Back in the late 1800s, getting a reliable weather forecast was not much more than a dream to the average resident of “our fair town.” Beyond the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” there just wasn’t any way for a farmer or a sailor to have much of a clue about what Mother Nature had to offer. But out on Old Baptist Road right at the edge of Scrabbletown lived a tried and true Swamp Yankee who changed all that. Just a little past the Stony Lane intersection, on an 18-acre chicken farm that he ran all on his own, lived Darius C. Allen, a near hermit of a man renowned across the length and breadth of southern New England as the Great Weather Prophet of North Kingstown.
Darius Allen eventually achieved such fame that none other than the boys from the Providence Journal would venture “down state” every six months or so and pick the brain of “the Weather Prophet” for a long-range forecast. His columns ran off and on throughout the course of the 1890’s. Those few brave (or foolish) souls like myself, who scroll through the countless reels of Providence Journal microfilm from that period will, sooner or later, come across the pen and ink drawing of Darius that accompanied each forecast. Darius took great pride in his amazing abilities and took the secrets which allowed him to, as the Journal was proud to brag, “beat the Washington Weather Bureau boys at their own game” to his grave. His coup de grace came in 1898 when he accurately predicted the Great Blizzard of that year down to the week in which it would occur. He then went on, without even breaking stride, to proudly describe how well he was doing with his chickens. He started with 59 hens and one rooster and ended up with 605 chickens, or so he claimed.
Darius died of pneumonia in May 1902 at age 67. He is buried in the little graveyard behind the Stony Lane Six-Principle Baptist Church, one of the few places for which he would leave the confines of his chicken farm. That farm, like so many others, has been divided up into many individual house lots. But, as luck would have it, the site of the “canary-tinted cottage”to which the Providence Journal boys would trudge each fall and spring is now occupied by the former home of Walt and Dot Taylor, who were, before they passed away, the undisputed king and queen of Dahlia farming. As a matter of fact, Darius’ old home may be incorporated into the Taylor House as their kitchen ell.
Sadly, many decades ago, the unrelenting action of countless years of frost and thaw, frost and thaw, heaved up a corner of the base of the big Allen family main monument out there in the Stony Lane Six-Principle graveyard. This unfortunate turn of events eventually caused the 8 foot tall spire to topple over, in the process striking Darius Allen’s massive granite gravestone and knocking it over as well. The spire broke in three parts and Darius’s stone fell face down in the grass and lay there in mute silence for as long as anyone living can remember. Well that just didn’t seem right to me and so, with financial support from the good folks at the Concerned Citizens of Davisville organization, my friend Larry Delahanty of Stanley Granite and his crew made things right. Darius Allen’s gravestone can face the sunrise once again. The Allen family spire still needs attention and if anyone out there wants to sponsor that effort, let me know.
I expect all this pleases the old prophet, just as much as I am certain that every time that a TV weather man blows a forecast, Darius, wherever he might be, smiles and tugs on his great beard as he saunters off to tend his chickens and craft his next prognostication.