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Some 18th Century Houses of Smithfield, Rhode Island

An Illustrated Talk By

KAY K. AND LOUISE W. MOORE

For the Historical Society of Smithfield

January 2d, 1985

at the

Greenville Public Library

In Two Volumes

Volume 1 - Text

Volume 2 Album


Foreword

These lecture notes, with the accompanying volume of pictures, are revisions of an exhibit prepared by the compilers for the Greenville Public Library in Sept./Oct. 1964, which exhibit carried the title: "Candle Days in Smithfield". Included were specimens of household implements and other artifacts of the period, as well as photographs and other pictures of about 35 eighteenth century houses mounted on panels around the library, each picture being provided with a typed label containing a brief historical or descriptive comment.

When the Historical Society of Smithfield requested us to prepare a program for them, we gathered up the album of photographs and the accompanying labels from the library, resurrected the manuscript notes on the research done in 1964, and reorganized them to provide hopefully an interesting sequence. Unfortunately the photo album was not complete, as some of the original pictures had been loaned by the owners. However, we have been able to find or borrow other pictures, which we have had copied for this presentation. Only one house is not represented -- the Nathan Barnes house -- which has been destroyed since 1964, and at this time we have been unable to locate either the original borrowed photograph or any other.

The following text is substantially what was presented in the program. In a few instances additional information obtained from the exhibit labels is provided here. This material can be identified by its centered postion on the page, following the spoken text.

K. K. Moore

 
SOME EIGHTEENTH CENTURY HOUSES OF SMITHFIELD, RHODE ISLAND

Introduction

Twenty years ago in Sept./Oct. 1964, the Greenville Public Library sponsored an exhibition entitled "Candle Days in Smithfield", which included displays of early house implements and other artifacts, and also featured photographs of about 35 Smithfield houses built in the eighteenth century, The latter part of this project entailed a great deal of preparation during the summer months by both my wife and me. Louise, as a local resident, was familiar with many of the locations, and much time was spent driving around the streets and roads of the town in an attempt to identify other structures that had characteristics similar to the ones she knew were of the right period. We were amazed at the number we could identify. Some of these had been listed in 1931 when the bicentennial of' the old Town of Smithfield was celebrated.

 Once we had developed the original list, we spent much time searching the records of deeds, particularly in the Smithfield Town Hall, but mainly in the archives in Central Falls, the repository of such records before the1871 division of the old Town of Smithfield -- which as you know included the present towns of Lincoln, Smithfield., North Smithfield, the city of Central Falls and parts of the cities of Pawtucket and Woonsocket.

 To make the exhibit a visual one, we enlisted the cooperation of Frank Hutnak., a young amateur photographer who had recently provided the Observer with some interesting pictures. Many of the black and white photographs shown tonight are the results of' his endeavors. In the original exhibit these were augmented by pictures supplied by the owners in 1964, including a framed painting of the original Greenville Tavern in its full glory, before the state destroyed most of it in 1936 when Putnam Pike was widened.

 We must first identify at least four houses that have disappeared. The first one (#l) is the Peter Barnes house off' Wolf Hill Road. It was built before 1700 by Peter Barnes, according to notes made by Sadie Barnes Sebille. Peter had bought the large farm from a Jonathan Salisbury; the house was remodeled by his son Enoch. In later years this property was known as the Levi Barnes farm. The house was not standing in 1964.

 The second one (#2) - [ K. K. Moore notes in the Album volume that no picture in 1985 was available] - is the Nathan Barnes house off Putnam Pike at the intersection of Sebille Road, and was built after 1718. It remained in the family and was finally inherited by Nathan's great- great granddaughter, Sadie Barnes, who married Arthur P. Sebille. Sometime after the death of Arthur Sebille the house was torn down when the intersection of 1-295 and Route 44 was constructed. Some of you may remember the house with its numerous porches, the result of remodeling done after 1910.

House was owned by five generations of the Barnes family:

 I. Peter Barnes (1659-1757) owned the land.

 II. Nathan Barnes (b.1718) built the house. He died unmarried his brother Enoch (b.1721) inherited.

 III. Col. Levi Barnes (b.1753) son of Enoch inherited.

 IV. Jonathan Barnes (1788-1822) son of Levi inherited.

 V. Orrin Barnes (1828-1906) grandson of Levi bought from Jonathan's heirs.

 VI. Sarah E. (Barnes) Sebille (1874-1963) daughter of Orrin.

 VIL Arthur P. Sebille, widower of Sadie, inherited.

For the 1964 exhibit Arthur Sebille provided a framed picture of the house. In 1985 no one seemed to know where to find that picture, so no picture could be shown. Another house (#3) that has disappeared since 1964, as the result of a disastrous fire, is the Thomas Owen/John Whipple house built in 1752 by Thomas Owen and John Olney in Georgiaville, on Fenwood Street opposite the end of Whipplee Avenue. In 1755 it was purchased by John Fenner, whose daughter married Ebhraim Whipple, and until its destruction it remained in the possession of Whipple descendants.

 The fourth house (#4) that has disappeared is the Thomas Plaine Tavern that was built in 1790, and was located on what is now part of the parking area in front of Almacs in the Apple Valley Mall. Many of you will remember the two taverns on the opposite sides of Putnam Pike, at what for many years was known as Mowry's Corner. George W. Mowry bought the original tavern in 1825 from Thomas Paine. Later Mr. Paine built the second tavern across the pike, which then was known as the Powder Mill Turnpike. Gates were constructed across the road and fees were collected from travelers until 1873. Sometime later the Mowry family purchased the second tavern. Stencils were used for wall decoration in the older building. Similar patterns are found in other Smithfield houses, indicating that Moses Eaton, an itinerant stenciler, might have done the work here. Both taverns were well-known., and the dance hall on the second floor of' the later tavern was heavily patronized over the years. Previous owners: Thomas Paine, George W. Mowry, Alonzo P. Mowry, Mattie (Mowry) Walcott, and finally Willard and Louis& Walcott.

 
Esmond and Georgiaville Area

Now to the existing houses in Smithfield. We shall speak of them in geographic areas, and not by dates of' construction. However it is logical to start with the earliest house in Smithfield, which is the Major William Smith house (#5) in Esmond on Farnum Pike at the foot of Esmond Street. It was built by Major William Smith in 1703, and until after 1900 it remained in the Smith family. Over the years it has undergone a number of renovations and the picture exhibited fails to show its original state. Only the back ell resembles the original construction After 1900 the property was acquired by the Esmond Mills and has had a number of owners since that time.

Earlier owners:
Major William Smith (1682-1753)
Daniel Smith (1712-1769)
Emor Smith (1755-1791)
Esek Smith (1773-1821)
Melissa Smith, married in 1825
Misha Smith (1794-1873)
Henry Esek Smith (1829-1899)
Frederick Elisha Smith (1863-

 

Number 6 is what we have called the Philip Sweet house on Old County Road in Esmond, Philip Sweet was born in 1751 so he could not have built it., but there is a post in the cellar in the front section of the structure which shows the date 1750. It has recently been purchased by Ronald R. Rivet and it is reported that some restoration work is being done.

Earlier owners: Philio Sweet (175l-1837)
Brown Sweet (1801-1837)
Sarah (Sweet) Winsor
George W. Mowry (1806-1877)
Robert Harris Steere (1818-1874)
Alphonso Estella Steere (1852-1929)
Alphonso P. Steere

 

Also on Old County Road is a Farnurn house (#7) built before 1800. Involved real estate transactions of the Farnum heirs have created some confusion of the details of the early history, but it could have been built by Joseph Yarnum, who was also an owner of the Ephraim Whipple house (#3) previously mentioned. In 1985 it is owned by Roger E. Anderson.

 

Just off Farnum Pike beyond Georgiaville is an eighteenth century house that has been identified as a Smith (?) house (#8). The research trail on the property as yet has not determined whether Emor H. and Jenckes A. Smith obtained this property by inheritance or by deed of' purchase. They both were born in the early 1800's. The date 1729 appears on the cellar door of this house, but according to Gordon Rowley, the present owner, nails used in the construction possibly were not manufactured until about 1790. Succeeding owners after the Smiths have included William Gardiner, Daniel G. Aldrich, Jerry Kane, and Philip and Fred Andrews. In appearance however, this house resembles others in the neighborhood built in the early part of the eighteenth century,


 Stillwater Area

On Ridge Road is the John Ballou house (#9) built before 1744. It remained in the Ballou family until 1943, when it was purchased by William F. Bailey, father of the Society's President, Ruth Labeck. Mr. Bailey was greatly interested in restoring older houses, and this one actually is the third one that he was responsible for. Fine cabinet workmanship in this house is notable. Doris Bailey Johnson is the current owner.

Number 10 is the Jeremiah Smith house on Limerock Road in Stillwater, built before 1776, which remained in the Smith family until 1879. A recent owner was J. Russell Price, who did a marvelous job in making restorations. One of the nictures shown reveals the house about 1915 when window blinds were nopular. Another picture reveals details of the front doorway. The house is now owned by Francis J. Wilcox.

 

Also on Capron Road is the William P. Steere house (#11) reportedly built in 1825, but which has many architectural features of earlier eighteenth century houses. A Harris family tradition has it that the same carpenter built both this house and the Harris house (#24) built in 1760. It is now owned by Luther and Helen Carlton.

 

An example of the small houses built in the eighteenth century Is the Joseph Olney house (#12) on Ridge Road, built perhaps circa 1703 or perhaps circa 1760. For many years it belonged to some part of the Angell family. The current owner is Mrs. Beverly Dobson. (For a second color photograph with annotation please click here).

 

Thomas Angell has been ascribed as the builder of the house on Limerock Road in 1780 (#13). It has also been described as the Asahel Angell property, but he did not acquire it until 1850. Under succeeding owners the house fell into disrepair. William F. Bailey recognized its potential worth and purchased it in 1941 and made extensive repairs and restored it. Jack Wilkinson, who is the present owner, has also contributed to its complete restoration. Incidentally this property has been known as the "Bean Farm", but no one seems to know exactly why,

 The earliest house in the Stillwater section was the Capt. Joseph Mowry house (#14) built in 1708. It was located on John Mowry Road. It was beautifully restored by Earl Tupper,, who moved another 19th century Mowry house near to it, and joined them with a 20th century connecting house in the old style. When Bryant College acquired the property from Mr. Tupper, there was talk of destroying all three of these structures. This news occasioned the revival of the Historical Society of Smithfield, and as a result of public outcry. Bryant College agreed to save the Joseph Mowry house, and has moved it to another location on the campus, where it is the alumni center. Note: for a second view in color please click here.

On the John Mowry Road just a short distance north from the George Washington Highway is the Col. Elisha Mowry house (#15) built in 1759. This house and two others in the old Town of Smithfield were used to store arms during the Revolution. John F. Emin is the present owner and has carefully restored the original flooring piece by piece, the paneling and other Colonial features in the south end of the house, which is the older section.

Earlier owners: Elisha Mowry (1735-1792)
Sylvester Mowry (1768-1831)
John A. Mowry-(1806-1876)
Phoebe A. (Mowry) Carron (1850-1934)
Helen M. (Capron) Stockwell (1877-1961)  
Outlying Areas

Over on Douglas Pike near Limerock Road is the Daniel Angell Tavern (#16). Daniel Angell (1777-1860) married young and ran a farm and tavern here before 1800. It was a stagecoach stop on the Worcester-Providence line. The house still has its large central chimney, with many fireplaces. It is now owned by the heirs of Oscar Harris Steare.

Other owners
Heaskiah S. Harris 1854)
Sidney s. Paul (l862)
Job Shaw (1868)

Another tavern this one on Farnum Pike at Old Forge Road has been known for many years as the "Yellow Tavern" (#17). It was built in 1740 and was a tollgate stop halfway between Providence and Woonsocket. The Mowry family has been associated with this building until 1953. At one time it also housed the Smithfield Probate Court and a school. Modernized in 1942, it lost its central chimney. Although it is now painted white it still is known locally as the "Yellow Tavern". Since 1978 the owner has been the Reliable Finance Corporation.

Early owners:
"Judge Daniel Mowry (1729-1806)
"Clark" Daniel Mowry (1750-1839)
Rueben Mowry (1778-1852)
Lamech Clark ~ (1807-1880)
Sidney Howard Mowry (1848-1930)
Leland Burton Mowry (1875-1953)

 

Nearby on Old Forge Road is the John Appleby house (#18), built in 1750. John Appleby ran a forge and sawmill near here before the Revolution. Five generations of' Mowrys have lived here, with the present owners being S. Burton and Mary Mowry, well-known in our Society. Like many builders who placed houses to take advantage of the sun, the front door faces the southeast, with a commanding view of the pleasant countryside.

Early owners:
Rueben Mowry (1778 -1852)
Lamech Clark Mowry 1807 - 1880)
Sidney Howard Mowry (1848 -1930)
Leland 'Burton Mowry (1875 -1953)

 

Brayton Road is the location of the James Appleby house (#19) built before 1765. Since 1828 there has been a number of owners. In more recent years the property was acquired by Bryant College from the Sutton family. In this photo the front doorway on the gable-end of the house is an unusual feature, but it may not have been the original location. Bryant has sold the house subject to its removal from the original site. The main house and the ell have been seperated and the are now on opposite sides of Brayton Road. The present owner of the main house is Raymond Morrissett, and the ell section is jointly owned by Paul Cabral and his wife and by Florence Barboaa.

Other early owners:
Nathan Aldrich
Edwin S. Cook
Charles Gardiner
Glenn A. Sutton

 

The Thomas Appleby house (#20) on Williams Road is reported to have been built in 1757. It remained in the Appleby family line until 1890. The property has been variously known as the James Appleby Farm and after 1906 as the Edgar L. Williams Farm. William F. Bailey owned this property at one time and did extensive restoration work on the house. Examples of wall stenciling were found in some of the rooms, although now they are covered by wallpaper. The present owner is Richard Illingworth.

An example of a smaller house is the Evans house (#21) on Log Road. A family tradition relates that the house was built in 1776 by an Evans, on land originally owned by Joseph Mowry. The farm was the first "poor farm" in Smithfield. For a number of generations it has been owned by some one in the Joseph (Fox- Hunter Joe) Mowry line, The present owner is Muriel Barber. This old view shows barns and outbuildings no longer standing.

 

Burlingame Road has at least two houses built in the eighteenth century. Research details are incomplete, but the Benjamin Burlingame house (#22) was built before 1800. Burlingames, Aldrichs and Mowrys were among the early owners. It has been modernized, but some of the original features still remain. The present owner is James Russell.

 

Another Mowry homestead (#23) is also located on Burlingame Road. The large central chimney carries the date 1725. Across the road is a well-kept cemetery filled with Mowry gravestones. Research on deeds was never completed. John Mura is the present owner.

 

On Pleasant View Avenue at the junction of Farnum Pike is the Elisha Steere house (#24) built in 1760. At one time this was a stagecoach stop on the Newport-Worcester line. In 1858 it was acquired by the Harris family and until 1979 it remained Harris property. The interior has been modernized for comfortable living without marring the colonial features. In 1979 it was purchased by Charles H. Newell, and in 1983 ownership was transferred to R.S.R. Associates, who are constructing the nearby condominiums,

 Previous owners: Elisha Steere (1737-1815)
Stephen Steere (1780-1853)
Elisha Steere (1808-s1862)
Robert Harris (1797-1888)
Elisha Smith Harris (1833-1926)
Herbert E. Harris (1885 1984) 
Spragueville Area

In the Spragueville section of Pleasant View Avenue is Smith house (#25) built in 1733. This small colonial house with its gambrel roof is reputed to be the oldest in Spragueville. The present owner is Robert Broadbent, Jr. Abraham Smith's grave is located in an historical cemetery on Riverview Road on the shores of the nearby pond.

 

Another Spragueville house is the Asahel Phetteplace house (#26) on Pleasant View Avenue at the junction of Swan Road. The main part of the house was definitely built before 1800. The southern ell with its porches and bay windows was added later. Succeeding owners have included Dr. Elwood Ballou and the Payette family. The present owner is Edgar W. Payette. You will notice the door at one side of the front is an unusual feature.

Editor's note: for a second view click here.

 
Greenville Area

In the Greenville area., the Elder Joshua Winsor house (#27) is located at the curve of Pleasant View Avenue southwest of the Anna McCabe school. It was built before 1720 by Elder Joshua Winsor, who was the first pastor of the only eighteenth century church in Smithfield. A. Baptist Meeting House was located in the vicinity of present-day "Dave's Garage" at the "Meeting House Bridge". The western end with the front door is the older section of the house. At one time the property was known as the Arnold Brown farm, and the pictures are of that period. The house is presently owned by Murray True. In 1948, when house lots were anticipated in the field across the road, the gravestones of Joshua and his two wives were removed to the T. K. Winsor cemetery.
Editor's note: for a second view click here.

 

The Greenville Tavern (#28) has been a landmark in the village since 1733 when Resolved Waterman built it. A large building facing the road, it had two wings extending northward. At one time it also housed the first bank in the town. In 1936 when the state widened Putnam Pike through the village, most of the structure was torn down. All that remains is one of the ell structures - the one that includes the.old bank vault. Many of you will recall that this was the home of Mrs. Bessie Fish. The property is now owned by the Cumberland Farms organization.

The banquet hall of the Greenville Tavern was on the first floor of the western ell, and the dance hall above it on the second floor. The east and west ells; were connected by a cobbled courtyard. The names of Evans, Mowry, Whipple and McLaughlin appear as owners throughout the years.

 

On Steere Road in Greenville is found the Ezekiel Angell house (#29) built before 1750. Later owners have included Benjamin Medbury, David Brayton, Arthur and Seth Steere. The central chimney was removed during the Brayton occupancy after 1979. The present owner is David Hysell.

 

West Greenville Road is the site of the Thomas Waterman house (#30) built before 1800. Carpt. Elisha Steere purchased the farm in 1817 and ever since it has remained a Steere farm, and presently contains extensive orchards. Although both Charles A. and his son Stephen have died the farm is still in the possession of the Steere family.

 

The Jesse Foster house (#31) at the corner of Austin Avenue and Hapleville Road was built before 1750. It may have been built by Resolved Waterman, whose son Andrew sold the property to Jesse Foster in 1782. A number of owners have acquired the land, and at one time it was known as the Grant Farm. More recently it has been owned by the Steere family. Henry J. Steere established a substantial apple orchard here, and his widow, Freda, and son Jimmy are continuing the business. The interior of the house reveals fine craftsmanship including a carved decorative border in the front parlor.

 

Another early family associated with this property was the Wilkinson family. Also on Austin Avenue is the Daniel Winsor house (#32),, which was built about 1750. In 1838 Daniel Winsor's property was divided among his nieces and nephews, one of whom was Lucina (Winsor) Stone. Her son, Lemuel Morse Stone became the next part-owner, and he was "given the use of the parlor and keeping room on the lower floor, the parlor chamber, the west half of the garret, the east half of the cellar under the keeping room, the southerly half of the wood house, half of the well to get water from and the privilege to pass up and down stairs to reach chamber, garret and cellar," Later owners of the house have been Harley Mowry., Henry Eldredge, and the C. Franklin Lockwoods. The property has been known as the Redwood Farm. Many restorations have taken place during the years, and in spite of the loss of the large elm tree pictured here, the "Redwood" maintains the charm of the "mansion" house of Colonial days. The present owner is Mrs. C. Franklin Lockwood.

 

The next two houses are the only ones that we know have been entered on the National Register of Historic Places. First the Waterman-Winsor house (#33) at 79 Austin Avenue in Greenville. It has been Winsor property from 1857 until 1975. Previous research had indicated that Capt. Andrew Waterman built the main house in 1774 and family tradition had it that the rear ell, the original home of Col. Abraham Winsor (1720-1798), had been removed from another site on the farm. The present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas W. Nerney, have done more research on the property and in the process of restoration have been led to believe that the date of construction might have been as early as 1710, with an addition in 1780. We are particularly happy with the restoration work that the Nerneys are doing. They have removed the modern front porch, and provided a new following a pattern of pediment frame as discovered under the clapboards eight fireplaces, replaced all windows with over twelve panes, and returned partitions to their original locations. The design of the front of the house is most unusual, with one the left and two windows to the right of the front door. By reason of marriages the house has belonged to descendants of the Waterman families from early time until 1975.

Editor's note: for a second view click here.

Early owners:
CaDt. Andrew Waterman
Capt. William Waterman
Stephen Waterman
Ziba and Lydia (WatermanSmith
Martin and Mary (Smith) Smith
William Waterman Winsor
JameWinsor
Thomas King Winsor
Stanley Thomas Winsor

  


Home of the Historical Society

The last house on our list is the Elisha Smith house (#34) on Capron Road, believed to have been built in 1726, since the original deed to Elisha Smith was dated March 3, 1725/26. We know it now as the home of the Historical Society of Smithfield, which has undertaken a major restoration project, and today it stands in glorious array.

Until 1959 it remained in the possession of the descendants of Elisha Smith. His granddaughter married Thomas Appleby and the ownership continued through the Applebys, ending with Maria Cozzens Appleby, who died in 1959.

During the restoration project by the Historical Society it has been discovered that the main structure is actually two different houses joined together around the central chimney, and one of them has the year 1696 on part of the framework. The kitchen ell was added about 1826. Special features of the house include a huge chimney, many fireplaces,, a smoke room, and samples of wall stenciling from an early period. When Stillwater Pond was constructed, Capron Road was moved from the front to the rear of the house.

The Historical Society of Smithfield is to be complimented on the accomplishment of this tremendous project, and it well warrants its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.