The General and the Adman

President Eisenhower with golf buddies William E. Robinson (Coca-Cola Company’s Chairman of the Board) and George Allen (business executive) at Eisenhower House, 9/14/1958, courtesy of Madeleine O. Robinson and the DEM.

2:00 p.m. October 15, 2017
BVHS (North Gate, Downstairs)
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

A talk about President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his friend and advisor, Rhode Island native son William “Bill” Edward Robinson,  by Madeleine O. Robinson, PhD (URI ’80).

Free.  Light refreshments.

Even as a young girl, Madeleine was always fascinated by the career of her cousin, Bill Robinson.   Brought up in Central Falls, Bill was drafted into the army shortly after he graduated from LaSalle Academy in 1918.  However, the war ended before he completed his training in New York City.  He decided to stay there, and enrolled as a student at New York University.  To support himself, he reported campus news to a local newspaper as well as gathered ads. Thus, he began his career in advertising.

At times Bill would come home to Rhode Island to visit.  Some of these visits included ones to Madeleine’s family in Cumberland, especially to see her father, Thomas “Tom” Robinson, who was one year younger than Bill and a former childhood friend.  Both attended Holy Trinity School in Central Falls.

Over the years, her father would keep Madeleine and family updated on Bill’s activities.  Those reports became more and more interesting as Bill advanced in the newspaper world in New York.

Beginning in 1944, Bill became involved with Eisenhower in attempting to revive the international edition of the New York Herald Tribune in France.  Gradually they became friends as Ike took over the presidency of Columbia University, then through the presidential campaign, into the White House years and beyond.

Madeleine’s talk will emphasize the unique relationship of two boys who began life in opposite directions, and who might not ever have met in ordinary life.

Copies of the bound and printed article will be for sale at the lecture for $2.00 each.

3:00 PM, November 5, 2017
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI 02865

Michael DiMucci in Concert: Americana: Songs from America’s History, from the Revolution to World War I

This is a fundraiser for BVHS. Tickets $20.00

Michel DiMucci

Tickets are on sale at, at BVHS during events, and at the door.  You may also purchase tickets at BrownPaperTickets by calling 1-800-838-3006 (24/7).




Marker from Nipsachuck dig (2012-2013) in North Smithfield, “Lead Shot East Side”

Finally, October is Archaeology Month.  Here is the list of activities this month from the RIHPHC:


Great Road Open House Day

September 23, 11-4 p.m.  Smithsonian Museum Day Live!

Many historic properties in Lincoln will be open this day for Great Road Open House Day.  Hearthside, Hannaway Blacksmith Shop, the Moffat Mill, the Pullen Corner School House, the Eleazer Arnold House, the Saylesville Friends Meeting House, the Valentine Whitman House, Mt. Moriah Lodge,

Arnold’s Lonsdale Bakery and North Gate at BVHS are scheduled to be open this day.

Nathaniel Ballou House

Special exhibit at North Gate: An Elaborate History: The Cumberland Ballous.

In the summer of 2015, the BVHS received an old photograph album from Arnold Robinson of Roger Williams University.  It had been given to him by the children of the late Anne “Pete” Baker, a prominent preservationist architect.  Since the pictures in the album related to Cumberland, he thought that researchers might find it more easily if it were in the Blackstone Valley, so he sent it to BVHS.   The list pictured here was tucked in the album.  We are not sure if the original owners made the list.  Someone had marked each picture in the album with a post-it note, naming each picture in order according to the list.  There were several loose pictures in the back, of men perched on immense rocks.  The same three men and a boy appeared in several of the pictures.

Scott House, Ballou Photo Album

Oddly enough, most of the pictures seemed to be of abandoned houses, or at least houses in need of serious repair.  The photographs of the Ballou Meeting House and the nearby cemetery were easily recognized.

A few months later, we happened on a post by Diane Boumenot, in her blog called “One Rhode Island Family” entitled “The Ballou Pioneer Settlers”.  Diane wrote about a booklet written by Col. Daniel R. Ballou for the Annual Meeting of the Ballou Family Association of America, held on September 5, 1914.  It was called, “The Ballou Pioneer Setters of the Second Generation in the Louisquisset Country and How They Lived,”  and explained how to find the houses of the earliest Ballous, who settled in what is now Lincoln, RI.  Col Daniel briefly touched on Maturin’s second son James, who purchased a large tract of land in Cumberland and divided it among three of his sons.  Suddenly the album made sense. What if some Ballou descendants had decided to research the ancestral places of the Ballous in Cumberland?  And one of them was a photographer?

Beacon Pole Hill

The blog post included several illustrations from a vast Ballou Genealogy. “An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America,” by Adin Ballou, published in 1888, is a 1323 page tome about the descendants of Maturin Ballou.  Two of the illustrations were nearly identical to the pictures in the album, and the album pictures were correctly identified according to the book.

We set out to identify the rest of the photographs in the album. There is still work to do, but this exhibit is about what we found.  Sadly, we have not found any of the houses pictured still standing.  Perhaps this part of Cumberland was too remote and the farming unspectacular, and so over time, they were abandoned.

End of Summer

Women posing at Jenks Park. Picture shared by Michael Brule at the BVHS Cogswell Tower Tour on June 28.

We had fun at our summer events!  BVHS’s Annual Tour of Cogswell Tower in Central Falls drew an crowd, and all enjoyed it.  Many people shared their memories and even pictures of the park. Michael Brule of Central Falls brought this astonishing photo of three women at Jenks Park. He says that one woman is a member of the Flanagan family.

Francine Jackson answering questions after the talk
Francine Jackson answering questions after the talk

We also drew a crowd for Francine Jackson’s talk about eclipses.




North Gate from the Louisquisset Pike

Please note that we’ve updated BVHS’s  Upcoming Events page!   Our next event is September 23, where we will be open for Great Road Open House Day.  In the meantime, we are listing some other late summer historical activities in the Blackstone Valley.



On August 24, 6:30 p.m. Hearthside will be doing a guided evening tour.



Don’t miss the last of the free Ranger Walks and Summer Saturday Tours at the Blackstone Valley National Historic Park.

August 20, 2017, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.   Frederick Douglass 200th Birthday Community Celebration,  at Adin Ballou Park in Hopedale, MA.

August 24, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Ranger Walkabouts: Reclaiming an Industrial Landscape, Kelly House, Blackstone River State Park, 1075 Lower River Road, Lincoln, RI

August 26, 2017, 10:00 a.m. 17 Saturdays of Summer: Healthy Parks/Healthy People: Fun ways to keep you and your park healthy, North Smithfield Library 20 Main Street Slatersville, MA.

August 31, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Ranger Walkabout: Slater Mill and the Pawtucket Falls, Slater Mill Historic Site, 67 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket.

We will be open on September 23 from 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. as part of Great Road Open House Day in Lincoln, and Smithsonian Museum Day Live.




New Entry on the National Register from Central Falls


American Supply Company

Press Release from the RIHPHC:   A factory in Central Falls has received federal recognition for its contributions to the history of industry. Jeffrey Emidy, Acting Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, announced that the National Park Service has added the American Supply Company plant to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the Federal Government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation. Built in 1875, American Supply Company is a significant example of a factory and supply house that supported the expanding textile industry in the late 19th century.

The American Supply Company is a vernacular, industrial building sited on a roughly one-acre lot on the south bank of the Blackstone River in Central Falls. This wood-frame building stands two-and-one-half stories tall on a fieldstone foundation. The gable roof features continuous shed dormers on its north and south slopes, and there is a square three-story stair-and- elevator tower on the south elevation. The interior retains its original materials and plan, with exposed timber framing, wood floors, and (sided-over) original sash.

In early cotton mills, loom harness—wire structures mounted on wood frames for use in power looms—were manufactured in-house. By the 1830s, loom harness fabrication emerged as a subsidiary industry to textile manufacturing. Myron Fish (1849-1929), a loom harness maker in Worcester, Massachusetts, was invited by the Valley Falls Company, a major Rhode Island textile manufacturer, to relocate his business to leased space in their Cumberland plant around 1870. Having an in-house maker of loom harness and other loom components gave the Valley Falls Company a competitive edge.

Myron Fish & Co.
Myron Fish & Co.

In 1875, Myron Fish and Company erected its own two-and-one-half-story, steam-powered, 40’ x 80’ factory building on land owned by the Valley Falls Company across the river in Lincoln (now part of Central Falls). The firm expanded its services to include leather belting (for driving machinery) and a wide range of supplies for cotton, woolen, and silk mills. By 1880 there were three divisions of a thriving operation. The belting works, capitalized at $7,000, employed four male operatives and produced $26,350 in finished goods. The reed works, capitalized at $2,500, employed four male operatives and produced $6,925 in finished goods. The harness works, capitalized at $27,400, employed 11 male and 7 female operatives and produced $20,330 in finished goods.

In 1883, Myron Fish & Company merged with another loom harness company (established by John Kendrick in 1846), to form the American Supply Company. In 1890, the firm purchased the land it had been leasing from the Valley Falls Company and expanded the physical plant with the construction of a perpendicular, 176’ x 40’ wing and a three-story brick power house off the rear of the original building, replacing an original, smaller ell. By 1891, American Supply Company was producing annually $400,000 worth of manufactured goods and employing 100 operatives.

Changing conditions in the New England textile economy, most notably southern competition and the devastation of the Great Depression, forced the closure of American Supply Company in 1961. The building remained vacant until Central Braid and Rug Company relocated there in 1963 and remained until 1991. By the mid-1990s, the sole tenant of the building was a street-level ice cream shop, the Scoop at the Falls.

The American Supply Company plant and its site have been targeted for riverfront redevelopment since at least the late 1990s. Toward that goal, a boat launch and a large dock adjacent to the building were constructed. The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council uses the site as the home base of its Samuel Slater canal boat and Blackstone Valley Explorer tours. Now owned by the City of Central Falls, the historic mill building is vacant and under consideration for adaptive reuse.

The National Register nomination for the American Supply Company was prepared by preservation consultant Ned Connors. RIHPHC’s Acting Executive Director Jeffrey Emidy commented, “In Rhode Island, we typically associate large, brick textile factory complexes with our industrial heritage. Smaller factories like the American Supply Company building played a pivotal role in producing the machinery that was required for those textile plants to function. This modest building is a rare survivor of an industrial supply house, and it is a promising building for redevelopment.”

In addition to honoring a property for its contribution to local, state, or national history, listing on the National Register provides additional benefits. It results in special consideration during the planning of Federal or federally assisted projects and makes properties eligible for Federal and Rhode Island tax benefits for historic rehabilitation projects. Owners of private property listed on the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose. As the state office for historic preservation, the Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is responsible for reviewing and submitting Rhode Island nominations to the National Register.

The Eclipse is Coming!

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
BVHS, North Gate
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865 

This image of the moon crossing in front of the sun was captured on Jan. 30, 2014, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observing an eclipse from its vantage point in space. Credits: NASA

On the evening of August 1, Francine Jackson, astronomer, will give a talk on the upcoming solar eclipse.

For the first time in almost a century, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible across a wide path across North America on August 21, 2017. We will be experiencing a partial eclipse in Rhode Island.  Learn all about it with Francine Jackson, NASA Solar System Ambassador, staff astronomer at Ladd Observatory, and Skyscrapers, Inc., public relations person. This event is free and all are welcome.


If it is a clear night, you could extend your astronomical evening by visiting Ladd Observatory at Brown University.  They are open to the public free of charge from 9:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings,  weather permitting.

BVHS’s Annual Tour of Cogswell Tower

6:30 pm, June 28, 2017

Cogswell Tower
Cogswell Tower. Photo by Dan Bethel

Bob Ferri will give a tour of Cogswell Tower. We will climb up behind the clock, and also visit the grotto beneath the tower. We will meet at the Jenks Park front entrance at 580 Broad Street, Central Falls, RI. 02863 at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 28.

This tour is free and all are welcome.  Please join us.


The Smith-Appleby House has an exhibit entitled A History of the Esmond Mills, 1909-1948: An interactive exhibit of mill memorabilia, featuring the extensive private collection of Sandra Achille.  The exhibit is open June 17th, 11:00 am-4:00 pm; June 21st, 5:00-8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, June 24, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Also,  check out the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park’s  free summer Ranger Walkabouts.  The following is from their calendar of events.

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Ranger Walkabout: A Landscape with a View – Mills, Canals, Railroads & Organizers.

Location: Monument Square, Blackstone, MA 01504.  Parking:  in the new Blackstone Greenway parking lot

Grab your best walking shoes and join us for a “Walk with a View” as we enjoy the summer evening and take a look at a landscape contorted to meet the needs of a growing community and a growing nation.  From the development of early mills to building a canal, then a railroad, to building a community, a hike along the just completed section of the Blackstone Greenway will reveal a lot about a growing America.

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Getting America Moving: Trains and Canals.

Location: 49 Central Street, across the street from St. John’s Episcopal Church, Millville, MA 01529 Parking:  in MA-DCR Blackstone Greenway parking lot on Central Street Millville, MA

A good evening walk will take us deep into the development of a regional transportation system.  Hidden deep in the woods along the Blackstone River, we’ll stroll along the top of the Millville Lock and see the connection between a canal tow path and the railroad tracks. We’ll also discover how a Bikeway becomes an outstanding preservation tool.

Wear your good hiking/walking shoes for we will be getting off the Bikeway to walk down to the river over woodland, often uneven, trail.







Technology, Industrialization and the Landscape

Blackstone Valley Historical Society Annual Meeting

May 21, 2017
1:30 p.m. Annual Meeting with Elections of Officers. 
2:00 p.m. Annual Christine Nowak Lecture

Gail Mohanty, PhD,  will give the annual Christine Nowak Memorial Lecture. Her topic will be Technology, Industrialization and the Landscape.

“Looking East from Denny’s Hill” by Ralph Earl, c. 1800. Oil on Canvas, Worcester Art Museum

Her talk will trace the changes from the late 18th century through the first half of the 20th century using a series of landscape paintings as evidence of changes to the environment.

The availability of land in the New World and its seemingly untamed character led the settlers to acquire land, clear it of trees, and create fields and farms. In this way, they attempted to duplicate what was familiar and prized in their homeland.

“The Starrucca Viaduct” by Jasper Cropsey, c. 1865. Oil on Canvas, Toledo Museum of Art

By the 18th century, these transplanted European residents continued to idealize the pastoral landscape, and artists depicted the results in paint and print.  By the end of the 18th century, a more diverse economy began to be developed, including some manufacturing and mining. By the first half of the 19th century the introduction of built elements to the environment were also incorporated into visual art.

Dr. Mohanty is a native Rhode Islander who returned to the state in 1990, working at Slater Mill Historic Site initially, and then turned to teaching in 2001. She is currently an Adjunct Faculty member in the History and Social Studies Department at Bryant University and Senior Lecturer, Liberal Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design.




Blackstone Valley History through Ephemera: From Dan Bethel’s Collection

2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
April 23, 2017
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
North Gate Downstairs
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

Don’t miss this exhibit!  It will be one of Dan’s largest.   See pictures, documents and other ephemera from the past.  All are welcome.  The exhibit is free; donations are gratefully accepted.  Some photos from the exhibit:

Picture of jockey: Lincoln Downs
The Cumberland Oval near Martin Street. Postcard of the audience at a baseball game.








Rt. 116
Mem:orial Day Ceremony at Wilbur Road Bridge (dedicated to Harry Speight) (BVHS in the background)


News Posts

Help needed for Ken Postle’s Cemetery Restoration Work:  With the spring fast approaching, Ken is in need of some new tools, gloves,and epoxy to repair the gravestones. We are asking for small donations of maybe $5 or $10. As you know,  we rarely ask for donations, but the Cemetery Fund  is low, so please consider donating.

Please send your tax deductible donation to BVHS, P.O Box 125, Lincoln R.I 02865 and mention cemetery recovery project. Thank you for being a part of this great work!

Ken has been nominated for a Historic Preservation Award by the Attleboro Historical Commission.  There will be a presentation at Attleboro City Hall on May 8 at 7 p.m.

Art ShowSaturday April 22, 11:00 am -5:00 pm
North Gate, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI  02865

Local artists James Voyer and his daughter Meg Voyer will display and have for sale fine art originals. Mediums include watercolor, oil, acrylics, and photography.

This is not a BVHS exhibit, but please come and enjoy the artwork.

Don’t miss Dan Bethel’s exhibit on April 23!  (See previous post).   It will be one of his largest and most interesting exhibits ever on the Blackstone Valley.

On March 19, Joseph Coduri gave a presentation at BVHS about Rhode Island train Stations through post cards from the early 20th century.  He also collects post cards with images of Rhode Island Trolleys.  Here is a postcard from his collection that is marked  “RR Trestle in Lincoln, RI”  The walking path through the Nature Conservancy Park on Wilbur Road is part of the old trolley line.

The Annual Meeting of the BVHS will be held from 1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. on May 21, 2017. It will be followed by the Christine Nowak Lecture at 2:15 p.m., which will be given by Gail Mohanty, Adjunct Professor of Bryant University, Technology and the Landscape.  Light Refreshments after the lecture.  Please stop by.

Blackstone Valley History through Ephemera-from Dan Bethel’s Collection

2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. 

April 23, 2017
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
North Gate Downstairs
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

A grand exhibit showcasing collector Dan Bethel’s newest finds,  including photos of the Manville Mill,  an early artist’s rendition of the Lincoln Mall, and ephemera and photos from Lincoln Downs.  Don’t miss this!