201217ind History

This small parsonage located at 401 Davisville Road in North Kingstown was once the home of Rev. William P. Chipman, who served as pastor at Quidnessett Baptist Church beginning in 1876. Chipman and his son Charles, who was born in the home above, also wrote a series of books for young children in their free time.

The Reverend William P. Chipman, by all accounts, was eager to begin his service as pastor at the Quidnessett Baptist Church here in our fair town.  So eager, indeed, that on that very snowy night of New Year’s Eve 1876, after he was told that the train from New London, Connecticut to Boston would not be stopping at the Davisville Station where he was to get off, for fear that it might get permanently stalled in the heavy snow that was falling, he convinced the conductor to slow the train down a bit as it rolled through the station and then jumped from the moving train into an appropriately-placed snow drift. The good Reverend Chipman, although cold and wet, possessed undiminished enthusiasm and hiked his way through the blinding snow to the parsonage where he would spend many happy nights ahead. No bad weather was to keep this servant of God from his appointment.

The Rev. Chipman, who had relatives nearby – namely his Browning cousins – was installed in his new church on Jan. 3, 1877 and served there for seven years, all the while living in the cozy little parsonage on Davisville Road built on land donated specifically for that purpose by mill owner James Davis in 1869.  While there, Pastor Chipman got bit by the writers’ bug and completed the first of many books when he scribed “The History of the Quidnessett Baptist Church.”

Starting in the mid-1880s, after being reassigned to churches in Maine and then maritime Canada, he began writing quite seriously, creating numerous young readers novels, including the Hardy Boy-like “Budd Boyd” series and a number of historical fiction novels also written with the young reader in mind. North Kingstown must have made a lasting impression on William Chipman, as many of these books – including a Budd Boyd book set on Fox Island and a historical fiction novel “The Young Minuteman,” which chronicled the adventures of young Samuel Phillips of Pleasant Street – were primarily set in North Kingstown. Interestingly enough, William’s wife, Lillie, was a member of the Phillips clan.

Writing must have been in his blood and was passed down a generation, because before long Rev. William’s son, Charles P. Chipman, who was born in the parsonage on Davisville Road, began creating tales of wonder for young boys and girls. He began by co-authoring a very popular book with his father, “An Aerial Runaway,” the story of two boys who inadvertently get caught in a runaway hot air balloon and end up traveling across the continent, only to end up on a mountaintop in South America. Charles then goes on to scribe on his own, books like “The Last Cruise of the Electra,” a story about children and their adventures on a futuristic submarine; and “Through an Unknown Isle,” an adventure story set on the exotic isle of New Guinea. He did all this writing while holding down a position as head librarian of Colby College in Maine.

William Chipman lived a long and productive life and died in 1937 at the age of 83. His wife Lillie followed in 1940 and Charles passed on in 1956 after a long career as a librarian and a writer. These two men, who delighted countless young boys and girls for decades upon end, are both resting eternally at Elm Grove Cemetery.

The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.

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