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1970-1972 WALKING THE FREEDOM TRAIL IN BOSTON

Freedom_Trail_path

FREEDOM TRAIL

For me walking is the greatest way to get to know and love Boston. There are many stories that highlight Boston’s history, architecture and culture especially the Freedom Trail, today I am going from the Boston Common to Faneuil Hall, which reflects the time when Boston was first settled to now, creating quirky streets and mixed architectures expanding almost 400 years. I will learn about important Bostonian events and their work to gain independence from Great Britain, giving me a sense of what has come before my time.

The Freedom Trail is made up of red paint, red granite stone and mostly a red brick path through downtown Boston. I find simple ground markers explaining events, graveyards, notable churches and other buildings along the way. The trail was originally conceived by a local journalist who since 1951 had promoted the idea of a pedestrian trail to link together important local landmarks. In 1953, there were 40,000 people annually walking the path.

THE OLD ELM TREE

THE OLD ELM TREE

I start my walk at 630 Washington Street and on the building is a tablet marking the spot of a famous elm tree bearing the image of a beautiful elm with the inscription “Sons of Liberty, 1766”. At that time this was the neighborhood of the elms. I cross the street and find a small bronze plaque placed in the sidewalk which reads: “Sons of Liberty 1766; Independence of the Country 1776.”

This is where the first public show of defiance against the British Crown was on 8/14/1765 when an American colonist crowd gathered under a large elm tree that stood at the corner of Essex Street and Washington Street, originally called Orange Street a block away from the Boston Common, in the days before the American Revolution and became a rallying point for growing resistance. They were protesting their hatred of the Stamp Act of 1765 in which the British required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards in the colonies to carry a tax stamp. This was perceived by colonists as censorship or a “knowledge tax” on their rights to write and read freely.

The Patriots, later calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, hung an effigy in the branches of the tree, of Andrew Oliver who had been chosen by King George III to impose the tax. Also hung in the tree was a British cavalry jackboot, and inside was a grinning devil-like doll holding a scroll marked “Stamp Act”. This started the resistance that lead to the American Revolutionary War 10 years later at which time a sign stating “Tree of Liberty” was nailed to the trunk of the tree, the tree dates from 1646 to 1775, it lived for 129 years.

In the years leading up to the war the British used the Liberty Tree as an object of ridicule: British soldiers tarred and feathered a man forcing him to march in front of the tree; during the siege of Boston some Loyalists cut the tree down in an act of spite and used it for firewood this enraged the colonists more. As resistance to the British grew a Liberty Tree Flag was flown to symbolize the spirit of liberty and was a common sight during the battles of the revolution. The militia trained here near the tree.

I walk a block into the Boston Common known by the locals as “the Common” which is a central public park, dating back to 1634, making it the oldest city park in the United States. The 50 acres of land is bounded by Tremont Street, Park Street, Beacon Street, Charles Street and Boylston Street. It is part of the Emerald Necklace of parks and parkways that extend from the common south to Franklin Park in Roxbury covering 7 miles by foot which is a great way to get in touch with nature while in the city.

The Common was owned by one of the first European settlers in Boston who sold it to the Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Park status happened between 1830 and in 1836 it was fully enclosed by an ornamental iron fence. It had five perimeter malls or recreational promenades, the first being Tremont Mall in 1728. In 1913 prehistoric sites were discovered indicating Native American presence in the area as far back as 8,500 years ago.

The Common has been used for a variety of purposes. During the 1630s it was used by many affluent families as a cow pasture, but they overgrazed, so in 1646 the number of cows was limited, then in 1830 cows were formally banned. Before the American Revolution it was used as a camp by the British until they left it for the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It was also used for public hanging until 1817; in 1660 a woman was hung there by Puritans for preaching Quakerism; and in 1656 a woman was executed on charges of witchcraft. Most were hung from a large oak tree which was replaced with gallows in 1769. On 5/19/1713 two hundred citizens rioted in the Common in response to a food shortage, later they attacked the ships and warehouses of a wealthy merchant who was exporting grain for higher profits and the lieutenant governor was shot during the riot.

The common has recently been used for formal and informal gatherings: speeches by famous people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II; concerts like Judy Garland in 1967; protests in early 1965 when one hundred people gathered to protest the Vietnam War, in 1969 around 100,000 people were protesting that same war; besides softball games, and ice skating on Frog Pond.

Central Burying Ground

CENTRAL BURYING GORUND

As I walk along the Boylston Street side of the Common I come to The Central Burying Ground. Buried here are artists, composers, America’s first poets, Boston Tea party participants, revolutionary war fighters, British soldiers who died during the occupation of the city in 1775-1776 from disease, and the Bunker Hill wounded who died from infection. This is a great cemetery to do tombstone rubbings. I walk along the Common turning left onto Tremont Street.

parkstchurch

PARK STREET CHURCH

As I come to the corner of Tremont Street and Park Street my eyes are drawn to the steeple rising up 217 feet which remains a landmark visible from several of Boston’s neighborhoods. The Park Street Church was founded by twenty-six locals, former members of the Old South Meeting House who wanted a church with orthodox Trinitarian theology. It was founded on 2/ 27/1809, the cornerstone was laid on 5/1/1809, construction was completed at year’s end, and the first worship service was on 1/10/1810. It became known as “Brimstone Corner” because of the storage of gunpowder during the War of 1812 and the missionary preaching style.

GRANARY BURIAL GROUND

GRANARY BURIAL GROUND

The Park Street Church is also the former site of the Granary building and adjacent to it is the Granary Burying Ground/Old Granary Cemetery on Tremont Street which was given this name in 1737; before that it was called the South Burying Ground and was needed to meet the city’s growing population. Founded in 1660 it is the city’s third-oldest cemetery. It contains 2,345 gravestones and many unmarked graves thus there could 5,000 people buried here.

A BOSTON MASSACRE GRAVE

A BOSTON MASSACRE GRAVE

I travel back in time to the 1860s and visualize the Egyptian revival iron gate and fence along Tremont Street, I walk under the shaded entrance created by a row of eleven large European elms called Paddock’s Mall”, planted a hundred years ago that now are ten feet in circumference, as I look across the grounds covered with trees planted thirty years ago, I see a small forest in the city. The first thing I come across is the ashes of the American casualties in the Boston Massacre on 3/5/1770. The grave markers were placed in a straight line during the 1800s to conform to nineteenth century style and to make it easier for the groundskeeper. I gravitate to the granite obelisk erected in 1827, which came from the Bunker Hill Monument quarry, and replace the original dilapidated Franklin family gravestones; this is where Benjamin Franklin parents are buried. Near the monument is the oldest memorial for John Wakefield who died in 1667 at the age of 52. I find tombs which are near the back of the property and in 1717 the town enlarged the Burying Ground and in 1720 there were 15 tombs added and assigned to families in the city. I find many famous Revolutionary War patriots, Declaration of Independence signers, Paul Revere and Boston Massacre victims. I wake from my revelry to see what is left of this historic area that tells a story of a time long passed. Another just place for tombstone rubbings.

KINGS CHAPEL BURYING GROUND

KINGS CHAPEL BURYING GROUND

I continue down to 58 Tremont Street where it crosses School Street and stop outside the historic King’s Chapel Burying Ground. This is the first and oldest cemetery in the city, founded in 1630 and was the only burial site till 1660. Around 1686 King James II appointed royal governor over the colonies of Massachusetts ordered the building of the wooden chapel, to be erected on the old burying ground, over strong objectives from the Puritans. It was located on public burying ground because no resident would sell land for a non-Puritan Church. The original wooden King’s Chapel was built in 1688 and was the first Anglican Church in New England.

KINGS CHAPEL

KINGS CHAPEL

I stand in front of the stone building, that was construction around the wooden one starting in 1749 and completed in 1754, and the wooden structure was taken apart and removed through the windows of this building. During the American Revolution it was vacated by the Loyalists who escaped to Canada and was called the “Stone Chapel” and was reopened in 1782 when they returned. The bell was hung in 1772, cast in England; it cracked in 1814, and was recast and re-hung by Paul Revere. It is the largest bell cast by the Revere foundry and the last one by Paul Revere. It is ringing now announcing services.

As I wander inside my eyes are drawn to the wooden columns with Corinthian capitals that were hand carved in 1758. The wooden box pews were originally owned by paying family members who decorated. Today it’s the beautiful wood that stands out in their uniform appearance that dates back to the 1920s. The European organ is decorated with miters and carvings from the Bridge Organ of 1756 and was built in 1964. It is the sixth organ built in the church and the first one was in 1723.

OLD CITY HALL

OLD CITY HALL

I walk down to 45 School Street and stand in from of the courtyard and my eyes are drawn to the 8 foot bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin. It stands in front of Boston’s elaborate French Empire style building. Near the stature of its most famous dropout is a plaque on the sidewalk in front of Old City Hall, marking the former location of the Boston Latin School. The Boston Latin School was the first public Schoolhouse, the oldest existing School in the United States, founded in 1635, in operation from 1704 to 1748 and on the same street until 1844, and now operates at another location. It educated the sons of the Boston Elite, and its curriculum followed the 18th century Latin School movement where the classics were the basis of an educated mind with the mandatory four years of Latin. It educated American founders like Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and produced four Harvard Presidents, four Massachusetts governors and five signers of the Declaration of Independence. It was an all male school until 1972 when they admitted its first co-educational classes.

On this site of the former Latin School I stand in front of the Old City Hall completed in 1865 and in use till 1969. It symbolizes a cosmopolitan spirit of Victorian Boston, an example of French Second Empire Style with its copper mansard roof, now a faded blue-green. It was one of the first buildings in the French Second Empire style to be built in the United States and after its completion the style was used extensively elsewhere in Boston and the United States and is now one of the remaining few. The first building here was the Suffolk County Courthouse erected in 1810 and converted to Boston’s second city hall in 1841, which was replaced by the current building twenty-four years later. Thirty-eight mayors have served their terms of office at this site over a period of 128 years. In 1969 City Hall moved and this old City Hall was converted to serve other functions, which is an early example of adaptive reuse. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1970; it now houses a number of businesses, organizations and restaurants.

OLD CORNER BOOKSTORE

OLD CORNER BOOKSTORE

I proceed down School Street to Washington Street and stop in front of the historic old Corner Bookstore in the center of Boston. The former building burned down in the great Boston Fire of 1711 and was the home of Anne Hutchinson who was expelled from Massachusetts in 1638 for heresy and she went to Rhode Island. A new building, the one I am standing in front of, was constructed in 1712. The upper floors were the living space and the first floor was the apothecary shop for the many generations of pharmacists who used it.

It was first used as a bookstore in 1828; the first floor of the building was renovated with the addition of projecting small-paned windows. In the 19th Century it was one of the most important publishing companies in the United States. From 1832 to 1865 the Old Corner Bookstore became a meeting place for authors: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Other parts of the building were rented out and sublet to other businesses. It has houses many booksellers and publishing houses throughout its history.

OLD SOUTH MEETINGHOUSE

OLD SOUTH MEETINGHOUSE

I walk down to 310 Washington Street and stop in front of the Old South Meeting House, a National Historic Landmark, my eyes move up towards the sky following its 183 foot steeple which was completed in 1729. It is situated in the Downtown Crossing area and gained fame as the organizing place for the Boston Tea Party on 12/16/1773 that is when 5,000 colonists gathered in the largest building at the time, debating British taxation then headed for the harbor. After the Boston Massacre there was a yearly anniversary meetings held here until 1775 with speakers like John Hancock. The British occupied the meeting house because it symbolized the Revolutionary cause; they gutted the building, filled it with dirt and used the interior for horse riding practice, trying to destroy it besides stealing many of items they found there.

During the Great Boston Fire of 1872 it was saved by the timely arrival of a Portsmouth, New Hampshire fire engine. For nearly three centuries it has been an important gathering place. It is famous for protest meetings before the American Revolution, and was called a mouth-house as it served as a platform for the free expression of ideas. People continue to gather for discussions and to act on important issues. It is the second oldest establishment in existent in the United States and contains a museum which houses vital heritage, history, and the stories of famous men and women.

THE OLD STATEHOUSE

THE OLD STATEHOUSE

I continue walking on Washington Street to where it intersects with State Street and eye the historic Government building called the Old Massachusetts State House. I am fascinated by the gilded unicorn and lion on its gables the symbols of English domination which were removed after the Revolution and later replaced by replicas.  In 1657 the first building built here was a wooden Town House with a ground floor open to merchants until it was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1711. Two years later in 1713 the first bricks were laid for the Massachusetts colonial government’s new offices. It is the oldest surviving building in Boston and was the state legislature seat until 1798.

THE OLD STATEHOUSE

THE OLD STATEHOUSE

This building occupied the city’s most prominent intersection which is now called State Street and led all the way to Long Wharf, while Washington Street crossed here and use to be the only street connecting Boston to the mainland. The governors would stand on the balcony looking toward Long Warf. People and businesses settled around the building while famous scenes of the Revolution unfolded here. In 1798 the new State house opened on top of Beacon Hill while this building passed on to other uses, presently a museum, and in 1881 was protected by The Bostonian Society.

BOSTON MASSACRE SITE

BOSTON MASSACRE SITE

I cross the street to the sidewalk and in the middle of the square is a cobblestone circle marker where the Boston Massacre took place in front of the Old State House. On 3/5/1770 The Boston Massacre was a street fight, called the Incident on King Street by the British, which took place when British Army soldiers killed five civilian men and injured six others. In 1768 British troops were stationed, to protect and support the crown-appointed colonial officials attempting to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislature, in Boston the capital of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. There was ongoing tension between the population and the soldiers, a mob of fifty citizens formed around a British sentry, verbally abusing and harassing the soldier who was joined by eight additional soldiers then the crowd got increasingly agitated and threw snowballs, stones and sticks at them. The soldiers without orders fired into the crowd, instantly killing three people and wounding two others who later died from their wounds. The crowd dispersed when the Acting Governor promised an inquiry, which prompted the withdrawal of the troops to a harbor island. Eight soldiers, one officer and four civilians were arrested and charged with murder. The soldiers were defended By John Adams, a future President, six were acquitted while two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences which was just a branding on their hand. This incident resulted in reports, depictions, a colored engraving by Paul Revere and much propaganda about the event used to increasing the tension throughout the Thirteen Colonies and is viewed as a foreshadowing the outbreak the American Revolutionary War five years later.

FANEUIL HALL

FANEUIL HALL

I head down State Street towards the waterfront and Government Center to the Marketplace. I love the Faneuil Hall Building which has been a marketplace and meeting hall since 1742. Many speeches encouraging independence from Great Britain were given here by such greats as Samuel Adams and James Otis, so it is sometimes referred to as “the Cradle of Liberty” and is now a part of the Boston National Historic Park and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

HAYMARKET SQUARE

HAYMARKET SQUARE

The story goes that for many years there were discussions about erecting a public market house in Boston and in 1740 Peter Faneuil offered to build it as a gift to the town. It was built in the style of an English country market with an open ground floor as the market and an assembly room upstairs. There is a grasshopper weather vane on top which is a well known symbol of Boston, knowledge of it was used as a “shibboleth” during the Revolution, suspected spies would be asked to identify the object on top of the hall, if right they were free, if not they were convicted as British spies. The hall was destroyed by fire in 1761 leaving only the brick walls standing so it was rebuilt in 1762. In 1775 when the British occupied Boston they used it for a theater.

In 1805 Faneuil Hall was: doubled in height and width, added a third floor, four new bays were added to the three already there, the open arcades were enclosed, and the cupola was moved to the opposite end of the building, Doric brick pilasters were applied to the lower two floors, Ionic pilasters on the third floor, and galleries were built around the assembly hall. In 1898-1899 it was entirely rebuilt of noncombustible materials.

 

QUINCY MARKET

QUINCY MARKET

I walk east and behind the Hall to Historic Quincy Market which was constructed in 1824-1826. The Market is two stories, 535 feet long and covering 27,000 square miles of land. Since Boston had a tendency for territorial growth by landfill, part of the harbor was filled in with dirt to provide the plot of land for the market along with six new city streets. The exterior is largely traditional New England granite, red brick interior walls and is the first large scale granite and glass in post-and-beam construction. The interior has innovative cast iron columns and iron tension rods. The east and west facades have a strong Roman style, strong triangular pediments and Doric columns, where as the sides of the hall are more American modern with rows of rectangular windows. The shape is a long rectangle creating a long hallway down the center. On the roof are eight evenly spaced chimneys with a copper-based dome in the center that covers an open two story common seating area and the major side entrances.

The Market is named in honor of the Mayor who organized its building without any tax or debt. It was built as an indoor pavilion for vendor stalls because in 1822 Boston had incorporated as a city and its commercial demand grew beyond the capacity of Faneuil Hall. The Market was largely used for produce and foodstuff with various grocers selling eggs, cheese and bread lining its inside walls with some butchering work done on site. Outside there were street vendors against its walls and in its plazas, I see some of the old signs hanging in the upstairs seating hall. There are still vendors on the outside walls selling trinkets, gifts and curios and the south side is under a glass with a few restaurants enclosed in it.

The main building has evolved from groceries to food stall, fast food and restaurants. The second floor is conventional retail space while the basement is occupied by bars and restaurants. Flanking the main building in the marketplace are two equally long buildings called the North Market and South Market with more restaurants, specialty shops and offices. Two further concave market buildings enclose a circular plaza at the market’s west end. The open space at both the east and west ends of the marketplace are a common venue for street performers and venders where a large circular crowd of people will gather around to check out what is going on. Well I am going to stop here to shop and eat. I will write you soon describing the rest of my walk on the Freedom trail into the North End and down to the Harbor.

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THE HISTORY OF PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND

Old Slater Mill along the Blackstone River

Archaeological evidence places Narragansett peoples in the region that later became the colony and state of Rhode Island more than 30,000 years ago. Native people occupied Rhode Island for thousands of years before explorers and settlers from Europe came to North America. Experts believe that around 7,000 Narragansett Indians lived in the area at the time the first European settlers arrived. Soon after the arrival of European settlers, famine and diseases brought by the new settlers greatly reduced the number of native people in the area.  Most of the Native Americans were killed by French diseases and warfare with the Europeans.

The Narragansett tribe: was the largest and occupied the greatest area of land; were part of loosely organized confederation of tribes called the Algonquin; with settlements up and down the East coast of North America; they divided themselves into eight divisions, each ruled by a territorial chief; these chiefs were then subject to a head chief or sachem; For subsistence, Women were responsible for planting, harvesting, preparing the food, gathering shellfish, and the building of the bark huts the people lived in; they depended on the cultivation of corn (maize), hunting, and fishing; men spent much of their time in recreational activities, assisted the women with fishing and hunting and were known for their prowess as warriors, offering protection to smaller tribes who in turn paid tribute to them. Other groups of Algonquin, included the Wampanoag and Niantic tribes, some allied with the Narragansett, and some enemies, also lived in the area that would become Rhode Island.

In 1636 Roger Williams who was a minister was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony for theological disagreements, landed on shore of present day Providence on land granted to him by the Narragansett tribe and declared it a place of religious freedom. Detractors of the idea of liberty of conscience sometimes referred to it as “Rogue’s Island”. Later he negotiates purchase of land extending to the falls at Pawtucket. Roger Williams had won the respect of his colonial neighbors for his skill in keeping the powerful Narragansetts on friendly terms with local white settlers. The Narragansett language died out for many years but was partially preserved in Roger Williams’ the A Key into the Languages of America (1643).In 1638, after conferring with Williams, Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, John Clarke, Philip Sherman, and other religious dissidents settled on Aquidneck Island (then known as Rhode Island), which was purchased from the local natives, who called it Pocasset. By 1670, even the friendly tribes who had greeted Williams and the Pilgrims became estranged from the colonists, and smell of war began to cover the New England countryside.

Pawtucket was founded in 1671 and was called the Center of Industry, because the west side of the river was the growing industrial town. In the1600s they taped into the waterpower and used it for gristmills, sawmills and iron forges. William Jencks set up his forge and did iron work using available supply of timber, nearby bog iron ore and river power. At the time of the Revolutionary War, there was a well established community of iron workers, whose products included farm tools, anchors, and then cast cannons and muskets.

In 1719, Rhode Island imposed civil restrictions on Catholics living there.

Jencks, Brown & Slater were considered the technological people of the age and started the industrial revolution. In 1740s William Jencks built 2 mills. In 1760s James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny, which was a water wheel spinning frame replacing the hand operated spinning wheel, improving quality. This was the first successful mass production. People were excited and getting into mass production- the beginning of consumerism and losing our connection with natural processes.

Prior to industrialization, Rhode Island was heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-Revolution era. In 1652 Rhode Island passed the first abolition law in the thirteen colonies, banning African slavery. The law was not enforced. By 1774, the slave population of RI was 6.3%, nearly twice as high as any other New England colony. In the late 18th century, several Rhode Island merchant families (most notably the Browns, for whom Brown University is named) began actively engaging in the triangle slave trade. In the years after the Revolution, Rhode Island merchants controlled between 60 and 90 percent of the American trade in African slaves. The 18th century Rhode Island’s economy depended largely upon the triangle trade, where Rhode Islanders distilled rum from molasses, sent the rum to Africa to trade for slaves, and then traded the slaves in the West Indies for more molasses.

In 1774, a bill was introduced that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony. This became one of the first anti-slavery laws in the new United States. Despite the antislavery laws an active international slave trade continued. In 1789 an Abolition Society was organized to secure enforcement of existing laws against the trade. In February 1784 the Rhode Island Legislature passed a compromise measure for gradual emancipation of slaves within Rhode Island. By 1840, the census reported only five African Americans enslaved in Rhode Island. Using southern cotton cultivated with slave labor, Rhode Island manufactured numerous textiles throughout the early 19th century. By the mid-19th century, many Rhode Islanders were active in the abolitionist movement, particularly Quakers in Newport and Providence such as Moses Brown.

Rhode Island was the first British colony in America to formally declare its independence, doing so on May 4, 1776, two months before the Declaration of Independence.

1789 Moses Brown started his first mill, purchased all the important machines available in RI and brought it to Pawtucket. He and his family were unable to operate the machinery till they hired Samuel Slater.1793 Samuel Slater built a cotton-spinning mill, the first in the US to be water powered. He was the first to know how to build as well as operate textile machines. He hired 9 children, ages 7 to 12 as employees, and in 1796 his 30 employees were mostly preteens.

Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the United States Constitution (May 29, 1790)—doing so after being threatened of having its exports taxed as a foreign nation.

They built housing, churches, and schools for the workers to concentrate the work force within easy walking distance to the mills. They built company stores where the workers got paid with a line of credit. The Pawtucket Falls area quickly became the focus of textile manufacturing in the US. Both sides of the Pawtucket River developed large textile mills due to their need for water as power. As a child the downtown area had empty red brick buildings which had been mills and factories. The dams, required to provide waterpower to the mills, flooded the farmed fields and stopped fish from their annual migration.

There were major lifestyle changes for these mill workers, who were mostly Yankee farmers. Farm life was governed by the seasons, the sun controlled the work day. Once in the mill, the rhythm of nature was replaced by the tolling of the factory bell. Time became a commodity to be strictly measured and sold at a set rate. The Artisan’s skills or farmer’s produce no longer had as much value as the sheer amount of time a worker was able to stand beside their ceaseless machine, while they bought stuff made by machines.

The cost of industrialization, where the industrial revolution started, in Pawtucket RI, created dense populations and polluted the rivers and streams. Dirt roads, trees, and the natural lines of nature were turned into straight lines with bridges, cement and brick. Manmade structures replaced natural forms. Man creates frames and structures to confine nature, to hold nature within. This is man’s battle with nature; where man builds fences, brick walls, cement structures, roads & buildings. The Industrial revolution had consequences for society with Child labor, as children are seen as a commodity and the family structure was affected with increase divorces.

During the 19th century Rhode Island became one of the most industrialized states in the United States with large numbers of textile factories. The state also had significant machine tool, silverware, and costume jewelry industries.

During the American Civil War, Rhode Island furnished fighting men to the Union armies. On the home front, Rhode Island, along with the other northern states, used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials it needed to win the war. Rhode Island’s continued growth and modernization led to the creation of an urban mass transit system, and improved health and sanitation programs. After the war, in 1866, Rhode Island abolished racial segregation throughout the state. Post-war immigration increased the population. From the 1860s to the 1880s, most of the immigrants were from England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Quebec. Towards the end of the century however, most immigrants were from South and Eastern Europe, and the Mediterranean. At the turn of the century, Rhode Island had a booming economy, which fed the demand for immigration. In the years that lead up to World War I, Rhode Island’s constitution remained reactionary, in contrast to the more progressive reforms that were occurring in the rest of the country. During World War I, Rhode Island furnished troops. After the war, the state was hit hard by the Spanish Influenza.

In the 1920s and 30s, rural Rhode Island saw a surge in Ku Klux Klan membership largely among the native-born white population in reaction to the large waves of immigrants moving to the state.

Pawtucket is north of Providence, the 4th largest city in the state, has an elevation of 76 feet; its size is 9 square miles, making it an easy place to walk around. The city’s boundaries have remained unchanged since 1847 and became the City of Pawtucket in 1886.  . A place of history, considered the home of the Industrial Revolution in America. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.0 square miles (23 km2), of which, 8.7 square miles (23 km2) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) of it (2.89%) is water. Pawtucket lies within three drainage basins. These include the Blackstone River (including the Seekonk River), the Moshassuck River and the Ten Mile River.

My great grandparents: Exare “Jerry” Breault born 6/12/1866 in Canada was married to Celine Audet on 7/29/1888, born 11/6/1869 in Massachusetts. My great Grandfather died on 7/6/1928 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My Great Grandmother died 2/14/1938 in Massachusetts. Thus you can see that my mother’s side of the family has been here for some time. I do not have much information on what they did or how they lived and would appreciate any info that you may have to share.

My great grandparents had 10 children including my Grandmother Bernadette Rosanna Breault born 10/19/1899 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. My Meme married Edmond Gevry 5/11/1919 in St John-Baptist, Pawtucket; I do not find a birth date for him, only a baptism 1/26/1894. My Meme and Pepe had six children, my mother Theresa Gevry was born on 1/13/30. Meme died 10/19/1962 in Pawtucket but I do not know when or where my Pepe died. The story goes that my Pepe built a house in Pawtucket where they lived till his death. My Pepe and his brothers moved from Quebec Montreal to the US looking for work, most of his brothers stayed in Vermont and became farmers whereas he came to Pawtucket. My Pepe was known in town for starting the first all male bar on Main Avenue. If you have any stories about my Meme & Pepe that I can share in my book I would greatly appreciate it.

Pawtucket is Algonquin for river falls, the “great falls”, which is known as the Pawtucket Falls. At the falls is a short wide stretch of shallow whitewater and then it roars over the substantial falls creating a natural crossing point that was used by Indians and early settlers, to get to the other side. It is part of the Blackstone River that originates from Worcester, Massachusetts and was the natural transportation route in the area. This is one of my favorite spots along the river, standing on the bridge near the Old Slater Mill. It is polluted, we can’t swim in it and there were no sights of life in those dank waters and there is a putrid smell that is carried on any breeze, it is considered “dead” due to a century of industrial abuse. They claim you can still cross on foot, but not me because it crepes me out. I can hear the water roar over the large boulders and dam downstream over the substantial falls. This is considered the home of the Industrial Revolution in America, the place where industrialization began resulting in dense populations and polluted rivers and streams. The element of water that turned the valley into an industrial powerhouse is still present; the river, the canal, the mill villages, and the agricultural landscape.

During the 1960s I was living a block away from the Blackstone River, there is run off from all the textile mills, along its banks, which is the home of the first cotton gin, creating so much pollution that there is nothing living in it. Lollygagging along its banks, peering into its filthy frothing moving waters is like looking into the murky waters of my own misery and pain, identifying with it, it is a mirror reflecting back my experiences. Going into Slater Mill, enjoying the beautiful wood weavers, that make up the gigantic looms still standing and functional, with the waterwheel as the source of energy, it must have been bustling in its day, with all the child labor, it is well maintained and admired by all visitors who have had the privilege of obtaining entrance to its inner chambers. There is lots of segregation in the neighborhood mostly based on languages: Jewish, French, Portuguese, and Greeks live in separated areas and one is expected to stick with their own kind.

Downtown the red brick buildings that once were mills and factories, have more modern business in them especially the jewelry manufacturers with many more structures being empty. My curiosity and love of walking lead to me to the beautiful Pawtucket library that was the original Post Office, making reading my major activity, a great skill that eventually turns into a great coping mechanism. It transformed my life by increasing awareness of alternate realities and the ability to explored and envision a different life, a life of one’s’ own choosing. What a freeing concept that is. Being a seeker I enjoy the Process of Exploration, seeking mystery, learning investigational techniques with the love of analysis, always asking “WHY”, and yearning to follow through with courageous action.

Efforts are underway to transform the Blackstone, into a fish-able and swim able river by 2015. Man realizes his effect and tried to clean it up, is it too late? Does man’s progress always have to include destruction of the environment and social degradation?

My Childhood Happens in the 1950s

This is a hard period to write about 1958 through 1959, my memory is poor around school, where I went and how old I was. When we moved from Columbus I was in the 3rd grade and when we arrived in RI I was kept back and did the 3rd grade again. It seems RI felt they were more advanced than Ohio. I probably took some type of test but not sure. So in order to jar my memory: I wrote out dates, connected my age to them, starting with graduating from 9th grade and working my way backwards. Pictures did not help because there are no class pictures to look at till I go to St. Edward’s School.

We moved from Central Falls to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, last year, after the death of my father. Before the funeral mother told me not to cry, so I never cry in front of anyone, keeping my tears to myself. I cry alone at night in bed, quietly so no one hears me. Praying and talking to my father in the quiet of the night helps me get through feeling alone.  I am following my mother’s example who I hear cry at night while talking to my father. My mother is uncomfortable talking about feelings and has unsaid rules about what can be spoken about. The loss of my father is difficult; he always talked to me about what was going on and encourage me to express my feelings, teaching me to communicate openly and honestly. One time I approach my mother to talk about feelings and her response is “you sound just like your father”. I do not want to cause her pain, so I have decided to keep things to myself, asking God why am I still alive, why didn’t I die instead, and when I am angry with my mother I wish she had been the one to die instead of him.

Living in a yellow triple-decker with green trim, the top floor is framed by a slanted roof making the inside like cathedral ceilings where along the walls only children can stand. My sister and I share a bedroom again. Now we live closer to Aunt Lucille and Uncle Ave. My family now consists of all females. My mother started dating 2 different men before we got sent away to the convent and when we returned she had made her choice which one she would be with. My sister Joanne is born 11/12/1959, so cute with her dark brown curly locks, bringing great joy and love into our home, feeling special because I am now a godmother.

As I enter St Mary’s Catholic Church on 103 Pine Street my spirit is lifted up into the light. The church is very ornate, as I proceed down the main aisle towards the front, taking center stage is an alcove where the Alter is raised up on a platform, framed by 5 stain glass windows high above, shining rainbow light on me. The pastels hues of yellow and gold paint everywhere reflect the light high up into the ceiling.

I am awed by the 14 Stations of the Cross, seven on each side, separated by 5 stain glass windows that line the left and right walls, bringing in more light to show the way. There are side aisles within these ornate rectangular alcoves, having 6 columns along the length of the building, calling attention to the windows.

As I turn around I see a second story where the old brass organ extends the width of another alcove in the back, in front of the most amazing circular stain glass area I have ever laid eyes on. The center window has eight scalloped edges, with Jesus kneeling in prayer, which is surrounded by eight smaller windows each with 4 scalloped edges. This is the darkest area of the structure, encouraging me to go within and pray. The pews are of solid wood with no padding to comfort the knees or behinds of the parishioners.

The outside is made of red brick; the windows are framed in white smooth rock and the roof in dark, with a great steeple to help you find your way. I enjoy mass every Sunday and attend all the holy days celebrations, singing all the Latin hymns, belting them out loudly for I know them by heart. I spend many hours here in contemplation and prayer.

Sometimes I walk along the ‘under construction’ I-95 south and go to mass at St. Jean the Baptiste Church, where they sing in French, which sounds so romantic and inspiring, even though I do not understand the language. I am really involved in the Catholic religion; reading the bible and especially enjoy the illustrated book about the history of the church, one of the few books we have besides the World Book Encyclopedia.

Walking to school we have to cross where I-95 is being built through Pawtucket. My sister the adventurer walks boldly across the girders. I hesitate; she encourages me to take this short cut rather than taking the longer way around. It is scary so I sit down on the steel beams and shimmy across to the other side, not wanting to look down at the ground, so far down that if I fall I will get really hurt. I am relieved when my feet feel solid ground again, dreading the return trip home.

We go to St. Mary School on 167 George Street where I attend the 4th an 5th grades. I enjoy school especially recess with the sound of kids all around me having fun. Even though the nuns are in control and maintain discipline they are calm, gentle and caring. I am really into learning and feel very safe in this environment while making friends. There is consistency now; I am less fearful and have some stability. I remember my first crush on a boy, how I admired his fearlessness, his abilities to do what he wanted to do, a lot like my sister’s courage and initiative.

Television is very influential in my life. During the 1950s, it is the dominant mass media as more people can buy them and the number of hours we watch steadily increases. What is portrayed seemed to be the ideal; family, schools, neighborhoods, the world, but my father had ingrained in me it was not reality and they were only acting. I enjoyed many shows with my family: Lassie, Father Knows Best, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet ,I Love Lucy, Disneyland and The Ed Sullivan Show. TV also brings the real world to me: I feel like an “eyewitness” to historical events, because the newsmen have gone from simply reading the news to showing videotapes and  pictures of the events which are occurred all over the world, and there are live broadcasts happening at the time I am watching. I am fascinated by Reality vs. Fantasy being played out right before my eyes.

American Bandstand is my favorite show hosted by Dick Clark. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music; there is at least one popular musical act that appears in person to lip-sync one of their latest singles. Weekday afternoons for one hour, after school, I am allowed to go to a friend’s house, there are at least 3 of us watching and imitating all the dance steps: the Slop, the Hand Jive, the Bop, the Stroll, the Circle and the Chalypso. Dancing starts to become part of my physical activities and a great coping mechanism.

My strongest memory is of course around death! The death of my favorite singers, in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed in plane crashes in Iowa. Holly and his band, the Crickets, had just scored a No. 1 hit with “That ‘ll Be the Day.” Holly, just 22 when he died, had hits like “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy,” “Maybe Baby” and “Early in the Morning.” Another crash victim, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, most famous recording was the rockabilly “Chantilly Lace,” which made the Top 10. The third crash victim was Ritchie Valens, only 17 had already scored hits with “Come On, Let’s Go,” “Donna” and “La Bamba”. I knew their songs by heart and the dances that went with them.

My Childhood happened in the 50s, focusing on issues of security. My child’s self-archetypes are; an observer, dancer, explorer, bookworm, traveler, trekker, seeking and searching for the truth.