Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 113: Smithfield, RI

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 113:  Smithfield, Rhode Island
February 24, 2011

            With a rich, and sometimes controversial history, the small town of Smithfield is a very interesting place to visit.  Settled by British colonists in the 1600’s as a farming village Smithfield was considered a part of neighboring Providence until it was incorporated as its own town in 1731.  Once known as ‘Apple Valley’ due to its many orchards in the early 20th century Smithfield is now more of a suburban area though not losing its grip on small town charm.
Smithfield Exchange Bank
            The first place I stopped which captured the quieter side of Smithfield was the Stillwater Reservoir, also known as Stump Pond on Log Road.  There are many spots to stop and walk or fish, I stopped at the appropriately named Stump Pond Fishing Area.  The pond was covered in ice and snow but the views from the boat ramp were impressive.  There is an even better view further up the road where Log Road splits between Stump Pond on the right and a smaller pond on the left.  The only trouble was finding a safe spot to park to get out to shoot those photos.
            I did a little park and walk near the center of town to get a better view of a building famous to those who live in Smithfield.  The Smithfield Exchange Bank, or Resolved Waterman Tavern, on Putnam Pike has long been purported to be haunted so of course I had to go and check it out for myself.
Winter at Georgiaville Pond
            I parked at a nearby law office and crossed over to where the Smithfield Exchange Bank is located.  It was a little different experience as the building is undergoing repairs so it was not in its natural state.  Of course I did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary while I was next to the historic building but that does not mean that it is not in fact haunted.  Despite the fact that I did not see or hear anything I did enjoy my walk around the downtown area of Smithfield.
            The next place I visited was Georgiaville Pond, located in the historic village of Georgiaville.  The controversial history I spoke of in Smithfield has to do with the Ku Klux Klan meetings which took place in Georgiaville during the 1920’s.  The village was named for the Georgia Cotton Mill located near Higgins Street.  I had to park on the outside of the Georgiaville Pond parking area since it was closed, but a little walking did not hurt.
The Smithfield 'flag stop' station.
            The beach at the end of the parking lot showcases much of the massive pond which extends almost a mile all the way up to the end of the Smith-Appleby House property.  There is a pair of small islands just to the left of the beach which I imagine must be a lot of fun to swim to during the summer.  It was cool but not cold at Georgiaville Pond and without anybody else around it was a really peaceful experience.  I think this would be a great spot to visit during the summer.
The crown jewel of Smithfield for me was definitely the Smith-Appleby House on Stillwater Rd.  It was here where the snow pack in Smithfield made the experience all the better.  I was the lone car at the end of the driveway and was able to fully enjoy the grounds with the hum of I-295 in the distance.
            The pale-yellow home at one point stood on 700 acres of land, it began as forty acres granted to John Smith by Roger Williams.  It has since dwindled down to the current seven acres it stands on, but that is more than enough to take in.  Before I even got to the house there was an interesting item to my right: a small railroad station.  The station is the same color as the house and was first located on Brayton Road off of Farnum Pike when it was built in 1873.  This tiny station was what is known as a ‘flag stop.’  That means that the train would only stop there if a red flag was hanging from the front of the building to alert the conductor that there was fright, mail, or passengers at the station.  It was used until 1931 and fell into disrepair until being purchased and brought to the grounds of the Smith-Appleby House in 1975.  Now it looks much like it must have when it originally opened.
View of the Smith-Appleby House from the cemetery on the hill.
            I enjoyed walking down behind the house and over a small creek to where an old cemetery dating back to the 1760’s sits on a hill.  Unfortunately most of the oldest graves are marked by regular stones and only one has any sort of etching on it; the rest are a mystery.  The view of the house from the cemetery hill is amazing.  I think the snow covered land added to it, but I also imagine that being there in the summer when everything is in bloom must be even better.
            The history of Smithfield may be rich and a bit controversial but there is no denying it is a nice small town to make part of a day trip or longer if you so desire.  I do think that a summer visit might help a visitor appreciate it more as I mentioned there were several great spots that I could imagine look even better with flowers and trees in bloom.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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DirectionsSmith-Appleby House:  From I-295 S take exit 8A for Rt. 7 S.  Follow 1 mi. turn right at Limerock Rd., right onto Ridge Rd.  Continue onto Stillwater Rd. house is on left.
            Georgiaville Pond:  From I-295 S take exit 8A for Rt. 7 S.  Follow 1 mi. turn right at Limerock Rd., right onto Ridge Rd, take 1st left onto Stillwater Rd., continue onto Cross St.  Turn right onto Whipple Ave., turn right onto Higgins St., take sharp right onto Stillwater Rd.  Pond entrance is on left.

            Smith Appleby

1 comment:

Erin said...

Hello ... I am a Smithfield resident. I live on Georgiaville Pond in one of the historic mill houses. I noticed you spoke of swimming to the island at the pond might be fun. It s in fact a morbid pastime in Smithfield with each generation losing at least one if not more of their peers. Very dangerous to swim to the island although nobody knows why the kids freeze up and slide under the water. It always happens midway to the island... A kid will panic and start yelling help. When he is rescued he will swear he just froze up. Doesn't know why. It's been a bit of a mystery here since the pond was built to power the cotton mill. I've seen many people come to the boat ramp at night trying to reconnect w loved ones via Ouija board and candle light. The smithfield police now patrol the pond in a boat keeping a close eye on the island. I advise any visitors to stay away from swimming to the island. Please take a boat instead and wear a life vest.