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So, you’ve had just about enough of this long, COVID-impacted winter and early spring, and you want to get outside and do something. Or maybe you’re just looking for a good place to take the kids or grandkids on a day trip filled with adventure and history. Well, it seemed to me like this might be a good time to restate the obvious: We have some wonderful places here in our fair town and its surrounding communities.

Let’s take a look at some of them this week.

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Spring has finally sprung, and in Wickford, one of the things which that means is kayaking. With that in mind I thought it might make sense to look at Wickford Harbor’s two major islands and the stories tied to them. Like so much of South County, the opening chapters of these islands begin with the inter-relationships between Richard Smith and his descendants, Roger Williams, and the Narragansett People. 

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There’s no doubt about it, “The Shops at Quonset Point” is a busy place. There’s hustle and bustle aplenty; and folks are coming and going at this attractive shopping plaza anchored by both Dave’s Marketplace and Kohls. But this has always been a busy spot — prior to the plaza, this location was home to one of the largest all-wooden office buildings in the world.

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The year 1819 was memorable for a hard-working African American/Narragansett Indian couple named John and Mary Babcock. They lived in the southwest corner of North Kingstown, out past Slocumville, even out past Shermantown, in an area that was always known as “Dark Corners.” Dark Corners nestled up against Stony Fort, and although Stony Fort was officially part of South Kingstown, everyone knew it to be Narragansett tribal land. It was the land of John and Mary’s ancestors and, although dark and foreboding to some, it probably felt like home to the Babcocks and their kin. In 1819, Mary gave John a daughter. They named her Christiana.

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The word “sharecropping” likely brings to most folks’ minds images of the antebellum deep South, poor black men, and merciless southern landowners. But we northerners in general — and Rhode Islanders in particular — are just fooling ourselves regarding our ultimate responsibilities. We were a part of all this too; indeed, in some cases, we were the driving wheel behind the evil engine that was slavery. Sharecropping is a case in point.

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To initiate this year’s celebration of February as Black History Month, I thought we might take a look at an aspect of local Black history that most folks just don’t think about: the story of the numerous Black mariners – I have identified 24 so far – that sailed out of Wickford Harbor. This home on Fowler Street stands as a solid reminder of those men and the life they led.

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Last week we left off in August 1894 with the Cullen family purchasing the Gardiner Boarding House and settling into their piece of the American dream. Along the way Edmund Cullen had returned a favor to the Morris Ryan family of Greenville, Rhode Island, and had assisted their young son Michael Ryan as he started out here in Our Fair Town, working at the same Belleville Woolen Mill that he did.

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People everywhere are fed up with enforced isolation. While adhering to stay-at-home orders at the urging of public health officials and to help front-line health care workers, the restrictions are taking a toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of all. While senior citizens can be especially impacted, it is less commonly acknowledged that younger people, particularly teens, struggle with isolation too.