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Rhode Island History

 Rhode Island history and genealogy

Our Rhode Island history titles:

History of the Town of Smithfield, R.I. From its organization in 1730-1 to its division in 1871

By Thomas Steere (1881).  The volume was compiled at the direction of the voters of the town of Smithfield, North Smithfield, Lincoln, and Woonsocket at the time the larger town of Smithfield was divided into the four mentioned.  Smithfield had previously been part of Providence until it had been separated from that city.  With around 160 pages of text, and an additional 70 pages of appendices, there’s considerable material here regardless of where your historical interests in this area lie.  Quite compelling is the narrative of the transformation of greater Smithfield from an agricultural area of small villages into an industrial powerhouse, an important textile making locale in the second half of the 19th century.  244+ pages, in PDF format, download now for $4.00.

 History of Smithfield, RI

PROVIDENCE, RI:  List of Persons Assessed in the City Tax (June 1840) 

This list includes full names of persons (and businesses) assessed that year.  Included are valuations of real and personal property, as well as the amount of the tax assessed.  Both resident and non-resident are included.  "People of Color" are listed separately, making this a particularly useful source for information about the economic situation of African Americans in Rhode Island in the pre-Civil War period.  60+ paged, in PDF format.  Download now for $3.75.

Providence RI Tax list for 1840

The History of Warren, Rhode Island in the War of the Revolution, 1776-1783

(1901), by Virginia Baker.   Includes a narrative history as well as appendices providing muster rolls and militia lists, the 1778 valuation list of Warren, shipping lost, and a fascinating list, by household, of losses as a result of a British incursion in May 1778. Included as well is the crew of the General Stark, a 14 gun privateer, a letter home from one William T. Miller, and an accounting of "ancient landmarks."  68+ pages, download in PDF format.  $5.00. 

Warren, RI in the Revolution

Manual of the Richmond Street Congregational Church, Providence, RI  (1857) 

While this thin paper-bound volume also includes the Articles of Faith, Covenant, and Articles of Discipline of this Congregational Church, most will find the list of members of greatest interest.  Members are grouped by the year in which they joined the church, and the list indicates whether the member joined by letter (transfer from another Congregational Church) or by profession (by making a public statement of their beliefs).  In all, useful not only for the obvious genealogical value but also for an example of how Congregationalism worked in the capital city of a state founded in the interests of promoting religious freedom.  23+ pages, download in PDF format.  $3.25

Richmond Street Congregational Church, Providence

History of Massachusetts in the Colonial Period, by John Stetson Barry (1855) (Chapter 9 -- Rhode Island Founders and Religious Dissent) 

While most Rhode Islanders are familiar with the history of their state’s founders (notably Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and Samuel Gorton) from their point of view, it is interesting to review it from the point of view of Massachusetts. Similarly, while Massachusetts today is something of a paragon of religious tolerance, such was not always the case. This 1855 history sheds light on the issue in a way that is rarely seen today, at any rate.  This chapter is available as a downloaded PDF file, 33+ pages, for $1.75   

Rhode Island Founders

The 469 Ultra-Fashionables of America  --  A Social Guide Book and Register to Date,

by C. W. de Lyon Nicholls (1912).  Probably the last time in American history when a hereditary American upper class existed.  See our Americana page for more information.

Brief Sketch and Manual of the Providence High School (1878)

As well as a narrative of the decision process leading to a new high school building for Providence, this includes floor plans, a view of the ornate structure, speeches from the dedication ceremony, a history of the faculty, and 62 pages of names of teachers and students, from 1843 to 1878.  We think that this compilation of students and teachers is probably unique, and virtually a necessity if you are doing biographical or genealogical research about people who lived in Providence in that time frame.  The lists of students are by year of entry, further subdivided by academic -- or gender -- specialty (e.g. classical, English and scientific, and girls department).  Obviously it is also potentially useful for anyone studying the history of education.  132+ pages, PDF format.  Download now for $5.00.

 Providence RI High School

Governor William Coddington, by Mrs. Sarah K. Birckhead (1913)

This Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society (paper read to the Society on November 18, 1912) is a comprehensive biographical sketch of the early Newport governor.  A note by the author indicates that the material is a combination of two papers written by her father.  Coddington was certainly a figure worthy of study in a colony of outspoken religious dissenters:  Roger William and Samuel Gorton the best known today.  Coddington battled them both -- and others as well.  A fascinating paper!  26+ pages, in PDF format, download now for $3.25.

 Governor William Coddington

20th Reunion of the Class of June 1934 of Central High School, Providence, RI

May 19, 1954 If any of the members of the Class of 1934 of Central High School are still alive, they are turning or have recently turned 100 years old, and our very best wishes to them!  More likely, this will be seen by children or grandchildren of this class – some of whom may find themselves alluded to in the booklet as in terms they would not today associate with themselves.  We hope that those who fall into any of these categories find the short observations on the subjects’ lives to date illuminating and perhaps touching.

The members of the class of 1934, of course, finished high school at a time that virtually guaranteed that members would have what might be considered eventful lives.  They graduated into the Great Depression and doubtless a limited job market combined with economic conditions that limited, for most, further schooling.  By the time they seemed to have established themselves to some extent, along came World War II – and for most of the men in this class there is a mention of military service – and following that, the process of converting from a wartime society to the most sustained boom the nation has ever known.  This 20th reunion covered it all, and occurred immediately after the Korean War had ended.   Interesting  times, indeed!

High school reunion booklets such as this also provide an interesting perspective into attitudes at the time of the reunion that may differ considerably from those that prevailed when the class graduated from high school and certainly differ from attitudes when the document is viewed more than a half century later.  As such, documents such as this are probably under-utilized as source material for research purposes.  While many societal changes can be observed, notable in this document are attitudinal changes about appropriate roles for women.  “Crackerjack housewife” is a term of great approbation in this booklet.  Work or careers for women seem, in the mores of 1954, to be appropriate only until the first baby appears.  Once that event occurs, whatever the woman accomplished previously is effectively wiped out as the cleanliness of the house and the health of the offspring become the sole focus of the mother’s existence.  Obviously attitudes today have changed considerably in that regard.  78 pages, in PDF format.  Download now for $4.25.


The Junior League of Providence, Inc.’s Follies of 1950 

Presented February 3 & 4, 1950.  This was the printed program for a benefit performance by amateurs.  The beneficiary was to be a day camp for girls who were helped by a girls club in Providence.  It has the usual advertisements, cast lists, and so forth.  It also has two pages of information about Junior League nationally, Junior League in Providence, and the project currently underway. 

While it is useful for tracking local names and businesses as documents like this typically are, it probably is more important as a document of the changing role of women – particularly women of the upper class – in America in the 20th century.  Viewed in very general terms, when Junior League was established in 1921 the place of any upper class female, once married, was in the home.  World War II, with the widespread of women into the workplace, was still a generation away.  Yet at the same time, a movement of women interested in improving the condition of the poor, and particularly poor women, via settlement houses and their organizational offshoots, had been in existence for nearly half a century and was appealing more and more to those homebound upper class young women.  The Junior League provided a socially sanctioned way for upper class young women (and not-so-young women) to retain or even enhance their social positions and still do good for the poor. 

Young women of this generation were the mothers and older sisters of the generation of women who changed work in America completely beginning in the 1960s and 1970s.  They brought enormous energy (as well as good educations, financial resources, and influence over well-connected men in their lives) and genuinely did make significant changes in the world.  But despite the good that they did, they were still flying under the radar.  The text of an ad in this program from a brokerage house reads “Our hats off to the fair sex!  They own more shares in leading corporations than the Weaker Sex.”  Tongue in cheek, and condescending are two terms one might apply to this ad – yet it points unerringly to the huge social change on the horizon.  Tonight, debutantes posing as showgirls.  Tomorrow, upheaval of the traditionally accepted roles of upper class women – and eventually all women – in American.

54 pages in PDF format.  Download now for $3.00.



Rhode Island -- Warwick and south

This, our first Rhode Island CD-ROM  covers Warwick and the area south and west.  This CD-ROM is ready now. Learn more about it on our page about the Warwick and the South CD-ROM.


Rhode Island material we own that will be forthcoming eventually:

  • Follies of 1950 - the Junior League of Providence

A program booklet (48 pages plus covers) for a benefit revue by that organization.  Lots of ads as well as names and photos of League members/performers.  An interesting curiosity; the ads particularly make one aware how far back in history 1950 really is anymore.  This will be issued as a download.


Contact us at Between the Lakes Group to send us a message regarding your interest in this material.  We really do care what our prospective customers think, and we do prioritize our projects based on what people tell us they want to see (although we admit that personal interest does play a part, sometimes).  Our decision to go ahead with the "Warwick and south" CD-ROM was triggered by an e-mail from someone else who was descended from Samuel Gorton!

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Between the Lakes Group is located at 372 Between the Lakes Road, in Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut.  More specifically, we're in Taconic -- a hamlet  in the Twin Lakes area of the Town of Salisbury.  Questions about us or about our products?  Go to our Frequently Asked Questions page.  

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