacher I had had. How had Mrs. Munroe taught measurement? How did Mrs. Carpenter keep all those wiggly eight year olds so well behaved without raising her voice? This continued when I returned to Palmer River as a teacher.
I had had so many wonderful role models. Of course, then, Jane Munroe said to me, “You call me Jane and don’t you dare tell anyone you had me in school!”
Growing Up in Rehoboth
By Lende Ramspott McMullen
In 1939, eleven year old Gordon and his thirteen-year-old brother Richard moved to School Street, Rehoboth from nearby Swansea with their mother and father, Ruth and Robert Ramspott. The family bought a lovely ‘village’ house diagonally across the street from the family homestead of their grandfather, veterinarian Dr. Arthur L. Parker, where Ruth grew up as a child. It was a beautiful home owned for quite a while by Mr. Annis, then sold to S. Forster Hunt in 1938 as a vacation home.
That year my uncle Gordon attended Anawan School as a sixth grader. Later he was in the first class to attend Dighton High School and was a 1946 graduate of the school. To get to the high school, he’d walk a quarter mile to the corner of School and Summer Streets and get the bus driven by Rehoboth resident, Harold Horton. Harold’s bus would meet the East Mass bus at the corner of 44 and New Street to take the kids to school in Dighton.
My dad, Richard, had the choice of attending either Dighton or Taunton High School. He attended only the first day at Dighton, and found out they didn’t offer algebra. Algebra was so important to my dad that he and Bob Trim, who was also good at math, would occasionally camp out behind Horton Farm in the village to study algebra together. After graduating from Taunton High in 1944, my dad enlisted into the U.S. Army and served in the European Theater as an army engineer.
Ramspott House on School Street, circa 1938 (original Hunt House)
New Kid in Town
As a new kid in town, my uncle would introduce himself to others and say that he was Dr. Parker’s grandson. Certainly, in those days everyone knew everybody in town. One day when he spoke to Ralph Horton in this fashion, Ralph recognized the name and stated that he went to school with his mother, Ruth. As grandsons of veterinarian Dr. Parker, who was able to attend to not only the animals for which people depended on for their livelihood but also the people themselves, my father and uncle were accepted graciously and easily by those in the community.
As kids, both my father and uncle could often be found riding their horse "Lady" through town. They’d ride to the swimming hole over on Wilmarth Bridge Road or over to Danforth Street and find the other friends. They might ride along the dirt roads to Aldrich Farm and Devil’s Pond, over even as far as Perryville or “Oak Swamp”. The trolley tracks were all but removed by that time, so that was also a good ride.
One of their favorite pastimes was hanging out at the village store which Bill Holden ran for Frank Horton. Gordon would ride down on his horse and most likely find a buddy there, get a soda, go skating on the village pond, or go ride their horses. My uncle now admits to carving the “G” on the store bench you will find while visiting the Carpenter Museum. There, along with initials carved by other boys, my uncle's was first!
Once, my dad was riding bikes with a couple of friends and they were all together on top of long hill on the corner of New and County Streets. My dad was riding a bike with no brakes when they were ready to take off and race down the hill. One, two, three, go! They started off together but the two other boys eyed each other, and stopped up short, letting my dad fly down the hill alone. Unable to stop, he kept going, enjoyed the joke, and rode home.
Richard Ramspott as a Boy Scout
Family’s summer camp on School Street after
the 1938 Hurricane
A Close Yankee Family
My dad and uncle grew up in a close family that was reserved and very “Yankee”. The family believed in hard work and maintained strong moral convictions. Their father, Robert, continued to work in Swansea at Swansea Printworks as a machinist. He enjoyed reading the newspaper very much. He would read it for such long periods of time that he was known to “read the words right off the paper”! Their mother, Ruth, maintained the household, cooked, and shopped for groceries in East Providence. Occasionally they might play a game of cribbage with friends. However, playing cards was considered an unacceptable pastime.
The family did enjoy time spent together, especially in summer. In the woods about a quarter mile due west from the School Street home, there was a camp which my great-grandfather built in the late teens or early twenties for himself and friends for hunting and camping. It was built using two chicken coops tied together. It later served as a family destination for camping and enjoying the outdoors. There, they would live for a month in the summer, haul water from a hand pump well about 300 feet away, have no electricity, and enjoy themselves in a beautiful grove of pine trees 3 or 4 feet in diameter.
Often, family friends were invited to stay a few days and the men would go to work the next morning. The boys would climb trees, build lean-tos to sleep in, and pick blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries. It was a great escape from the summer heat building up inside the house that had no insulation in the walls in those days.
Peddling Eggs, Mucking Horses
As a ten year old, my uncle learned to drive an old Dodge car with his older brother driving in the fields and often out to the camp. Once, the boys were arguing, probably about who was going to drive, when my dad got so mad at Gordon he slammed the door hard after getting out of the car. At that time, automobile windows lacked safety glass and the window broke and splintered into my uncle’s eye. Dr. Jackson from Fall River operated and put in 6 stitches on his eye, preserving his sight.
From 8th grade through high school, my uncle Gordon peddled eggs to Spencer (Spinney) Chrome who was an egg broker. Gordon also remembers his first job working Saturdays for Mrs. Arnold. She operated a chicken farm where he could earn 10 cents an hour cleaning the coops where she had 3,000 layers.
In high school, while my dad would work at Francis Farm preparing the bakes and serving up the dinners, my uncle worked at Knowles, a gentleman’s farm, best known now as Fox Lea Farm on Danforth Street. There was a lot of mucking out for the horses, chickens, and cows. He helped Russ Jr., Jonathan, Joan and others with the haying and any other necessary farm chores.
Gordon fondly remembers working at the Bowen homestead on Homestead Avenue. Joanie Horton (now Joan Olson) would be working side by side there on her father’s farm. He’d drive his car over in time to get the memorable breakfasts Sabina Bowen (Bini), would serve. He worked there through the winter of 1947 after he turned 19 years old.
My uncle has many memories growing up in Rehoboth, where life was unfettered and free for a boy to roam on a horse to the nearby swimming hole or meet his pals at the store. It was a life centered on family and friends with little hesitation in enjoying the great outdoors. Whether out picking blueberries, working a farm or a clambake, or camping in the summer woods, these times in Rehoboth were the ones my uncle and dad remember with much love, humor, and adventure.
Rehoboth Our Town
They wrote the book
By Janice Rogala
Anawan School, during the school years of 1957 and 1958, housed the seventh, eighth and ninth grade classes for the town of Rehoboth. Students were crowded into the small building and most classrooms were multi-purpose. Mrs. Muriel Wild’s home economics classes for sewing were held on a small stage. Miss Dorothy Beckwith’s algebra class was going on in the same area along with students assigned to study hall. Meanwhile, in the background, Mr. Roland Santerre would be conducting carpentry classes and, from upstairs, came the sounds of many feet marching from class to class across worn wooden floors.
Writing the Book
The class of 1957 began a project in their ninth grade Civics class under English and Civics teacher, James Marcotte. They wrote a “study of Rehoboth as a service to their community.” The results of their research was a book entitled Rehoboth Our Town which was published “with the hope that the citizens of today will endeavor to make our town an even better place in which to live for the citizens of tomorrow.”
This class was the last class to be split apart and sent to different area high schools. Their fiftieth year high school reunion was spent with friends who graduated in towns like Taunton or East Providence or Attleboro.
Rehoboth Our Town - The Book
“This book is published in the spirit of good citizenship to bring to the reader a better appreciation of his town. The book is not intended to be an all inclusive story of Rehoboth but rather to inspire admiration for our town through knowledge of her past and present.”
It would seem that this became an all school project with art teacher, Mr. Ralph Michaelson, being credited with leading a staff of student-artists and English teachers, Mrs. Margaret Kammerer and Mr. Robert Tanner being thanked for their “critical reading of the text and helpful suggestions.” Also contributing was Mrs. Beatrice Kammerer of the Social Studies department.
The ninth grade class of 1958 continued the project. Their task was raising the funds to publish the book. This was the first class to stay together, joining with students from Dighton and Berkeley in the new Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School. Their fiftieth year class reunion committee is still searching for a few members of this class to be held this year.
Funding the Project
The class of 1958 raised funds by the public production of two plays, “The Tinker” at Christmas and then “The Showboat Minstrel” later in the year. Both Mr. Marcotte and Miss Beckwith were known locally for their thespian talents. Music teacher Mrs. Priscilla Gallerani lent a hand. Besides all of the above-mentioned teachers, special thanks went out to Mr. Kenneth Laidlaw, Mrs. Ruth Doodson, and Mr. Russell Marchand for their efforts to help with fundraising.
A Slim Volume of History
The thin books, in blue hard covers, are quite a testament to the efforts of the staff and students of Anawan Junior High School at a time of transition in the schools of our town. They thoroughly researched their subject, using two known texts of Rehoboth history, The History of Rehoboth (1836) by Leonard Bliss Jr. and Early Rehoboth by Richard LeBaron Bowen (three volumes, written in 1945, 1946, and 1948.)
They evidently interviewed several folks of the day who knew much about Rehoboth history and shared their love of our community. I remember them all. Marion Nichols was a long time town clerk whose office was in her home on Bay State Road. School nurse, Gladys Condry, lived around the corner on Elm Street. Juliet Mansfield, the local librarian, resided just past the VFW Hall.
Mildred Thatcher was School Superintendent Hamilton Bailey’s secretary and she also lived near the school on Bay State Road. Doris Johnson was principal of North Rehoboth School. She lived a bit farther away on Anawan Street but was always willing to contribute to projects concerning the town’s history.
Will There Be a New Edition?
I am not sure how many books were in the actual publication. A set resided in my classroom at Palmer River School for many years. I think I sent it to the school library as I neared retirement. I hope there are other copies out there. I would think that many families in town, especially those whose students worked on the project, would have one safely tucked away.
A new edition would be a wonderful project for a class to take on but with the pressures of state testing and curriculum frameworks, it seems unlikely that that’s a very realistic
Rehoboth Preservation Committee
Useful Website Links
If you would like to learn more about the 52 historic cemeteries in the town of Rehoboth, you can find a complete listing with photos on the Old Rehoboth website. Please be aware that many of these sites are extremely fragile and many are located in remote areas or are on private property. We advise that you contact the Rehoboth Cemetery Commission via the Town Office if you wish more information. Be advise you should never visit sites located on private property without permission of the owner.
Ingalls Family Lot at Rehoboth Historic Cemetery #22 off Cedar Street.
Old Rehoboth website
The Ingalls Family Lot
Rehoboth Historic Cemetery #22
You may be aware of a current situation involving the Ingalls Family Lot that is located on a hill on the private residential property at 126 Cedar Street. The marked graves at the cemetery inside of the decorative fencing include:
Elkanah Ingalls (Birth 1746 - Death February 7, 1807)
Elkanah Ingalls (Birth 1743 - Death 1806
Rebecca Ingalls (Birth unknown - Death 1806)
The actual lot is likely to contain an unknown number unmarked graves that lie outside the decorative fencing which is the reason why the Cemetery Commission is concerned about the excavation being conducted by the property owner.
On May 16, the sitting members of the Gravel Committee met to issue a cease and desist order to property owner Russell Patton to halt excavation at 126 Cedar Street that contains Rehoboth Historic Cemetery No. 22, known as the Ingalls Family Lot.
On April 1, members of the Rehoboth Cemetery Commission spoke before the acting Gravel Committee including then BOS chair Ken Foley, Selectman Don Leffort and Planning Board member John Moriarty regarding their concerns with excavation going on at 126 Cedar Street. Patton said he was doing the excavation to increase visibility at the entrance to his driveway.
A decision was made then to allow Patton to continue his excavation despite protests by members of the Cemetery Commission who had already said no to Patton’s plans to excavate around the early nineteenth century cemetery where an unknown number of graves may lay unmarked and erosion in the immediate area may disturb the graves.
Patton has assured the Gravel Committee and Cemetery Commission that his intention is to make the cemetery more accessible to visitors and plans to landscape the area to make it more attractive.
Mason Barney Shipyard, circa 1817
Farming History in Rehoboth
The Barney Family, the “Water Fence,” and Garbage Recycling
By E. Otis Dyer, Jr.
While researching the Rehoboth Town Clerk records, I came across a curious document at the end of the 1817 book. It is an agreement between Mason Barney on one hand, and several members of the Reed and Carpenter families on the other, to maintain the “water fence.” I had never heard this term used in any land document. The land described was salt marsh, which made the definition easy to figure out: a fence across a tidal meadow.
Anyone who has visited the local Carpenter Museum knows of our wonderful diorama of the Mason Barney shipyard, which was just south of Old Providence Road in Swansea, a short distance down the Palmer River from Rehoboth. Mason Barney, like many in earlier and later generations of his family, was a remarkable man with great entrepreneurial talent.
“We dedicate this book to our friend and principal . . . Miss Dorothy L. Beckwith
“This book is published in the spirit of good citizenship to bring to the reader a better appreciation of his town. The book is not intended to be an all inclusive story of Rehoboth but rather to inspire admiration for our town through knowledge of her past and present. It is our sincere hope that the citizens of today will endeavor to make our town an even better place in which to live for the citizens of tomorrow.”
“Fasten your safety belts, please,” said the attractive stewardess. “This plane is now leaving on Flight 68, Chicago to New York.”
Mike followed instructions and settled down in his seat for his return trip to Rehoboth. As he gazed out the window, he began to think of some of the things that had happened on his vacation. During his stay at his cousin Jed’s home, Mike was impressed with Jed’s information about his home town, Bloomington, Indiana, Mike, watching the clouds sail by, wondered if he knew as much about Rehoboth as Jed knew about Bloomington.
What did the word Rehoboth mean? Who were the town’s early settlers? His day dreaming was interrupted by the stewardess giving him his dinner tray. But after eating his meal and growing tired of a magazine, he once again returned to his thoughts.
After Mike returned home, the next few weeks passed very quickly. He soon found himself back in junior high school. When the ninth grade held their first class meeting, he was elected president. At the second meeting there was a discussion about the need for a history of Rehoboth that could be used in the lower grades. The class voted to make their class project a history of Rehoboth.
Chapter One - Our Early History
“Hi, Mom. What are we going to have for supper?” Mike asked as he entered his house and dropped his school books on the kitchen table.
“Meat loaf with your favorite tomato sauce,” answered his mother.
Mike was just about to stick his finger into the sauce to sample it, when his mother cautioned, “Be careful, Mike. It’s hot. How is your history of the town coming along,” she continued.
“Great,” he replied. “We started on Chapter One today, an early history of the town. Say, did you know Rehoboth at one time contained the present day towns of Seekonk, Attleboro, North Attleboro, and a part of Pawtucket, Cumberland, Barrington and East Providence?”
“I guess that was a little before my time, Mike,” Mrs. Ross answered with a smile.
“You’re quite right there, Mom,” laughed Mike. “Why this whole area was bought from the Indians for a jacket and some wampum. Three purchases of land for the settlement of the town were made from Chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag Indians, a tribe of the Algonquin who lived in this part of the country. The first purchase was made in 1641. It was a tract of land ten miles square, that today we call Rehoboth, Seekonk, Pawtucket and East Providence.”
“You certainly have learned a great deal about Rehoboth in one day, Mike,” said his mother.
“That’s my job, Mom. I’m on that committee, and I must know all the facts,” he replied as he reached for his notebook.
“The second purchase of land in 1645,” he continued, “consisted of a small tract of land that is known today as Bullock’s Point, Barrington. The third and last purchase was the North Purchase in 1664, now forming the towns of Attleboro, North Attleboro, and Cumberland, Rhode Island. In 1694, Attleboro became a separate town, and in 1846, it was subdivided. The Gore or small triangular piece of land became Cumberland, and North Attleboro was set off in 1887.”
“Have you learned anything about the early settlers,” asked Mrs. Ross
“Thanks for reminding me, Mom. That’s our assignment for tomorrow,” replied Mike.
“Supper won’t be ready for another half hour, so why don’t you go next door to Aunt Nan’s and see if she has any information about the early settlers?” suggested his mother.
“Gee! that’s a good idea. She taught school for a number of years, and she could help us.” He picked up his books and said, “See you later, Mom,” as he went out the door.
Fifty-six members of the 1957 Civics Class at Anawan Junior High School prepared this study of Rehoboth as a service to their community. James D. Marcotte, of the Social Studies Department acted as faculty advisor. They formed committees and obtained a wealth of information from individuals including:
Leonard Bliss, Jr.
Richard LeBaron Bowen
Gladys L. Condry
Juliet I. Mansfield
Marion F. Nichols
Mildred L. Thatcher
Rev. George H. Tilton
Ninety-one members of the 1958 Civics Class then participated in two public productions that raised the funds to publish the book. The first was the Christmas play, “The Tinker,” and the second was “The Showboat Minstrel”
There are many hand-drawn illustrations in the book. The contributing student artists were:
UnEarthing Rehoboth’s Farming Past
Interview with Ken Santos
By Leslie Peterson
This is the third and final article in our series on the oral history project “UnEarthing Rehoboth’s Farming Past.” We will feature just a few highlights from an extensive interview with Ken Santos, who was interviewed by Elizabeth Beskid of Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School during the past year. Ken could literally write a book on the history of farming in Rehoboth, as he explains the transitions from the horse and wagon days of his grandfather to conventional farming and now back to organic farming. We encourage all our readers to check out this and the other full-length interviews on video, made available on the web on RehobothNow.com and also on YouTube.
What were you farming or are you farming?
Ken: “I’m a small organic farmer in South Rehoboth, a third generation farmer. I now sell to Whole Food markets and I’m probably the last of my line.” Asked about his sons working with him on his farm, Ken said, “They worked darn hard...Anything I’d do they did. There’s plenty of hoeing to do so they did a lot of hoeing and tractor work and such,
and they all went into other fields. They’re all doing something else now. “Right now I’ve really cut down on the amount of vegetables I’m farming. I’ve done peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and squash. No animals, never had animals. I’m just down to lettuce and butternut squash now.” “I took the route of going directly to the stores. I got out of the
wholesale thing completely and went directly to the stores. So now you’re on direct feed from the people so you have a chance of selling your produce. Hopefully the produce is better, it hasn’t traveled all over the place so it’s a lot fresher. So there’s a big push into buying local from people you know because they’re looking for that fresher produce.”
Tell me about how you farm today.
Ken: “Right now we’re farming with tractors. It’s a small truck farm. We have a lot more machinery now but in my grandfather’s day it was horses. My grandfather came in 1905 with his brother, immigrants from the Azores. My grandfather’s brother had a farm in Seekonk and my grandfather had a farm on Brook Street in Rehoboth. In those days it
was all horses and wagons. It was the turn of the [last] century and everyone farmed with horses and wagons at that time. He was pretty progressive and when tractors and trucks came along, they were among the first to have them. They were essentially organic farmers back then. Everything was organic back then. Then it went conventional.”
What is the history of the land that you farmed?
Ken: “The land that we farmed was on Brook and Water Streets. My grandfather had his own land that he owned and he also rented parcels on Peckham Street and Mason Street. When my father came into farming he worked for what used to be the Aldrich Farm, where Crestwood Country Club is now. Mr. Aldrich was a wealthy gentleman farmer.” “I can remember him taking me down there to see the cows, when I was just a little kid. In the front of Crestwood Country Club, where the tennis courts are now, there used to be the two bullpens where he could keep his prize bulls, breeding stock. These cows were always immaculate. There was never a speck of mud or dirt on them. They were kept like pets, just beautiful. He had a lot of money so he could put a lot of money into farming. As my uncle said, ‘There’s a lot of money in farming. I know -- I’ve put it there.”
How did you get into farming?
Ken: “After the Depression and then World War II, things got better and better...but still farming was a tough racket compared to things that others were getting into, other jobs. That generation, especially the immigrant generation, didn’t want their kids to become farmers. They wanted them to do something else...They wanted their kids to have a better life. My father only went through the sixth grade and all he knew was farming. Anything else he picked up the hard way. So they wanted their kids to do something else. “So they pushed education. It was also the time of the Peace Corps; it was the time that education could solve every problem in the world. ‘Get an education and do better than I did’--that’s what that generation was like. And so we got an education. I wanted to be a language teacher. I loved the farm but I went to school and graduate school and spent two years in the service in Berlin during the Vietnam era. I came back, finished up and got my master’s degree, and taught at Dighton-Rehoboth High School for eight years. “You asked me why I became a farmer. That farming is always still in you. My father loved it, so it was like a security blanket for me. I felt very comfortable farming so I kept doing it. Eventually I quit teaching school twice and went back to full-time farming and I’ve been here ever since.”
What different nationalities were the farmers in South Rehoboth?
Ken: “On my street there were Armenian, Yankee, or Portuguese names on all the mailboxes. And we all got along and we had a community... In Rehoboth at that time your world was very small and you were so busy on the farm that you didn’t have time [to visit]. You weren’t in the next person’s kitchen having coffee. This wasn’t done. But you knew the people; you talked to them. The pieces of land were larger. The houses were farther apart. “The closer people get, the more problems arise. You never really worried about boundaries; you walked across other people’s farms to get from one place to another. There were dogs on all the farms but no one had problems with the dogs. The dogs took care of the woodchucks. They had a place in society at that time. “If anything ever happened, a storm or somebody’s power went out, or some kind of catastrophe happened, people pulled together like you wouldn’t believe and they were always there to help each other. But that’s the way it was, people became good friends, they would help each other out but yet they weren’t seeing each other every day kind of thing.”
Ken: “My uncle Manuel lived just up the street from us at Water and Reed Street and bought an existing market that had been there for years. It had a post office in the market for the people who lived in South Rehoboth. He bought it and started to slowly transform the store into a supermarket in the 1950s. There’s an ongoing debate in the DeMattos and Santos families about who had the first idea for a supermarket in Rehoboth. The supermarket concept was where you had aisles and you actually took a cart down the aisles and brought it to the cashier like we do today. That was a new concept back then.”
Holy Ghost Brotherhood
Ken: “We were talking about the immigrant population. I wanted to mention about the Holy Ghost Brotherhood Charity in Rehoboth. My grandfather was one of that generation. He came here when he was 18 in 1905 with his brother. You can imagine how hard it must have been for them to try to make a living in this new country. Then he finally was doing a little better.” “My grandfather was one of the seven founding members of the Holy Ghost Brotherhood of Charity in Rehoboth, now on Broad Street.They had made a promessa [promise] that now that they were doing a bit better, they would thank God by forming the Brotherhood, which would do charitable works for people. So that got started about 1924 or 1925. It was called in Portuguese Festa do Tio Mateus in honor of Uncle Mathew’s farm where it was held, where Palmer River Riding Stable is today. “It was there a year or two and they moved it to the Broad Street hall that used to be a Rehoboth one-room schoolhouse. They dug the cellar out with horses and made a bottom floor for it and a pavilion where they had functions. They had feasts, which have been going on since that time. If you look at the makeup of the Holy Ghost Brotherhood now, very few of them would be farmers, but the culture is still here.”
Ann Santos, Ken’s mom, in 1969 stands in front of the Santos truck.
Pat Murphy and Michel Santos, Ken’s son.
The Santos pumpkin patch. Ken’s mother Ann and dad Frank, Aunt Julia, Aunt Mary, brother Ray and dog Lady.
Evelyn Bois Remembers Hornbine School Days
By Leslie Peterson
Among the "Remembering Rehoboth School Days" oral histories that the Carpenter Museum is currently collecting, we are particularly pleased to record the memories of a couple of former students at Hornbine School: Frances Magan Jones and Evelyn Rose Bois. They attended during the Depression years, before the school closed in 1937. The story of Frances’s memories will be included in an upcoming newsletter. Videos of all the interviews will be available later this summer.
Evelyn Bois’s family has a long history with the Hornbine School. Her grandfather, her father, and Evelyn and her brothers and sisters all attended Hornbine School. When she was a girl, Evelyn attended the school as the oldest in a family of eight children and felt very responsible for her brothers and sisters. She still visits with students on their field trips to Hornbine School. Here are just a few of the comments from Evelyn Bois, who was interviewed by current Hornbine teacher Beverly Pettine.
Beverly: When you entered the school building, how was the seating arranged? How did you sit?
Evelyn: The girls on the right and the boys on the left. You marched into school and you’d better not talk when you were in that march. Then you had to salute the flag and say the Lord’s Prayer.
Beverly: So tell a little about Esther Hopkins. She taught at Hornbine School for a number of years.
Evelyn: Mrs. Hopkins was a real nice teacher. There weren't any teacher’s pets. She made sure that no one thought she was better than you or me. These were things she would make us understand – you were no better than I was.
Beverly: You tell a wonderful story about the ragman who came from Taunton.
Evelyn: At that time, we had what we called a ragman. They used to go around and pick up the rags from Fall River. He would go to Taunton and then come out to Rehoboth and you better believe when he hollered “Rags!” my sister and I were out in the yard to go see what he had, to see if he had nicer clothes than what we had. If it was red, it was mine and if it was green, it was my sister’s, or if it was blue my other sister could have it. [Evelyn's sisters would not wear red because they had red hair.] But it was from the ragman; we’d get a new dress or the boys would get a new pair of shoes or a new pair of pants. It was all hand-me-downs. We had nothing new. We couldn’t afford it.
Beverly: So one of the things that kids who visit Hornbine School today are interested in is punishment. What happened if a child misbehaved? What did Mrs. Hopkins do if someone misbehaved?
Evelyn: If you misbehaved, you either had to sit in the wastebasket, sit under her desk, or had to go out to the woodshed.
Beverly: If you misbehaved at school, what happened at home?
Evelyn: Then when you got home, the oldest one had to tell your mother. You had to make sure your sisters and brothers behaved; you were like their mother when you were at school. Being the oldest one, you had that job.
Beverly: What were your responsibilities at home late in the afternoon?
Evelyn: I had to cook. Because I was the oldest I had to learn how to cook. And my sisters had to make the beds and stuff like that and my brothers had to help with the chores outside, get the cows in, milk the cows, feed the chickens, or maybe kill a chicken for us to have a meal. In the summertime, it was pick the strawberries, pick the blueberries, and the girls had to learn how to can. So you had to do all your canning. You didn’t put them in the freezer; you had to can it.
Beverly: So you had a lot to be responsible for at home. I know that Hornbine School closed its doors before you had a chance to graduate. If you were lucky enough to go through all eight grades at Hornbine School, where was graduation held?
Evelyn: It was held at Hornbine Church up until my time.
Beverly: And when the school closed, where did all of you go to school then?
Evelyn: There were about 20 students left. From Hornbine we went to Bark Street School, then Joseph Case School, all in Swansea.
Beverly: You have a wonderful story you tell the students at Hornbine about your graduation dress. Describe how you made that dress and what it was like.
Evelyn: We had to make our own little dresses so I had a grain sack and on the grain sack you had to be careful that it didn’t say flour or sugar; you had to pick the back of it. I was small enough that I could use just one bag. Some of the girls had to use patches. Grain bags – that was your dress.
Beverly: What did you do? You did something special to your dress to make it a little prettier?
Evelyn: I put some crocheting on it and my sister put a little green on hers – she didn’t want me wearing her dress.
Beverly: What’s your favorite memory of your years at Hornbine School?
Evelyn: Just walking to school [Evelyn walked two miles to and from Hornbine] and having all my brothers and the other children with me. I was like a mother to them all. I used to have maybe fourteen of them. And when it was cold, they wanted to go on the ice. The iceman came to cut the ice [on the pond]. Today they don’t do any of that. They’d go skating there and in the summer they’d go fishing there. And I still have a lot of children I’m responsible for because I go to the Hornbine School now and I enjoy every minute of everything I’m doing.
Evelyn poses for her 8th grade graduation picture. She made her dress from a grain sack.
Evelyn Rose Bois
Rehoboth Suffers High Costs during Civil War
By E. Otis Dyer, Jr.
Starting last year and running to 2015, the 150 anniversary of the Civil War is being commemorated in the North and South. While most of the national focus will be on the battlefields, mostly in the southern states, this article will tell the story of the war’s effect on the residents in Rehoboth.
Many Rehoboth Men Lost
The townspeople, like the state as a whole, were strong supporters of the Union cause and the abolition of slavery. For the four years of war from 1861 to 1865, Rehoboth repeatedly filled the state required draft quota of men from its population of 1,900 citizens to serve in the Union Army and Navy. About 163 soldiers served with about 46 wounded and about 23 killed by battle or by the diseases that were rampant in camps and field hospitals. A Rehoboth soldier’s chance of being a casualty was about 1 in 4, and the chances of that casualty dying were 1 in 2! This rate matches the state as a whole where 1% of the population died at the battlefields. If that were to happen today, the deaths in Massachusetts would be about 60,000 citizens.
Men from 18 to 45 years of age were eligible for the draft quota, though many took the option of paying $300 to have someone else serve in their place. In these cases, men from other cities and towns took their place. In this way Rehoboth sponsored one notable soldier, Benjamin McGill of the famous “colored-regiment,” the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers Regiment led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw. Unfortunately, Private McGill died in late 1864 in a field hospital in South Carolina either from battle wounds or disease.
Lieutenant George Carpenter, son of Worcester and Lavina Brown Carpenter, who died at Port Royal, South Carolina, in 1862.
Town Budget Skyrockets
At the start of the war, Rehoboth’s government was typical of Massachusetts and very frugal by today’s standards. Statistically, the town had about 475 voters amongst a population of about 1,900. The voters had to be adult (over 21) men, who were required to pay an annual “poll tax” of $1.50 (later raised to $2.00 during the war). That tax was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court years later. The entire town had an assessed value of about $797,000. Taxes were paid at a rate of $4.80 per $1,000 property value.
In 1860, the treasurer reported with pride that the town government ended the year with a surplus of $547.50 in a total town budget of about $8,900. Town officials devoted their time to the 15 one-room school houses throughout town which received about $1,000 total for the salaries and maintenance of teachers and the schools.
The other big expenditures were highway and bridge maintenance, and the town poor farm, the welfare program for the indigent. The poor farm was expected to pay its expenses in farm labor. It regularly turned a small profit back to the town coffers. If you were looking for a police and fire department, none existed. The local constable or deputy sheriff took care of what little crime occurred.
As the war dragged on with an alarming amount of casualties and cost, local taxes soared to meet the recruiting demands from the state and federal governments. Rehoboth’s annual budget soared to about $24,000 by late 1863, and peaked at about $32,000 in 1864. Most of the expenditures were covered by borrowed money. Still, taxes tripled within a few years for property owners. For the first time, the town ran up large annual deficits, exceeding the annual tax collection. The state allowed bonds to be issued in the name of Rehoboth, but backed by the state. For years after the war, the town was paying off these bonds with high tax rates.
Legacy of Debt
For a soldier sponsored by the town, Rehoboth was at first required to pay his cost for drill services (“basic training” of about $8), his uniform and bounty of about $25, and for three months time at $33. As the war went on and recruits were getting scarce, the amount of money paid rose in the hundreds of dollars. In addition, Rehoboth was required to pay money to the widows and dependents left behind, amounting to hundreds of dollars per year. After a bill was posted in 1867 by the Massachusetts Legislature, the towns were required to make continued annual payments to soldiers and widows.
By 1868, the Rehoboth town budget had fallen back to about $24,000, still far above the $8,900 in 1860. Most of the money went to reducing the war debt, which was in the form of bank borrowings and war bonds, backed by the state, but Rehoboth’s obligation. The town reduced its war debt by applying a high tax rate of $18.50 per $1000 property value. It took many years to recover from the Civil War.
Rehoboth Mystery Women
CAN YOU HELP US IDENTIFY THESE WOMEN?
RehobothNow reader Lois Crowther emailed scans taken from glass negatives of two unknown Rehoboth residents from the late 1800s to early 1900s who may be members of either the Horton or Goff families.
There is a very faint photo attribution on the bottom of one of the negatives - the name of “Hunter Bros., Taunton, Massachusetts.” The Hunter Bros. photography studio was listed at 55 Main Street in a 1900 Taunton Directory, however evidence suggests they were in the photography business as early as the 1870s. In 1889, Hunter Bros. published an illustrated history of Taunton.
If you can help identify the mystery ladies or have info about Hunter Bros. Photography of Taunton, please email us.
Old-Fashioned New England Winters
By Leslie Patterson
As winter approaches, we are all wondering what the weather will be like, following a dreadfully snowy winter two years ago and an oddly mild winter last year. We thought it would be fun to look up what winter was like in the old, and the very old, days in Rehoboth and so we consulted "Rehoboth Through The Years". This and other books about Rehoboth history may be purchased at the Carpenter Museum.
Rehoboth Through The Years was published in 1993 by the Anawan Historical Society (since merged with the RAS), lists a wide variety of events, large and small, that occurred year by year in town. Weather over the past centuries has included floods, hurricanes, heat and drought, and, of course, snow and cold. Here are a few entries about the worst winter has had to offer Rehoboth over the years. Keep in mind that back in the very old days there was no central heating, nor were there down parkas or waterproof boots.
1698: "It has snowed thirty-one days this winter and there is over three feet of snow upon the ground. This has been the most severe winter for many years and great cold."
1705: Jan. 25. "A great storm of rain and wind came from the southeast. The storm continued the next day. Tides were two feet above usual."
1715: Feb. 20. "A blizzard raged for three days."
1717: Feb. 27. "Heavy snow fell this day and also on March 3rd and 18th. It is as deep as six feet in some places."
1732: April 5. "This day a remarkable snow fell between two and three feet deep, the deepest we had this year."
1740: "The river this year froze over as early as October. Severely cold with deep snow occurring on November 1. Thaw began on the 22nd with rain for three weeks during the days only... A great freeze began on December 12th and continued into March. Heavy snows fell all winter. A foot of snow fell near Boston on the 7th of April. Ice in the bay and on the Seekonk River measured between 25 and 30 inches. A three-day blizzard at the end of January totaled over three feet of snow."
1748: "Heavy snow has fallen all winter. There have been nearly 30 storms in all."
1769: May 12. "Last night the temperature fell rapidly [it had been hot the previous day] and it began to snow. The storm lasted some 12 hours and the snow amounted to several inches."
1778: "Winter coldest in our town's history. The harbor froze solid for six weeks and wood soared to $20 a cord. British sentries at Newport froze to death at their posts."
1804: Oct. 9. "Tremendous electric storm with high winds and great rains this morning. About 80 trees and many fence rails were blown down. The rain turned to snow about one o'clock."
1823: March 5. "Heavy rains this day, along with melting snows, has caused some of the most disastrous flooding and destruction of property known."
1887: April 23. "A snowstorm began Monday about 11 o'clock and continued without interruption until 7 p.m. when it changed to rain and sleet, accompanied by lightening, a very unusual occurrence for the 23rd of April."
1888: March 14. "A storm commenced late Sunday evening, first with rain and high winds then changing from rain to light snow on Monday. It continued all day Tuesday and into Wednesday, piling snow into high drifts. All communication with the outside world was cut off completely. Ships along the coast went aground. This was known as the Blizzard of '88."
1940: Feb. 14. "A severe blizzard occurred on St. Valentine's Day with a snowfall of 13 inches. Drifts were so high that the snowplows could not get through some streets and the town hired men to shovel by hand. Automobiles were found under some of the drifts and some streets were without electric power for several days."
1948: March 2. "The season's 20th storm brought the total accumulation of snow for the winter to 73.3 inches, a new record."
1956: March 16. "7.3 inches of snow fell and on the 19th a second blizzard arrived, bringing another 14.7 inches. A total of 22 inches of snow blanketed the town."
1957: Jan. "The thermometer read 9 degrees below zero, the coldest day of an 11 day cold spell during which the temperature rose no higher than 14 degrees."
1977: May 9. "Between 9 and 12 inches of snow fell this date ... Before the snow ended the next day, 600,000 New Englanders had lost their electricity as the weight of the snow caused tree branches to collapse, putting down the wires."
1978: Feb. 6-7. "The Great Blizzard was the most spectacular and disruptive snowstorm of the century in southern New England ... Rehoboth was snowbound with drifts up to 10 feet, and the only means of transportation was by snowmobile."
Any New Englander born before 1970 or so doesn't need to be told about this lingering blizzard, which dropped between two and three feet of snow and paralyzed Southern New England for a week. We've had other bad snowstorms since then, but let's hope "The Blizzard" was indeed the storm of the century (and this new century too).
A Fond Look Back at a Family Business
Growing Up at Santos Market in Rehoboth
Story from the Carpenter Museum
Santos Market at the corner of Water and Reed Streets in South Rehoboth was a popular place for local people to shop back in the middle decades of the last century (1938-1975). Manuel and Louise Santos bought the property in 1938 from Martha Kandarian. Mr. and Mrs. Santos had five children (Gene, Anne, Manny, Kathy and Dennis) who all helped out at the family market. Their daughter Anne Santos Canuel is sharing her memories of her family and the market as part of the new oral history project at the museum, “It’s Your Business, Rehoboth.” The goal of these oral histories about local businesses is to preserve a video record of times past, which will be available at the Carpenter Museum and eventually on the web. Here are just a few of Anne’s many recollections, in her own words:
Manny & Louise Santos and their children
(left to right) Anne, Manny, Gene & Kathy stand near the “Door Prize” box at their open house celebrating their newly renovated store.
Louise Santos poses in front
of Santos’ Super Market
with children Anne & Gene.
Manny, Jr., Gene (holding brother Dennis) and Manny, Sr. pose in front of Santos’s store.
Largest Market: Anne says, “Santos Market was the largest grocery market in Rehoboth and it was also a package store with a full liquor license. However, its most notable asset was that it had the very best meat. Dad was the butcher and he trained each son, first Gene, then Manny and then Dennis. Dad was excellent in his skills. Other local stores were Toste’s store on Providence Street, and Uncle Manuel and Auntie Mae’s store on Winthrop Street (Rte. 44), DeMattos Market. (Mom and Auntie Mae were sisters, both marrying Rehoboth men who became grocers.) There were enough customers for everyone.”
Home Deliveries: “The usual weekly deliveries were Mrs. Irene Vendetti (Seekonk Speedway) and Mrs. Burnett in the Rehoboth Village. Before we left Mrs. Vendetti’s, she would always go to her dining room hutch and get some Speedway passes for us. She was always very pleasant and getting the passes was awesome.”
Customers: “When you look back, you note that most of our customers were the salt of the earth. They were honest, hard-working, independent people, who loved their families and their country. They arrived via cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, bicycles, horses or by walking. They arrived dressed-up or dressed-down… Many were friends. Sometimes strangers would come to our store by mistake, maybe being lost and ending up on Water Street. Many times, they would exclaim that they couldn’t believe a store like ours was out in the middle of nowhere. (We accepted the compliment.)”
“Everything You Need is Right Here”: “Our Dad never liked to travel, not even to nearby places,” Anne recalls. “He would say, ‘Where do you want to go? But why? Everything you need is right here.’ (i.e. good food, good life at home! In his eyes, why leave home?) We never went on any family vacations. One Sunday, Dad took us to Cape Cod for the day and that was a big trip for us. However, that day Manny’s goat got loose and ate all the new shrubbery my Dad had just planted, so that was the end of the day trips.”
Major Store Addition in 1951: “Uncle Joe’s carpenters constructed a well built, 50-foot addition to the existing store. The store was now state-of-the-art for the time, and on September 19, 1951, an open house celebration occurred with ample attendance, door prizes and flowers; it was joyous! The flyer for the event (saved by our cherished neighbor Irene Westfield) mentioned Hopalong Cassidy’s ranch hand would be attending. I was eleven and almost believed it to be the real thing.”
How To Pay For Groceries: “In the past, cash or checks were used. Many customers brought in their paychecks to pay for their groceries and thus, their paychecks were cashed! There were no credit or debit cards and no food stamps. However, we did have a system of charging for select customers, where you could charge and pay at the end of the week or next week. Also now and then some customers had tough times and other arrangements were made so they could feed their families.”
Having Fun: “We played baseball in the backyard. We had very competitive canasta games with Mom at the kitchen table. Every summer, we went to the Rehoboth Fair and Francis Farm. Dad would take us quahogging in Ocean Grove. Gene raced in the soapbox derby on Providence Street. Later Seekonk Speedway was the favorite place to be on weekends. As teenagers, our house was always filled with music.
The Shad: “The Shad Factory reservoir was such fun, and as little kids, we felt it belonged to us.” We rode our bikes there, fished for sunfish, cleaned them and fried them. Under the dam, we waded and then navigated from one rock to another. The boys learned how to swim in the swimming hole downstream. On some nights when they seined for shad, Dad would take us to that same location downstream to watch. In cold winters, we would skate on the Shad. Auntie Ollie would place the hot chocolate container on Mrs. Martin’s dock. Uncle Tony was the only one who could skate backwards.”
Hurricane of 1938 and Hurricane Carol (1954): Anne’s mother found herself with a new baby to care for during both of these major hurricanes. Anne’s oldest brother Gene was born shortly before the Hurricane of 1938 and her baby brother Dennis was born before Hurricane Carol in 1954. “Dennis was just a little guy (about six weeks old) during the time we anguished with Hurricane Carol. However, there were enough arms to coddle him through it. In the 1938 hurricane, Gene was about the same age but Mom was alone and had to courageously wait for Dad to get home.”
Holy Ghost Brotherhood Feast: “Each summer, the Holy Ghost Brotherhood celebrates their feast in August. On that Sunday, there is a parade and festivities all day at their grounds on Broad Street. My Grandpa Santos (Vavo) was a charter member in starting this spiritual brotherhood with charitable purposes. Each year we children marched in the parade. Auntie Ollie would sew white gowns for all
the little Santos cousins and we would all be in the parade. My Grandma Santos (Vavo) would supply bouquets of flowers for the entire parade from her garden. The brass band played on the grounds all day… Our family attended the entire day and it was always fun. It was tradition.”
A Precious Memory: Anne says, “I am grateful for being a member of the Santos family and for all the years of growing up at Santos Market… My Auntie Ollie has a precious little story about going to elementary school in Rehoboth in the 1920s… My Grandmother would get up early and bake bread for the family. Auntie Ollie brought her lunch to school and her sandwich always had homemade bread. At lunchtime when they all ate their lunches together, in her heart she always wished she could have the sliced American bread like the other kids. Later, when she was a grown-up, she realized that all the time she had the best and did not even know it.”
Look Back at Cricket Hill Gift Shop
It’s Your Business, Rehoboth
Story from the Carpenter Museum
Favorite places can linger in the memory long after they’ve closed up shop. One such place is the old Cricket Hill Gift Shop on Fairview Avenue recalls Lende McMullen of the Carpenter Museum in this story.
“Before Cricket Hill Gift Shop was run by Sharon Munroe, the proprietor was Sharon’s mother-in-law Jane Munroe. Jane was a very well-liked teacher. She taught my sister in the sixth grade,” remembers Lende.
“Cricket Hill was a cheerful, warm place with delightful gifts, where they were happy to see you. You always got a friendly reminder when you left to watch your step since the store was right next to the busy road. Munroe’s was also where we got our turkeys,” Lende added.
In his oral history interview about farming, recorded at the Carpenter Museum two years ago, Sharon’s husband Walt Munroe recalled the beginnings of the Cricket Hill Gift Shop: “My mother [Jane] started that with a neighbor in 1955, I think. Then she bought out the neighbor around 1960, I guess, and ran it for years.
“It worked out with the turkeys too, because people would come to pick up their turkeys and stop at the shop while they were there,” Walt said. “Sharon took over the store but after a few years, times had changed and more women were working. Towards the end [of the time the shop was open], with more wormen working, they’d stop on the way home for things they needed and it took away from the business at the gift shop.”
Walt explained that after Sharon closed Cricket Hill, son Ben decided the vacant building would be a good place for a feed store. He opened Munroe Feed & Supply, so there has been another family business there for the past few years.
Lende adds, “I remember going to Cricket Hill as a kid. It was extra special at Christmas. A little bell on the door rang when you walked in. At Christmas there were beautiful cards and advent calendars and decorations. The store was always chock full of things for the home, teapots, dishes, linens. I especially remember beautiful tablecloths and napkins with a crisscross pattern in mustard yellow or in blue. There were two rooms in the shop. In one room, there were lampshades against the wall.”
Another Rehoboth resident with happy memories of Cricket Hill is Bernice Baer, who worked there part-time for about 17 years. She started there in the 1960s, working first with Jane Munroe and then Sharon. When the building that housed the shop was enlarged, it was Bernice’s husband Clint who did the masonry work on the new building, while Bernice remembers doing the decorating.
“Jane had very good taste,” Bernice said. “We also had a lot of fun going to the big wholesale shows in Boston and New York where we bought a lot of stuff. I like to say the shop grew like Topsy, with more and more items always being added, things like glassware and china. I especially remember the collection of Beatrix Potter books and figurines and the very popular Hummel figurines.
“The holidays were fun but also brought some chaos and confusion to the shop. The staff at Cricket Hill not only did gift-wrapping, but also handled the packaged turkeys from the Munroe turkey farm next door when the customers came in to pick them up at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of those birds weighed 25 pounds,” Bernice said. “Cricket Hill was a popular shop, with neighbors always stopping by. It was a fun place to work.”
North Rehoboth School - 1952
This photo came to us from
Lois (Gustafson) Crowther
who was very disappointed
to miss her second grade field trip
to the Attleboro Fire Department
because she was sick that day.
But she was certainly recalls
her teacher Mrs. Phyllis Schatz.
“I remember how nice she was,
always smiling, just like you see
in this picture,” said Lois.
Perhaps a few readers will recognize themselves in this photo!
The Origin of the Rehoboth Fire Dept.
An “It’s Your Business, Rehoboth Story from the Carpenter Museum
by E. Otis Dyer, Jr. (2006), In Old Rehoboth Book II
Before Rehoboth had an organized Fire Department, every fire was a serious danger. In the winter, chimney fires from wood stoves were commonplace. If the fire was detected soon enough, the homeowner would climb a ladder to the roof with a water bucket to extinguish it. Otherwise, little could be done except remove some household items before the house burned to the ground. It was a common sight to see buckets and a ladder against the side of a house in the winter for extinguishing fires.
Lightning Strikes Goff Hall
The next Village fire occurred at the original Goff Hall, at the site of the present Hall. On the hot sticky evening of July 6, 1911, a thunderstorm broke the heat wave. At 9:30 at night, villagers heard a tremendous thunderclap. Someone saw flames from the back of the Hall (the original Hall was a wooden, Victorian style structure with a central tower). Again, the church bell rang and a large crowd gathered. The Congregational minister, Mr. Strout, used a fire extinguisher with telling effect. When the fire appeared to be out, the building was inspected and it was discovered that the lightning had traveled down the chimney, into the boiler and through the pipes up into a silverware closet, where it ignited wrapping paper.
Fighting Fires with Shovels & Rakes
In the summer droughts, brush fires occurred frequently, caused by careless burning, lightning strikes and, where near a railroad, by hot cinder from the locomotives. Many fires in nearby Norton and Attleboro started at the railroad and burned thousands of acres over a week or more. For these wildfires, an alarm went out by church bell and word of mouth for farmers to gather with shovels and rakes to fight the fire. If the fire reached a peat bog, it would burn underground for months until enough rain snuffed it out. One of the last great forest fires in Rehoboth was in the mid-1950s in the area north of County Street and southeast of Route 44, behind what is now the Dunkin’ Donuts shop. That fire burned hundreds of acres in a remote area for a week.
There were several building fires in Rehoboth Village about one hundred years ago that prompted the town to purchase firefighting equipment. In 1896, the Rehoboth Post Office was located at the bend in Bay State Road near the waterfall. The Postmaster was John C. Marvel, who lived with his family at the rear of the building. On a bitter cold zero-degree night, he built a large fire in his post office stove before going to bed. In the morning, Mrs. Marvel got up at 6 a.m. and noticed a fire burning in the post office. Someone ran to the Congregational Church to ring the bell to alert neighbors, but the fire had advanced too far. Little could be done but save the family furniture and contain the destruction to the Marvels’ building and the neighbor’s house to the left. Both houses burned to the ground while the neighbors watched in the cold. The post office moved to the Shady Bend cottage, still standing, across the street by the village dam.
The next morning, Flora Nichols, the postal clerk, stopped by the Marvel house just across the falls from the Hall. She happened to glance in the direction of the Hall and saw its tower on fire. She ran shouting “Fire, Fire!” through the Village. Again, the church bell rang and the crowd assembled. Frank Horton, who operated the farm across from the church, came with a ladder and a fire extinguisher. He climbed to the roof and almost had the fire out when his extinguisher emptied. By the time he came back up the ladder with a full one, the fire was out of control. He had to retreat with molten copper flashing dripping on his neck. When Mr. Horton was on the roof, he noticed torn shingles in the tower. He surmised that the lightning bolt had hit the tower and left a smoldering ember undetected until the final blaze.
The onlookers managed to save all the Blanding Library books and the entire Rehoboth Antiquarian Society’s museum artifact collection before the Hall burned to the ground. The Hall’s piano was lost in the fire, to the great sorrow of many who remembered the music of dances and other events. The East Providence Fire Department was called to the scene (by then, the Village had telephone service with other towns) too late to stop the spread of the fire. Hose Company Engine #4 arrived to the applause of the crowd, making the trip in 12 minutes, or 30 miles per hour.
The Goff Hall was rebuilt in 1915 out of brick “that would defy flames,” according to Lyman Goff, the benefactor of the new Hall. Goff Hall has stood there ever since.
“Last Straw” for Rehoboth Village
A third fire was the last straw for the Village. On a cold, windy November evening in 1920, another fire broke out in the barn owned by Ellery Goff beside his residence at 1 Locust Avenue. This fire was discovered by Harold Horton as he was leaving his store across Bay State Road. The fire rapidly spread in the northwest wind to an adjoining slaughterhouse and corncrib. The conflagration threatened to spread to houses down Locust Avenue. The alarm was spread by church bell and by the telephone switch operator, who rang all nearby houses. A bucket brigade formed at the well of the Lydia Peck house at 3 Locust Avenue. Lydia Peck, 85 years old, manned the pump with all the vigor of youth. Wet blankets draped over the Goff house helped to prevent its destruction.
Meanwhile, the telephone operator called the East Providence Fire Department (Seekonk had none). They could not send a fire engine because there was only one for the entire city. The operator called Taunton Fire Chief Fred A. Leonard. Leonard immediately ordered Taunton Pumper No. 2 to start for Rehoboth from the Taunton Green station. A 6-ton giant for its time, the engine made it to the Village in 18 minutes, about 30 miles per hour. Leonard jumped into his own car and beat the engine by 6 minutes.
When Pumper No. 2 arrived, it paused at the Village dam just long enough to drop a suction hose into the river and run out a hose to the fire. Twice the Goff House caught on fire and twice it was extinguished. If the Taunton pumper had not arrived in time, the bucket brigade would have lost the battle and many houses would have been lost. East Providence sent a police car full of fire fighters with hand extinguishers too late to be of help. This fire prompted Rehoboth to establish a fire department and purchase a fire engine in 1922, a Ford Model T Fire Truck for $2,500.
Ellery Goff was the Town Clerk at that time, and he kept all of the town records going back to the 1640s in a safe in the barn that burned down. The next day, after the fire had cooled down, he opened the safe and found all of the town’s records intact and unharmed.
In Old Rehoboth Book II is available for sale at the Carpenter Museum along with other volumes about Rehoboth history. Call 508-252-3031. carpentermuseum.org.
by E. Otis Dyer (1973)
Forgotten Houses of Long Ago
Fomer Ingalls-Wheeler-Horton Homestead - Chestnut Street - Rehoboth
We take a look back at an article written by E. Otis Dyer in 1973 that first appeared “In Old Rehoboth”(Book I) printed by the Rehoboth Historical Commission in 1979 and reprinted by the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society in 2010. The book is available for purchase at the Carpenter Museum.
The Ingalls-Wheeler-Horton Homestead looking south just before its final collapse about 1900, drawn by Claudia Wynne from a sketch by Marion Carter.
The Ingalls-Wheeler-Horton homestead was built in 1731 by Benjamin Ingalls who occupied it with his wife Mercy Ingalls until his death about ten years later. Mrs. Ingalls then married Colonel Philip Wheeler who had been living in North Rehoboth on Anawan Street a little north of Fairview Avenue.
It is interesting to note that both Philip and Mercy had a child by a previous marriage and these two children, Mary Ingalls and Phillip Wheeler Jr., eventually married and occupied the Ingalls-Wheeler homestead after their parents. They stayed there until Philip Jr.’s tragic and painful death about twenty years later.
The circumstances of Wheeler’s death were unique. He was captain of the local Rehoboth militia and had “called a training” of the company on November 16, 1774 … It is easy to imagine the raw militia in their rough farmer clothes carrying a variety of arms being marched back and forth through their drill exercises. The colonial militia had the curious custom of saluting an officer, especially the company commander, by firing a blank charge into the ground near his feet. If a soldier caught the captain by surprise the salute was all the more effective. On this particular morning Captain Wheeler had forbidden the firing of any “salutes” as it wasted valuable gun powder.
“Whip the Snake”
The men were mostly undisciplined and one William Jenkins who resided on Hornbine Road and was described as one of “several rude hurricane fellows,” took advantage of the drill called “whip the snake” and fired into the ground at the feet of Captain Wheeler as he came marching by. The musket contained no shot, but had a double charge of black powder. Jenkins miscalculated the Captain’s marching step and “blowed off ye captains left leg between the ankle and calf leaving nothing but ye great heel sinew and some flesh.”
Captain Wheeler was taken to his home nearby, where Dr. Sterling “made a dreadful hand in his amputation.” He had only one saw that broke before he had cut through the first bone and the operation had to be finished with a carpenter’s joiners saw! Gangrene set in and he died with much suffering four days later. It was thought the gangrene was caused by a too tight bandage … but the crudeness of the amputation instruments is probably nearer the truth.
After Captain Wheeler’s death, his wife married John Kelton and they moved away from the homestead, leaving the house to be occupied by her son Shubael Wheeler. Shubael was a soldier of the Revolution and married Chloe Martin, the daughter of Lt. Daniel Martin, another veteran of the Revolution. (The Wheeler family and their in-laws were very active in the military in the 18th century and had a knack for acquiring military titles.)
Before Shubael and Chloe had moved in, the homestead was surveyed and subdivided into large farm lots for Captain Wheeler’s numerous children. The surveyor was Sylvanus Martin, who lived…on County Street in Seekonk. Fortunately, Mr. Martin took time to make a little sketch of the homestead farm and add it to the survey plan. It shows a typical 18th century farm with a two and a half story house with an addition to the north side. The house was set quite far back from the road… The sketch also shows the well, orchard, and corn barn in front of either side of the gate and land leading to the house, none of which now remains.
Shubael and Chloe had two daughters: Candace who married Jeremiah Pearce…and Lavinia, who married Simeon Horton and continued to live in the old Chestnut Street homestead. Lavinia was the fourth generation and the last of her family to fall heir to the farm now called the Ingalls-Wheeler-Horton homestead.
An Abandoned House
The Hortons allowed the house to run down and eventually they moved into a new house nearer the road. When moving, they left many of the old antique furnishings to decay in the house. Lavinia became eccentric in her old age (1870s) and did not care for any of the furnishings left behind. Yet when asked for a cracked pitcher that stood on the dusty pantry shelf, her reply was, “that pitcher had belonged to my ancestors and I do not like to part with it.” However, she eventually let it fall into the cellar with the rest of the house.
In the garret were looms, spinning wheels (both wool and flax), cards etc. that had belonged to the Ingalls and Wheelers since colonial days. Throughout the rest of the house were oil lamps, china, glassware, tables and chairs that were allowed to remain during the final collapse.
The sketch by Sylvanus Martin gives us an idea of how the homestead looked at the time of Wheeler’s death, but we are also indebted to Marion P. Carter, a former resident of Attleboro and sixth generation member of the Ingalls-Wheeler-Horton family, for a sketch of the house as it looked after it had been abandoned for many years. Claudia Wynne of Dighton has made the accompanying drawing based oFon the Carter sketch from a view looking over the stone wall at the north end of the house. The ell is in the foreground with sagging rafters and the main house at the rear is falling into the cellar. The date of the final collapse is not known, but it probably was in the early 1900s.
A small window that was in the panty or milk room was saved. It was two feet square with small diamond-shaped glass set in a lead frame. No doubt it was an original window from the early 18th century construction. It was on display for many years at Major Horton’s museum in Attleboro at least until the early 1930s, along with a few other rescued items.
Marion P. Carter visited the site in the 1920s and wrote, “When I last passed the place where the Ingalls-Wheeler-Horton house stood, a garden was growing on the spot. ‘And the place thereof shall know it no more’.”
The 1920s in Rehoboth
by E. Otis Dyer, Jr. (2009)
Prohibition, Run Runners and Moonshiners
This article, originally published in the brochure for the Rehoboth Antiquarian Society Clambake in 2009. Some names have been omitted in this article to protect the privacy of living relatives and friends of those involved in bootlegging in the 1920s. Rum runners made regular passage through Rehoboth from Rhode Island to make deliveries. Tremont Street, Winthrop Street, and Route 6 were favorite delivery routes to Taunton, Fall River, and beyond.
The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1919 (the Volstead Act), banned virtually all production and sales of alcoholic beverages. The period that followed was called the “Dry Era” or “Prohibition.” It ended in 1933, repealed by the Twenty First Amendment to the Constitution (the Blaine Act). In between, there was a constant battle between government law enforcement and widespread defiance of the law by the general population and organized criminals.
At the beginning of Prohibition, alcohol consumption dropped to low levels, but organized crime soon filled the demand created by the majority of U.S. citizens. Law enforcement was poorly organized for the onslaught of crime and civil disobedience. Towns like Rehoboth had only a deputy sheriff and a few constables to handle what little crime occurred in town. The State was just organizing the State Police force at this time.
Rhode Island was one of two states that voted against Prohibition (Connecticut was the other). Organized crime openly defied the Act in Rhode Island by supplying the region with illegal liquor, by bringing in liquor on rum runner ships from Canada and Bermuda, and operating local moonshine operations through a large network of stills and “speakeasies,” known as “blind pigs.”
Rum runners made regular passage through Rehoboth from Rhode Island to make deliveries. Tremont Street, Winthrop Street, and Route 6 were favorite delivery routes to Taunton, Fall River, and beyond. Both locals and Rhode Island gangsters took advantage of Rehoboth’s vast woods to conceal moonshine operations. There were operations off Homestead Avenue, Fairview Avenue, Winthrop Street, and many other locations. Several speakeasies operated in Rehoboth in all sections of town.
By the mid-1920s, law enforcement on the Federal, State, and local levels made a rigorous counter offensive against alcohol crimes. On October 6, 1925, the Massachusetts State Police dedicated a new Police Barracks on Winthrop Street in Rehoboth, attended by local and State officials. The Barracks, used by the State Police into the 1970s, is located near Redway Plain. The location was strategic for combating Rhode Island rumrunning into Massachusetts. One night, shortly after the Barracks opened, a rum runner car operated by Rhode Island gangsters pulled into the Barracks parking lot to ask for directions, not knowing it was a State Police station. The troopers on duty promptly arrested the thugs and confiscated their cargo of liquor.
The local newspapers at that time reported dramatic raids made by Federal Treasury Agents, State Police, and local Sheriffs. The Feds and State Police relied upon local intelligence provided by the local Sheriff. Many Sheriffs were not above favoring local moonshiners while turning in information for raids on stills operated by Rhode Islanders gangs.
In the summer of 1926, there were several such raids. The preferred raiding nights were Friday and Saturday when stills were usually most active. It was important to catch the operators in the act of make liquor to get a conviction. One Federal raid occurred deep in the woods off Homestead Avenue on a Friday night. To the agent’s surprise, the place was deserted though the still was warm from recent use. They left the operation undisturbed and decided to try again the next night. The following night, they caught the operation in full motion. There was a large still, many barrels of mash (an ingredient for distilling), tubs of citrus fruit used for fermenting, and dozens of gallons of finished liquor. The “owner,” a Cape Verdian from Central Falls, Rhode Island, was arrested along with several of his helpers.
Prohibition raiding was increasingly unpopular as time went on. In the winter of that same year, the Chief of Police in Mansfield had his “star liquor squad” make a raid on a house in an Italian neighborhood in Mansfield. The raiders found liquor hidden in a coal bin in the cellar. Quickly, a crowd of about 200 people surrounded the house as the raiders hauled away the evidence. The crowd began throwing ice, snow, and rocks at the police before reinforcements showed up to put down the riot.
In the summer of 1926, Federal agents and State Police made several raids in Norton. It was believed that criminals in Taunton had set up operations there. Norton was very rural at that time with many deserted properties. A “Dry Agent” moved to Norton and obtained work at a local factory. He worked under cover, making friends with fellow workers. By later that summer, he had gathered information on Norton still operations for a Federal Grand Jury indictment.
On August 24th, the Agents, with State and local police, raided the “Richmond Estate,” an abandoned property off Cross Street in Norton, a little used road at that time. The operation was big. It was housed in an old barn with a still that produced 12 gallons a day. The distillery filled the barn from the cellar to the attic. There was a sophisticated ventilation system in the roof to disperse the fumes so that no one would detect the operation from the outside. The still was fueled from a 400-gallon oil tank.
Attleboro Police combated rumrunning on Route 1 and on Oak Hill Avenue. The latter was the route from Pawtucket to Taunton, which continued along Tremont Street in Rehoboth. The Attleboro Chief put on extra patrols at night, but soon found there was no one to catch. After some investigating, the Police guessed that the gangsters were taking advantage of the shift change at the Police Station at 4 am each morning to make their runs. The Police changed the shift change to 5:30 am and added extra off-duty officers to the 4 am hour.
The next night, they caught a high-speeding rum runner’s car on Oak Hill Avenue near the Seekonk line. At first, the young driver tried to outrun the patrol, but a “hail of bullets” from the police made him change his mind. The young mobster from Rhode Island was brought into Attleboro District Court the next day where the Judge ordered a cash bond of $500. This was a large amount of money in those days—equivalent to about $15,000 today. The judge meant to set the bail high enough to hold the prisoner. The usual bail was about $100 for rumrunning. The prisoner came in with only $180 in his pocket, but just as the court session began, another well-dressed young man slipped into court with a girl friend in tow. He casually peeled off $320 from a wad of cash to make up rest of the bond and walked out with his friends.
There are few physical reminders of that era left in Rehoboth. The State Police barracks was turned over to the Town for social service. It is now vacant and for sale. One still site with stone works for a building and fireplace remain intact deep in the woods off Winthrop Street on an island in the middle of a brushy swamp, secure for intruding raids.
Prohibition’s legacy also includes the greatly increased organized crime network and the Massachusetts State Police that we have today. NASCAR racing is also the direct descendent of high performance rum running cars used to outrun the law during Prohibition in the South.
Social Security, 1822 Style
by E. Otis Dyer, Sr.
Edited by Betty Smith
Old wills that are found among the records in the Registry of Probate in Taunton offer useful sources of information for researchers, such as historians, genealogists, title examiners, and land surveyors, but also fascinating glimpses of life in earlier times. One such will is that of Joseph Pearce, Rehoboth resident in the early 1800s.
I came across the Will of Joseph Pearce many years ago while researching old records in preparation for a land survey. I put the Will aside for future reference, as I thought it was unusually detailed and interesting. Pearce must have been a very meticulous person, for he seems to have tried to anticipate everything his wife, Freelove Pearce, would need for comfort after he was gone.
Are You A Descendent?
Having looked up hundreds of similar old probates in the course of researching deeds for surveying land, I can recall none before this one that names the little room off the kitchen, which all our early houses had, a “kitchen bedroom.” In fact a bedroom was rarely referred to by that name, but instead most always called a chamber. In our family and probably in every other family who lived in a similar house, a “kitchen bedroom” was the parents’ bedroom, it being the warmest bedroom in the house in winter and the coolest in summer. The popular name for the room today is “borning room,” but I doubt if it was ever used much for that purpose, as the room is so small, there is barely room for a double bed in it. According to the traditions in my family, most of the “borning” and the “dieing” took place in what was once our parlor, now our dining room, as it is a large room with plenty of room to move around in to attend a patient.
Joseph Pearce was the son of Azarikim Pearce, the owner of a 60-acre farm on Reservoir Avenue in the Bad Luck Swamp area of Rehoboth; the grandfather of Daniel Pearce, the former undertaker, at “Coffin Corner”, i.e., the corner of Brook and Moulton Street in Rehoboth; and a direct descendant of Captain Michael Pearce, who with his men was killed by Indians in what is now Central Falls, Rhode Island, during King Philip’s War in 1676. Many descendants of Joseph and Freelove Pearce still live in Rehoboth.
This Joseph Pearce is not to be confused with a contemporary father and son with the same name, Azarikim and Joseph Pearce, whose family lived for generations in the former Goff-Coburn house on Chestnut Street, Rehoboth. The latter Pearce family is buried in a private cemetery on the farm, but no one has been able to find where Joseph and Freelove Pearce are buried. Some think they may be in the two unmarked graves in the small Nathan Pearce family cemetery, Historic Cemetery #25 off Purchase Street, where their son, Azarikim Pearce, Jr., is buried.
In the name of God, I, Joseph Pearce being weak in body but of sound and perfect memory, and considering the uncertainty of this mortal life, and being of sound mind and memory, blessed be almighty God for the same, I do make and publish this my last will and testament in manner and form following that is first I commend my spirit to God who gave it and my body to its mother dust to be decently buried then I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Freelove Pearce, the east part of my dwelling, viz. the kitchen bedroom [now known as a “borning room” in real-estate jargon] and buttery [pantry] and the chambers [bedrooms] over the same and a privilege to the corn house and in the cellar and to the well and I give and bequeath unto my wife all my household furniture together with all the provisions there is on hand at my decease and all my money and notes and the best cow that I die, seized and to be kept and well kept during the winter and summer by my administrator, whom I shall name.
I also give to my wife, eight bushels of corn, two bushels of rye, 12 pounds of flax, eight pounds of wool, 150 pounds of good pork, 100 pounds of good beef, ten pounds of tallow, five bushels of potatoes, one bushel of round turnip, one bushel of French turnips. The above mentioned articles, I will order my administrator to pay to my wife yearly long as she lives and further I will that my wife have a privilege to any further sause [vegetables] that is raised on the farm, both winter and summer sause as much as she wants for her consumption.
I will that my dearly beloved wife have wood for one fire and of sufficient quantity and cut off at the door and all the above legacies to be paid for by my administrator,
S&S Joseph Pearce
(Joseph Pearce’s Will was executed on March 19, 1822, probated in June 1831, and recorded in Probate book 69, page 441.)
How Rehoboth Survived Three Tornadoes
by E. Otis Dyer, Jr.
Caution: Here in Rehoboth, it’s tornado season. They’re a rare occurrence. But in July/August our town has weathered three tornadoes since its founding in 1643.
Rehoboth Congregational Church, circa 1911, with carriage shed (shown to right) that was later destroyed by the Twister of 1927.
The first reported tornado in Rehoboth occurred in August of 1671. If you view the Wikipedia website for Rehoboth, you will see a notation that this was the first documented tornado in America. This is possibly true, although there was a poorly described wind event in the town of Newbury, north of Boston, in July 1643. In the 1600s, the word tornado was not used. Instead, these events were called a “sudden gust of wind,” a “violent hurricane,” etc. The description of the destruction helps us determine if it was a tornado.
Rehoboth Tornado #1: First one documented in America, 1671
The event in Rehoboth in 1671 was clearly described as a tornado. The documentation came when Rev. William Adams of Ipswich was visiting Rehoboth (at the Ring-of-the-Green in Rumford, RI) on October 16. He and some friends, including Rev. Noah Newman of the Rehoboth Church, drove out to see “the strange effects” that occurred about one and one-half miles from town. Adams described it in his diary entry quoted below. From this description, we can tell the location (likely in current Seekonk and western Rehoboth). Very few people lived in Rehoboth at that time. It is possible that there was no damage to persons or buildings.
“...carrying about 20 rods (330 feet) in breadth, tearing up by the roots, or breaking the bodies of almost all trees within its compass saving only some small and low ones, and it is thought in all probability to have gone 15 miles in length.”
Rehoboth Tornado #2: Greatest in Rhode Island’s recorded history, 1838
The second Rehoboth tornado occurred on August 30, 1838. Well documented by Zachariah Allen, a businessman from Providence and others, this one is listed as the greatest tornado in Rhode Island recorded history. The tornado struck unexpectedly around 3 PM when many were outside to witness the spectacle. The tornado was much stronger and caused greater
destruction than the 1671 event. It started small in Johnston, RI, crossed through South Providence, and across Narragansett Bay heading east. The width of destruction increased rapidly to 600 feet wide and was continuous for 25 miles, without any skipping action.
The tornado passed through Rehoboth along the Swansea border, across Barney Avenue, Mason Street, Davis Street, and Pleasant Street before crossing Swansea, Somerset, and ending somewhere in Freetown. Summer crops were destroyed, the ponds were nearly drained of water, and buildings were crushed and thrown by the tornado. In Somerset, two women in a cart were picked up and thrown into the next field.
Rehoboth Tornado #3: Killer twister, 1927
The third tornado occurred on Sunday evening, July 31, 1927 in Rehoboth Village. This tornado was described as a twister, or a miniature tornado. This storm was witnessed by many people on their way to the Rehoboth Congregational Church to attend evening service, including many people from the Westville section of Taunton who were arriving by car to attend a union service with the Rehoboth church.
Nineteen-year-old Roland Isherwood of Taunton was driving a car with five other family members and friends. The roof of Joseph Earle’s ice house, situated near the present entrance to the Carpenter Museum on Bay State Road, was ripped off by the twister and flew 300 feet before landing on top of the car. Immediately after, a large tree crashed through the car roof, killing Roland and injuring the rest of the riders. The post office and store beside the ice house was twisted off its foundation. The Church steeple was twisted slightly out of line.
The tornado continued through the village, over the village dam to the front yard of Goff Hall. It broke window panes on the Hall and ripped a wall off a barn across the street, exposing two floors. The contents of the barn spilled out the opening. The old carriage shed beside the Church was flattened by the tornado. It was located where the Church parking lot is today. The remains of the tornado dissipated quickly as it passed beyond Goff Hall on Bay State Road. This tornado was smaller than the previous events, but caused severe damage to persons and property over the local area.
In the chaos, there was an intense rainstorm that paralyzed traffic for a three-mile radius from the Village. Cars had to stop on the roadside as far away as Seekonk to wait out the passing storm. Trees, electric poles, and wires were downed on roads throughout the area. When Taunton police ambulances arrived to take care of the injured, they had to drive four miles out of the way through fields to make it to the scene. The State Police barracks in Rehoboth posted guards throughout the night to keep the curious away.
Since 1927, many damaging hurricanes have struck Rehoboth, but no true tornadoes have hit. The common theme for these three tornadoes was a calm, hot day followed by sudden contact with a cold front in the afternoon, followed by the tornado event. This is something to be aware of as we enter that part of the year.
In 1817, he was at the height of his business career. He was building ocean-going vessels in his shipyard and running a company town of laborers along the river, including support trades for the ship-building such as iron-works, carpentry, and livestock farming, all on a grand scale. Over one thousand acres of land he owned in Rehoboth and Swansea were devoted to his enterprise.
Jacob and Joseph Barney had come to South Rehoboth and Swansea after the King Philip’s War ended in 1676. By 1697, the Barneys owned most of what is today the Almeida Farm on Barney Avenue, stretching from near Providence Street down to below Route 195. Besides raising corn and livestock, the Barneys had a brick-making operation at the Palmer River, using clay mined from a deposit on the site.
The “water fence” was symbolic of changes taking place in Rehoboth’s farm economy by the early 1800s. Since the early settlement of Rehoboth, salt marshes had been prized possessions. Most early families owned one or more river meadows as part of their land inventory, even if the main farm was miles away at the opposite end of town. The original lots off Barney Avenue were about 10 acres. As generations passed, the marshes were divided into lots as small as an acre to provide shares for children. The value of these parcels was in the annual hay crop that was cut in August and September, dried on the adjacent upland, and then carted home to the barn. Nature renewed the fertility of the soil with each tide, and the marshes provided a steady source of hay even in years of drought.
Research in the river meadow deeds makes it evident that by the early 1800s the quality of the meadows had changed drastically for the worse. Perhaps hurricanes swept over the marshes, eroding them and changing the ecology. The ocean, which has been rising steadily since the last Ice Age, flooded the lowest-lying “thatch meadows” in the late eighteenth century. There are many deeds for tide-meadow land on the Taunton River that had disappeared underwater by 1800.
In 1817, the Reeds and Carpenters, descendants of the original marsh owners, were having difficulty keeping Barney’s cattle out of their hay meadows in the summer. In the past a fence had not been necessary between meadows that were used only for the traditional hay cutting. Mason Barney, however, was showing the future trend: he no longer cut the hay meadow; instead he had cattle graze there.
The agreement found in the Town Clerk’s book sets forth a maintenance plan for the “water fence” which ran for about 1200 feet between Torrey’s Creek and the Palmer River. Each marsh owner to the south of the fence was given a certain length of fence, proportioned by the length of his property adjoining the fence, to maintain each spring before the coming months of cattle grazing. Mason Barney, owning north of the fence, was given responsibility for about half the length, broken into several segments. The agreement was dropped in time when the Barneys bought up the marsh lots south of the fence. Eventually, Mason’s grandson, Algernon Barney, in the late 1800s, owned most of the marsh lots on both sides of Route 6. By then the shipyard was long gone, bankrupted by the depression in the 1830s. In 1866, Algernon had taken over the livestock operations at the young age of 16, when his father, Rodman Barney, died suddenly. His grandfather Mason Barney died a few years later, by then a sickly man of little help to Algernon running the business.
Algernon Barney was up to the challenge. He is one of the more remarkable figures in Swansea and Rehoboth history, said to have had great energy and to have been blessed with robust health and a happy personality. From age 16, he managed thousands of acres of livestock farms in Rehoboth and Swansea. His specialty was hogs. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the horse and cart was the mode for hauling materials, and Algernon Barney had 300 horses, carts, and 200 men on his payroll. Barney won the contracts to haul garbage from Providence, Pawtucket, Fall River, New Bedford, and Newport. The operations required a great deal of labor and equipment.
Barney owned garbage transfer yards within the cities where garbage hauled by horse and wagon came from the city neighborhoods. It was dumped by a trip device under the carts into piles, sorted by men with shovels, and loaded back into larger carts for the long trip to the farms.
After the trolley from Providence to Fall River was built along what is now Route 6, through Barney’s operations in Rehoboth and Swansea, garbage also came to the farms by trolley car and was dumped directly into the marsh. The garbage from Newport came by Barney-owned garbage scows up Narragansett Bay to his farms.
Barney had vast hog pens set up in the Palmer River marsh to receive the garbage as hog feed. The hog manure was sluiced out the other end of the operation toward the river to be taken by the next high tide. Today, this would be a disturbing scene for our modern sensitivities, but it was considered a practical way to recycle garbage and waste back then. In time, the hogs were fattened and slaughtered and the meat headed back into the cities for sale.
Algernon Barney died in 1926, a wealthy man with a large estate. His family kept the operation going for a few more years, but it ended when an epidemic of Hog Cholera broke out, due to feeding uncooked garbage to the hogs. The operation closed down forever by 1930.
Today, the marshes along Barney Avenue and Route 6 are a shadow of their once-prominent splendor. The construction of modern Route 6 and Interstate Route 195, mosquito ditches dug during the Depression, intensive farming, and the 1938 hurricane have all played their parts to alter and destroy an important waterway. The Water Fence is now located under Route 195, just west of the Palmer River bridge.