The exciting recent news that “Wicked Tulips” will be relocating their operation to a portion of the Schartner Farm on Route 2 here in our fair town got me to thinking about North Kingstown’s first flower farm which was located on Tower Hill Road just south of its intersection with Ten Rod Road.
This house was constructed in 1822 for landowner and farmer William Brown. Brown had purchased the lot the year previous from Hannah (Boone) Franklin.
To the unaware, the trip down the hill from busy Davisville Road to the little hollow next to the Hunt’s River seems like a short one, but to those who know, it’s a journey that spans hundreds of years.
As Veteran’s Day is nearly upon us, I thought it would be a great idea to take a look at the story of some sadly forgotten veterans in this week’s column. Our story begins in July of 1948, some 71 years ago, when quietly, somberly, without fanfare or a mention in the local press, a group of soldiers tied up at the long-abandoned pier at Fort Greble on Dutch Island and went about their assigned task.
This house was constructed for 68 year old retiring sea captain Beriah H. Gardiner, son of Beriah Gardiner of Main Street, in 1870 on a lot he purchased from the widow Abby Cotter who lived next door.
The “Old Salt” Capt. Billy Reynolds was already part of the character of the community here in North Kingstown when the article in the Dec. 10, 1893 Providence Journal celebrating his 70 years working the Narragansett Bay and the Block Island Sound hit the newsstands.
This week’s column takes us back to home base – Swamptown. The Kettle Hole is an almost legendary place in Swamptown lore. Created by the great glaciers many eons ago, tradition has it that it is bottomless.
Life, as anyone who has lived for a time can tell you, is fraught with irony. And sometimes, so it would appear, is death. A case in point is that of our fair town’s own David Sherman Baker; a man who in 1893 was elected Governor of the great state of Rhode Island.
My good friend Joe Beckwith passed away last week. He was a kind and gracious man whom I have known since I was a child.
There are a very few individuals who, in the course of their lives, had a lasting impact on their community. Stillman Saunders was such a man.
When pondering 19th century farming in South County, it’s a sure bet that the seaside village of Wickford is not the first locale that comes to mind. The fact of the matter is though, that there were indeed two fairly large and very successful agricultural enterprises within the confines of this quaint little port town.
Last week we took a good look at the property that now houses the Pleasant Street Wharf boatyard. This week we’ll finish the story around the land at the end of Pleasant Street, with an examination of the parcel that the Wickford Yacht Club now calls home; known in the historic record as the Point Wharf parcel.
The parcel on the west side of the tail end of Pleasant Street, designated in the historic record as the Point Lot, seems to have remained undeveloped and in Updike ownership until around the start of the 19th century when Lodowick Updike II entered into a 10-year lease agreement with shipwright Henry Vaughn and his business partners Capt. Richard Barney, merchant Stukely Himes, and trader and mariner Samuel Carter.
The year 1841 was an auspicious one for young Robert Rodman. The 23-year-old not only married Almira Taylor in April, he also signed a long term lease with his new father-in-law William Taylor to take over the Taylor-owned mill at Silver Spring.
You know, I have got to tell you, I am a huge fan of actor Richard Thomas. Since his breakthrough role as John-Boy Walton in 1971 through numerous Hallmark Hall of Fame movies and television appearances, I have admired his work.
If you could pick one man who has influenced the course of history in both peaceful communities of North Kingstown and East Greenwich, it would have to be Daniel Gould Allen.
Just before the leaves started to turn color and drop to the ground, I wandered around the woods in my backyard and saw something I hadn’t seen in many years. Sunlight was streaming through the canopy and creating large bright patches on the forest floor. What had once been completely shaded during the growing season was no longer as I remembered.
So I investigated each site, worried that someone had illegally cut down some of the trees on my property. I shouldn’t have been concerned, because what I found was completely natural. It’s a process that foresters and biologists call succession, and it’s been happening here and in every forest everywhere since the first forests grew. Trees die – whether from disease, age, storms or from beavers or humans cutting them down – and when that happens, sunlight penetrates the forest floor again and new growth emerges.
In the new patches of sunlight, I found waist-high shrubs of sweet pepperbush, spicebush and mountain laurel where only ferns and mushrooms had previously grown. The sunlight had allowed such rapid growth of new plants that the abundant deer in the area, which had suppressed the growth of so many understory plants, hadn’t been able to keep up.
As in much of the forested parts of Rhode Island in recent years, the dead trees that led to this new growth were the result of the voracious appetites of gypsy moth, winter moth and forest tent caterpillars. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management says that as much as 25 percent of the state’s forests were killed by the insect pests during a three- or four-year period. As in my yard, the dead trees appear in patches scattered across the landscape rather than in large continuous swaths, which means that every forest owner was probably affected, but only in a limited way.
What’s going to happen next is a big question. The shrubs that grew up in the sunny spots will only grow so tall, and eventually trees will sprout and fill in the canopy and shade out the shrubs, just like it always has. But what tree species will they be? The iconic ones like oaks, maples and birches that used to be there, or something else?
Local foresters tell me that it’s probably going to be something else.
New varieties of invasive pest insects are arriving in our area and killing targeted tree species. One is expected to kill all the state’s ash trees in the next decade, another has already wiped out most of our hemlocks, and still another may take out our oaks, just as diseases wiped out all of our chestnut and elm trees long ago.
Scientists believe that these infestations of tree-killing pest insects are likely to worsen in years to come, but that doesn’t mean the forests will become unhealthy. They’ll just change, like so much of the rest of our environment. The changing climate will likely spur the growth of tree species more acclimated to warmer temperatures – like black cherry, yellow poplar and southern varieties of oak and hickory – replacing many of our old favorites.
So don’t fret too much over those dead patches of trees you see across the landscape. Instead, appreciate how the natural process of succession is already stimulating new growth in those patches. And then imagine what that forest will look like a generation or two into the future. It almost certainly won’t be akin to what your grandparents saw.
If recent events during the last few months are any indicator, Chicken Little may have been right. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Back on July 24 at approximately 2:44 a.m. EDT, a soccer ball-sized meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere above Lake Ontario and became a bright fireball as it disintegrated.