Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Community Guidelines

                              Which can be achieved by simply mentioning the title of this Kids in the Hall skit...

Saturday, April 8, 2023

South Kingstown at 300: Small State Big History Article Part 1

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the creation of the town of South Kingstown. When I realized in late January that the community that was so much the focus for my MA thesis was celebrating the most noteworthy birthday that would take place during my lifetime, I began writing an article about its conception and birth. 

Actually, what I did is I went to the chunk of my thesis that focused on the history of South Kingstown up to the point of its incorporation -- originally written sometime between 11 to 14 years ago -- and I began re-reading, editing and updating it for eventual publication somewhere in connection with the 300th anniversary celebration. This the town of South Kingstown is celebrating with year-long series of events they are calling "SK300." 

I sent out an email to Christian McBurney, the editor and owner of "Small State Big History: The Online Review of Rhode Island History," and he wrote back that he would be interested in publishing an article on the early history South Kingstown as soon as it was ready. I also reached out to the South County Museum and told them I would be available to speak on the subject, and they gave me a date this summer (July 12, 2023, iirc) to present the topic to their members. 

Now that I had some proper deadlines to agonize over, it was time to get to work!

On February 16, my friend archaeologist Joseph "Jay" Waller gave a lecture for SK300 on the prehistory and archaeology of South Kingstown. Since I have a standing dinner date with my daughter on Thursday's after her track practice and before dropping her off at her mother's, I was unable to make it to his presentation, But I have seen several talks Jay has given on the subject of RI archaeology and the pre-contact Narragansett village known as "RI 110" and I highly recommend watching the video of Jay's SK300 presentation here. The parts of my thesis, and the article for SK300, that explains the culture and society of the Narragansett people before the arrival of Roger Williams in 1636, partially relies on his research, so mad props to Jay Waller. And props to Executive Director of the Tomaquag Museum Lorén Spears as well, who took the time to meet with me to discuss pre-Contact and 17th century Narragansett settlements back in the days of my thesis research. 

Lorén actually gave the first history presentation for SK 300 back in January -- “Kumagooaunash Numanutoom, All Creator’s Gifts.” I would very much liked to have seen it, but I was unaware of these presentations were happening or even that SK300 was a thing when she gave it. Unfortunately there is no recording of Lorén's talk on the South Kingstown website like there is for all the other SK300 presentations... 

Anyway. I was making good progress on the research and rewriting for the SK300 article, but then running Rhode Island Model Legislature 2023 took up most of the month of March. 

RI Representative David Cicilline giving the 2023 Keynote in the House Chamber
RI Model Legislature March 25, 2023 

But once Model Legislature was successfully concluded, I turned back to the article. I had sent a rough draft to Christian McBurney before I got whelmed by Model Legislature. He write back that it looked interesting and he was looking forward to the final version. Then he asked me if he could use one of my maps for the talk he was giving for SK300, on the topic of "The Rise and Fall of the Narraganset Planters: 1660-1783." 

SK300 advertisement on Facebook for Christian McBurney's presentation of the Narragansett 
Planter's slave economy, circa 1660-1783

I told him of course he could use my map. I was also able to attend his SK300 lecture on March 30, 2023, as my daughter couldn't make our dinner date because she had dress rehearsal for Swan Lake immediately after track practice that night. 

It was so cool to see my "Map of Land Acquisitions in Rhode Island, 1657-1662" up on the screen!

Christian McBurney and my map "Land Acquisitions in Rhode Island, 1657-1662," from my MA thesis

Besides identifying and reading the various relevant sources that had been published in the decade or so since I finished my thesis, I decided to go to the South Kingstown Town Hall and track down the so-called "town charter." I recalled that while researching my thesis all those years ago, I had stumbled across a typewritten version of the town charter tucked in the back of one of the town meeting record books. 

I not only found it, but thanks to Susan Flynn, the current town clerk and her fabulous stick note, I was also able to identify the town clerk who had transcribed the charter back in 1936!

Sticky note from the current town clerk with Howard Perry's info, which now lives on the wall in my office.
Perry was SK town clerk for about 55 was not uncommon for SK town clerks to serve for decades.

South Kingstown's typed-out charter, transcribed by Town Clerk Howard Perry in 1936

The "original" charter, as drawn up by Richard Ward, General Recorder for the Colony
of Rhode Island, on April 30, 1723. This document can be found on  pages 31-32 in 
South Kingstown Meeting Records Vol. I, 1723-1776

The existence of the charter and its significance to the birth of South Kingstown became the introduction to my article, which I thought was better than just starting with the historical account. Going to the SK town hall to do research was also quite the blast from the past -- I practically lived in the records vault of the South Kingstown Town Hall nearly every summer from 2003 to 2012 -- only when I wasn't at the RI State Archives or the Legislative Library at the RI Statehouse in Providence, or in the RI Judicial Records Center in Pawtucket...

The SK Town Records Vault. Entry is now "by appointment only," which is new from my thesis research days.
I bet this place was crazy though during the pandemic real estate boom...

South Kingstown's Town Meeting Records, 1723-1919.
Fun fact: South Kingstown has the most complete set of town records in the state of Rhode Island.

Side view of the South Kingstown Town Hall. The stone structure on the right was built in 1870s;
the modern section on the left was constructed I believe in the 1970s.

At any rate, here is the link to part one of my article. I hope you enjoy it, and give it a 💗 if you did!