The Rumstick Point marker as it appeared in 2008.
A sedentary stone gathers some paint.
Corner of Rumstick and Chachapacassett Roads, Barrington
A large stone, part of a wall at the corner of Rumstick and Chachapacassett Roads, is adorned with a crude depiction of a pair of Indians kneeling beside a barrel, out of which jut two sticks. At center top are the words “Rumstick Point.” This curious artifact dates from around 1880 when Abbie Fessenden, who lived at nearby 153 Rumstick Road, painted it.
Chachapacassett Road delineates the northern edge of Rumstick Neck. Chachapacasset was the Wampanoag name for the area that includes Adams and Rumstick Points. It means, according to Thomas W. Bicknell in his History of Barrington (1898), “At or near the great widening.” Called Little Neck by early white settlers, it was first referred to as “Rumstick” in land records in 1698.
So where did the name Rumstick come from, and how does the image on the rock relate? Bicknell offered several different possibilities on the origin of the name.
First, he reported that a Brown University professor, Adrian Scott, had suggested a Norse, or otherwise northern European, origin:
Rumstokkr in old Norse was a bed-post, but in Provincial English there was a word, Ruinstich, adapted from the German language, or possibly the Dutch, and meaning the same as Mawe, i.e., an old-fashioned game of cards. The point might have had a famous game upon it by the first crew of sailors that bethought themselves to name it.
Bicknell noted that Providence bookseller and prolific amateur historian Sidney S. Rider also favored a Norse explanation, as did Norse scholars (no surprise), while he (Bicknell) had an entirely different idea:
But I should think this far more likely than either of the above, that the long slender point suggested the stick with which ancient sea captains stirred their toddy (differing from the common sailor’s grog, inasmuch as it was made of rum sweetened, and so needed stirring): hence English RUM-STICK.
Why Bicknell likes this explanation so much is hard to understand, as the neck of land in no way resembles a stick. But no matter. Having disposed of the “scholarly” theories, Bicknell went on to relate a pair of stories handed down over the generations:
Tradition tries to solve the mystery of so curious and equivocal a title, by saying that a barrel of rum floated high and dry upon the beach, and the treasure was considered of such great value that the event was celebrated by so free a distribution of the contents that the term high and dry could be truthfully applied for several days to all the dwellers thereabouts.
Another story goes, that while the Indians were removing the aforesaid treasure of “strong water,” for which they had a most wonderful liking, the hoops broke, the barrel burst, and the spirits of rum sank into the sand, while the Indians’ spirits sank within them, and in sad disappointment over their loss, they lifted up the mournful lamentation: “Rum stick here! Rum stick here!“
This last, however little sense it makes, and notwithstanding how insulting it is to the character and intelligence of the native Wampanoag Indians, would seem to be the one that caught the imagination of Abbie Fessenden.
It should be noted as entirely coincidental that Barrington’s shores and inlets, possibly including Rumstick Point, played a part as landing places for rum runners during Prohibition.
The Rumstick Point marker has been repainted over the years by various public spirited individuals, so that we may continue to enjoy and wonder about it today.
The marker in 2014, in need of a touch-up.
While you’re on the Point, take a walk back along Chachapacassett Road, only a few dozen yards from the Rumstick Point marker, to find a boulder with a plaque marking the site of a spring that was known to be important to the Wampanoag Indians living in the area. The plaque calls it Massasoit Spring, after the Wampanoag sachem, but it’s probably the same “noted spring called Scamscammuck Spring” located “at the upper end of this neck” mentioned in Bicknell’s History of Barrington. A similar plaque marking the location of another “Massasoit Spring” can be found across the Warren River on Warren’s Baker Street.
Massasoit Spring plaque, as photographed in 2002 (left) and 2008 (right).
As you drive back out along Rumstick Road, keep an eye out for number 66. Built in 1888, it’s known as the Fred F. Church House. But it was also the childhood home of the late monologist Spalding Gray. Gray moved from Rhode Island in the mid-1960s, and some of his earliest performance pieces were based on his memories growing up in the Ocean State. Known collectively as “Three Places In Rhode Island,” they include “Sakonnet Point” (1975), “Rumstick Road” (1977), “Nayatt School” (1978), and “Point Judith (an epilog)” (1979).
Fred F. Church House in 2006.
Our website architect, Dan Hillman, also lived on Rumstick Road from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, and lost a series of pet cats on that street. Imagine his surprise upon reading Gray’s memoirs of having also lost multiple cats to the crushing tires of speeding vehicles in the ’40s and ’50s. The Grays are long gone, but the house is still a private residence, so please be content to gaze in pleasure as you cruise past. And please be mindful of any perambulating cats.
If that isn’t enough to fulfill your local celebrity and morbidity quotients, double back to Nyatt Road and slink by the house at 1 Jones Circle. It’s the former home of Christopher Hightower, who, in 1991, brutally murdered the Brendel family—Ernest, Alice, and eight-year-old Emily. The story was featured in an episode of A'E’s City Confidential in 2005. Again, private residence; don’t be a douche.
There are a couple of notable architectural anomalies to be seen on the Point. One is the stone water tower at 3 Stone Tower Lane, looking somewhat out of place in an otherwise suburban (if upscale) neighborhood. The adjacent house is a renovated barn. Both are a reminder of Howard P. Cornell’s “massive summer estate,” Stone Tower Farm, where he resided circa 1875 to the 1920s. The farmhouse burned down in the early 1900s, but another barn and the chicken coop, both renovated into dwellings in the 1950s, still stand at 6 and 14 Stone Tower Lane, respectively.
Stone Tower (left), windmill-ish tower (right), both photographed in 2010.
Another is the tower at the corner of Chachapacasset Road and Lorraine Street. This one looks like a windmill without sails, and given the area’s former rural nature, perhaps a windmill is what it once was.
Time required: Assuming an average lifespan of 78.7 years, it will only take approximately 1/41,392,186th of your life.
Hours: You may gaze upon the Rumstick Point marker twenty-four hours a day, but we wouldn’t advise lingering suspiciously.
Finding it: Coming from Providence, take exit 7 from Route 195. Merge onto Route 114 South (Wampanoag Trail) toward Barrington. After about 6.9 miles turn right onto Rumstick Road. Go another 8/10ths of a mile and turn right on Chachapacassett Road. The next left is Rumstick Road again. The marker is in the stone wall on the inside corner of the turn.
* * * * *
Return to Quahog.org |
Auton House, from Recollections of Auton House (1881).
by John Williams Haley
This article comes from an Old Stone Bank educational pamphlet published by the Providence Institution for Savings on March 2, 1931. Transcribed by Christopher Martin.
* * * * *
AUTON HOUSE… who would recognize it now? In fact, how many have ever even heard the name? It is not in the property files of Providence. Officially it does not exist. But the initiated, familiar with its origin, revel in their intimate knowledge of its full significance. For them the name “Auton” conveys up the picture of a charming mid-nineteenth century Providence family, one which was in some respects similar to the Alcott family of Concord, Massachusetts.
Auton House stands on Westminster Street at the corner of Walnut Street, nearly opposite the Modern Theatre. At this writing it serves as the home of several business concerns, its first floor given over to stores, its second and third floors to offices and workshops. Someday it will probably be torn down, destroyed to make room for a modern office building; but now, in spite of its constant usage for more than 120 years, its brick walls seem as sturdy as the day they were raised.
And this was the house in which twelve little Autons were born, in which eleven grew up, and of which one paused, in his later years, to reminisce. He called his reminiscences Recollections of Auton House, issuing them in the form of a small book and illustrating it himself. In it he tells of countless little details in the child life of the Auton family, describing many a piece of mischief—the romps and games in the nursery, the thoughtless persecution of poor Deborah, the tyranny of T. Auton in the matter of jonnycake—and portraying character after character, from Rosannah to Mother Auton, with tender humor and intimate understanding.
But so far we have been talking ambiguously; so far you know nothing about Auton house except its location. Let us then unfold the rest of the mystery without more ado.
The Auton family was none other than the Hoppin family of Rhode Island. And the author of the reminiscences was Augustus Hoppin, the ninth in line of the twelve children. Perhaps desiring the opportunity to expand more liberally upon the theme that engrossed him in his writing, he hid his family behind the pseudonym “Auton.” “Auton”, it seems, is a Greek word meaning “self” and therefore was a very apt choice. For distinction among the eleven living children, Augustus Hoppin then prefixed the correct first initial of each individual before his fictitious surname. Thus, in order of arrival in the world, they were
J. Auton………. William Jones Hoppin
A. Auton (girl)…… Anna Jones Hoppin
T. Auton……. Thomas Frederick Hoppin
S. Auton (girl)…….. Sarah D. Hoppin
F. Auton………. Francis Edwin Hoppin
H. Auton…………… Hamilton Hoppin
E. Auton (girl)….. Eliza Jones Hoppin
W. Auton……… Dr. Washington Hoppin
A. Auton…………… Augustus Hoppin
H. Auton (girl)… Harriet Jones Hoppin
C. Auton………. Dr. Courtland Hoppin
The family moved into Auton House in 1815, although it had been built some eight years earlier, and continued to occupy it until 1874, the year of Mother Auton’s death. The father of the family was Thomas Coles Hoppin who, with his brother Benjamin, engaged in business as a merchant, dealing in such commodities as dye-stuffs, drugs, and Chinaware and importing many goods from the West Indies and China. Both men became influential and highly respected citizens of the community. From the various bits of description Augustus Hoppin gives us, we can picture his father as an individual of unusual charm. The former writes that if ever a father was loved by his children Father Auton was, their greatest delight arising in being compared with him whether in matter of virtue, feature, or eccentricity. He would often thrill them when they were quite small by swinging them in a circle until they were literally flying through the air, like the partner of a spinning, dance performer. Every morning, early, it was he who would take a basket on his arm and set out for the heart of the town to do the daily marketing. On each trip one of the elder boys would be taken along to help in bringing home the purchases, and it was not unusual for Father Anton, after buying a live gobbler in the stalls, to give it to his son to carry. This the young man would have to do, regardless of his attire and of the affront to his vanity if he chanced to meet any friends (particularly those of the opposite sex) on the way. Nevertheless, despite the possibility of being ordered to carry an obstreperous turkey home, the chance to accompany Father Auton on his morning expeditions was considered a privileged one and was valued accordingly.
Not all of Father Auton’s shopping was done in the market-place, however, for many farmers would come into the town and cry their products through the streets from house to house. When a huckster with a wagon load of berries came up Westminster Street, Father Auton would stop him, sample his goods, and then, if they proved satisfactory, buy five or six quarts.
Mother Auton was the daughter of Governor William Jones of Rhode Island, and one of the best mothers imaginable, catering to her large brood with wisdom and love. Her ministrations extended outside of her family as well, for her sympathy and intelligent advice was sought by many a distressed female, whether black or white. She survived Father Auton by about twenty-four years, and it is of her in this latter period of her life that Augustus Hoppin gives us an especially fine picture.
“Mother Auton never would sit at a desk,” he writes. “Neither ‘secretary’ nor ‘davenport’ suited her purpose. The little gifts presented to her from time to time, and admirably adapted to write at were always gratefully accepted, but never used. She took her writing materials on her broad motherly lap, pushed her cap-strings from her face, adjusted her gold spectacles over her ample nose, dipped her pen daintily in the ink (just enough to fill it without blotting), and away it ran so merrily and easily over the paper that she would be on her fourth page before we children, who were seated around her, had half gotten through sucking our oranges…
“There she sat in her chair every Sunday morning for over forty years, writing the weekly epistle, with bended head and benign expression, while the wood fire hissed and sputtered, and the old canary sang in the sunlight.”
We have already mentioned Deborah, the long-suffering maid. She was the break-water against which the tireless waves of the young Autons’ energy buffeted endlessly. She slept in the nursery with the children, being allotted a thin strip along the edge of the larger bed, but she was only allowed to sleep after she had brushed the bed clean of the crumbs which fell from the children’s final rations of jonnycake and had supplied all round with a last drink of water. Even then, with the first light of day, she was unmercifully pushed out of bed by several pairs of small feet braced against her back. Yet, though slowly worn to a shadow, she never complained of her lot, and faithfully ministered to all the childish wants, from the youngest to the oldest, doctoring colds, combing hair, answering questions, drying tears, and adjusting sashes and ties.
Far different was she from Rosannah, the colored mistress of the kitchen. The latter was almost regal in her bearing, seldom smiling yet warm-hearted for all of that. She would dole out slices of bread to the small army of young ones that daily invaded her sanctuary, and she alone knew just what pinch of salt or dash of pepper was needed to make each dish exactly suited to the fastidious taste of Father Auton. But like many of the old-time cooks she could not endure the modern types of cooking equipment, and when coal stoves and ovens came into vogue, she resigned her culinary throne.
What became of the many young Autons who filled the old house with so much noise and merriment? What of those urchins who deliberately caught colds in order to stay home from school, who climbed all over poor Deborah, who played house in the nursery, who set out their shoes (instead of stockings) to be filled with candy and trinkets on Christmas Eve?
Well, the eldest, William Hoppin Jones [sic], turned to law and established a considerable practice in New York, later entering the diplomatic service and going to London. The next among the boys, Thomas Frederick, became a distinguished artist, his notable works being the chancel windows depicting the evangelists in Trinity Church, New York, and his bronze statue of a dog, now in Roger Williams Park. Others, among the boys, became well-known physicians and architects, while the girls attained social prominence, one marrying Elisha Dyer, Governor of Rhode Island in 1857.
But last, and especially, we must speak of Augustus Hoppin, the author of the “re-collections.” He, too, was a noted artist, famous as an illustrator. It was he who did the illustrations for the original edition of Holmes’ Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. He wrote a good many books, but of them all none is more delightful, more thoroughly charming than Recollections of Auton House, a pen portrait of a 19th century Rhode Island family.
Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.
* * * * *
John Williams Haley (1897-1963), former vice president of the Narragansett Brewing Company, was best known for his weekly radio program, “The Rhode Island Historian,” which ran from 1927 to about 1953 on WJAR. Several hundred of his radio scripts were published in pamphlet form by the Providence Institute for Savings (“The Old Stone Bank”), and many were later reprinted in the four-volume Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island.
* * * * *
Most of the major players in this story are buried in Swan Point Cemetery.
Left, Augustus Hoppin, from a 1925 Rhode Island Independence Day program. Right, his grave at Swan Point Cemetery.
- Governor William Jones, (1753-1822), father of Harriet D. (Jones) Hoppin (“Mother Auton”).
- Benjamin Hoppin, (1777-1865), brother of Thomas Coles Auton.
- Thomas Coles Hoppin, (1785-1850), “Father Auton.”
- Harriet D. (Jones) Hoppin, (1792-1874), “Mother Auton,” daughter of Governor William Jones, wife of Thomas Coles Hoppin.
- William Jones Hoppin, (1813-’95), “J. Auton.”
- Anna Jones (Hoppin) Dyer, (1814-’84), “A. Auton,” wife of Governor Elisha Dyer.
- Thomas Frederick Hoppin, (1816-’73), “T. Auton.”
- Sarah Dunn (Hoppin) Chapin, (1818-’96), “S. Auton.”
- Francis Edwin Hoppin, (1819-’68), “F. Auton.”
- Hamilton and Eliza Jones Hoppin (“H. Auton” and “E. Auton,” respectively), may be exceptions to the “buried in Swan Point” rule. Neither are listed in the Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Database. More on Hamilton below.
- Harriet Jones Hoppin, (1825-1828). This is the child that didn’t survive to adulthood. Her gravestone lists her age as two years, six months.
- Dr. Washington Hoppin, (1827-1867), “W. Auton.”
- Augustus Hoppin, (1828-’96), “A. Auton.”
- Harriet Jones Hoppin, (1830-1909), “H. Auton.”
- Dr. Courtland Hoppin, (1834-’76), “C. Auton.”
- Governor Elisha Dyer, (1811-’90), husband of Anna Jones Hoppin.
Hamilton Hoppin, (1821-1885), left Rhode Island to pursue business interests in New York. There, he married Louisa Howland, daughter of Samuel Shaw Howland, a prosperous merchant. In the 1850s, portions of the extended Howland family began summering in Newport, and in 1855 Hamilton Hoppin purchased property in Middletown. By summer 1857 a house was ready for occupancy. The house was featured, under the name Inn at Shadow Lawn, in the 2002 PBS documentary Ghosts and Vampire Legends of Rhode Island. Today it’s known as the Inn at Villalon.
Auton House as it appeared circa 1918, quarters of the Providence Wall Paper House. From Old Providence, printed for The Merchants National Bank of Providence in 1918.
An earlier account of Auton House, from Old Providence, printed for The Merchants National Bank of Providence in 1918, offered these details:
It requires a considerable stretch of the imagination, when the stranger to-day views the Auton House at the upper corner of Westminster and Walnut Streets, to place it in the midst of spacious grounds. It is now in the heart of the commercial district, and is the home of the Providence Wall Paper Company. “It was built,” according to information given by Mr. William W. Chapin, “in 1807 by Isaac Greenwood, who removed to Boston in 1810, first advertising his house for sale, and saying in the advertisement that it had been built three years before. The house was bought by Benjamin Hoppin, brother of Thomas C.; and in 1815 Benjamin conveyed it to Thomas C. The family occupied it until the death of Mrs. Hoppin in 1874. The interior of the house has been changed beyond recognition, except that in the shop of the Providence Wall Paper Company there remains the original fan-light over what were old-fashioned folding doors—not sliding doors—separating the two parlors when desired.”
The dog statue by Thomas F. Hoppin is known as “The Sentinel.” He designed it and had it cast by Gorham Manufacturing in 1851. It is variously credited with being either “the first bronze statue cast in America,” “the first bronze statue cast in Rhode Island,” or “the first bronze dog statue cast in America.” It was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London during the Great Exhibition of 1851, and won a gold medal from the New York Academy of Design.
“The Sentinel” in 1958, with a young rider astride.
“The Sentinel” depicts Black Prince, a mastiff owned by the Jenkins family who lived in the 1798 John Innis Clark House at 383 Benefit Street. On November 20, 1849, a fire broke out in the house and Black Prince barked frantically to alert the family. Some accounts say he broke his chain, and that is why a short length of chain dangles from the statue’s studded collar. Despite his efforts only two family members survived—Moses, 15, and Anna, 17. Anna later married Thomas Hoppin, and he built an Italianate villa (which still stands) on the ruins of the Clark mansion. “The Sentinel” stood watch over their front lawn for several decades.
In 1896 the Hoppin family gave “The Sentinel” to the City of Providence. It was installed in the Japanese garden at Roger Williams Park, and later moved to the zoo grounds. Generations of children have climbed on his back to pose for a photograph.
Westminster and Walnut, the former site of Auton House, as seen in January 2014.
Auton House was replaced, as Haley predicted, by a multi-story office building—the non-descript 1971 addition to the 1917 New England Telephone and Telegraph Building. As of 2014 it’s occupied by Verizon.
* * * * *
Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.
Map of Camp Yawgoog from 1967.
Portions of the movie Moonrise Kingdom, the events of which took place in September 1965, were filmed here. The style of this map is very similar to the style of the map used in the movie.
* * * * *
Return to Quahog.org |
by Mildred Harris
[With an obvious debt to Flanders and Swann, "Song of Patriotic Prejudice," from At The Drop of Another Hat.]
Rhode Island? Rhode Island? Rhode Island is where?
Look in New England; it should be right there.
It’s neighbors are huge and prosperous as well.
But Rhode Island has chickens and it’s easier to spell.
Rhode Island is tiny; Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!
It’s proud to be known as State Number Thirteen
From 1790 and all in between.
It flies a State Flag of blue, gold and white.
With “Hope” as its motto, it’s future looks bright.
Rhode Island is tiny; Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!
You can pedal across from the East to the West.
Or walk North to South, whichever is best.
The Ocean State’s beaches draw tourists in droves,
Water sports, sunning and fishing in coves.
Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!
Rhode Island is pretty; it’s summers are nice.
Sometimes in winter it’s covered in ice.
The chickens are red and delicious to eat.
And if you like quahogs, you’re in for a treat.
Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the littlest State of them all!
You’ve heard about Newport and nothing much more?
There’s Providence—thrice!—and a whole lot of shore.
Central Falls, Cranston, Woonsocket are three,
Warwick, Pawtucket—and a red maple tree.
Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island’s the State that I like best of all!
Mildred Harris describes herself as a “foreign* admirer of The Littlest State of Them All,” (*as in ‘from one of the other (larger) States’).”
* * * * *
Return to Quahog.org |
New digs at Antonelli’s, November 2013.
Big wings, big thighs, big breasts, oh my!
Antonelli’s Poultry Company, 62 De Pasquale Avenue, Providence
Nothing calls attention to your business better than a freakishly large fiberglass animal.
This fantastic fowl originally graced the sidewalk in front of Sollitto’s Liquor Mart at 905 Narragansett Boulevard beginning around 1969, when, at the suggestion of his brother, Domenic Sollitto bought it at an auction for $200.
It was stolen at least twice, once in the early 1970s by a Brown University fraternity that employed a pickup truck to make off with the bird, and once in the late 1990s by less-resourceful Johnson & Wales students who tried to drag it away on foot. The Brown students reportedly got caught because a postman saw them muscling the ungainly 150-pound cock into their dorm, and reported the sighting to Sollitto. The safe return of the rooster was brokered by the dean of students a few weeks later. Supposedly a case of bourbon was suggested as ransom, but whether that was the dean’s idea or the students’, we don’t know. The J&W kids didn’t do nearly as well. They were spotted by patrons of a nearby bar who gave chase as the students humped the statue down Indiana Avenue. Thinking only of their own interests, the kids dropped the chicken, leaving a minor crack in its skin. As a result of these shenanigans, the bird was subsequently brought inside the store each night to remove the temptation to larceny.
Sollitto’s flag-waving message, August 2003.
The rooster became a booster for belligerent American patriotism sometime after 911, with the painted admonition, “USA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.” Prior to that, it bore the harmlessly capitalistic and far less jingoistic “SPIRITS LOW, SEE SOLLITTO.”
The rooster was featured in a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon on May 30, 2006, which poked fun at the idea of a barnyard fowl spouting outdated messages of narrow-minded patriotism. Zippy pointed out that chickens are more closely identified with cutting and running than with stolid, staightbacked, clear-eyed dedication to cause, and the rooster agreed that “Cutting and running [is] the new patriotism!” Maybe the punchline hit home for Sollitto, because a year or two later the bird had been rendered messageless.
Sollitto’s closed in 2013 and the rooster was sold to Antonelli’s Poultry on Federal Hill, marking a sharp shift in the bird’s promotional career. The connection between fresh poultry products and an eight-foot clucker are obvious in retrospect, and forty-four years of shilling for booze are easily swept under the henhouse, especially with the aid of a fiberglass restoration and spiffy new paint job by Bob Connell of Nick’s Auto Body
Wright’s big rooster, November 2004.
A second giant rooster once stood in a prominent spot at Wright’s Farm Restaurant in Burrillville. A comparison of photos shows that Sollitto’s and Wright’s roosters appear to have hatched from the very same clutch of fiberglass eggs. If not brothers, they are at least close cousins. Wright’s rooster can still be seen, but it’s somewhat hidden on the roof of a shed at the back of the restaurant complex.
Are two big roosters enough for the Biggest Little? No, there was a third that used to hang out at Kiddie Land at Rocky Point Park in Warwick. It was purchased at auction by Chris Gasbarro of Gasbarro Liquors who, in 2007, donated it the Tomorrow Fund, which refurbished it and auctioned it off at their annual fundraiser on November 3, 2007. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.
All three roosters were likely manufactured by International Fiberglass of Venice, California, in the 1960s. According to Wikipedia, “boatbuilder Steve Dashew established International Fiberglass in 1963 by purchasing and renaming Bob Prewitt’s workshop, Prewitt Fiberglass. The oversized fiberglass men, women and dinosaurs began as a sideline. Increases in costs to deliver the lightweight but oversized figures proved problematic and business declined with the 1973 oil crisis. International Fiberglass was sold and closed permanently in 1976. The moulds for the figures, originally worth thousands of dollars each, were not retained and are now lost.”
Sollitto’s questionable color scheme, January 2008.
You may well wonder, given their residence in Rhode Island, if these statues are of the famed Rhode Island Red breed of chicken. They are not. In fact, try as we might to find a picture online of a living rooster with a white body and a red tail, we came up empty handed. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, the paint scheme for both roosters was informed by depictions of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. The 2008 version of the rooster at Sollitto’s bore a green wattle and legs. You can’t tell us that ever occurs in nature. In any case, these fiberglass roosters are found all over the country, and given that they’ve probably been painted many times since their manufacture, they share remarkably similar color schemes. See Debra Jane Seltzer’s page of Giant Roosters, Chickens and Turkeys for more compare and contrast fun.
Time required: Allow one minute to gawk, more if you’re shopping for dinner
Hours: During business hours
Finding it: From Route 95 take exit 21 to Atwells Avenue. Go under the pinecone arch and turn right onto Dean Street. Turn left onto Spruce Street. Park. Antonelli’s is located in De Pasquale Plaza, a small pedestrian plaza on the left.
* * * * *
Return to Quahog.org |
She was a grand old girl, aged 77 in dog years.
837 Wapping Road, Portsmouth
“If there are no dogs in Heaven,
then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Ambrose Burnside. Stephen Hopkins. Richard Morris Hunt. Sissieretta Jones. Ida Lewis. H.P. Lovecraft. Metacomet. Elizabeth Alden Pabodie. Raymond Patriarca. Claiborne Pell. Matthew Perry. Oliver Hazard Perry. Anthony Quinn. Sunny von Bulow. Roger Williams.
You should know these names. They’re all famous, or were in their day. And to varying degrees, their fame shines on beyond their deaths. Apart from their notoriety they all have something else in common: whether they were politicians, actors, writers, singers, mob bosses, generals, Pilgrim offspring, architects, lighthouse keepers, Indian chiefs, or religious leaders—one and all, their mortal remains enrich the soil of Rhode Island.
And let it not be said that “royalty” shuns Rhode Island as a fitting place for eternal rest, for Pookie Windsor also sleeps her everlasting sleep beneath the comforting dirt blankets of the Ocean State.
You say you’ve never heard of her majesty, Pookie Windsor? Well, let me fill you in.
This photo, from Edward the Uncrowned King by Christopher Hibbert (1972), is captioned “The summer of 1934… Wallis Simpson and Pookie,” but that can’t be correct. Either the dog is Slipper, or the date is wrong. Photo by Edward Windsor.
Pookie was the pet of the former King Edward VIII of England and his paramour, American divorcee Wallis Simpson—the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The couple began collecting dogs in 1934, and they brought them everywhere they went. Armchair psychologists speculate the dogs served as surrogate children, as the Windsors never had any human children of their own.
For the first several years of their marriage cairn terriers were the Windsor’s breed of choice. The first was a male brindled gray named Slipper, a present from Edward to Wallis at Christmas, 1934. Never properly house broken, Slipper was given the nickname Mr. Loo. Sadly, he was fatally bitten by a viper in Cande, France, in April 1937. Pookie, a cream colored female cairn terrier from Austria was added to the family next, followed by Detto, another male brindled gray, and Prisie (short for Surprise), a female brindled cream, both born in England. In the early 1950s the Windsors phased out terriers and switched to pugs.
Cairn terriers are so-named because they were used in the Scottish highlands to keep down vermin. The small, agile dogs were adept at searching cairns (man-made stone piles) and other tight spaces for rats and other rodents.
“Detto, Prisie and Pookie play with the Duke in the Hall. One of Detto’s legs was broken recently when a taxi ran over him.” From “Life Goes Calling on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,” Life Magazine, July 10, 1939. Photo by William Vandivert.
None of the couple’s pets were ever completely house trained, and servants were kept busy cleaning up after them. Anne Sebba, in her book That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, reported an example of how the dogs were spoiled and indulged: They “were often literally spoon-fed from silver bowls by the Duke or Duchess meals that had been especially prepared for them.”
And from The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson by Greg King:
Wallis could not stand wrinkles in her bed… Once the bed was made, a plastic sheet was spread atop the satin eiderdown so that the pugs could climb onto the bed with Wallis; there she would feed them the hand-baked dog biscuits prepared fresh each day by her chef. Usually the pugs slept on the bed with her, although the Duke’s favorite might disappear through the boudoir to his own spot at the foot of his master’s bed.
It was an embarrassment to the Royal Family for a former monarch to be married to a twice-divorced woman, so the Duke and Duchess were essentially exiled from England. They lived for the most part in France, but traveled extensively, Newport being one of their frequent stops.
The Newport Daily News reported on one of their Newport visits in its society pages on September 17, 1943:
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, here for a weekend visit with friends, made their only public appearance today when the former King Edward VIII took a special review of Naval Training Station personnel at the Station at 11 o’clock this morning.
The Training Station display, which was marked by a large turnout, was highlight of a series of private entertainments that have been under way since the arrival of the Duke and Duchess late Saturday afternoon from Boston, to be house guests of Mrs. Duncan Douglas at ‘Cairngorm Lodge’ on Bellevue Avenue.
The Duke and Duchess, according to present plans, will leave Tuesday for Providence, where they take a train for stops in New York and Washington before he returns to his post as governor general in Nassau. Tonight they will be dinner guests of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt at ‘Beaulieu.’
Another Newport visit was noted in the Milwaukee Journal‘s society pages on August 5, 1945:
The event of the season was the arrival of the former king of England and the woman he loves, the duke and the duchess of Windsor. Aside from the formal dinners and dances in the evenings, the duke and his attractive duchess are having an informal holiday. He plays golf every day at the country club and she strolls on the avenue, shopping or walking along the cliffs and stopping in at Bailey’s Beach.
They probably will sail for England Aug. 6. Already many of their belongings have been shipped ahead. Conservative Newport citizens say they will be glad to see them go. For them the Windsors seem not to belong and royalty be darned.
Admittedly, anyone not born in Newport is a carpetbagger and remains an outsider until at least a quarter century of rather rugged residence.
A third visit was detailed in the pages of Newport Daily News the weekend of November 26, 1947. The Windors once more indulged in round after round of luncheons, teas, and dinners, including Thanksgiving dinner at Fairholme, the Newport mansion of their friends, the Robert R. Youngs.
It must have been on one of these visits in 1952 (unfortunately, not reported) that Pookie, by then almost sixteen years old, died. The Windsors decided to inter the pup at one of New England’s first pet cemeteries, located at Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel in Portsmouth. The first burial took place there in 1938, and as of 1991 it was estimated that more that one thousand beloved companions had been laid to rest on the property. Only a relative handful of these are marked, Pookie’s grave being one.
It’s not known if the Windsors were visiting Newport at the time of Pookie’s death, or were merely in the area, or were passing through. We heard rumors that the pooch passed away while on a “cruise.” Also, that the Windsors visited the grave at least once in later years.
Pookie’s simple white marble stone is about midway along the front wall of the property.
LITTLE FRIEND OF
EDWARD AND WALLIS
DUKE AND DUCHESS
AUGUST 16TH, 1936
APRIL 12TH, 1952
Pookie died just around the time that the Windsors switched their canine loyalties from cairn terriers to pugs. But that’s just a coincidence, right?
Be that as it may, Edward passed away in 1972 and Wallis followed in 1986. They are buried together in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore, Berkshire, England, a somewhat grander resting place than Pookie’s quiet country plot in the colonies.
The property at 837 Wapping Road in 2005, and again in 2013.
Potts Canine Country Boarding Kennel became Bow Wow Villa when it merged with a pet grooming salon called Bow Wow House in the 1970s. The grooming business then spun back off in the late 1980s, becoming Perry’s Plush Pooch at another location. The Bow Wow Villa property was purchased by the Newport National Golf Club, and leased to K9 Instincts Dog Training and Kennel. Then in the early 2010s K9 Instincts moved to another location, leaving the property abandoned and overgrown. As of late 2013, the golf course’s plans for the property are unknown.
Slipper’s grave. Date, source, unknown.
Pookie’s is not the only Windsor dog grave left in the world. Slipper was buried, probably, near the Cande, France, chateau where he died, as evidenced by an undated photo. The remains of Prisie (1938-1949) reside at Chateau de la Croë, a villa on the French Riviera that the Windsors once leased. And several of the couple’s pugs are buried on the grounds of Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, in Gif-sur-Yvette, Essonne, France, although the grave markers (somewhat worse for neglect) have been moved to a corner by a garden fence. Le Moulin (The Mill) was purchased by the Windsors in 1952, and is now a sort of upscale vacation rental.
Time required: allow 10 minutes for silent contemplation of the fleeting nature of canine existence.
Remember, this is a cemetery. Please be respectful.
Finding it: from Route 195 take exit 8 in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Route 24 toward Tiverton. Travel about nine miles and take the exit toward Middletown/Newport Beaches, merging onto Turnpike Avenue. After 7/10ths of a mile bear right onto Route 138 south (East Main Road). Go 3.5 miles and turn left onto Sandy Point Avenue, then turn right on Wapping Road. Go 1.6 miles to #837. Pookie’s grave is next to the stone wall beside the road.
Back to quahog.org.
Bow Wow Villa Gallery
Back to quahog.org.
An agreeable vintage tour of the “Isle of Peace.”
[This article comes from Picturesque America, volume I (1872), pages 358-376, edited by William Cullen Bryant. Transcribed, and links added, by Christopher Martin. Click on images for a larger view.]
* * * * *
“The Walk on the Cliff,” otherwise known as Cliff Walk.
THE original name of the island on which Newport stands was Aquidneck, or the “Isle of Peace,” and the present title was given to it because of its natural resemblance to the Isle of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean. It is hard to believe that, more than a hundred years ago, this was, with one exception, the most important port of entry in the American colonies, with two hundred vessels engaged in foreign trade, three or four hundred more employed in distributing the products landed here along the shores of our own land, from Massachusetts to Virginia, supplying the wholesale merchants of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, with their various stores, and with a regular line of packets running between Newport and London—not less than twenty-two hundred seamen at one time sailing from this harbor. As long ago as 1728, Bishop Berkeley writes that “Newport is the most thriving place in all America for bigness. I was never more agreeably surprised than at the sight of the town and harbor.” In those days New-Yorkers were sometimes admonished that, if they only had the enterprise of the Newporters, with their natural facilities, they might, in process of time, become a formidable rival in trade and commerce!
Merchants built stately mansions by the waterside, some of which may still be seen, with their wainscoted walls, mahogany stairways, marble mantels, and tiled fireplaces, indicative of a period when the warehouses were not sufficient to contain the wealth of products that was discharged at these wharves, and the streets and sidewalks were—a sore temptation this must have been to the boys of the period—often lined for days with the tropical fruits of the Indies. Gentlemen of wealth and culture had their country-seats in the vicinity of the town, surrounded by flower-gardens, and orchards, and fish-ponds, and winding walks, and other features of luxurious rural elegance, where the rich and fashionable gathered and kept high revel.
“View from Fort Adams.”
People were attracted to the town, not only because of the salubrity of the climate and the beauty of the scenery, but also by the fact that liberty of conscience ruled supreme in Newport. Quakers lived unmolested there; Baptists built their first meeting-house there; Calvinists preached their sternest doctrines without offence; Hebrews crowded their commodious synagogue; Moravians opened their love-feasts to all who would pay their fourpence-ha’penny, distributing to each his sweet buns and cup of chocolate; and Churchmen prayed fervently for the king and all the royal family. The synagogue, built in 1762, stands today in as good repair as it ever was, although its doors are rarely if ever opened for public worship; and old Trinity Church, erected nearly a century and a half ago, with its crown-surmounted spire, and huge, square pews, with the wardens’ poles indicating where the dignitaries sit, and lofty pulpit, with its hexagonal sounding-board, and reading-pew and clerk’s seat planted far down the aisle, and ancient organ, presented by Bishop Berkeley, adorned with crown and mitre, and the little chancel, denuded of nothing but the lion and unicorn, which were taken from the wall after the Revolution and burnt by patriotic hands—every thing looking just as it did when ancient gentlemen in scarlet coats, and laced ruffles, and silver buckles, and curled wigs, and ladies in their rich brocades, crowded the edifice, and reverently knelt while the priest prayed, and the sonorous clerk acted as their proxy in the response. One portion of the structure, we are glad to say, was long ago removed—the two pens in the organ-loft, pierced with little funnel-holes, through which the poor negroes deposited there might see, without being seen.
Fifty years ago Newport was a torpid, quiet place, its trade extinct, the streets deserted; wharves that were once vocal with busy traffic mouldered away and sunk out of sight under the waters; land of no value; population reduced; strangers rarely finding their way to this old, forgotten town by the sea; the houses weather-worn, unpainted, and falling to pieces—who would then have thought of investing his money in the desolate acres that fringed the borders of this forlorn, dilapidated little village?
The Revolution seemed to have ruined Newport beyond redemption; when the British troops evacuated the place, and the French fleet under D’Estaing entered the harbor in 1780, it was a desolation. In the course of a few years the business of the town had somewhat revived, and, at the beginning of the present century, we find the names of several eminent merchants engaged in commerce there, the house of Gibbs & Channing wielding what in those days was regarded as an immense capital; but the second blow which Newport received by the embargo and the War of 1812 proved fatal, and from that period her commercial doom was sealed.
What Newport is today all the world knows. One or two of these desolate, rocky acres is now a fortune to their possessor. A combination of attractions exceeded by no other watering-place on the continent has once more drawn the inhabitants of our towns and cities to this spot, not for purposes of traffic, but for health and recreation; men of culture and of wealth, foreign ministers and noblemen, authors and politicians, clergymen and actors, high-bred women of the old school and fashionable women of all schools, gather here every season; some to lead a quiet, rational, domestic life, and some to display their finery; spacious hotels are crowded with visitors, cottages—every thing here is called a cottage—of every variety of architecture, Swiss, Gothic, French, Elizabethan, and American, and of every degree of cost, from the humbler structure that is rented for a thousand a year up to the stately mansions in which hundreds of thousands are invested, line the spacious avenues, or nestle among the foliage in the more retired and quiet streets; the grandest steamers in the world land their passengers here every morning, and smaller craft ply all the day up and down the Narragansett shores; every afternoon Bellevue is a whirl of splendid equipages night and morning, bands of music fill the air with melody, and “all goes merry as a marriage-bell.” When the chill winds of autumn drive these summer residents bock to their city homes, the old town relapses into its winter sleep—not as profound a slumber as it slept for some two or three generations, for there is always work to be done in preparation for the next campaign—still it is very quiet; windows are boarded up, gates locked, some of the more fashionable shops closed, and horses and carriages are seen no more on the broad avenues.
This is, in brief, the threefold aspect which Newport has presented during the last hundred and fifty years. We now turn to the special points of attraction, as indicated by our artist.
“On the Beach.” This scene is of First, or Easton’s, Beach, Newport.
In entering Newport Harbor, Fort Adams, forming an angle on the right-hand corner, presents to the eye a singularly beautiful and picturesque appearance. Fortress Monroe is the only structure of the kind in the United States that exceeds it in size and cost, and a few years ago it would have seemed as if its massive walls must be strong enough to resist any assault that could be made upon them, and its multitude of ponderous cannon have been too formidable to allow the passage of any ship that floated into the waters of the Narragansett Bay. But guns have recently been constructed that would send this granite pile, with its bastions and battlements, flying into the air like broken crockery; so that its use, as a citadel of defence, is at an end. At the same time the necessity of such a protection against the attacks of a hostile fleet has ceased; just under the guns of the fort lies what is known as Torpedo Island, where scientific men are now making and testing a new submarine projectile, which no precaution can hinder from finding its way to the keel of any ship that ventures near the shore, and blowing it to fragments. The morning and evening gun may continue to salute the break and the close of the day for many years to come, the Stars and Stripes to float over the fortress, the soldiers to keep watch and ward upon the walls, but it will no more be regarded as a stronghold of defence—only as an interesting relic of the past.
Fort Adams is a favorite place of resort with the summer residents of Newport, especially on the afternoons when the regimental band plays, and the dashing down of carriages and the clatter of hoofs over the steep, stone declivity under the frowning archway which opens into the spacious parade-ground, covering a space of eleven acres, and the roll of vehicles around the broad, circular drive that surrounds the enclosure, make a pleasing change from the somewhat dull and monotonous military routine to which the officers and soldiers are subjected. The amount of money that has been expended here by the government—more than a million and a half of dollars—makes it a very costly place of amusement, and might have been spent more profitably; but amusement is better than carnage, and, if these modern improvements in the science of war should put an end to all strife, none will mourn.
“Old Fort Dumpling.” The fort was destroyed when Fort Wetherill was constructed around 1800.
Entering the harbor, on the left your eye rests upon a small, oval fort, gray, time-worn, and dilapidated, standing on the island of Conanicut, and known by the somewhat inexpressive name of “Dumpling.” A controversy is now pending in regard to the date of its erection, some persons contending that it was built long before the Revolution, while others believe that it was thrown up by the British at the period when their troops occupied Rhode Island. The first historical notice of its existence is found in a letter addressed by General Pigot, commander of the English forces, to Sir Henry Clinton, in which he says that “the guns of Beaver Tail and Dumpling are unserviceable, as the French fleet entering the harbor would cut off communication with Conanicut.” The date of this letter is 1778. The fort has been left for many years to the corroding wear and tear of the elements, but, while the interior works have been gradually destroyed, the outer walls remain as complete and firm as they ever were. As a means of defence it would be of little service in these days, however thoroughly it might be manned, for one of our modern shells dropped into the centre would blow the whole affair to fragments. Compared with Fort Adams, one of the largest and most completely equipped defences on our shores, which, with its massive walls and long rows of guns, frowns upon Dumpling from the opposite side of the bay, this little tower looks somewhat insignificant; but, as a picturesque ruin, it has its charms, and has become a favorite place of resort for pleasure-parties, who cook their fish and bake their clams on the spot that once resounded to the thunder of artillery. For a century the winds have beat upon the old fort; the Cross of St. George has waved over it; the French fleet swept round it as the vessels moved up to their winter-anchorage in the harbor; the Stripes and the Stars long ago supplanted the British ensign; it is more venerable than the Republic; and we trust that it will be left undisturbed for ages, as it is one of the few memorials in existence of our early history, and may do something to take away the reproach brought against us by our brethren over the sea that we have no ruins in the United States.
Brenton’s Cove is approached by a causeway leading to Fort Adams, and affords one of the finest views that can be obtained of Newport: “The tall and delicate spires of the churches cut sharp against the blue sky; the public buildings stand out in noble relief; and the line of houses, as they rise one above another on the hill-side, is broken by open grounds and clusters of shade-trees. Each spot on which the eye may chance to rest recalls some event that happened there in earlier times.” Looking out from this cove, you might once have seen poor Burgoyne sailing for England after his sad defeat; Cook‘s famous ship Endeavor was condemned, dismantled, and left to decay upon these shores; the Macedonian, prize of the frigate United States, was brought to anchor here; the British fleet, under Lord Howe, and the French fleet, under D’Estaing, both sailed by this rocky cove, one bringing misery and the other joy to the hearts of the old inhabitants of Rhode Island.
Taking the road leading west, we pass what remains of the house built by Governor William Brenton, through grounds that were in his day “adorned with rare and costly plants, gravel-walks, groves and bowers, and all that wealth and a refined taste could furnish,” until we come upon the southern shore, where Brenton’s Reef stretches for a mile or more into the sea.
In the picture all is placid and serene; but, when the breakers dash upon that fatal reef, and the strong waves whiten its jagged ridge, it is a place of terror. Many a vessel has been wrecked there; and the mouldering gravestones along the edge of the ocean show where the bodies of the drowned sailors were once buried. Why they should have been deposited there, where the winds and the waves sound a perpetual dirge, and the spray of the ocean always dampens the sods which cover them, instead of being taken to some rural ground, where the birds sing and flowers bloom, we do not know. No doubt they were buried by the hands of strangers, and perhaps, after all, this was the most fitting place for their bodies to rest; and many a solemn thought has been suggested by these humble memorial-stones to the gay crowds who drive by, as the summer sun is sinking in the horizon.
“The Spouting Cave.” This video by a group of brave (or foolhardy) young men shows that Spouting Cave still exists.
Following the southern shore, we next come to what is known as the Spouting-Rock. After a southeasterly storm, the apparatus is in working-order; and, during the “season,” multitudes assemble there to see the intermittent fountain play. The construction of the opening beneath is such that, when it is nearly filled and a heavy wave comes rolling in, the pent-up waters can find relief only by discharging themselves through a sort of funnel into the air. It is, however, a somewhat treacherous operator: for a long time there may be no spouting done; and, even when the waves roll in from the right quarter, it is not easy to tell just when the horn intends to blow. If the interesting couple depicted in our sketch remain standing much longer where they are, before they know it the fountain may spout up some forty or fifty feet, and they will go home with drenched clothes and a wet skin. But the ocean-view is, at this spot, so indescribably grand after a storm, that the temptation to linger as near the edge of the rocks as possible is almost irresistible, and we have seen many a gay company pay the watery penalty.
“Purgatory.” The proportions in this engraving are very much exaggerated.
Beyond the bathing-beach, where hundreds of fashionable people may be seen dashing about in the waves on every pleasant day, rise the precipitous rocks, with the deep and sharp-lined fissure, known as “The Purgatory.” How it ever came to be called by this singular name, tradition does not inform us. A little beyond this chasm, there is a pleasant spot, shaded by trees, and commanding a beautiful view, which is known as “Paradise“—so that, when a stranger in that region asks the way, he is likely to be told that he must pass by Purgatory to Paradise.
The opening in the cliff extends one hundred and sixty feet, and is fifty feet deep at the outer edge. It is from eight to fourteen feet wide at the top, and from two to twenty at the bottom. It was once supposed that the water at the base was unfathomable; but at low tide it is actually not more than ten feet in depth.
It was formerly the prevailing theory that this fissure was occasioned by it sudden upheaving of the rock; but, after careful examination, Professor Silliman came to the opinion that it was probably formed by the gradual eating away of the softer portions of the stone at a very early period.
Like most places of the kind, Purgatory has its legends.
Some little time after the settlement of the country by the whites, an Indian woman murdered one of the colonists, in revenge for certain wrongs inflicted upon her people. Walking, one day, near Purgatory, she was accosted by a person, appearing to be a well-dressed Englishman, who proposed to fight with her. The stout squaw was not unwilling to accept the challenge, and in the struggle she was gradually dragged toward the edge of the chasm, when her opponent seized her in his arms, and leaped into the abyss. At this moment the cloven foot appeared, his goodly garments fell off, and he was revealed in his true Satanic personality. Why the devil should have felt himself called upon to interfere in this way to punish the woman for the wrong that she had done to the English settlers, does not appear; but, as the print of his feet and marks of blood are still visible on the stones, it is not for us to gainsay the story. At any rate, it is easy to see that such a belief on the part of the Indians might have tended to promote general security.
“Distant View of Purgatory.”
Another legend pertaining to this spot is not quite so tragical, and perhaps can be better authenticated. A beautiful but giddy girl, heiress to a large estate, had for some time received special attentions from a young man, in all respects her equal, and whose affection, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, she warmly reciprocated in her heart. But the passion for coquetry was so strong with her, that she could never resist the temptation to torment her admirer; and, one day, as they stood together on the brink of Purgatory, and he was pleading, with impassioned eloquence, for some pledge or token of love from her, she said, “I will be your wife if you will show the earnestness of your devotion to me, and your readiness to obey all my wishes, by leaping across this abyss.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the young man sprang to the other side of the rock, and then, politely lifting his hat, he complimented the beautiful girl upon her charms, told her candidly what he thought of her character, bade her final adieu, and she saw his face no more. After this, as the tale runs, she went mourning all her days.
It is not to be presumed that this is the scene which our artist intended to portray in his sketch; for, although the young damsel seen there is coquettish enough in her appearance for almost any thing unreasonable, the aspect of her companion is certainly not very suggestive of foolhardy courage—to say nothing of the absolute impossibility of his being able to leap the opening at the point which this interesting couple occupy.
“Berkeley’s Seat,” also known as Paradise Rocks or Hanging Rock.
“Berkeley’s Seat” is in Paradise, within easy walking-distance of the house which he built and occupied nearly a century and a half ago. Out of regard to the memory of Charles I., to whom he was indebted for certain favors, he called his place Whitehall, one of the palaces occupied by the king. It is still standing, and in good repair. There is the room which he occupied as a study, with its tiled fire-jambs, and low ceiling, and undulating floor, and the little chamber where he slept; and it is pleasant to think that, in the sunny court-yard adjoining, he once walked—perhaps discussing with his friends the state policy of Walpole, or the probable future of the new Western land, “whither the course of empire” had already begun “to take its way,” or the medical virtues of tar-water, or it may be some of the profounder problems of the soul which occupied his thoughts. When the weather was favorable, he betook himself to the sheltered opening in Paradise Rocks, which is now consecrated by his name. This he is said to have fitted up with chairs and a table; and tradition says that it was in this rocky cave he wrote his “Minute Philosopher.” With the broad expanse of ocean before him, and its monotonous roll sounding in his ear, it may be that he was able to give his thoughts a wider range, and fix them more intently upon the subtile questions which he was so fond of contemplating, than was possible in the pent-up little room where he kept his books; and it may have been easier for him to bring his mind to the conclusion that there is nothing in the universe but soul and force—no organic substance, no gross matter, nothing but phenomena and relations and impressions—than it would be if he were shut in by doors and walls, and nearer to his kitchen.
This portion of the island does not lie within the boundaries of the city of Newport, having been set off, many years ago, in order to avoid the taxes, and is now known as Middletown. It was, however, the Newport of Berkeley, chosen by him as a residence because of its superior fertility as well as natural beauty, for the good dean was something of a farmer as well as metaphysician. This southeastern shore has heretofore been little resorted to by strangers, and few persons have as yet made it their summer residence; but the recent opening of new roads leading directly to the town, and the construction of broad avenues which intersect the whole region, and which will soon be lined with shade-trees, must, before long, transform the scene, and make this a favorite resort for visitors. Here are three miles of drive over a rich and luxuriant sward, that does not require an inch of grading, bending down toward a shore diversified by picturesque rocks and groves and sandy beaches, where you look out toward the southeast on the broad ocean, and northward upon the interior country—a combination of attractions found perhaps nowhere else upon our coast, and which, in process of time, will lead multitudes, who desire retirement and quiet, with all the pure delights that come of a salubrious atmosphere and beautiful scenery, to build their houses and plant their gardens here.
In the following strains Mr. Longfellow tells how “the Viking old” found his way from “the wild Baltic’s strand” to our strange shores, and built here “the lofty tower” by the sea, commonly known as “the old stone-mill:”
“Three weeks we westward bore,
And, when the storm was o’er,
Cloud-like we saw the shore
Stretching to leeward;
There for my lady’s bower
Built I the lofty tower,
Which, to this very hour,
Stands looking seaward.”
“Commodore Perry’s Statue and the ‘Old Mill’.”
We wish that we could believe in our having so respectable a piece of antiquity in Rhode Island. Inasmuch as this interesting and unique structure dates back to the prehistoric times of the colony, no record of its construction being in existence, and, still further, as it has a close resemblance to certain edifices still existing in Northern Europe, many have been willing to accept the tradition that it must be of Danish origin. One theory is, that this old ruin was originally an appendage to a temple, and used for religious offices, as a baptistery. Others suppose that it was erected as a tower of defence, and that, after the walls had crumbled until they were reduced to their present height, a wooden mill was erected on the summit.
The first authentic notice of the edifice is found in the will of a Mr. Benedict Arnold, dated 1677, in which he bequeaths his “stone-built windmill” to his heirs. About the middle of the last century it was surmounted by a circular roof; and one of the old inhabitants, in a deposition signed in 1734, says, “It is even remembered that, when the change of wind required that the wings, with the top, should be turned round, it took a yoke of oxen to do it.” There is abundant tradition to show that it has been used for various purposes; and a hundred and fifty years ago it was known as the Powder-Mill—the boys, as late as 1764, sometimes finding powder in the crevices; and, at a later period, it was used as a hay-mow. It is somewhat singular that such a substantial and peculiar structure should have been erected simply as a windmill, but this may be explained by the facts that the first wooden mill was blown down in a great storm that occurred in 1675; that Governor Arnold was unpopular with the Indians, and would be likely to build a mill that would withstand both storm and fire, and look like a fort at least; and, still further, he may have seen old mills in England of the same style—there being an engraving in the Penny Magazine, of 1836, of one near Leamington, which is the very counterpart of the Newport mill. The various traditions connected with this old relic impart to it a special interest; and, unless it is upheaved by the earthquake or demolished by lightning, it is likely to stand for many generations.
At a little distance from the old Stone Mill, on the easterly side of the public square, stands the statue of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, erected by his son-in-law, Mr. Belmont. The material is bronze; and the accurate proportions, the graceful attitude, the well-disposed drapery, and the speaking likeness, combine to give this statue a high place among our works of art. It would be well if Mr. Belmont’s example should be followed by other wealthy citizens of our republic.
We have now glanced at Newport as it was a hundred years ago, as it was fifty years ago, and as it is to-day. What will be its appearance fifty years hence? The streets of the older part of the town may continue to be as narrow as ever; and, unless a wide-spread conflagration should sweep them away, the ancient wooden houses may crowd upon the gutters, as they have always done; the venerable stone-mill will stand in its place, a monument of the prehistoric ages of Newport; Trinity Church, we trust, will be undisturbed, whether the congregation abide by its courts or not; the Jewish Synagogue is secured from ruin by a perpetual endowment; the port-holes of Fort Adams may still show their iron teeth, unless, indeed, the advance of military science should have made all such stone fortresses unserviceable, or the universal dominion of the doctrines of peace—which God, in his mercy, grant!—have swept them all away.
The natural features of the region will remain unchanged; the same rocks will frown upon the sea; the same purple haze rest at eventide upon the land-locked harbor; the same veil of ocean-mist temper the brightness of the noontide sun, and tide rise and fall on the sandy beach with the same rhythmical flare; the storm thunder with the same loud turbulence; but, meanwhile, what changes will the hand of man have wrought? Within the last twenty years miles upon miles of barren pasture have been converted into lawns and gardens and verdant groves; millions have been expended in the erection of beautiful villas and stately palaces; the tide of population has set in like a flood; and such are the peculiar advantages which Nature has bestowed upon this lovely spot, that no caprice of fashion can ever turn back or arrest the flow of its prosperity. Regions now unoccupied will soon be covered with habitations; the summer population will spread itself all over the southern portion of the island, from east to west, and then crowd back into the interior, until the whole area from south to north is made a garden of beauty. Newport will never again become a busy mart of traffic; its ancient commerce will never return there; the manufactures which have made “the Providence Plantations” so rich will never flourish in “the Isle of Peace,” for the soft and somewhat enervating climate is not conducive to enterprise and activity; but those who need relief from the high-strung excitement of American life, the merchant who wants rest from his cares, statesmen and writers who would give their brains repose, will find it here. The men of our land, above all others, require some such place of resort, to allay the feverish activity of their lives—a place where they may come together periodically, not for debate, and controversy, and labor, and traffic, but for pleasant talk, and rational recreation, and chastened conviviality. They need to dwell where, for a part of the year, they can see the sun rise and set, and scent the flowers, and look out upon the waters. This green island seems to have been made by a kind Providence for such uses as these, where men may forget their cares and cease from their toils, and behold the wondrous works of God, and give him thanks.
* * * * *
Return to Quahog.org |