|Residence of David Mathewson (center); T. H. Sweet (upper left); T. H. & A. E. Sweet (upper right); A. F. Sweet (lower left); Henry Sweet (lower right); "Mathewson Street"||Hopkins Spindle Works, Burrillville, R. I., A. S. Hopkins, Prop'r||Res. of the late Hon. H. E. Hopkins, Burrillville, with inset portrait|
|Harrisville Woollen Mills, Messrs. Tinkham & Farwell, Proprietors, Harrisville||Res. of J. D. Nichols, with inset portrait; Oak Valley Mills, J. D. Nichols, proprietor||Mapleville Mills, Burillvlle, R. I., James Legg, Proprietor|
|Clear River Mills of James O. Inman, proprietor, Burrillville, RI.||Res. of James O. Inman, Burrillville, R. I.||Res. of Dr. Benjamin Joslin, Burrillville, R. I., with inset portrait (top); Res. of H. S. Nichols, Burrillville, R. I. (bottom)|
|Glendale Mills, F. Carpenter, prop'r, Burrillville, R. I.
Granite Mill, A. L. Sayles, prop'r, Burrillville, R. I.
pp. 88 - 95.
To preserve the record of the geographical features of the town of Burrillville, to embalm in history the life and character of its early pioneers, and their success in early achievement, is the primary object of this sketch. To delineate the progressive development of a town like Burrillville, whereby so great a change from a rude and primitive forest to a rich and prosperous territory has been accomplished, is, indeed, an arduous task. And yet it were well to preserve its history, however limited, however uninteresting to the stranger, or however simple in its detail. Every recorded fact pertaining to the early settlement of the town, every reminiscence of the early pioneers possesses a charm, and is a subject of interest to every individual who feels a pride in the progressive development of the town, and cherishes a just regard for the integrity and self-sacrificing devotion of that band, whose early efforts laid the foundation of the present super-structure of society.
The town of Burrillville, in a variety of respects, is full of interest, not only to the inhabitant, but to the stranger as well. Of a later separate formation than some of her sister towns, nevertheless, she presents a record worthy of emulation, and rich in her natural resources and extensive manufacturing interests, Burrillville has a destiny of successful progress in the future.
Up to 1806, Burrillville formed an integral part of the town of Glocester, but in that year, the tract comprising this township was set off from Glocester and incorporated into a separate and distinct township. It derived its present name from the Hon. James Burrill, who was then the Attorney-General of the State of Rhode Island; and for this generous act upon the part of the citizens of the town, Mr. Burrill presented them with a full set of books in which to record the town records.
The town of Burrillville is situated in the northwest corner of the State, about twenty miles northwest from the city of Providence. It is bounded on the north by Massachusetts; on the west by Connecticut; on the south by Glocester, and east by Smithfield. Its average length is about twelve miles from east to west, and its average breadth from north to south is about five miles, comprising an area of about sixty square miles. The land in this town is rather rough, and, in general, unfavorable for cultivation. There are quite extensive forests which afford some valuable timber. The soil is of a gravelly loam, and the agricultural products consist of corn, rye, oats, potatoes, butter, cheese, beef, and pork. The most considerable stream in the town has its source in Alum Pond, or Wallum Lake, which is located near the border of the town, and is partly in Massachusetts. This stream runs through the town in an easterly direction.
On the seventeenth day of November, 1806, the freemen of Burrillville convened in town meeting for the first time. Captain Joktan Putnam was chosen moderator, and Daniel Smith, Jr., was chosen town clerk. The following gentlemen were chosen the first town council; viz., John Esten, Esq., Simeon Steere, Esq., Samuel Smith, Amaziah Harris, William Ross, Moab Paine, and Levi Lapham. Part of the business of this meeting was to attend to the division of the town. The next meeting was called Dec. 1, 1806. It was for the 'special purpose of choosing a representative to the Tenth Congress.' They met again on Feb. 14, 1807, and adjourned until the 17th at the hotel of John Wood. At this meeting it was voted, 'That the charter of the town of Burrillville, and the report of the State's Committee in the division of the two towns be lodged in the Town Clerk's office.'
In August, 1807, the first money-tax was imposed; it amounted to only $500, and the poll-tax was thirty-three cents. On June 6, 1808, it was voted, 'That the next Town meeting be at Russell Aldrich's upon these conditions; that the said Aldrich pay into the Town Treasury the sum of $16.25 within one week after said meeting, to which condition the said Aldrich agrees'; and it was also voted, 'That the said Russell Aldrich have privilege to prosecute any other persons for selling liquors on that day and place.' In September, 1808, it was again sold to the highest bidder, and brought $23. In 1810 it was sold for $50. This sale of the town meetings at last came to be regarded as impolite and unjust, as many of the parties that offered the highest bids, were often situated in unfavorable localities, thus causing the inhabitants of one portion of the town to travel an undue distance, along miserable roadways, and over mountains. A committee was consequently appointed, 'To confer with the Society of the Baptist Meeting House, to gain their approbation and consent to have the town meetings held at the old meeting house in the future.' On the 19th of April, 1820, it was voted, 'That from and after this date, no man shall be elected to office in said town, who shall give any valuable consideration therefor.' An act, indeed, worthy of emulation, and which might be enforced at the present day with a marked degree of propriety, and a decided advantage to the best interests of both town and State.
In 1844 it was discovered that the dividing line between Glocester and Burrillville was incorrect. A committee was soon after appointed by the General Assembly to examine into the matter and to make a new survey. From their report it was found that Glocester contained 1,049 acres more than her proportion of the territory. A decision, however, by the United States Supreme Court in regard to the northern boundary of the State, in favor of Massachusetts, finally terminated the controversy, and a large tract of valuable land was thus taken from the town.
Two hundred and forty odd years have passed since the axe of the white man startled echoes in the forest of the Nipmuck, and the 'dense wilderness has been made to blossom like the rose'. The red rulers of the shade, and the races they governed, have long since passed away and have left their graves, but not their empires, to the present generation. Instead of the roar of the beast, and the warwhoop of the savage, is now heard the busy whirr of the spindle and the clanking loom, while the din of the factory-bells tell of a new civilization, and of Anglo-Saxon rule. Many a white settler, following the impulse of nature, sought a home within these rude wilds, and with brawny arm and iron hands hewed out a site for settlement. To each the same field was opened. The man of means paid for his lands and hired them cleared, while his poorer and less fortunate neighbor seeking a home unaided and alone, with no friend but his own strong arm and willing hands, felled the windrow of trees, and toiled early and late in his clearing, at times uncertain as to results, but yet hopeful of success.
John Smith, from the northern part of the settlement of Providence, was among the first to seek settlement in this part of the territory, that has since been set off as the town of Burrillville. He came with axe and wallet of victuals, and commenced felling trees across the streams, and traversed the woods, until he came to a spot near what is known as the 'Tar Kiln Saw-mill'. He surveyed the forest about, and going into 'Horse Head Woods' and around the foot of 'Den Hill', made a settlement at or near where the Urania Smith house stands. When his supplies failed him, he returned to Providence to replenish his empty wallet, and returning, was accompanied by his brother and several other adventurers. They continued to fell the trees, and soon had a clearing which they cultivated and planted to corn and other products. At one time all that part of the town was occupied by their descendants.
Among the early settlers were also a family by the name of Saulsbury, who moved in to the central part of Burrillville. Edward Saulsbury, the father of Duty Saulsbury, formerly of Pascoag, was once a resident of Smithfield, R. I. He was a soldier in the French War, and his regiment was stationed in New York, and also on Lake Erie, and was engaged for a time in the erection of 'Fort Stanwix.' Economical in all of his expenditures, he succeeded in saving a large share of his wages, and upon his return home purchased out of his savings some three hundred acres of land, on the east side of what is now known as 'Herring Pond.' This pond derived its name from the fact, that in those early times large quantities of fish used to come up the various streams in the spring to deposit their spawn, and in the fall the new stock were quite numerous. Among the varieties were alewives and herring, with which this pond used to abound; hence it derived its name of 'Herring Pond.' This early pioneer succeeded in clearing a spot around his rude cabin, and set about the cultivation of his little farm. He had one cow, and the addition of game, which the forest furnished in abundance, and fish from the pond, supplied the frugal table of these primitive settlers.
About this time the Revolutionary war broke out, and Mr. Saulsbury was summoned to Providence to join the ranks of those early opposers of English arrogance and aggression. Bidding farewell to his little family he started forth, filled with dark forebodings, fearing perhaps that he might never return; and having previously supplied them with several bushels of corn-meal, bade them be frugal of this little stock, and with one lingering look upon the home of his early adventure, he hastened to join his comrades in arms. His youngest son, familiarly known as Deacon Saulsbury, left the parental roof some twenty years afterwards and settled in Pascoag, or near the place now known as Pascoag. He began to battle with the wilderness here, and other settlers moving in, a clearing was soon made and another settlement begun.
Among the early inhabitants, although of a somewhat later date than those of whom we have been speaking, were a family by the name of Harrington. Their descendants were quite numerous, and many amusing anecdotes are related of them. It is said that they were great lovers of cider, and that it was among their singular customs to tap a barrel upon its arrival home, and to drink it all up before it was unloaded. A part of them died here, and the remnant moved away. There was also about this time a physician by the name of Harrington, who lived for many years in the Smithfield district. He was a man of considerable distinction in his profession, and had a large practice. He had at one time for a student a Mr. Bellows, long a resident in the Colwell neighborhood.
Joktan Putnam was also an early inhabitant of what is known as Rhodesville. He was a large, corpulent man, fond of public amusement, and as is usual with men of this description, he was a jolly kind of a fellow and a lover of good drink. As has already been remarked, he was chosen the first moderator of the town meeting held in Burrillville. He owned large tracts of land at Harrisville and round 'Herring Pond,' which are still known as Putman's [sic] pasture. It is said that in the Revolution he was among those denominated tories, his political preferences being upon the side of the mother country. Becoming greatly involved in his affairs, he exchanged his possessions around Rhodesville for wild lands in the town of Sutton, in the State of Vermont. These lands are said now to be in the possession of their heirs of Joseph Putnam and Charles Taft, former residents of Burrillville.
William Rhodes was also among the early inhabitants of the town. Possessed of no worldly wealth, he learned the trade of a cooper, and subsequently removed to the West Indies and engaged in his occupation as cooper. He afterwards became engaged in navigation, and fitting out a privateer, he intercepted many English vessels laden with sugar, molasses, &c. He became quite wealthy, and at Providence the wharves were often covered with his merchandise; and he used to remark, that he was so 'rich that he didn't care for John Brown and Nightingale, nor the d----l.' He purchased large tracts of land in and about Harrisville, then called Rhodesville, and also owned a store in South Carolina, whither he used to journey to look after his interests and to make new purchases.
These are but a few of the early settlers of Burrillville, but time and space will not permit of a more lengthy review. Other matters of equal importance claim our attention, and while a mingled feeling of joy and sadness comes over us while listening to the rehearsal of the trials and hardships of these early adventurers, a feeling also of gratitude fills our hearts and inspires in us a renewed patriotism, and a sense of our obligations and duties as heirs of so grand a heritage. Although their voices have long since been hushed, and their bodies mouldered into dust, they yet speak in a language more eloquent than human tongue, in the record of their lives, the noble deeds they have done, and the results achieved.
For forty years of more, a strange and solitary man was wont to make his appearance in this town. His coming was heralded by the singing of birds in early spring; and this strange and singular personage would appear upon his visits, much to the wonderment, and often amusement, of the inhabitants. Tradition says that this singular man had once been in love, and being disappointed in the return of this affection, he became demented and an outcast upon the cold charities of the world. He used to travel great distances, as is evident from the fact that he was often heard from in Unadilla, N. Y., and other places which he used to make in his wide circuit. He was inoffensive, and would sit for hours without uttering a word, except when some one questioned him. He seemed to live alone, in a world apart from this one in which his sorrows had their birth, unmindful of present surroundings; and his spell-bound memory seemed ever to be wandering back, through the long vista of years, to those halcyon days of youth, recalling, no doubt, the now dim and shadowy events of his early dream-life.
Oh! could the secret history of love's empire be written and carefully perused, what tragic scenes of disappointment and woe would be unfolded to our view.
For many years this man continued his regular visits, wearing the same old and patched wine-colored garments, that by careful inspection bore traces of a certain fineness of texture which clearly told of better days, when prosperity and success favored effort. He would often ask for thread and needle with which to mend his now torn and tattered garments, and invariably selecting the color that matched that of his clothes, would proceed carefully and patiently to darn the threadbare places, until at length he acquired the rather inelegant appellation of the 'Darned Man'. Everybody seemed to know him, and even the children for miles around felt an interest in this strange and forlorn being; and be it said to their praise and credit, they seldom taunted him with jeers or otherwise rudely treated him.
His visits have long since ceased, and are only recalled in memory. The blighted genius; the true lover; this melancholy worshipper among the ruins of a broken altar, has long since passed from the cares and trials of this earth-life. After many weary years of struggle against misfortune and disappointment, after the fitful fever of a love-lorn life, he rests at last in that other and better world, where sorrow and disappointment never come.
Organization of Burrillville, Township Meetings, Officers, &c.
The territory now known as Burrillville originally belonged to the town of Glocester. From 1636 to 1730, however, all the territory including Smithfield, Scituate, and Glocester, was included within the limits of Providence. In 1730 an act was passed by the 'General Assembly of his Majesty's Colony of Rhode Island' to incorporate the outskirts of Providence into three towns. A committee was accordingly appointed and sent out to survey the parts north of the city, and upon their return, reported, 'No one would ever settle on these barren lands.' But as time wore on, and new settlements were made, there were found inhabitants enough to warrant the formation of new towns. Consequently, Smithfield, Scituate and Glocester were formed. This division of the town of Providence, and the act incorporating these new towns, gave to them the same liberties and privileges as the other towns of the State; viz., the right to elect their own officers; to send deputies to the General Assembly; to send grand and petit jurors to the superior courts; and to control that proportion of the interest of the bank money appropriated to the use of the towns of this Colony, according to the sums that the lands lying within their boundaries were mortgaged for. These lands had been mortgaged prior to the Declaration of Independence, to defray the expenses of surveys, the laying out of roads, money paid to the Indians, and for the support of the poor, &c.
In 1806 Glocester was divided. At this date, the town was twelve miles square, and the town meetings wee held at Chepachet. The people began to think it a little too far to travel to Chepachet to vote, and on the 27th of August, 1805, it was voted, 'That Messrs. Zebedee Hopkins, Seth Hunt, Abraham Winsor, Daniel Tourtelott, Bazaleal Paine, Joktan Putnam, and Edmund Waldron be appointed a committee to draft a petition to the next General Assembly to divide the town by an east and west line through the middle of the town, free from expense to said town, and sign the petition in behalf of said town.' On the 16th of April, 1806, they instructed their deputies 'to use their utmost influence for a division of the town of Glocester, and to incorporate the north part thereof into a town by the name of Burrillville.'
'Sect. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly and by the authority thereof it is enacted, That the town of Glocester in the county of Providence, be divided into two towns, by a line drawn westerly through the middle of said town to the line of the State of Connecticut, and that the northern half of said town thus divided and sett off, be incorporated into a township by the name of Burrillville, and that the inhabitants thereof shall have and enjoy the like benefits, liberties, privileges and immunities as the other towns in the State generally enjoy and are entitled to.
'Sect. 2. And it is further enacted; That the free men of said town shall and may assemble in townmeeting on the third Monday in November A. D., 1806, to elect their town officers and transact all other business which by law a townmeeting may transact; And that Simeon Steere Esq. be authorized and directed to issue his warrant to any constable in said town of Burrillville to warn the freemen of said town to meet in townmeeting for the purpose aforesaid at such place and at such time on said day, as he may in his warrant appoint.
'Sect. 3. And be it further enacted; That Messrs. Joshua Bicknell, Joseph Rice and Thomas Mann be and they are hereby appointed a committee to make an equal division of the poor now supported at the expense of said town of Glocester, between the two towns, and also of the debts due or owing, and money belonging to the town of Glocester and the debts due from the said town, which said division shall be settled and made in proportion to the last tax assessed in said town.
'Sect. 4. And be it further enacted; That said committee be authorized and empowered to run the division line aforedescribed to set up monuments and boundaries thereon, and to report to the General Assembly at the next session.'
Messrs. Jesse Tourtelott, Thomas Owen, Esq., and Col. Elijah Armstong were appointed on the 27th of October, 1806, a committee in behalf of the town of Glocester, to attend the State Committee that had charge of the division of the poor, taxes, and debts between the two towns of Glocester and Burrillville.
This matter of the division-line between the two towns, and also of the poor, taxes, debts, accounts, and moneys, owing and due one to another, was equitably and satisfactorily adjusted by the several committees appointed for this purpose, and the two towns became separate and distinct organizations.
As has already been stated, the new town derived its name from the Hon. James Burrill, who was then Attorney-General of the State of Rhode Island. Mr. James Burrill was a native of Providence, and was born on the 25th of April, 1772. He entered Brown University at an early age, and graduated in the year 1788. Having a decided taste for the law, he entered upon the profession with his usual earnestness, and was admitted to the bar before he had attained his majority. By close application and hard study, he rapidly rose in his profession, and soon stood at the head of the bar in his native State. In 1797, he was chosen by the General Assembly to the office of Attorney-General, and by the most unanimous voice of the people, held this responsible position for some seventeen successive years, -- a fact that demonstrates not only his great legal abilities, but his capacity as a public official. In 1813, he resigned the office on account of failing health. Not content, however, that he should thus early retire from public life, the General Assembly again, in the year 1816, appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was afterwards placed in the Senate of the United States, where he remained an honored member until the period of his death. Although stricken down in the prime of life, when his career of usefulness seemed but just commencing, he had occupied many important positions both in the State and nation, and in the discharge of their varied duties, he was always true to principle; and his life is but another example of what perseverance and close application may accomplish, and furnishes a lesson to the young aspirant for official favor worthy of emulation.
On the seventeenth day of November, Burrillville held its first town meeting. Captain Joktan Putnam was chosen first moderator, and Daniel Smith, Jr., town clerk. Mr. Joktan Putnam was chosen a committee to wait on the Hon. James Burrill, to recieve a set of books, presented by him to the town, which were to be used in recording the records of the town. Each of these books had this label: 'Presented to the town of Burrillville by James Burrill, Jr., Esq., 1806.'
The first town council consisted of the following named persons; viz., John Esten, Esq., Simeon Steere, Esq., Samuel Smith, Amaziah Harris, William Ross, Moab Paine, and Levi Lapham.
Climate, Surface, Soil, &c.
The climate of Burrillville is usually colder than that of Providence. The summers, however, are found to be warm, while the winter is not so intensely cold, but, as a usual thing, more steady, and snow remains longer. It is a noticeable feature of this region, that however uncomfortable may be the day during the heated term, the nights are invariably pleasant and cool. Since the clearing of the land of its dense forest-growth, the climate has undergone quite a perceptible change, as is evidenced from its present indisputable healthfulness. Climate is made to depend, to a greater or lesser extent, upon the course of the wind; the coldest winds in this section appear to come from the southwest, but they are usually of short duration, and hence the inconvenience and uncomfortableness is mitigated by is brief severity. The winters of 1780, '81, '92 and '98 were extremely cold, the first mentioned being remarkable for its severity. It was impossible to keep the paths open, and at last they were abandoned entirely, and people travelled about with snow-shoes, and drew their grists to mill upon hand-sleds. The opinion is given that the climate in this section is severer than that in the same latitude eastward, and the closer proximity of the latter to the water is adduced as a satisfactory explanation. Northwestward the thermometer often falls below zero, and southeastward, while the temperature is a resemblance, it is not so equable. This is particularly noticeable in the winter session. From this fact it follows as a certain deduction, that those sections in the vicinity of the coast, especially those bordering upon it, are freer from extremes of heat and cold than those further north. As the land rises northward or northwestward, the influence of the water diminishes. It is often observable, when in early winter a rain falls along the coast, that a score of miles northward a fine sleet is seen, while further on is a snowfall. This influence of the water upon temperature was early observed by some of the first settlers and travellers through these different sections.
A more industrious people cannot be found than inhabit the town of Burrillville. The character of the soil and the roughness of its surface imposes upon the people the necessity of hard labor, and the practice of a certain degree of economy governs the conduct of many of these hardy yeomanry. The surface is diversified with hills and valleys, and the principal stream in the town has its source in Wallum Lake, which is located near the northern border of the town, and runs into Massachusetts. The soil is of a primitive gravelly loam, and many sections are rough and rocky and unfavorable for tillage. This diversity of surface renders grazing more profitable, although some good farms are found that produce some excellent grains. Apple-orchards are numerous and profitable, while oats, rye, corn, potatoes and some other products are cultivated with a considerable degree of success. Change of method, with increased machinery, has given the farmer command of his fields, and Burrillville is improving in her agricultural interests. The country is not generally adapted to the use of modern mower and reaper, yet a very few might be used with advantage in some localities. The farm buildings, as a general thing, are not very extensive although there are to be found some commodious farm dwellings and spacious out-buildings, especially those of modern date. The forest furnishes employment for many in the cutting of hoop-poles, shaving of shingles, and the hewing of ship-timber. The products of the quarries are considerable, and furnish employment to many, while they yield a profit, especially when some new factory village springs into existence. Here, in these homes, surrounded with the comforts and many of the luxuries of life, with the continual increase of modern improvements to facilitate labor, the citizens becomes more and more attached to his township, not only because he was born in it, but because it constitutes a free social body, of which he is a member, and whose government claims and deserves the exercise of his sagacity.
Up to 1844, the state of temperance was in a bad condition. Distilleries were in successful operation in many places through the country, and whiskey was sold as low as twenty-five cents a gallon, and that, or New England rum, was drank upon all occasions. Whether at general training, Fourth of July, logging-bees, raising, or harvesting, the liquor was passed and freely used. It stood upon the sideboards in every house, and it was thought the very height of inhospitality if the decanter was not passed to treat the casual visitor. Teachers, doctors, and even the dispenser of the better teachings of the gospel, were alike accustomed to indulge in potions from the cup. Even when ladies met at their quilting parties, the 'sling' imbibed exhilarated the mind and made conversation spirited. It was often the subject of comment and sharp criticism, if any failed to provide their spirituous stimulant The bride and groom were pledged in a full bumper, and at the funeral of some departed friend the guests expected and received liberal draughts of that 'cheer' that had helped to shorten the days of the very neighbor they buried.
Thus went on this terrible curse, until the people began to awaken to a realization of its terrible influences, and the dawning of a better day was at hand. At last, the generous voices that spoke for the drunkard, had an echo in Burrillville, and the temperance reform was inaugurated; slow in development at first, but destined to a successful issue. Strangers came from adjacent towns, and held meetings in various parts of the township, and old and young caught the fire of their eloquences, and, in turn, helped to agitate the subject, and this freedom of speech made the movement popular. Among the most prominent and eloquent speakers was one Dr. Christopher C. Harrington. He was a young man with no small degree of talent, and early imbued with a desire to rid his fellow-man of this accursed evil, he began the work of temperance reform in good earnest. About this time the friends of the liquor-traffic began to be alarmed lest they should lose their support, and they at once set on foot a conspiracy to 'blow the doctor out of town'. At last a case was trumped up, and a prosecution instituted against him on a charge of petty larceny. The warrant upon which he was arrested, alleged 'the stealing of three cents' worth of hay, and twenty cents' worth of grain, from the barn of one Benjamin Mowry, Jr.,' where the doctor had been boarding his horse. So great indeed was the alarm of this pro-liquor party, and so contemptible indeed the means resorted to, to accomplish their ends. The trial came off in Mowry's Hall, and was one of the most exciting cases ever held in Burrillville. Each side, of course, had its partisans, and after a long and exciting trial, it passed to the court for decision; and, be it said to its praise and credit, the decision of that court was a verdict of acquittal. Thus the friends of temperance came off victorious, and received new courage and hope for their success in the future.
Another gentlemen came among them, who was not, however, so fortunate in maintaining his good reputation. His name was Harvey P. Brown. He was an ardent advocate of temperance, and lectured in various parts of the town with great acceptance, and did much good, although his influence was somewhat retarded by his contracting many debts among the citizens and leaving them unsettled. Like Mr. Harrington, he had many bitter enemies, especially among the rum dealers, and these heartless opponents set on foot another conspiracy, in order to rid themselves of this reformer. Consequently they brought an accusation against his wife for theft. By some means or other, the charge was substantiated, and she was adjudged guilty. Upon the announcement of this verdict, Mr. Brown's feelings became uncontrollable, and he rushed from the court-room in despair, and, for many month, he was a raving maniac. He never fully recovered from the shock, but for years wandered about, the creature of circumstances; the ruined plaything of these more than demon-despots.
Nothing daunted, however, the friends of temperance kept up the agitation, and lecturers came from many parts of the country, and the ball was kept rolling until the town of Burrillville became the banner-town in the temperance-reform movement, and 'no license' was voted for several successive years. Although there are places where spirituous liquors are sold, yet, to-day, the influence of this reform is felt, and the Burrillville of to-day will compare favorably with any of her sister towns in sobriety, and in the virtue and morality of her citizens.
Old Places and Incidents.
One of the natural curiosities of the town of Burrillville is an old cave, sometimes called 'Cooper's Cave'. It is located on the road leading from Glendale to the old Stephen Cooper residence. There is a tradition that this cave was once the home of a band of counterfeiters, and that, secluded within this dark and forsaken place, they plied their vocation of making bogus coin. It was certainly a safe retreat, for no one would be likely to discover them, save, perchance, some solitary hunter might have stumbled upon them in his pursuit of game that had sought safety within this ledgy covert. The place also bears the appellation of the 'Forger's Cave'.
Another curiosity is also found in a cave on the margin of Round Top, in Buck Hill woods; and a singular and romantic history is attached to this strange old place. It was once inhabited by a veritable band of counterfeiters, and they used to call it Newport when talking to each other in the presence of strangers, for a blind, no doubt, and to allay any suspicions as to their whereabouts or their business. The several members of the gang lived in what is now known as Burrillville. In those times silver money was a rarity, and they took upon themselves the task of manufacturing old 'eighty-six' and 'Spanish milled' dollars. And thus concealed in this subterranean cavern, they set up their forges and dies, and proceeded in their unlawful and nefarious business. They made two sorts or kinds of these coins, -- one plated and the other mixed. The plated ones were easily detected, by taking a knife and cutting through their silver coating, when the copper or the amalgam was easily discerned. The continued to carry on their business quite successfully, having many parties interested upon the outside, who were furnished with the 'queer', and they disposed of it through the country by passing it off as genuine upon unsuspecting parties.
At last, however, they were apprehended, and their business ceased. One of their number went one evening to a hotel on Brandy Hill, and having a large supply of this bogus coin in his pocket, he spent it quite freely and became very tipsy. The large crowd that had congregated began to stare and wonder among themselves where the stranger could have obtained so many silver dollars, since there was so great a scarcity. They soon began to look upon it as a swindle of some sort, and the bar-tender looking at the pieces more closely discovered that they were all of the same date. The stranger was at once arrested and confessed the whole thing. Several other of the gang were also arrested, and brought to Chepachet before a justice. The cave was searched and their tools found and produced in court. The leader of the gang was placed on trial, but, retaining his coolness and cunning, he evaded the questions that were put to him. Critical mechanics examined into the modus operandi of the counterfeiting apparatus, and it was suggested to the court that as the key that pressed the die must be struck squarely in order to leave the sides of the coin a uniform thickness, that if the prisoner was given the instruments and asked to make an impression, the court would soon discover whether or not the chief was an expert in his vocation. The prisoner's coolness did not forsake him and his shrewdness was demonstrated, when, the hammer and die being placed in his hands and he was asked to strike the blow that should determine his skill, he brought it down in such an awkward manner as to bring the coin to a thin edge upon one side. This test was thought by some to be sufficient to establish the innocence of the prisoner, as so bungling a job could only be the work of a novice. Others, however, knew the craftiness of the man, and demanded that the examination should proceed. But as the case progressed it was found to implicate many members of the first families for miles around, when the questions became less rigorous and the prisoners were finally released and the prosecution ceased. Thus did this band of outlaws escape the punishment their crimes so justly merited, while a stain attached itself to the reputation of many of the other citizens for the part they had taken in this 'bogus' plot, and remained in all their after-life.
Another ancient relic is found in an old bark-mill that once stood in the valley of 'Muddy Brook'. They used to grind here by the use of horse-power, the bark passing between two large stones, similar to the manner in which we grind grain at the present time. This mill was of small dimensions, and but a limited amount of business was carried on there in those early days. It has long since crumbled away, and nothing remains but the site upon which it stood. Thus one after another of the relics of the past are passing away under the corroding tooth of time, to be remembered only in the traditions of history.
A little below the old bark-mill is the former site of the turning-lathe, once owned and occupied by one Shadrach Steere. He used to manufacture spinning-wheels, chairs, and last of all hoe-handles, scythe-nibs, and bobbins. Nothing now remains of the old mill; the dam has long since disappeared, and in the crannies of the pool where the old flume once stood, those speckled beauties that so often baffle the tactics of our most skillful sportsmen, sport and leap undisturbed from its rippling bosom.
The 'Old Paul Place' is another antiquated relic of the past, and a strange and sad history is connected with this old tenement of the past. It was originally the home of an ancient family by the name of Ballou. Near the wreck of this old castle are found the graves of those early pioneers, who once lived a happy and an industrious band, within this now ruined castle. It was afterwards occupied by one Paul Smith, from whence it derives its present appellation. A strange and romantic history is attached to this place since the advent of the Smiths. They seemed doomed to misfortune, for the wife of Mr. Smith became insane, and was confined for years in a lonely room, and at last became a hopeless idiot. One of the sons, too, a strong and athletic man, while engaged in a foot-race at Slatersville, burst a blood-vessel, and died within a short time. Other misfortunes of a less serious nature, however, seemed to follow this doomed family, until death removed them from the scenes of their disastrous adventures to that land where trials and misfortune are never known. The old place has long since been deserted; its great, old-fashioned chimney has yielded to time's decay, and the wind whistles through the old dilapidated fabric, the requiem of its departed tenants.
The lapse of two centuries and a half since this territory was first claimed and inhabited by the white settler, has obliterated almost all of the traces of the aboriginal tribes, that were wont to roam in savage independence over its wooded hills, through its verdant valleys, and along the banks of its crystal streams. Now and then the farmer's plow upturns some rude weapon of Indian warfare, or broken fragment of their domestic utensils. The red man's happy hunting-grounds have given place to well-cultivated fields, and upon the site of his wigwam-home arise a thousand thriving settlements. The places they once occupied, and the scenes of their early adventures and barbarous warfare are among the things of the past, to be traced only through the outlines of tradition. But so long as that beautiful sheet of water, known as 'Wallum Lake', casts its silver smile upon the traveller among the northern hills; and the sparkling, laughing streams, the Chepachet and Pascoag, flow on undisturbed through the valleys, fringed with the evergreen and forest pine, they will never be forgotten. Their lives and character are stamped upon many a craggy battlement, and their language is linked with many of the beautiful streams and brooklets, whose silvery cascades brighten the hillsides and add to the magnificent grandeur of surrounding scenery.
In the early settlement of the State, the region round about Burrillville was known as the Nipmuck dominion, it being occupied by a tribe of Indians bearing that name. This tribe was tributary to the Narragansetts, but, on the arrival of the English, they sought the opportunity of throwing off their dependence. There is now a stream in the northern part of the town known as the Nipmuck River. This river is formed by the union of the three streams; one rises in Shockalog Swamp in Uxbridge, Mass., one in Baiting Pond in Douglas, and the other in Maple-Sap Swamp. This river, thus formed by these tributaries, flows in a southerly direction through a wood called Pine Swamp, and unites with the Clear River at Shippee Bridge. The Pascoags were another tribe of Indians that inhabited this section, and one of the most important villages within the township derives its name from them. Tradition says that, in the Indian language, the term coag meant snake, and since this place was formerly the retreat of numerous species of this reptile, whenever they went by this place, they were accustomed to say 'Pass-coag'; hence the place derived its present name. There was also an old cabin in this locality known as the 'Black Hut', and was supposed to have been an Indian wigwam.
It is said, that some years ago a mammoth skeleton was exhumed by one Captain Samuel White, while excavating a cellar, and that the proportions of this human relic excited the wonderment of all the surrounding neighborhood. The bones were carefully preserved and put together, when it was found to be of extraordinary height and proportions. Tradition is silent so far as furnishing any record of this human relic. Imagination can only conjecture him as some giant of the forest that roamed the rude wilds, long, perhaps, before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth. A chief, perchance, that ruled ages ago over the Nipmuck tribe, and had fallen in some in some fierce combat with a hostile foe, while bravely urging on his gallant warriors to renewed exertions, and a final victory.
Deacon Saulsbury, also, some years ago, while digging a hole for a gate-post, came upon a bundle of Indian arrows, and several other ancient implements. They were found in a bundle together several feet under the surface of the ground. Whence came these rude relics of a race long since extinct? Once more we search the records of legendary lore, and find its portals sealed, and tradition silent. These scanty relics are all that are left of a once numerous, though barbarous race; and while we regret Indian wrongs, we see them yield to manifest destiny, and pass away forever.
In 1853, Messrs. Steere and Tinkham formed a co-partnership, and commenced the manufacture of plaid-goods, kentucket jeans, &c., and for three years carried on the business at Mapleville. At the expiration of that time, they purchased the Harrisville Mills, in the same town, of one Jason Emerson, and removed their business to the latter place. They then commenced the manufacture of satinets, with four sets of machinery. In 1857, they built the large dam at Harrisville, and added great improvements to their mills. In 1859-60, four additional sets of machinery were added to their mills, and they commenced the manufacture of fancy cassimeres.
In 1872, a change was made in the firm. Mr. Tinkham purchased Mr. Steere's interest in the business, and took, as a partner, Mr. F. S. Farwell. The firm of Tinkham & Farwell have continued the business up to the present time, making some important changes in their buildings, and adding steam in connection with their water-power. These gentlemen are thoroughly acquainted with every department of their business, and, being energetic men, they are doing, in spite of the depression of the times, a large, profitable, and safe business.
These consist of two distinct manufactories, known as the upper and lower mill. The former was completely destroyed by fire Sept. 3, 1871. At that time it contained six sets of woollen cards, and spinning with preparation, and nine sets of looms and finishing, all employed in the manufacture of woollen and union cassimeres. The first mill erected in Mapleville, was in 1846. It was built of wood, by D. L. Whipple, and devoted to the manufacture of satinets. Some time afterwards, he built, in connection with this, a stone part, the rooms of which, with power, &c., were subsequently rented to parties, who became among the most successful manufacturers of the town and State. About 1862, the buildings were enlarged, improved, and consolidated into a six-set fancy woolen mill. In 1863, the property was sold to G. A. & J. A. Smith, who sold it in 1865 to Messrs. Whitehead & Legg. It was operated by the above parties until 1868, when Mr. James Whitehead sold his interest to James Legg, the present sole proprietor.
The present lower mill was built in 1872 and 1873, by James Legg, and is now owned by him, and operated by James Legg & Sons. In size, thoroughness of construction, protection against fire, and excellence of arrangement in all of its various departments, it is unsurpassed by any like institution in the town. It contains six sets of woollen cards and spinning, with preparation for same; thirteen sets of looms with finishing, and three thousand six hundred and twelve spindles. In consumes annually three hundred and fifty thousand pounds of wool stock, one hundred and sixty thousand pounds of cotton, and produces five hundred and fifty thousand yards of union cassimeres, and one hundred and thirty-five pounds of cotton yarns.'
A small stone mill containing one set of woollen cards and looms, with preparation and finish, was built on the site in 1842, by Darius P. Lawton. It was destroyed by fire a few years afterwards, and again rebuilt. In 1856, Oliver Tracy bought the mill and privilege, and considerably enlarged it. In 1857, he sold it to Messrs. Smith & Hawkins. Subsequently it was transferred to Mr. Joseph B. Smith, who again enlarged it, and converted it into a fancy woollen mill. About July, 1864, it was purchased by Messrs. Smith & Whitehead, and operated by them until March, 1865, when Frederick B. Smith bought the interest of James Whitehead, thus becoming the sole proprietor. In 1866, Mr. Smith sold to Whitehead & Legg, who operated it until the dissolution of the firm in 1867. Mr. James Legg purchased the entire interest in both upper and lower mill, and became the sole proprietor. By him were added the improvements already described, and it is subject to his personal supervision. These mills rank among the first in the town, and do a large and profitable business.
The present Granite Mill, owned in part and operated by Albert L. Sayles, was erected in the year 1865. It contains ten sets of cards, and spinning apparatus for same. It is used in the manufacture of heavy cassimeres, using about two thousand pounds of wool per day. Its weekly production of manufactured goods is about twelve thousand yards. It has a capacity of one hundred horse power; operated in part by water and in part by steam. On the site of this privilege, was started the first custom carding and cloth draping establishment in the town, about the year 1800. Daniel Sayles, and his sons Harding and Pitts Sayles, and John Chace, were the proprietors.
Sometime afterwards, the Union Woollen Company was formed, composed of the said Sayles, Chace, Jacob and Josiah Seagraves, Jr., of the city of Providence. In 1838, or 1839, the first manufacture of fancy cassimeres was commenced by the above parties. This company was dissolved in 1848 or 1849, and Lyman Copeland became interested with the Messrs. Sayles. In 1855, the present proprietor, and main owner of the present Granite Mill, became interested, by purchasing Mr. Pitts Sayles' interest, Mr. Copeland having previously retired. Hardin Sayles, the father of Albert L., died in the month of June, 1861, after which time the whole management of the business devolved upon the son, and under his skilful management, it is to-day one of the most flourishing and successful manufactories in the town.
This mill was erected in 1850, by John L. Ross, and was leased and run by the Woonsocket Delaine Company, for several years, in the manufacture of worsted goods. Subsequently, Mr. J. L. Ross filled it with cotton machinery, and commenced the manufacture of satinet warps; and while hoop-skirts were in fashion, large quantities of yarn were made for this purpose. In 1870, it was enlarged, and at present a large quantity of cotton yarns are made. It is run by water-power usually, but has steam connected, which is used when short of water. Under the management of its present proprietor, it is doing a good business. The hamlet of Oakland has a population of some two hundred and twenty-five, and is, withal, a very pleasant and cosy little village. Fine rows of beautiful rock-maples adorn the street, which give to it ample shade, and an air of comfort.
Glendale is a thriving little village, situate in the northeast part of the town of Burrillville, twelve miles from Connecticut, and four miles from Massachusetts; six miles from the depots of the Providence and Worcester and New York and New England railroads; also one and a quarter miles from the Providence and Stonington Railroad. About a century ago, a grist and saw mill was erected here on this water privilege, which is indeed the very best power in town. It has some eighteen feet fall, and has both the Pascoag and Chepachet streams, with Laurel Hill, Herring Pond, and other helps. It has a capacity fully equal to three hundred horse-power. The above mills were last owned by the Newell family, and called the Newell Mills.
The property passed through several owners' hands, in a short space of time, and was finally purchased by Mr. Anthony Steere, who discarded both saw and grist mill, and built a large cotton-mill in their stead. This was hardly completed and put in operation, before it was destroyed by fire. The houses and tenements were all saved, and before the mill was fully rebuilt, it was sold to Mr. Lyman Copeland, in the year 1853. Mr. Copeland converted it into a woollen-mill, and put in and started eight sets of machinery. Soon after, he added one more set, making nine in all. He engaged in the manufacture of fine fancy cassimeres.
In 1858, the mill was leased to Olney & Metcalf of Providence, who run it some four of five years. In 1863, it was leased to Day & Chapin of Providence; and in 1868, again leased, to Francis Carpenter of Glendale. Mr. Carpenter operated the mill under the lease for some five years, and soon after purchased the entire property of Mr. Copeland, and at present is its sole proprietor.
Since the purchase by Mr. Carpenter, the mill has been improved and extended, until its weaving capacity is one hundred full fancy Crompton looms, equal to twenty sets of machinery, and still has power for double this amount, without the use of steam. The mill at present is run in the manufacture of fancy cassimeres, worsteds, and coatings. Monthly production is sixty thousand yards. Employs some two hundred and fifty hands, and under its present management is doing a large and profitable business.
Clear River Woollen Mills.
The village of Saxondale, which, more properly speaking, together with other small villages, goes to make up the present thriving village of Pascoag, is located on Clear River, and is the first mill privilege above where Clear River and Pascoag streams unite their waters. The first business done at this place was done by Elisha and Daniel Sayles, two brothers, who established a forge and purchased about two hundred acres of land in 1773. They continued the manufacture of iron for a number of years; the ore was obtained from the town of Cumberland. About the year 1835, Whipple Sayles, a son of Elisha, became the possessor, by inheritance, and erected a blacksmith shop for the purpose of making scythes. But after the shop was built, the project was abandoned, and not much was done until about 1844, when George W. Marsh leased the privilege, with a few acres of adjoining land, for a term of twenty years, and erected a mill for manufacturing kentucket jeans, and also built tenements for the accommodation of his help. The mill was afterwards changed to make fancy cassimeres, and was occupied by him and his son Edward, until 1861, when it was burned down. It remained in this condition for the next four yeas, until the expiration of the lease.
In the summer of 1865, James O. Inman purchased the estate and commenced the erection of a substantial stone mill, together with outbuildings, and filled the mill with four sets of woollen machinery, which were put in operation in the spring of 1866 for the manufacture of fine fancy cassimeres, which are known in the market as 'Clear River Woollens'.
During the heaviest storm known in this section, which occurred May 25, 1876, the reservoir at Wilson's was filled to overflowing, and carried away the reservoir dam, and with it all the dams and bridges up to and including the dam here, and spreading general destruction in its course. The loss of water, which had been stored for use in the summer, left the mill without power in that direction. Therefore steam was resorted to, and an engine was procured and put in, and the dam rebuilt, and the mill put in operation again in about six weeks.
In the summer of 1877 an addition was built on the mill, making it 52 x 150 feet, with two additional sets put in the mill, making six sets in all. The goods manufactured are among the finest made in this country; consuming nearly four hundred thousand pounds of double extra Ohio, Pennsylvania, Australian, and New Zealand wools per annum. Employs one hundred hands. The whole establishment is under the efficient management of Albert E. Farwell, as superintendent.
A. Hopkins & Co., Spindle-makers and Machinists.
Laurel Ridge village, up to the year 1831, had only one house and a rude saw-mill, as the water power was only slightly improved. In tracing the records we find that on the twenty-eighth day of April, 1815, the water privilege, together with sixteen acres and two rods of land contingent, were deeded to Nancy Brown (the wife of James Brown), by her father, Nathan Cooper (for love and good-will). On the 22d of February, 1831, it was deeded to Asa Churchill and Horace W. Hopkins, by Mr. and Mrs. Brown, for $350. On May 2, 1831, Messrs. Churchill and Hopkins sold a third interest to Cornelius Foster, for $116.67. During this year the water-power was improved, and a building was erected for the manufacture of spindles and fliers. October 16, 1832, Horace W. Hopkins sold his interest to Levi Lapham, Jr., for $1,050. May 26, 1834, Augustus and Horace W. Hopkins bought Asa Churchill's interest for $510. June 2, 1835, Augustus and Horace W. Hopkins bought the interests of Cornelius Foster and Levi Lapham, Jr., for $1,730, since which time the manufacture of spindles and fliers has been carried on under the firm-name of A. Hopkins & Co. The facilities for manufacturing have been enlarged to three or four times the original capacity, and it enjoys the reputation of furnishing the best work of its class manufactured in this country, and for more than a quarter of a century furnished the larger part of the spindles used by the leading manufactories of spinning machinery.
In 1845, Mr. Augustus Hopkins became the sole proprietor, and is still the owner, although owing to his advanced age (eighty-seven), he has been obliged to relinquish somewhat the responsibilities of his business. Through his perseverance and close application to his business he made it a success. The manufacture of spindles and fliers is carried on at present by his son-in-law and grandson, under the old firm-name of A. Hopkins & Co., which has not been out of the immediate family since 1835. It has a capacity of two hundred thousand spindles per annum, and in good times gives employment to about sixty hands. With the exception of one or two instances, the present corps of help have been in the employment of this company from five to thirty years. It has always been a motto of the firm to avoid the changing of help, and the success it has achieved has been in no small way due to this fact, in connection with another, that of not giving employment to any parties of low, immoral, or intemperate character. There are no drinking saloons, nor have ever, been, in the village. Almost without exception their help have been native Americans.
Fisk, Sayles & Co.'s Mills, Pascoag.
In 1847, J. T. Fisk purchased of George W. Estin what is now known as the 'Lower Mill", and continued to operate it until 1855, at which time he let the mill and machinery to other parties, who occupied it for some five years. In 1859, it met the fate so common among establishments of this character, and was completely destroyed by fire; rebuilt in the spring of 1860, and operated in the manufacture of satinets until 1868. In 1867, Messrs. Fisk & Sayles purchased of S. Thompson the property known as the 'Thompson Mill'. It contained four sets of cards and twenty-five narrow looms, with finishing machinery. They added two sets of cards and sixteen broad and six narrow Crompton looms, rebuilt dye-house, put new floors in main building, new boilers, engine and piping, making a first-class cassimere mill of six sets. They continued to operate it for some two years, and then the J. T. Fisk and Fisk & Sayles mills were consolidated, under the firm-name and style of Fisk, Sayles & Co., which exists at the present time. Under the present management these mills are doing a large, profitable, and safe business, and are destined to an undoubted success in the future.
Temple of Honor, No. 25. This society was organized at the Baptist Church, in Pascoag, April 25, 1871; was instituted by H. W. Kimball, Grand Worthy Templar of Rhode Island, and other officers. The officers chosen at this organization were: W. C. T., Joseph F. Esten; W. V. T., Charles A. Wright; W. Rec., E. M. Phillips; W. Asst. Rec., S. R. Manchester; W. F. Rec., Alonzo A. Sayles; W. Treas., F. M. Wood; W. Usher, Benjamin Hunt; W. Deputy-Usher, James M. Boutwell; W. G., A. Dorrity; W. Sent., E. S. Smith; P. W. C. T., A. S. Hopkins; W. Chap., N. Phillips. The number of charter members was twenty-seven. The meetings are held every Monday evening in Sayles' Hall, and are well attended, and all take great interest in the welfare and prosperity of their order.
Granite Lodge, No. 26, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was established Aug. 22, 1867. Constituted May 18, 1868. Number of charter members, forty-five. First officers: W. M., Andrew K. Ballou; S. W., Wm. J. Tracy; J. W., Alonzo A. Sayles; Treas., A. C. Sayles; Sec., Samuel O. Griffin; S. D., Henry M. Chase; J. D., E. T. King; S. S., Russell K. Mathewson; J. S., Charles S. Harris; M., James Phillips; Chap., Alfred A. Presbry; Tyler, T. S. Ambler. Present membership is seventy-eight. Regular meetings first Saturday after the full moon, and they are held in Harrisville.
Granite Lodge, No. 33, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at Pascoag, was instituted Jan. 2, 1874, with fifteen charter members. First officers were: N. G., William Nugent; V. G., M. Wood; R. S., H. A. Potter; Treas., A. C. Sayles. The first meetings were held in the Old Hotel hall. The building at present occupied by the order was erected in 1875, at an expense of $10,000. It is a three-story building, about 40 x 70 feet. Upon the first, or ground floor, are three fine and commodious stores, -- the first occupied by S. E. Miller as a drug-store and post-office; the second is occupied by D. S. Salisbury as a dry goods and clothing house; the third is occupied by a news-room and barber-shop; the second story is used for a public hall, known as Music Hall. Here are held all public gatherings, and the citizens manifest a considerable degree of interest in this fine and commodious hall. The third story is occupied by the members of the order. It is elegantly furnished with appropriate lodge-furnishings, and both officers and members feel a just pride in their worthy institution.
Prospect Lodge, No. 66, Independent Order of Good Templars, was instituted Feb. 13, 1877. Number of charter members, fifteen. First officers were: W. C. T., Thomas Jones; W. V. T., Melissa Clarke; W. Sec., Emma Southwick; W. A. S., Arnold W. Clarke; W. T., James Sykes; W. F. S., Harriet Keech; W. C., L. G. Carey; W. M., Charles Hickey; W. I. G., Susan Mowry; W. S. Mary Wall; L. D., W. C. Southwick. Present membership is thirty-seven. Meetings are held Thursday evenings in the vestry of Calvary Church, at Harrisville.
In the early settlement of the town of Burrillville, there were so few families in any one neighborhood, that for many years little or nothing was attempted in the way of providing schools. These early pioneers had come into these rude wilds to work out for themselves, and those dependent upon them, homes, and the difficulties to be overcome, and the labor and hardships attending their efforts, furnished but little time for study. The development of muscle, and the capacity for enduring the trials and privations to be encountered in laying the foundations of these early settlements, were to them of greater importance than the mere education of the mind, or the development of the intellectual faculties. The younger members of the family, scarcely attaining the years of majority, were sent into the woods to help fell those giants of the forest, or into the clearing already made to cultivate the soil, and thus to enhance the growth of those products barely necessary for their yearly sustenance. The places of settlement were often so scattered that communication was barely possible, and thus the spirit of the present generation unites in honoring those of the past, yet they would not be of them. Under a wise economy, each race is fitted for the exigencies of the times, and as the early pioneers nobly did their work, so we of the present receive it from them; and may it be our pride and aim to pass it, improved, to our successors.
The earliest date at which any regular school-house was built, was in the year 1806, the same year that the town of Glocester was divided. There were, doubtless, schools within this territory prior to the division, but little note has ever been made of them. They were held in private houses, shops, &c., and some of the oldest inhabitants of the town to-day were pupils in these primitive times, and recount many amusing scenes that transpired in their early school-days.
In 1828, the first record was made relating to the schools of the town. In June of that year, two committees were appointed; one consisting of twenty-three men, for the dividing of the town into school-districts; and the other, consisting of twenty-one persons, that were to constitute the school-board. The town was subsequently divided into school districts, which at present number fifteen. In 1839, the school expenditures were $1,003.32, while in 1875 they reached the handsome sum of $11,466.05. Average number of pupils in 1839 was 446, while in 1875 they reached an average of 995. This increase, both in expenditures and attendance, marks a growing interest in the subject of education. The schools of the town of Burrillville compare favorably with those of her sister towns, and are to-day in a prosperous and flourishing condition.
Laurel Hill Methodist Episcopal Church.
Elder Britt was the first Methodist that preached at Burrillville. He commenced his preaching in 1810, holding his meetings at the residence of Moab Paine. In 1840, a class was formed at Laurel Hill, and they had preaching occasionally, holding their services in an upper room in what was then known as the Withwood Factory. In 1847, through the efforts of Mr. George Marsh and a few others, a church was built, and, from that time, had regular preaching. In 1874, a vestry was built at the rear of the church. In 1877, the church was enlarged, and also had over a hundred members added to the society. The church buildings are in good repair, and the society wields an influence for good in the community, and is in a prosperous condition.
Freewill Baptist Church.
This church is located at Pascoag, and is the first society of this denomination organized in the State. Through the efforts of Elder Colby, a society was gathered and a church formed on Dec. 15, 1812. The first church meeting was held Feb. 11, 1813, and the first Freewill Baptist quarterly meeting held in the State, was at the old Burrillville meeting-house on the twelfth day of March, 1814. Mr. Colby remained pastor for some time, and was very active in all matters pertaining to the better development of the society, and in promoting all of its varied interests. Failing health, however, caused his resignation, and he sought relief from his distressing malady under the influence of a Southern climate. But, having barely commenced his journey southward, he was arrested at Norfolk, Va., by the mandate of death, and his body was kindly permitted burial in the family burying-ground of Mr. William M. Fanquier, at Norfolk. Thus this good man passed to his reward, lamented by a large concourse of admiring friends. He was succeeded by numerous other active and worthy pastors who felt a deep interest in the prosperity and welfare of the church and society.
The church building has been improved from time to time, and, at present, is a fine and commodious structure. Its present pastor is Rev. A. Lovejoy, and its present membership is about one hundred and thirty. John Walling has been deacon of this church for some forty years past, and, in all matters pertaining to his official duties, he has been found prompt and active, and consistent with the principles he advocates. Duty Salisbury and Andrew Ballard were its first deacons, but have long since passed to the reward of their faithful stewardships. The society, under its present pastorate, is in a flourishing condition, and, on the harmonious co-operation of its members, depends its future success.
As near as can be ascertained, this church was built in 1857, at Harrisville. The early records have been lost, and hence we are unable to give a complete record of this society. The first pastor was Rev. J. H. Eames, now of Concord, N. H. To this reverend gentleman is accorded the credit of gathering this church. This is at present a missionary station, and there has been no permanent pastor, and no services have been held since 1876. The church is pleasantly located on Chapel Street, in the village of Harrisville.
Berean Baptist Church.
This church was organized at Harrisville, in 1874. It grew from a Sabbath school which was started about 1867. At the organization there were but nine members; but at the present, the society numbers forty-one. Rev. William Fitz tendered his services gratuitously for a time, but is at present officiating, upon a salary obtained through the means of subscription. The organization has no church edifice, but holds its meetings in Smith's Hall, which is located on Chapel Street. The principal growth of this society was in the spring of 1877, when a deep interest was felt in spiritual matters, and many became awakened to a sense of religious duty, and joined this Christian organization.
Much credit is due for the establishment of this organization to Miss Ida Steere. This young lady was a native of the town, fond of gay society, naturally of a lively disposition, and yet possessed of many excellent qualities and admirable traits of character. She visited Putnam, in Connecticut, and, during her stay, became awakened to a sense of Christian duty, and was converted. Returning to Harrisville, she entered upon the occupation of teaching. Deeply interested in the cause she had but recently espoused, and impressed with a sense of her obligation to impart to others the joy and satisfaction she had experienced in embracing the truths of the gospel, she sought and obtained permission to hold prayer-meetings at the house of one Mr. Coggswell. These meetings were attended at first only by a few; but the earnestness with which they were conducted led others to attend, and soon a Sabbath-school was formed, and much interest manifested. From this germ thus planted by the efforts of this estimable young lady, has sprung the present Berean Church organization. May all of her fondest anticipations be fully realized, and the interest already manifested in this noble cause experience no decline.
The Society of Friends held meetings in Glocester, now Burrillville, as early as the year 1783. At that time, and for several years, the members belonged to Uxbridge monthly meeting of Massachusetts. About the year 1790 they were attached to Smithfield monthly meeting of Rhode Island. During those years they held their meetings in the dwelling-house of Jesse Battey. In 1791 a lot was obtained near Cooper's Mills, now the village of Mapleville; it being deeded to James Smith and Jesse Battey, at a cost of £109 10s. It was unpretentious in size and architecture. Meetings for worship were held here until 1793, when a preparative meeting was established, which was a branch of and subordinate to Smithfield monthly meeting. Among the early members were Benjamin Battey and wife and seven children, James and Rufus Smith, Enoch Steere and wife, and Job Chase; a little later were Mary and Smith Battey, Shadrack Steere and wife, Buffum Chase and wife, Philip and Mary Walden. The membership, though never large, is larger now than it was a number of years ago.
St. Patrick's Church, Harrisville.
It is a plain, unpretending wooden structure, beautifully located on the outskirts of the village of Harrisville. Within the portals have assembled during the past twenty-two years the Catholics from the neighboring villages, Pascoag, Plainville, and Chepachet. The older members of the congregation are attached to this church, and recount with pride its past history. About twenty-five years ago there were but few of their faith in this part of the State, and owing to their circumstances they could not have a resident pastor. They were visited, however, once a month by a clergyman from the cathedral in the city of Providence. At length a pastor was appointed, and Rev. Father Lenihan was sent to organize the parish and to built a church. He commenced a structure at Pascoag, but the work was subsequently abandoned.
Rev. Father Tully, his successor, deeming Harrisville a more central point for the Catholics of the surrounding towns and villages, began St. Patrick's Church. The work was completed under the charge of Rev. Father Duffy by whom, also, the church was afterwards enlarged. During the pastorate of Father Duffy, St. Patrick's was not only the central point for the Catholics in Burrillville, but it was also the centre, whence were attended many places that are now thriving parishes, Viz., Putnam, Conn., Slatersville, and Manville, R. I. Upon the retirement of Rev. Father Duffy the Rev. Father James O'Reilly succeeded to the pastoral charge of the church. After a few years he was called to receive the reward of his stewardship, beloved by all who knew him. Rev. William H. Brie, at present pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Fall River, was the next spiritual adviser of St. Patrick's. Under his prudent management the church was quickly relieved from debt, the church property enlarged, and a new cemetery purchased, which is situated in a beautiful portion of the town. The present pastor is Rev. Father John Kiegan. The congregation propose soon to erect a new church, one more becoming the dignity of the Catholic worship, and better suited for the accommodation of its rapidly increasing numbers.