Tag Archive | Roger Williams


East Side

My friend and I hitchhike, with our thumbs out, on the 95 freeway going into Boston Massachusetts to find work. We obtained a job interview at Boston City Hospital Psychiatric/Mental Health Facility, contemplating working with substance abuse, while the nursing director tells us “You need psychiatric experience first.” My friend’s frustration is reflected in her response “How can we get experience if no one will hire us?” Thus her open and honest remark gets us the job, which is to begin in September. We decide to live and work on the East Side for the summer, which is our most favorite place where culture, history, and earthly beauty, is surrounded by a college atmosphere that is comfortable while also stimulating on many levels.


The East Side is a combination of neighborhoods in Providence, Rhode Island on the famous eastern part of the city. It officially comprises the neighborhoods of Blackstone, Hope (commonly known as Summit), Mount Hope, College Hill (once known as Prospect Hill), Wayland, and Fox Point. The East Side contains numerous parks and green spaces. It is approximately four miles north to south and two miles east to west which is great for my love of walking.


Mostly residential, the East Side is the most affluent partof the city with higher property values, lower unemployment, and higher income levels than the city as a whole. Approximately 20% of the city’s 175,000 people live on the East Side.


Roger Williams founded Providence along College Hill; in 1650 it is the place of the first colonial settlement plots. The East Side contains the oldest section of the city. The Providence Preservation Society and the Rhode Island Historical Society have preserved numerous historic buildings in this area. As you walk the streets you see mental planks on the houses with the dates it was built, symbolizing that the structure is being maintained as it was originally constructed and owners are not allowed to alter it in anyway.


To the west is the Providence River with many bridges leading to Downtown Providence with Interstate 95 separating downtown from the rest Providence. Let’s start our walk in this area at Smith Street, heading south on North Main Street. We come across the Roger Williams National Memorial  situated between North Main Street and Canal Street (along the canal) which was established in 1965 to commemorate his “outstanding contributions to the development of the principles of freedom in this country.”


Roger Williams Memorial Park


The memorial, is a 4.5 acre urban green space located at the foot of College Hill, includes a freshwater spring which was the center of the settlement of Providence Plantations founded by Williams in 1636.  It is on this site that Williams, through word and action, fought for the ideal of religious freedom.


As we continue south on North Main Street we arrive at The First Baptist Church in America which is the oldest Baptist church in the United States, founded by Roger Williams in 1638. He called the city “Providence” because he believed that God had cared for him. This colony was a “shelter for persons distressed of conscience.” Providence had soul liberty and the founding principles of the separation of church and state, which were so powerful that subsequent settlers in Rhode Island adopted them. All the other colonies had established churches and religious requirements.


First Baptist Church


We walk a short distance, turning left on Meeting Street; we go a block up the hill to Benefit Street, where we find The Marine Armory, built in 1839 and was in service during the American Civil War by the Rhode Island Militia. Also known as the State Arsenal and called the Benefit Street Arsenal is a historic site at 176 Benefit Street.


Prospect Park


We continue heading east up Meeting Street, we go 2 more block up the hill turning left onto Congdon Street and continue down the block. We are now at Prospect Terrace Park also located in the College Hill neighborhood, founded in 1867, which overlooks the city’s downtown area. Our eyes are drawn to a 35-foot white stone statue of Roger Williams gazing over the city, built in the late 1930s on his burial site, commemorates his founding of the state of Rhode Island and his promotion for religious freedom. His remains are buried in the tomb beneath his statue. Here is where the flashing lanterns were placed, during the revolutionary war, warning the citizens that “The British are coming”. I love the view from the here, overlooking Providence and have spent lots of time here while in nursing school, where everyone hangs out day and night for the city lights are something to behold, especially the brightly lighted state house.



Prospect park


We return back to Meeting Street turning right, the way we came, going 2 blocks down the hill, turning left onto Benefit Street. Benefit Street may be only a mile long, but it is considered the most historic street in the city of Providence. Its construction began back in 1765, and it has undergone innumerable changes since then. It remains, however, culturally, architecturally, and historically rich today. There are many cobble stone streets in this area.


Historic Benefit Street


Let us continue our stroll south on Benefit Street for 2 more blocks until we come to Waterman Street. As we look east up the steep hill we can see many of the Rhode Island School of Design‘s buildings that are along the slope of College Hill, and most of the Brown University‘s facilities, include the Main Green, the Rockefeller Library, the Pembroke Campus, and the School of Medicine. Instead we will check out The RISD Museum located on the corner of Waterman and Benefit Street. I often visit the basement; I love Rodin’s white marble sculpture of the hand of god holding the world which is also a man and woman entwined.




Brown’s Clock Tower


Going another 2 blocks we find ourselves standing in front of The Providence Athenaeum, the fourth oldest library in America. It is well knows that it is here where Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Helen Whitman hung out during their stormy romance. Whitman was considered one of the “best female poets of America” who lived down the street from the library and had special privileges there for almost 75 years.




In the spirit of freedom, which the area was known for, was “The Scruples shelf” containing books “Banned in Boston” which was originally stored in a drawer the staff called “the sewer,” that kept authors such as D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller and others, safely out of the view of young innocent eyes. The practice of hiding the books started in 1922 and continued until 1971 when the Board of Directors voted that it be “scrupulously and without fanfare desegregated and redistributed.”


Continuing south for 4 large city blocks we come to The John Brown House Museum, the first mansion built in Providence, on the corner of Benefit and Power Street where famous people such as John Quincy Adamsand George Washington had tea. Home of the wealthy merchant John Brown (1736–1803), a china trader, slave trader, Federalist, owned distilleries and his family financed the establishment of Brown University. He was the planner and leader on the attack of the Gaspee in 1772.


John Brown House Museum


We continue walking south on Benefit Street, to Wickenden Street which goes in an east/west direction and named after the original plot owner, (like other East Side streets e.g. Arnold, Williams, Angell, Waterman) we walk all the way to Gano Street turning left and heading North to East Manning Street where we live in Fox Point.



Benefit Street


If we were to continue to walk north on Gano Street we’d find ourselves at the top of College Hill at Waterman Street or Angell Street which go west/east directions, we usually turn left heading west to Thayer Street where the Brown University Bookstore is located and the notable Avon Cinema which dates back to the early twentieth century. Numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops are located along Thayer Street, adjoining Brown University at Veteran’s Gate, and along Wickenden Street, South Water Street. Both streets are home to numerous small and independent shops. I frequent the area, eating bagel and cream cheese or a hot fudge Sunday at the little quaint Bob’s Big Boy and love buying clothes at India Emporium.




To the north, the East Side is bordered by Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The most scenic route to there from our place is Blackstone Boulevard where there are huge expensive houses with large yards, being one of the most affluent white neighborhoods in the city with a median family income nearly four times that of the city.


Blackstone Boulevard Park is a green space between northbound and southbound lanes of Blackstone Boulevard. It consists of 19.3 acres with 7.8 being parkland and a 1.7-mile path, right in the center surrounded by forest of old beautiful trees, for jogging and walking. Blackstone Park is at the end of Waterman Street in Wayland which is a 40-acre city park with 2,400 feet of shore frontage on the Seekonk River.


To the East, the East Side is separated from East Providence by the Seekonk River. It runs all the way from Fox Point up behind Butler Hospital. We are surrounded by water everywhere we turn that is why Rhode Island is called the Ocean State.


We applied to work at the famous Butler Hospital, located off Blackstone Boulevard, which is Rhode Island’s only private mental health hospital. Founded in 1844, the hospital offers psychiatric and substance-abuse treatment programs. We are not offered jobs, they express strong beliefs about patients’ rights and nurses responsibility to protect patients from abuse, stating “You did not report and expose the conditions that are going on at Howard State Hospital”, we explained that our school’s nursing director warned us that we would be kicked out if we intervened in any way.


I know on an ethical level they are right, that to take on the system no matter the consequences is the right thing to do. I lacked the courage and fearlessness to follow through due to my own needs being more important. I understand my response of not taking action is related to my own abuse issues and keeping quiet about it, in addition to being the oldest child in my family and conditioned to keep secrets, the same pattern was repeated and reinforced with my Nursing Director so in order to accomplish my RN goal I bit my tongue and let the behavior continue. We leave Butler and head west to Miriam Hospital where we are hired for the night shift.


To the south, the East Side abuts Narragansett Bay, which is formed by the confluence of the Seekonk and Providence Rivers. This is where Roger Williams landed after crossing the Seekonk River and is marked by a small park called Roger William’s Landing. Also we have India Point Park, the largest park in the area, is located along the northernmost shore of Narragansett Bay. It is the only large expanse of Bay-side shoreline in Providence reserved for public use. Interstate 195 separates the park from the rest of Fox Point. We can easily walk to these areas to enjoy a beach like atmosphere close to home for we do not have a vehicle to drive to the beautiful distant beaches of Rhode Island.


India Point Park


We live on East Manning Street in Fox Point, on the top floor of a double-decker; our landlord is an elderly Portuguese couple who live downstairs on the first floor. The old man with his quaint European attitudes is always instructing us on what is “Proper behavior for young women”, telling us “It doesn’t not look good that you had different guys over”, “You each need to pick just one young man each” while we explain they are just friends, we have invited over for a home cooked meal. The place is furnished with nice antique furniture, which is ideal for us at this time. The wooden structure is well built, with beautiful wood staircase and floors that are well maintained. We feel like we are living in the lap of luxury with our rent being $100/month.


In July, after we pass our State Board Exams, we are hired for the summer, despite the fact we are moving to Boston, by Miriam Hospital a private, non-profit hospital located along 164 Summit Avenue in the Hope (Summit) area which is part of the East Side.



Its history started in 1902, when a handful of women raise the down payment on “a place to care for the indigent sick of the Jewish faith.” To fulfill their dream, 450 people joined their cause, going door to door, they raised $80,000. As a result of their efforts, the first Miriam Hospital was founded by local Jewish organizations and opened in 1926 with 63 beds and 14 bassinets. A year later, another $82,000 was raised to help defray the “burdens of caring for charity patients.” The Hospital and the Jewish community formed a relationship that has endured for generations. After the war years, $1.3 million was raised for a new 150-bed Miriam Hospital which opened on Summit Avenue in 1952.


We ride the bus, for approximately 3 miles to our job, at 10:30 pm Monday through Thursday evenings. We call in sick on Fridays, because we figure that our income with the night shift differential, is equal to what we would make working 5 day shifts a week, they are so happy with us they do not complain about it.  In September when we resign, they give us each a beautiful letter of recommendation, thanking us for the great care we gave, and letting us know that we could return at any time.


My friend is Night Charge Nurse on The 70 bed Medical floor. Our job descriptions are similar we just work on different floors. I am the only Registered Nurse on the floor; my title is Night Charge Nurse on a 70 bed Surgical Unit, with 4 staff member who I assign patient care to and supervise. This is a very challenging job that I have been well trained for. My responsibilities include: hanging bags of Intravenous Fluids with Medication Piggybacks, administering all medications, ministering post-op care and managing emergencies such as surgery sites opening up and having to rush them back to surgery.


There is no time to sit down and comfort distressed patients, especially those in pain. I become skilled at short brief kind words that reflect my caring attitude, combined with the technical comfort measures available, so that medication is not my only intervention, making my the relief of the patient suffering my prime concern.


I struggle internally knowing more is needed and facing the reality of the situation. This reinforced my desire to do psychiatric nursing because my heartstrings are always being pulled on. When I assess and find a nursing intervention with a time restraint that is preventing me from following through, I feel sad. This is known as culture shock which all nursing students experience when entering the profession and learn what the real life situation is like. I make $977 working there for the summer. The first thing I purchased is a singer portable sewing machine: to continue developing seamstress sewing skills and for my creative endeavors towards designing my hippie style wardrobe.


I loved living and working on the East Side, where we have spent a great memorable summer hanging out, nursing in the real world, and weekends hitch hiking to Boston. I always enjoy walking around on the East Side even in the rain enjoying the muscle burn up its hilly terrain. The beautiful cobblestone roads make great music that bounces of the brick structures that line the streets, making it a truly pedestrian community.




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?