ZAP the Blackstone

2:00 p.m. August 14, 2022

Northgate, Blackstone Valley Historical Society (Upstairs)

Speaker: Raymond Kelley, Zap the Blackstone.

Fifty years ago, on September 9, 1972, 10,000 people spent a day cleaning up the Blackstone River, removing tons of trash, appliances, cars and even a school bus from its banks. It was called “Operation ZAP.” By 1972, the Blackstone, which had powered over 100 mills along its length from Worcester to Pawtucket Falls, was one of the most polluted rivers in America. The volunteer effort that day started the revival of the Blackstone River.

Raymond Kelley, whose grandfather was a leader in the original “Operation ZAP” effort, is coming to BVHS on August 14 to help kick off “ZAP 50,” the 50-year anniversary cleanup, with a talk about the original ZAP in 1972. Using images, a video and memories from “ZAPsters” recounting their experiences, he will show how so many helped save the Blackstone. If anyone would like to share their memories of that day, Kelley would love to hear them, either at this talk, or on the ZAP the Blackstone website. There are still many challenges facing the Blackstone, and we hope that many will volunteer for ZAP 50.

ZAP 50 will take place from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on August 27. Kelley hopes that it will be as big as the original ZAP in 1972. A valley-wide watershed cleanup is planned for that day, with cleanups, green-ups, and improvement projects across the entire Blackstone Valley. There is a project list on the website, with projects rated from easier to harder.  For more information, visit the Zap the Blackstone website.

Come to the talk on August 14 and hear about ZAP, one of the largest environmental cleanup events in the country and an important day in Blackstone Valley history.

Michael DiMucci “The Sensational 70’s” Concert

When: 3:00 p.m. June 12, 2022,

Where: Blackstone Valley Historical Society, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI 02865

Michael DiMucci, tenor and pianist,  will present a concert of songs and their stories from America’s past at the Blackstone Valley Historical Society. This concert is part of his Americana series. The program features well-known melodies from what he dubs, “The Sensational 70s!”

 Come celebrate with the music that defined the decade from country to pop to soul to singer-songwriter pieces and more.

Tickets are $15 each and are available at and will be sold at the door. This is a fundraiser for BVHS.

Slater Park: “A perfect union of art and nature”

Annual Meeting 1:30 pm. Blackstone Valley Historical Society, followed by the Christine Nowak Lecture on Slater Park and Looff Carousel by Donna Houle. The meeting and the talk will take place downstairs.

By Marie George

On Sunday May 15 at 2:00 PM, the Christine Nowak Lecture series will present Donna Houle of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.  Houle will give a talk on Slater Park entitled “A Visual Presentation of the History of Slater Park – A Perfect Union of Art and Nature.”

     In the late 1890s, the city of Pawtucket purchased the area around what was then known as the Daggett Farm.  Several years later, work began on this swampy and wooded area, transforming it into the oldest and largest park in Pawtucket.  The park is named after Samuel Slater, the famous industrialist who created America’s first textile mill.

    In the early 1900s, the initial work was begun to create paths, drives, ponds and bridges, making the previously unreachable areas of the park accessible to the walking and motoring public. The Daggett House was preserved and is one of the oldest buildings in the state, having been built around 1685.  Over the next decades, several buildings were added.

     In her capacity as a special projects manager for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Houle has amassed a wealth of knowledge on the history of Slater Park.  Over the years, she has collected postcards and pictures of the park, and has used them to create her presentation portraying the art and nature that are combined in its history. Among the many features of the Park about which Houle will speak are the carousel, zoo, bandstand and boathouse (which houses the R.I. Watercolor Society), as well as the Marconi and Friendship Gardens, and Daggett House. She will also discuss the seasonal programs such as summer Arts in the Park, October’s Pumpkins in the Park, and December’s Winter Wonderland.

     Of particular interest is the Slater Park Looff Carousel, built in New York in 1895 by famed carousel designer Charles I.D. Looff, who also created more than 40 carousels around the country, including at New York’s Coney Island. It was moved to Pawtucket in 1910. At one time, it was in peril of being sold for parts until grassroots efforts rescued the carousel, known locally as “The Darby Horses.”

  More recently, $2.5 million in restoration has the carousel up and running and open to the public.

      In 2018, the National Carousel Association held its annual convention in Rhode Island and awarded the Slater Park Looff Carousel “Historic Carousel of the Year.”

     Houle is currently working on a documentary on Looff and the history and restoration of the carousel, which is over 125 years old. 

     Houle encourages all who attend her lecture to bring photos or memorabilia they may wish to share during a question-and-answer period following the presentation. She will also display Slater Park keepsake items, which are for sale, including Christmas ornaments, coasters and trivets.

For all who attended Theodore Coleman’s talk on Snowtown, he has sent additional information. We will put it in a better location soon but here are two interesting articles:

Joseph W. Sullivan’s paper on the Olney’s Lane Riot, in the Summer 2007 Edition of the RI Historical Society’s Rhode Island History publication. Copies of it and other editions of RI History are available on the RIHS Website.

Paper written by John Crouch, which provides the news/noise background surrounding both the Hardscrabble and the Snowtown attacks.


2:00 p.m. April 24, Blackstone Valley Historical Society, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI. Free lecture. All are welcome.

Theodore Coleman has sent us some additional literature for those who are interested.

Joseph W. Sullivan’s paper on the Olney’s Lane Riot, in the Summer 2007 Edition of the RI Historical Society’s Rhode Island History publication. Copies of it and other editions of RI History are available on the RIHS Website.

Paper written by John Crouch, which provides the news/noise background surrounding both the Hardscrabble and the Snowtown attacks.

On April 24 at 2:00 p.m,, Theodore Coleman will give a presentation at BVHS about the 19th century community of Snowtown in Providence, and the race riots that took place there in 1831.

Snowtown was a small, mixed race neighborhood of the early 19th century, initially developing around the area of Smith Street, and eventually expanding to encompass the entire hill where the State House is located, down to the Providence Place Mall.

Snowtown was made up of homes of poor black and white laborers, small businesses, saloons and boarding houses, and the population fluctuated with transients and migrants.  In 1831, a racially-motivated riot broke out, triggered by a saloon brawl, and the homes of black residents were targeted.  Over the course of four days, eighteen buildings in Snowtown and nearby Olney’s Lane were damaged or destroyed. Eventually, the state militia fired to disperse the mob, killing four people. According to Wikipedia, after the Snowtown riot, Providence voters approved a charter for a city government with a police force. Although the buildings in Snowtown were soon replaced, by the end of the 19th century, the neighborhood was lost to railroad construction and other development, including the building of the R. I. State House

Coleman writes that the original location of Snowtown, close to Smith Street, only appears as background in photographs of other subjects. The 1880’s photograph on this post is a detail of a photograph called “The Cove from the Top of City Hall” in the Pastore Collection at Providence College. It is one of the few images of Snowtown. It shows a mix of small houses and larger tenements, with the Zion Church building prominent on the west side of Gaspee Street.    

Theodore Coleman is a civil engineer by education and occupation. As a child, he pulled a copy of John Cady’s The Civic and Architectural Development of Providence from his father’s library. The evolving geography of Providence has been a passionate interest ever since.

He is the author of The 1824 Providence House Directory, and Camp Hill, Hardscrabble, and Addison’s Hollow in Early Nineteenth Century Providence, and he is currently working on a guide to the John Worrall Providence Theatre Curtain.

He has been a member of the Center for Reconciliation’s Snowtown Research Team for the past two years. The team includes historians, archeologists, and other historical researchers. The objective of the Research Team has been to expand the story of Snowtown, beyond being the site of a nineteenth century race riot, and to provide a fuller picture of who lived there, and what it was like.

An Afternoon of Maritime Misfortune in the Ocean State

2:00 pm, March 20, 2022, Blackstone Valley Historical Society, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI

Presentation by Charlotte Taylor, archaeologist, RIHPHC

RI Shipwrecks
RI Shipwrecks by Charlotte Taylor

Rhode Island has more shipwrecks per square mile than any other state. The south coast and Block Island are the resting places of many shipwrecks, with many more located in Narragansett Bay.

     The first recorded shipwreck in Rhode Island took place in the  17th century, immediately after the arrival of the Europeans, with the grounding of a Dutch trading vessel. Over the centuries, thousands more vessels came to grief in  these waters. Bad weather, human error, equipment failure, and military action accounted for many of these tragic events. Many shipwrecks from the 19th century into the 20th were captured in dramatic paintings, drawings, and later photographs. Archaeologist Charlotte Taylor, author of the 2017 book, “RI Shipwrecks,” (Arcadia Publishing), will speak at the BVHS March 20. She will showcase some of the best pictures and stories from a long litany of maritime misfortunes here in the Ocean State.

     Taylor came to Rhode Island for graduate school in archaeology at Brown University and never left.  She is now an archaeologist at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, where she maintains an inventory of the location and condition of the state’s shipwrecks. She has been part of the archaeological survey projects on several of the shipwrecks included in her book.


Searching for history with Jim Bailey

2:00 pm, February 13
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
1839 Old Louisquisett Pike
Lincoln, RI 02865

We ask all our guests to wear masks. Thank you.

On Sunday, February 13, historian Jim Bailey will offer a presentation at BVHS on the voyage and great escape of pirate captain Henry Every. An avid “detectorist” for over 35 years, Bailey’s recovery of a late 17th-century Arabian coin in Middletown, RI, led to years of research that ultimately connected the coin to plunder taken by Every and his men of the pirate ship Fancy. Publication of his work in a research journal of the American Numismatic Society in 2017 shed new light on the first worldwide manhunt in history for one of the most notorious criminals of the 17th century.

    Every captured one of the  richest ships in the history of piracy – a large Mughal vessel off the coast of India in 1695. He later returned to England and vanished from the pages of history, eventually earning titles befitting his infamy – The Pirate King, The Successful Pirate, and The Arch-Pirate.

     Bailey’s research into the coin he discovered and other 17th-century Arabian coins found in southern New England was covered by the Associated Press in April 2021 and made worldwide headlines as an opening of the world’s oldest cold case. From the recovery of an obscure silver coin no bigger than a thumbnail, a secret from well over three centuries ago was finally revealed: Before returning to England, Every traveled to the American colonies in the guise of a slave trader and spent time hiding out in Newport, RI.  When he sailed for England, he left behind nearly 40 of his men seeking new lives of comfortable obscurity in the American colonies.

About Jim Bailey

Bailey is a lifelong Rhode Islander from Warwick. He is happily married and has one daughter, one son, two dogs, and too much to do. His discoveries into the history of Every’s infamous pirating career is under development for possible book and film projects. 

World War II Exhibit

World War II Helmets
World War II Helmets from the collection of Kevin Heskin

World War II:  Collection of Kevin Heskin 2-4 pm, November 13

Northgate, Blackstone Valley Historical Society, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
The exhibit is free. All are welcome.

On November 13, Kevin Heskin will take us back to the days of World War II, bringing examples of his extensive collection.  Having spent over a decade in search of World War II memorabilia from all over the world, he has uniforms belonging to armies from all major countries, including Spanish, German, Japanese, Italian, and American soldiers. He also has a large collection of weapons: swords, rifles and bayonets, plus gas masks, helmets, map cases, first-aid kits, medals, and many other items from this period.

Join us, and relive the second “war to end all wars” as seen through artifacts from many countries.

 All guests are asked to wear masks while enjoying this exhibit.

Exhibit: Dan Bethel Collection on Oct 23

Sketch of Moffat Mill Collection of Dan Bethel

1-4 p.m. October 23, 2021, Blackstone Valley Historical Society, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI 02865.

Dan Bethel, who has amazed us with his collections on historic Lime Rock, and on Lincoln’s vanished dairy farms, will be having a new exhibit on October 23.

He has created two exhibits from his collection. The first exhibit will feature Moffett Mill, and the second, items from Lincoln’s 1971 Centennial.

Lincoln Centennial: This exhibit will showcase 90 newspaper articles on the many events from start to finish of the Lincoln Centennial in 1971. It will also include 20 snapshots of the River Road parade and other collectible items from the day.   

Moffett Mill: The other portion of the exhibit will showcase a large and comprehensive look at the Moffett Mill and the Moffett family.

    Several large and small display cases will  showcase everything from a blacksmith’s ledger to daily work journals to pictures of the mill as well as personal  items like books and family pictures, even two photos of the family car!

Great Road Day Sept 25

The Blackstone Valley Historical Society will be open 1-4 pm on Saturday, September 25 as part of Great Road Day.

Northgate Toll House (1807) 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI.  Open 1:00 pm-4:00 pm. The home of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society. This two story building was originally built as a tollgate and residence for the toll collector for the Louisquisset Turnpike. The Pike, faster and straighter than Great Road, was the highway of its time and was built to expedite the shipment of lime to Providence. In later years, the building served as Lime Rock Grange #22, a gathering place for local farm families. It was sold to the BVHS in 1971 for the sum of one dollar.

Exhibit at Northgate:  The Papers of Arnold Jenckes. Jenckes (1797-1873) was a farmer and a cooper, who made lime casks for the Harris Lime Company. His farm was near the present-day Lincoln Mall.  The papers include bills, receipts, paid IOU’s, a running tab at a general store, his commission as captain of the militia, and lists of the members of his company. These bits and pieces, that may have come from his desk drawers, allow us to see a little bit of an everyday farmer’s life in the 19th century. 

Lincoln became a town only a few years before Arnold Jenckes died.  He was a son of Rufus Jenckes, who lived on Jenckes Hill Road, and a descendant of Joseph Jenckes, the founder of Pawtucket.  In 2017 Eleonore Costa donated this collection of his papers that she and Margaret Ott discovered at Lampercock Spring Farm on Wilbur Road in the 1960s.

We will be displaying the March 10, 1871 issue of the Central Falls Weekly Visitor, which was published from 1869-1891, showing the entry about the “Smithfield act” where the announcement that “the act dividing the Town of Smithfield into three towns under the names of Smithfield, LIncoln, and Slater, and annexing a portion of the town to Woonsocket was passed unanimously” by the state senate.

Arnold’s Lonsdale Bakery (1874) 1873 Louisquisset PikeLincoln, RI Open 1:00 pm-4:00 pmThis one-story, one-room bakery was relocated and rebuilt in its current spot adjacent to Northgate. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Jenks Arnold began a Lincoln business in 1874 that lasted nearly 100 years. The bakery contains a collection of antique baking equipment and memorabilia relating to Arnold’s Lonsdale Bakery

Great Road Day 2021

When the Town of Lincoln separated from Smithfield in 1871, Great Road was already 200 years old, having been built in 1683.  What is remarkable is that some of the original buildings still remain where they were during those earliest years when Great Road was the one of the country’s first highways.  It ran between Providence and Mendon, Mass.  Today, there are a number of 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings as well along this historic roadway that have been preserved and are open to the public.  

On Saturday, September 25th, the annual Great Road Day welcomes visitors for free admission to 10 of these sites.  Those sites include: Arnold House (c.1693), Saylesville Friends Meetinghouse (c.1703), Mount Moriah Lodge (c.1804), Northgate-Blackstone Valley Historical Society (c.1807), Arnold Bakery (c.1874), the Valentine Whitman House (c.1694) as well as Hearthside (c.1810), Moffett Mill (c.1812), Hannaway Blacksmith Shop (c.1880), and the Pullen’s Corner Schoolhouse (c.1850).  The buildings represent an impressive sampling of what was located here in the community during the time when the town was formed.  The event runs from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

As part of the Town’s commemoration of its 150th anniversary, two shuttle buses are being provided to make visits to all the sites easier, with continuous runs between each site and parking areas.  Parking is available at lots at Gateway Park, Chase Farm Park, Hearthside, and at Mt. Moriah Lodge.  Roadside parking at Whitman House and Northgate. To further encourage visits to each site, a Passport will be given to each, which will get stamped at the individual sites, and if all 10 blocks are stamped to show that the visit was made, then a gift will be given.
At the Valentine Whitman Jr. House, stop in to learn how Preserve Rhode Island, who recently acquired this stone-ender house from the town, plans to restore the building and give it new life.  The house was the site of the first town meeting of the town of Smithfield.  

The Mt. Moriah Lodge is one of the earliest Masonic lodges in the state and where  the most notable early town residents were members.  The Lodge opens once a year to the public which is on Great Road Day.  The first structure on this site was a one-room schoolhouse, but in 1804 local masons established a new lodge here.  Today, meetings are still held by the lodge regularly. 

At the opposite end of Great Road’s Historic District is a rare journey back to the 17th and early 18th century that is featured at Historic New England’s Arnold House, a unique stone-ender house with a massive chimney end wall, as well as the Saylesville Friends Meetinghouse, one of the oldest continuously-used Quaker meetinghouses in New England.  Both properties feature the stories of the town’s earliest settlers, the Arnolds, and other notable family names of Lincoln’s early residents.

At the center of it all is the Great Road Heritage Campus at Chase Farm Park, where several of the historic buildings are located.  At the entrance to the Park is the Hannaway Blacksmith Shop, where visitors can watch the blacksmith shape hot metal into useful implements.  Next door at the recently relocated one-room schoolhouse, Pullen’s Corner but also known as the “Hot Potato Schoolhouse”, visitors can learn what lessons area farm children of all ages were learning here together, what recess was like, and even what the original outhouse might have looked like.  

Board the shuttle bus to take a tour of the Moffett Mill, accessible only by the shuttle, to this rare relic that appears to be frozen in time, with original tools and belt system that operated the machinery in this wooden machine shop still in place.  This mill did custom work for area businesses and farms, from making parts, to wagons and buggies, to laces for shoes and corsets around the period of the Civil War.  

What were the fashions of the day?  Find out with a trip to Hearthside and see examples of dresses, underclothes, and a man’s uniform from the Civil War.  Docents in period attire welcome you to explore through three floors of this stone mansion.  Besides the indoor exhibits, a small Civil War encampment will be set up on the grounds, and fall treats will be for sale of home-made apple crisp, popcorn, and apple cider.  A selection of books about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln are available for purchase in Hearthside’s Gift Shop too.