Norm Schartner, who just passed away last week after 81 well spent years with his hands either in the soil as a farmer or clasping a hammer and a nail as a builder was “Wickford” through and through. Why would I say this you might ask? If you knew him, you’d know he was born in Massachusetts and spent much of his life on the border of NK and Exeter. So why is he “Wickford”? Well, this true modern day Renaissance man possessed the two important traits that define a Wickford person in my estimation. He was fiercely independent, and he was as quirky as a summer day is long. Wickford Village has a centuries long tradition of wonderful quirky characters and Norm Schartner would be as pleased as punch to be included in that long-distinguished line of personalities. To honor Norm, lets ponder upon the house he owned for 37 years.
The Victorian style home we are “pondering upon” today, was constructed in 1884 for successful and popular local insurance agent Daniel C. Sweet and his wife Harriet (Arnold) Sweet, on land they purchased in September of the prior year. Daniel was the son of local master tailor Rufus Sweet and, after completing his education in the local schools followed by the East Greenwich Academy, he began his working career running the business end of his father’s custom tailoring shop. A few years after this, he “removed himself to Providence” and worked at number of different concerns there, including the prominent capitol city insurance agencies Snow & Barker, as well the office of Addison H. White. He later returned to Wickford, after “thoroughly acquiring knowledge of the business” and opened his own insurance agency, catering to the insurance needs of all of Washington County. In 1880, he married Harriet Arnold of Lafayette, living for a while on West Main Street before having this fine home constructed. Daniel Sweet was a prominent local Democrat, a member of the local Masons and Odd Fellows chapters, and served on the Board of Directors of the Wickford Savings Bank. Daniel and Harriet Sweet were never blessed with children and, upon his death in 1904 at the age of 64, Harriet invited her niece, Ida Lamphere, who was also a widow, to share her home with her. Upon her death in 1932, the house was left to her brother James E. Arnold.
James Arnold, the retired railroad station master at nearby Wickford Junction, was not able to enjoy his sister and brother-in-law’s fine home for very long, as he died very shortly after inheriting it. As he was a widower at the time of his death, in his will, the house was left to his widowed son-in-law Robert Spink Reynolds, a local fellow who had been married to his beautiful daughter Daisy. Daisy, a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music was an accomplished pianist and vocalist and had married Robert Reynolds, son of Walter and Adella (Spink) Reynolds. Robert was employed as the assistant civil engineer for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad and was based out of an office in New Haven. Robert and Daisy moved to New Haven and shortly afterwards, Daisy passed away both suddenly and unexpectedly. When Robert inherited this house in late 1932, he was still living in Connecticut and held on to it as an income producing rental property. For most of the time he owned it, he rented it to Edgar L. Burchell, also a widower, and Edgar’s daughter Carol. In 1941, he sold it to these long-term tenants.
Edgar Burchell, who was born in England, graduated from the Boston University Law School in 1912 and opened a practice in Rhode Island shortly thereafter. He served in the RI National Guard rising to the rank of First Lieutenant, and over time became well connected politically not only in New England, but throughout the hemisphere. In 1924, he was appointed Mexican consul for Rhode Island with an office at 42 Westminster Street in Providence, where he served as “immigration officer, diplomat, tourist agent, and tax collector”. He held this position for nearly two decades and served as Rhode Island’s only Mexican consul. It was shortly after his retirement that he and his adult daughter purchased the house from Robert Reynolds. They stayed here until 1956, when they sold this house to Russell Wertz.
Russell Wertz graduated from Princeton in 1926 and at this juncture in his life was the long-serving Art Director for the T. Robley Louttit Company of Providence. This successful business enterprise was a corporation that included Louttit Laundry, Swiss Dry Cleaners, What Cheer Laundry, and the Stork Diaper Service. Russell, who came originally from farming stock and for a time prior to this owned and operated his own hobby farm in town, was also a leading figure in the Southern Rhode Island Farm Bureau and an active early member of the NK Chamber of Commerce. The Wertz family owned this house until 1964 when they sold it to Richard Tardiff. Later owners include the Paul Chesebro family and its present owners the Schartners.