Barrington's Industrial Past Investigated
Students in an archival research class at Roger Williams University uncover Barrington's manufacturers before the Civil War; they will reveal their findings on Dec. 11.
Who were Barrington’s “Captains of Industry” before the Civil War?
An archival research class at Roger Williams University has been answering that question this fall as part of a year-long Community Partnership with the Barrington Preservation Society.
“They’ve discovered more than I ever knew,” said Carole Villucci, director of the Town Museum operated by the preservation society. “I like having an academic component.”
“There are some fabulous little stories,” said Nancy Austin, an adjunct professor at Roger Williams University who guided the class made up mostly of graduate students. “It’s kind of a big detective story.”
You can find out what the students discovered on Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, in the Barrington library auditorium. The students will present their findings in a 7 pm session on Barrington’s industrial past titled “People in Place: Manufacturing Households in Antebellum Barrington, RI (1820-1860).”
The class’s starting point was the 1820 U.S. Federal Census, said Austin.
“Thirty-four Barrington households reported that they engaged in manufacturing,” Austin said. “Some of the families names were familiar, some were not.”
The name Armington, for instance, said Villucci, was unknown to her. And she knows Barrington’s history pretty well.
Then, using archives, land evidence, and other local resources, said Austin, the class researched the labor and social history of these Barrington families.
You can learn about the Grindel family and Lucretia Chace. You can find out when the Tiffany ice business began on Prince’s Pond. You can hear about the brick works, oyster harvesting, shoe making, farming, coal delivery and even a distillery in Barrington.
A little-known map of Barrington from 1866 that has been digitized and enlarged for study purposes will be on display.
“It shows where everyone lived and the land they owned,” said Austin
“They got pretty deep,” Villucci said of the research. “They pinpointed households and what they did for a living.”
The students will take questions after their presentation. An informal exhibition of the research will be set up for viewing before their talk.