Connecticut

New England, March 1883


1901_cne_map

Now that I’ve discovered the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner at the Pawtuxet Valley Historical and Preservation Society, I’ve become a devotee. It all ties in with my love of local history and genealogy. Looking back in time can help us see more clearly, understand our shared past, maybe even foretell the future. So, what was going on around New England on this day in 1883? Have a look:

CONNECTICUT

  • ‘Henry C. Robinson, in a speech at Hartford, said that many of the mill owners of New England were educating their employees in virtue, domestic comfort, intelligence, and all good things; but he also knew of a man who was laying up $72,000 a year while paying little children 15 cents for ten hours’ work.’cartoon-or-sketch-of-mill-woman_0

VERMONT

  • ‘R. Smith, of Essex Junction, has a cow from which, within eight months, has been sold 610 quarts of new milk and 105 pounds of butter, besides supplying a family of three persons.’glass-1587258_960_720

MAINE

  • ‘The hotel to be erected at Mount Kineo is to be able to accommodate 400 guests.’kineo_cdv_1885

NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • ‘It is rumored that a new cotton mill is to be erected at Hooksett, where there is considerable idle water power.’manchester-cotton-mill-manchester-new-hampshire

MASSACHUSETTS

  • ‘A ruralist at a recent Millbury festival ate seventeen plates of ice cream.’vanilla-ice-cream-17809427
  • ‘A young man of 28, said by the Worcester Spy to be Alvin E. Ross of Blackstone, was found dead in bed in a tenement house on Mechanic Street, Worcester. About a week ago, the young man hired the room in company with a woman somewhat older, who paid for the room in advance. The woman disappeared Sunday. Ross had apparently been dead about thirty-six hours.’

RHODE ISLAND

  • ‘Newport has, it is estimated, ninety-five licensed and unlicensed rum shops, and 1,200 male adults who visit them.’
  • rum
  • ‘A three-year-old son of James Brown, of Pawtucket, pushed a sleeve button up his nose. The family was unable to remove it, and a physician was called, who found it necessary to make an opening on the inside of the mouth in order to remove it.’
  • ‘The East Providence probate court on Saturday probated the will of George F. Wilson, despite the opposition of his youngest daughter, Alice, who received in trust $22,000 in Rumford stock, and who claims her father was of unsound mind. An appeal will be made to the supreme court. By his first will, in 1880, he left $500,000 of his $800,000 to Alice, but subsequently quarreled with her because of her relations with a certain person. An unpleasant family skeleton will probably be revealed.’

A Winding Stream


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I’m in the habit of doing ‘soft’ releases – minimal fanfare and proclamations. Nevertheless, I’m incredibly proud to announce the publication of this new book, and the first in my portfolio that’s non-fiction.

A Winding Stream chronicles the two-week canoe and camping trip that my maternal grandfather, Earl R. Handy, made with his friend, John B. Hudson, in 1924. 1924!  Five years before the Great Depression, seventeen years before Pearl Harbor. In June of 1924, the Snyder Act granted US citizenship to all American Indians. George Mallory and A.C. Irvine died attempting to climb Mount Everest. And on the last day of June in 1924, the Democratic National Convention adjourned at midnight with William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith deadlocked in balloting.

This little book (54 pages) may be of interest (outside my family!) to those interested in the region, canoeing and camping, the environment, local history, or to anyone wanting to take a quiet journey back ninety-two years. Paddle down the rivers with Earl and John for fourteen days. And if you think you might like to re-create this adventure, please let me know!

Pick up your copy at Amazon and come see me in December at one of my book events!

Thursday, December 1 (6:00pm) – Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library in Harrisville, RI

Saturday, December 3 (11:00-5:00) – RI Authors Expo at Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI

2,093 Miles


In seven days we traveled through ten different states (but who’s counting?).  Rhode Islanders are accustomed to moving among the states quite easily; we’ve driven to Stockbridge in western Massachusetts for lunch, visited the Vermont Country Store on a day trip, taken the ferry from Connecticut to Long Island and back in a day and thought nothing of it. Get out of New England, though, and all of a sudden the states seem a lot bigger. I guess they are. Rhode Island’s area is just over 1,000 square miles, Pennsylvania’s is just over 46,000, and Virginia’s is slightly less. So there was a lot of ground to cover on this trip! We left Rhode Island, drove through Connecticut, down Route 95 and the stress-filled area through New York and New Jersey, into the rich green farmland of Pennsylvania, landscapes dotted with neatly rolled bales of hay, black cows, a red barn, and a gray silo. All visible from the window of a car traveling at 65 mph. There’s a tiny part of West Virginia that juts out into Route 81, so anyone traveling that stretch of highway will pass through Martinsburg, and perhaps visit the very clean Welcome Center. West Virginia may not have much real estate along Route 81, but they sure make the best of it!

It’s a long drive through Virginia, passing towns with names familiar to any Civil War buff: Front Royal, Shenandoah, Staunton. And some intriguing names, like Burnt Factory, Quicksburg, Fort Defiance, Steeles Tavern. As we turned onto Route 77 towards North Carolina, we passed Fancy Gap and Crooked Oak and we neared Mount Airy, which lies close to the border with Virginia. Mount Airy was the hometown of Andy Griffith, and everywhere you look, there are tributes to this favorite son. Although the town bears little resemblance to Mayberry of TV fame, the downtown area has been preserved and features the Snappy Lunch, Opie’s Candy Store, Floyd’s Barber Shop, and Barney’s Cafe. A sweet place.

We drove to Galax, Virginia, and our trusty GPS told us to follow back roads instead of the highway. Of course, this made us happy, as we love the back roads! Jim handled this leg, thankfully, and maneuvered through Piper’s Gap, one of dozens of mountain roads through the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Galax, we enjoyed the best barbeque (brisket, not pork!) at the Galax Smokehouse, then continued along the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Music Heritage Trail (a 300+-mile route in southwestern Virginia) to the town of Floyd, a regional destination for bluegrass and old-time mountain music.

The following day we drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Back in 2005, we drove the Parkway north from Roanoke to Winchester; this time, we traveled from Fancy Gap south to Boone, stopping at the Blue Ridge Music Center to see the wonderful exhibits and listen to Scott Freeman and his father-in-law Willard Gayheart, Scott on mandolin and Willard on guitar, both in very fine voice. We wanted to stay all day, but the road beckoned. If you’ve never had the opportunity to drive or bike the Blue Ridge Parkway, put it on your list. We drove through the clouds at times, but there are so many overlooks, we found plenty of clear views of the valleys below.

When we left Mount Airy and North Carolina, there was the long drive back through Virginia (in a driving rainstorm) that brought us back to Gettysburg for the night. And with that much driving ahead of us, we decided to make one more stop before heading home, so we chose Rome, New York, east of Syracuse (we had our little dog with us, so our hotel choices were limited, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way). Our final drive was on the New York Thruway down to the familiar Massachusetts Turnpike, crossing over the Housatonic and Westfield Rivers, through Chicopee and Olde Sturbridge Village, into northern Rhode Island and home at last. Back to where it’s less than five miles to church, market, and gasoline.