#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!

People of the Small Point


NarragansettRI.gov
NarragansettRI.gov

Native American names abound throughout the United States, especially here in tiny Rhode Island. A small town whose population nearly doubles during the summer, the name ‘Narragansett‘ is actually an English corruption of the Algonquin tribal name Nanhigganeuck, which means ‘people of the small point.’

East Matunuck photo by M. Reynolds
East Matunuck
photo by M. Reynolds

Matunuck (‘Mah-TOO-nick’) is a village set between Narragansett and Charlestown, whose name means ‘lookout.’ The Narragansett tribe used Matunuck as a summer encampment. The beaches at Matunuck and East Matunuck are both great, with direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.

charlestownri.org
charlestownri.org

Quonochontaug (go ahead, try it – okay, it’s ‘QUON-ah-kah-tawg’) might be hard to pronounce, but according to the American Indian Place Names page, Quonochontaug means ‘extended deserted place/two long ponds in succession.’ The photo above shows the breachway, which provides access to both Quonochontaug Pond and Block Island Sound. The pond is a large salt pond with many coves and channels to explore in a kayak or other small boat.

Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org
Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org

Almost in Connecticut, Misquamicut extends from Weekapaug to Watch Hill (all part of the town of Westerly). The area once known as ‘Pleasant View’ changed its name in 1928 to Misquamicut, an Indian name that means ‘red fish,’ a reference to the Atlantic salmon common to the Pawcatuck River. 

And if you didn’t know before reading this, now you know why Rhode Island is The Ocean State!

Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “Q” is for QUONOCHONTAUG


Were you wondering what I’d come up with for the letter Q? Perhaps you were thinking Quebec Canada, Quincy Massachusetts, Queens New York. Yep, been to those places. Queensland Australia, Quimper France, Qatar? Nope, not yet. I chose Quonochontaug Rhode Island as my pick today.

Quonochontaug is actually an area composed of three small beach communities in Charlestown. Located between two salt ponds – Ninigret Pond and Quonochontaug, or “Quonnie” Pond – and their respective barrier beaches, the communities of West Beach, Central Beach, and East Beach house several hundred residents, some year-round, others summer only. Today, many houses are available as summer rentals. In the 19th century, Quonochontaug was a busy and fashionable resort of small hotels and boarding houses, and the popularity of the resort continued up until the Great Hurricane of 1938.

Quonochontaug used to be the site of an iron mining operation financed by Thomas A. Edison in the 1880s. Iron particles existed in the form of black sand on the beach and they could be separated out with magnets and melted to produce iron. The venture failed after cheaper iron was later discovered.

There are vacation rentals available in quiet Quonochontaug. Now, I don’t know these people, but you could rent an old-fashioned beach cottage (click to see). Isn’t it pretty?

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Into the Woods to Grandparents’ House


Today I took a shortcut to get to the post office in East Greenwich (eBay shipments – are you following my other blog, ‘From Splurge to Purge’ ?). From Division Street, I turned right onto Howland Road and took it to the end, where Howland meets Middle Road. As I was stopped, I was looking at one of the houses my grandparents lived in. Yes, one of – from the time I was a child, there were, oh, at least four. Five? All in and around East Greenwich, Cowesett, Coventry, all after the magical house on Hemlock Hill. It’s pictured here, as a copy of a painting that was made.

Most of us have fond memories of our grandparents, if we were lucky enough to have them. I had only my mother’s parents (my dad’s mother died when he was 18, his father died before my first birthday), but they were superlative grandparents. We would drive to visit them, either from our house in Connecticut or, after 1963, our house in Johnston. The drive to Hemlock Hill in Perryville was via Route 1A, the old Post Road that runs along the southern coast of Rhode Island, where beaches have names like Matunuck, Weekapaug, and Quonochontaug. Perryville, named after Cmdr. Oliver Hazard Perry, is really a village within the town of South Kingstown.

My younger sister was too small to remember, but Ann and I, sitting in the back seat, would strain to see the familiar landmarks as we approached. Invariably, Ann would call out, “I see the white church!” and “I see the red house!” before I did, as she was not saddled with vision problems until she hit her 40s.  The red house (pictured at left) marked the entrance to, well, to Red House Road, a dirt road with no lights and plenty of animals in the woods. A quarter-mile drive or so, past Dr. Gee’s little yellow cottage on the right, nestled behind trees and tall shrubs, brought us to Hemlock Hill. A two-car garage sat at the bottom of what to me seemed like an insurmountable driveway up to the house. Most times, my grandparents parked the car in the garage and walked, with bags of food or other necessities, up the hill to the house.

And the house! With wooden Adirondack chairs on the wide front porch and the smells of molasses cookies or beef stew filling the cabin (because it was built as a cabin, and had bedrooms and a bathroom added later), it was a comforting place full of love. My cousin Cindy remembers sleeping over when it was just the cabin, with an outhouse down in back and a chamber-pot for use during the night. A tick-tocking clock on the rough-hewn mantle marked each quarter-hour with soft Westminster chimes; a bird that had flown into the picture window was preserved and mounted on a branch (fascinating to us kids, and my first and only up-close experience with taxidermy), and the big heavy oak rocking chair waited to be occupied, by grandfather and grandchild. On a very clear day, you could see the ocean from that high vantage point. My grandfather built a fish pond in the front, and farther down the grass, a stone fireplace for cooking outdoors in warmer weather. He blazed a trail through the acres of woods behind the house, and each of us begged to be taken for a walk along the “bunny trail.”

My grandparents sold the house in the 70’s, and although my grandfather was still hiking, it was better for them to be closer to their children and grandchildren. My mother always said she didn’t know how her mother could live in such isolation. Around ten years ago, my sister noticed the house was for sale, but the picture accompanying the real estate notice showed a different house, now two levels. Everything changes – that’s why memory is so cherished.