#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “X” is for PAWTUXET VILLAGE


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Of course I got creative with my “X” post. (Just so you know, I bent the rules a little with “Z,” too).

Pawtuxet Village, one of my favorite spots in Rhode Island, is where the Pawtuxet River flows into Narragansett Bay. In the Native Narragansett language, ‘Pawtuxet’ means ‘little falls.’

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Settlers in the early 18th century saw the advantage of using the Pawtuxet River’s power, and constructed mills along its banks. The harbor in the village became one of America’s premier shipping ports.

There are still many colonial houses and buildings in the village, thanks to the hard work of the Pawtuxet Village Historic District.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

In 1772, Rhode Islanders took the first organized military action towards independence by burning the British schooner HSM Gaspee. The action was part of the beginning of the American Revolution. Each year in June, “Gaspee Days” are celebrated in the village, with a parade and a symbolic burning of the Gaspee.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

In the late 1800s, one of Rhode Island’s well-known and wealthy families, the Rhodes, developed and built Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet, a famous dance hall and casino. Because of its location along the banks of the Pawtuxet River, there were also canoe trips offered. These days, it’s a popular venue for weddings, retirement parties, and the annual Book Expo of the Association of Rhode Island Authors.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “W” is for WOONSOCKET


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Bienvenue! We are in Woonsocket today, and while it might be a good exercise for me to write this post en français, I’d need to use the French-Canadian version of French to be authentic.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Before the European settlers arrived in Rhode Island, specifically northern Rhode Island, in the 17th century, the area known today as Woonsocket was inhabited by three Native American tribes: the Nipmuc, the Wampanoag, and the Narragansett.

So where did the name Woonsocket come from? It’s likely derived from another Native word, maybe ‘woonksechocksett,’ meaning ‘fox country,’ or ‘wannashowtuckqut,’ meaning ‘at the fork in the river.’

As the Industrial Revolution expanded along the banks of the Blackstone River, textile mills were built from Pawtucket to Woonsocket. In 1831, Edward Harris built his first textile mill in Woonsocket. But the actual town of Woonsocket wasn’t established until 1867, when three villages in the area (Woonsocket Falls, Social, and Jenckesville) officially became Woonsocket. Three more industrial villages were added in 1871 (Hamlet, Bernon, and Globe), and Woonsocket incorporated as a city in 1888.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The influx of immigrants to the mills, primarily from Quebec and other areas of French-speaking Canada, bloomed the city. By 1913, Woonsocket had the sixth-largest population of French or French-Canadian foreign nationals in the country. By the Great Depression in 1929, ethnic French Canadians comprised 75 percent of the city’s population. There were newspapers in French, radio programs, and if you strolled down Main Street, you’d likely hear French spoken.

The Depression had hurt the textile mills, but business revived at the outbreak of World War II. Woonsocket became a center of fabric manufacturing, for military uniforms and parachutes. If you’re in the area, the Museum of Work and Culture is well worth your time. https://www.rihs.org/locations/museum-of-work-culture/

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “V” is for VALLEY FALLS


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

A little village in the town of Cumberland, Valley Falls sits on the border of Central Falls and Lincoln. Valley Falls is known for being the starting place of Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway. That’s right! Berkshire Hathaway was actually founded in 1839 by a businessman named Oliver Chace, who founded several textile manufacturing companies in the 1800s. Originally called the Valley Falls Company, the company manufactured cotton.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

Like most mills, the river and its dam helped to power operations. The textile empire built by the Chace family lasted for 70 years, with mills on both sides of the dam pictured above. As the company grew, other manufacturers came to the area to use the labor force. Valley Falls became Cumberland’s downtown and the seat of town government.

The Valley Falls Company closed in the 1930s, and the mills on the Cumberland side were torn down to avoid property taxes. In 1991, the town of Cumberland and the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor, an area dedicated to the history of the early American Industrial Revolution, transformed the site into a historic park. Sadly, the area has been marked by graffiti and vandalism, and a number of homeless people have set up tents down by the river.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “U” is for USQUEPAUG(H)


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The village of Usquepaug (“OOS-kwah-pawg”), sometimes written as Usquepaugh, translates as ‘the end of the pond.’ But when you read on, you’ll see another possibility for this unique name. Usquepaug is in the town of Richmond, along the Usquepaug River.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

In the little Usquepaug Road Historic District (blink and you’ll miss it) is the Kenyon Corn Meal Company, a grist mill that dates back to the late 1600s.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

Are you familiar with a grist mill? In New England, they’re pretty well known, but maybe in other parts of the country (or outside the US), they’re a curiosity. A grist mill grinds grain (wheat, corn, rye, etc.) into flour. The ‘grist’ is the grain after it’s been separated from its chaff (the indigestible outside protective layer). At Kenyon’s, the grinding stones come from granite that was quarried in nearby Westerly.

The building pictured above was constructed in 1886, and the white corn meal produced by Kenyon’s is traditionally used in johnnycakes, a flatbread or thin pancake made from cornmeal. Each year (prior to COVID), the Johnny Cake Festival is held at the Usquepaug Historic District – hopefully it will return.

Out-of-towners might be rightfully confused if they stumble into Usquepaug. Usquepaug? Ask an old local and they might tell you that Escoheag is this way, and Quonochontaug is that way.

Usquepaug – Glen Rock reservoir – photo by Martha Reynolds

So, at the beginning of this article, I mentioned the word Usquepaug translated to ‘end of the river.’ That would seem to make sense. But there’s a local tale, unverified, that years ago, a local told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times that Usquepaug is a Native American word borrowed from the Scottish-Gaelic word for whiskey. What?

If you can find an old bottle of Tullamore Dew, the older green-and-white crock, you’ll find the words ‘Uisge Baugh’ on it. Uisge Baugh supposedly means ‘water of life,’ or whiskey. I went looking for one of those old bottles, but came up empty. The newer bottles don’t have those words on the label.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “T” is for TOUISSET


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The name Touisset (“TWISS-et”) comes from a Native American Wampanoag name meaning ‘at the old field’ or ‘at the corn field.’ Touisset Point, in the town of Warren, was inhabited by Native Americans before the European settlers arrived. They lived off the land, enjoying the proximity to the water and all it provided.

The Touisset Marsh Wildlife Refuge is part of the Rhode Island Audubon Society, and is a 66-acre site situated on the Kickemuit River and Mount Hope Bay.

By the late 1800s, Touisset Point was developed as a summer community for wealthy Rhode Islanders who bought or rented farm houses to escape the heat and noise of the city and enjoy the cooler breezes that blew in off the water.

The wildlife refuge is a quiet, calming place if you can’t afford to rent a house in Touisset Point. It has a one-mile, easy trail that provides views of the Kickemuit River. The area is full of flowering fields in the summer months, and you may see butterflies. In the woods, there’s a possibility of sighting deer or fox, and perhaps a harbor seal in the water. The hike can be muddy in springtime, but it’s a good spot for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing when there’s snow on the ground.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “S” is for SUMMIT


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Thanks to the Coventry Historical Society, the little village of Summit, a stop on the Providence, Hartford, & Fishkill railroad line, survives. Summit is one of many little villages within Coventry, a town in western Rhode Island that covers sixty-two square miles.

Back in the 1860s, Summit had a church and five white houses, a library, and the general store you see pictured above. It added a saw mill, a grist mill, a blacksmith shop, and a comb factory as more houses were added. Back in the 1700s, it was known as Perry’s Hollow, and the name “Summit” signified a high point on the rail line. The Coventry Greenway bike path, built along the old rail line, does climb as it reaches Summit, the end of the bike path.

Photo from Summit information board

If you can read this map, you’ll see the railroad line is indicated horizontally about two-thirds down the picture. “H.P. & F. R. R.” stands for Hartford Providence & Fishkill Railroad, and there is the depot, the store, a Christian church, and homes for familiar old Rhode Island names such as Tillinghast, Vaughn, Austin, Franklin, Nichols, Matteson, and Capwell.

The general store was built in 1855 by Giles Nichols, who served also as the station agent and postmaster. Nixon Hall was built in 1888 to serve as a public hall. Various societies including the Order of Patrons of Husbandry (official name of what we usually refer to as a grange, or a farmers’ association) met there.

Photo from Summit information board

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “R” is for RUMFORD


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Got baking powder? If you do, chances are it’s Rumford baking powder. Well, today’s feature is Rumford, Rhode Island, and yes, there is a connection!

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Rumford is actually a part of the city of East Providence, and borders the neighboring city of Pawtucket (from the Algonquin meaning ‘river fall’). The photo above shows the old Rumford Chemical Works, which was chartered in Rhode Island in 1862. Rumford baking powder was developed and named after Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. Thompson was an American-born British physicist and inventor, but it was Eben Horsford was actually invented baking powder. Okay, that’s enough history.

Photo by Martha Reynolds – location: Seven Stars Bakery, Rumford, RI

Hulman & Company acquired the Rumford Chemical Works in 1950. It still makes Rumford baking powder, now at its manufacturing plant in Terre Haute, Indiana. And the building you see pictured at the top of this post now offers studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “Q” is for QUONOCHONTAUG


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

You can say it with me. Quon-uh-cuh-TAWG. See? Easy! It rolls off the tongue.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Quonochontaug is located between two ponds – the Ninigret Pond and Quonochontaug Pond and their respective barrier beaches, both of which are salt ponds. The communities known as West Beach, Central Beach, and East Beach have several hundred residents, mostly in the summers, but over the years, there have been more year-round residents in Quonochontaug.

You had a peek at Blue Shutters Beach in my “B” post, and a visit to Ninigret in my “N” post. Blue Shutters is at the end of East Beach Road, and an unpaved road leads to the entrance of Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. This area truly is one of the prettiest places in the state.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Quonnie Pond is a great spot for kayakers. You get the benefit of being at the coast, but no ocean waves!

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “P” is for POTOWOMUT


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Potowomut (pot-oh-WOM-ut) is a neighborhood situated in Warwick, but bordered by the towns of East Greenwich and North Kingstown. It’s a peninsula surrounded by Greenwich Bay.

Potowomut’s name translates to “land of fires,” the Narragansett name for the neck of land. It can be called an enclave, since there is no land connection to the rest of the city of Warwick (remember “J is for Jerusalem” and its similar status as an enclave of Narragansett with no land connection).

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Nathanael Greene, a general in the American Revolutionary War, was born in Potowomut, on Forge Farm in 1742. He was born into one of Rhode Island’s earliest families, who had helped to establish the colony in the 1630s. Greene was a Quaker until he attended a military parade and showed support for armed rebellion against England.

“Hopelands,” the house that once belonged to Richard Greene.
Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

Not all Greenes were patriots, however. Richard Greene inherited the house and lands that his ancestor had founded and built (the house is now part of the Rocky Hill School in Potowomut, as pictured above). Richard Greene was often referred to as ‘King Richard’ because of his ostentatious lifestyle. He also welcomed British officers into his home and furnished them with both produce and information. Because of its location on the Potowomut River (also known then as Greene’s River – yes, they were the dominant family), his home was easily accessible by the British ships. To the embarrassment of other Greene family members, Richard gave the British soldiers supplies whenever possible.  Richard Greene eventually left his Potowomut home and fled to British-occupied Newport, where he died in 1779, a broken man.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “O” is for OAK LAWN


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

Oak Lawn (sometimes written as Oaklawn) is a community within the city of Cranston, and the reason I posted a photo of the church above is because this place, this church is where the oldest May Breakfast is held each year. Like the traditional May Day celebrations, an ancient festival to mark the beginning of spring, the May Breakfast is traditionally held on the first day of May. Is this a Rhode Island thing? Do you have May Breakfasts in your state?

The first May Breakfast was held in 1867, back when the Oak Lawn church was the Old Quaker Meeting House. Same spot, but it was known then as Searle’s Corner. On Thursday, May 1, 1879, fifty cents would get you hot biscuits, meats, clam cakes, and tea and coffee. These days, May Breakfasts are held across the state, not always on May 1, and usually as fundraisers. Sometimes they’re all-you-can-eat affairs. During these days of Covid-19, the traditional gatherings are put on hold, but hopefully in 2022 they’ll be back.

Across the street, the Oak Lawn Public Library has been in existence since 1889.

“It is desired that the library shall become a depository of national and local history, a supplement to the public school, and establish special departments for the use of the farmer, gardener, mechanic, student of natural history, etc.”