A Little Bit About Southern Rhode Island

Rhode Island - The Ocean State
Rhode Island – The Ocean State

Annette Snyder,  50 Authors from 50 States,  gives writers a chance to showcase their states on her blog – and it’s Rhode Island’s turn at the end of September. You can find this post on her site and write a comment for the chance to win a collection of RI note cards, illustrated with photographs by me. I thought some of the  followers of Around ZuZu’s Barn might like an opportunity to write a feature about their own states, so, check with Annette to see about signing up for next year’s slots. It’s also a great way for my blogging friends from around the world to learn about interesting places to visit in the US, just in case you’re planning to come for a visit some day.

Rhode Island is a parochial little state because in many ways it is its own small parish.  I grew up in Pawtucket, one of the larger cities which abuts  Providence, the state capital. When we were young and would meet someone new, one of the first questions we’d ask was, “What parish are you from?”  You see, each neighborhood, each village, each town in our small state has its own flavor. Every one of the five counties with its 31 townships has a unique personality and is, in a sense, its own little parish.  More often than not, our conversations have a way of turning to the people and places we all have in common and it would seem we are interconnected not just by 6 degrees of separation, but usually by only 1 or 2 degrees. We all know somebody who knows somebody who’s related to somebody who knows somebody we know. That’s just the way it is in Rhode Island.

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Author with A Berkshire Tale

ZuZu in Quilt BagIn 2015, I  published  my first book, A Berkshire Tale.  I’d set the ten stories about a little kitten named ZuZu in the picturesque Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. My husband and I visit there often and  we’ve learned to love the area. ZuZu’s adventures take her to Tanglewood, to hear Mozart played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She learns about the history of the Hancock Shaker Village and the many  innovative ideas the Shaker Sect infused into American Society. At the Red Lion Inn, she meets a black and white tuxedo cat, Simon the Lobby Ambassador. He introduces her to Santa so she can make a very special Christmas Wish during the Annual Norman Rockwell Weekend held on Main Street in Stockbridge. And at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, ZuZu and her friend Nick discover they can help to save Monarch Butterflies by planting a milkweed garden of their own.

I cherish those stories and enjoy book signings both in the Berkshires and in Rhode Island. But around here the question invariably is posed, “Well, you wrote a book about the Berkshires – do you have any books about Rhode Island?”  I  soon realized I had to do something to remedy the fact I had authored no books about our own beloved state.

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Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens – home of Baby Adonis, the vegetarian pitcher plant

And so, I created a little book in verse about a carnivorous plant at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens. Adonis, a baby pitcher plant, awakens one morning and at the coaxing of a fly, which has fallen in his digestive juices, he decides he wants to be a vegetarian –  much to his mother’s distress. I entitled it Carnivore Conundrum.

Kingston Village Sign
Kingston Village Sign

After that,  I decided to get serious and write an adult murder mystery set in my own neighborhood of South Kingstown. I’d attended the University of Rhode Island  back in the late 60’s and came to truly appreciate the allure of the southernmost part of our state.  I eventually bought a home here and settled in. The brick walks lining the Village of  Kingston  lead into the URI Campus.  Kingston once was called Little Rest. General George Washington stopped here on his way to Newport in 1781 to rest the night in the home of Elisha Reynolds and what is now the Tavern Hall Club which is just across the street from Upper College Road.

My mystery, Last Train to Kingston,  revolves around the murder of a woman, Dorothea Lorimar. On a dark November night under a black sky filled with meteor showers, she arrives at Kingston Station and is soon making her last wish on one of those falling stars.  Who is she?  What brought her to South County on that fateful night? And of course, who had reason to kill her? All questions needing answers that Detective Kara Langley, of the South Kingstown Police, must search out.

In addition to Thea’s story, there are many familiar settings and landmarks people will recognize if they’ve spent any time in Southern Rhode Island. I’ve sprinkled them throughout the book, because we all know even grownups love picture books.

Washington County Center for the Arts
Washington County Center for the Arts

The old Washington County Court House, now the Courthouse Center for the Arts where concerts, plays and events are scheduled throughout the year.

The Kingston Free Library which served as the first County Courthouse from 1776 – 1891 and where the General Assembly met from 1776-1791.

In 1820, Fayerweather House was the home of the village blacksmith, George Fayerweather, descendent of a freed slave. It has been restored and is now a center where local crafters give workshops and sell their  arts and craftsIMG_1093

The Kingston Congregational Church was built in 1820 but dates back to the 1600’s when missionaries began to preach at Tower Hill.

Kingston Congregational Church
Kingston Congregational Church

And, of course, the Kingston Railroad Station constructed in 1875 by the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad.  Scene of the crime!

There’s so much history in this part of the state. I was recently at the South County Museum in Narragansett. It was founded in 1933 and in 1984 it was moved to the beautiful Canonchet Farm in Narragansett. This living history museum contains artifacts dating from the 17th century to modern times. Docents are on site to help guide visitors through the many interesting stories surrounded our past  here in the Ocean State. And just a small distance down the road is the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Beach where you can sit on the sea wall and watch the waves roll in. Stop by if you’re in the area and if I’m there, we can chat. I’ll bet I know somebody who knows somebody you know. I’m a Rhode Islander born and bred!

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Claremary Sweeney is an author living in South Kingstown with her husband Charley and their two cats, Roxie and ZuZu. She’s published two children’s books, A Berkshire Tale and The Pacas Are Coming! ZuZu and the Crias.   She optimistically expects A Carnivore Conundrum and Last Train to Kingston to be published in the very near future. You can find her on her blog,  Around ZuZu’s Barn at aroundzuzusbarn.com or email her at zuzusbarn@gmail.com to purchase signed copies of her books.

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56 thoughts on “A Little Bit About Southern Rhode Island

  1. Clare, first I have to say I can’t wait to meet Thea! I have always loved your pictures of your charming Kingston and I know they will add to your mystery! I think Rhode Island is so stunning in its connection to the sea…I didn’t actually know it’s called the Ocean state, but that makes so much simple sense given how the Atlantic penetrates to the heart of it. I am sure Ms. Snyder couldn’t have picked a better representative of Southern Rhode Island! Love you my friend, Jo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good morning, Jo,
      Thank you. Well, I’m glad you read the post here, as there are photos missing on the 50 States site. You should consider writing a post about NC and submitting it for next year. You would be a great voice for your state!
      Lots of love and wishing you and Doug a peaceful Sunday. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful spotlight on a place that really sounds delightful. Rich in history but rich in kindness and community spirit too. I think of you every time I visit Ocean State to buy my English tea at a good price and pick up whatever else they have that I hadn’t realised I really really need because it’s such a good bargain. I digress – your words always captivate me and next year when I am back and hopefully able to walk a little better than the last three months, I will most certainly come down and explore. Will you be my guide please?

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    1. Osyth, I just found your comment when I was checking my spam folder. I’m not sure why this happened, but I hope it was not in there for long! Are you safely back in your beautiful French countryside, walking the fields and hills with the Bean? I want to think you are smiling and happy and carefree. Of course you’re welcome here any time and I will drop whatever I’m doing to be your guide. And perhaps we could even arrange an excursion to the wonderful Berkshires which I know you would enjoy so very much. I will certainly visit your blog and catch up on your adventures today. Take care, my friend. With love, Clare

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Clare, this seems to be a problem for many – to suddenly find themselves being spammed … I have read several complaints about it recently and have had the same happen to followers who suddenly are reduced to tinned meat! I have no answer because I am far too much of a luddite and intend to remain so! I am not back in France, I am here in Massachusetts with a plan to go back to Europe next week spending a month in England before heading to France for 6 or 7 and then (if the USCIS powers that be allow it) to return here for a period of 18-24 months. That would be next May/June. I certainly hope that then we will find a moment or two to meet up – The Berkshires beckon, Rhode Island needs riding and other stories. Hugs to you and those pusscats and I hope both humans are keeping well 😊

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      2. I shan’t forget you and I shall be hoping and crossing everything that November will bring a more sensible result than the foolhardy Brexit (instantly regretted by a huge number who voted for it) in my own country of birth!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It is a very good thing. For me a walk in woodlands or a meadow or on the beach does the trick in grounding me and I do think that in order to be of any use whatsoever, we must try and stay grounded. Not easy for the poor folks in the path of Angry Matthew but for those of us that aren’t a gentleness of spirit always helps, I feel 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much. Right now I have a few book projects going on and am learning new ways to present my work. It’s fun but challenging. I’m not stressing myself out, but giving more time to getting things published rather than just getting it out there. I think I’m going to have a very busy winter. Clare

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    1. Bernadette. I just published the second book last month and I now have different projects going on with 4 other books I hope to get out by the end of next year. But this time I’m working with other people and it is a bit different for me. We’ll see how much I actually get done over the winter. Thanks for stopping by and your thoughtful comment. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  3. oh this is super. I loved reading it and it confirms everything I hoped New England/Berkshire/Rhode Island would be. Real old fashioned American home grown stuff. It looks beautiful into the bargain. It was a very interesting piece to read. You always learn something from other peoples blogs and this is no exception.
    Question 0 What does ” tucket” mean… you find a lot of those on the end of names.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Russ, I’m trying to learn about making a Youtube version of the Carnivorous Conundrum Poem. I think it would be fun to read it in the setting where it takes place. Kids would really like it. And I’m learning about Create Space so I can have a copy of it in case people would like to buy it. So much to learn! Love, Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If ever I visit the US again, I’ll definitely put RI on my to see list! As for the 1 or 2 degrees of separation, it sounds just like the NZ I grew up in. Conversations always began, “Where are you from?” And when the answer came, the follow-up would be, “Then you’d know …” The kinship and acquaintanceship networks were formidable, and there were no secrets!

    Our population has now passed the 4.5 million mark, with over 1.5 million living in Auckland, our largest city, so I suspect that the rule of ‘sooner or later everyone knows everyone else’ may no longer apply in that part of the country.

    It sounds like you’re in for a very busy year. All good wishes for your projects.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, things are beginning to move in regard to books. It is said that it usually takes a second book to get things going and now I know what that was all about. You are certainly welcome here any time ZuZu wants you to bring Gib because she’s convinced he’s her brother. I do think you know exactly what I meant by the separation statement. I have to admit, I like being busy doing things I enjoy. Have a fun week. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m thinking about doing a 50 state project on the blog (maybe coming soon!) that is not at all like this. But as part of it, I started thinking about which state I had spent the least amount of time in, having visited them all. I’m pretty sure the state with that distinction is Rhode Island. It’s really too bad, but I guess that just means I should go back and spend some more time there!

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  6. Gosh, what a fantastically interesting post, Clare. I’m impressed by your thorough knowledge of the history of these different places. What a good idea to write some stories set in your home town. Your stories sound fab. Being able to add pictures of the actual places would add so much to the fiction, too, just as they do the blog post – so good idea! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Yvette. Somehow, certain settings bring out ideas in my head and from those ideas, I get a story or two. These places are all a large part of my every-day life. I use the library, am a member of the Church, volunteer at Fayerweather House, , go to events at the Courthouse Center and have used the train on many occasions. I drive by these historic places every day and spend much time at the University. I really like living here, even though it’s grown so much since I was a student at URI in the 60’s. And I’ve grown up with it.(Well, i’m sort of grown-up in my own way.) 🙃 Clare

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  7. Absolutely delightful insight into Rhode Island and your life. No matter of huge distance I felt so close to you, dear Clare! Hope one day I can put my foot on this far land too, it seems so captivating. You know some days ago I found out that my very good friend has received a scholarship for research work in USA, she will spend the next 9 months in Orlando, Florida State.
    I know it’s a fantastic chance for her, but she will be there alone and I worry about her a bit. Although she will discover so many places!
    Dear Clare, i wish you huge good luck and success with your books publishing, I believe that you will do it. Yours fans are waiting for your new masterpieces! Hugs and best wishes, Ann.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ann, I spent time with you on your Poland Holiday the other afternoon. You were very busy filming and interviewing, so you may not have noticed me. But we had fun together. (The soup was very yummy!)
      I travel to Orlando once or twice a year, so you should give your friend my email and I’ll see if I can be of any help to her- especially if she decides to travel up to New England while she’s here. Take care, my friend – Hugs! Clare

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, dear Clare, I did see you and was happy as a kid to share with you my time in Poland!
        I am so grateful for your kind attention and your readiness to help my friend. I will give her your email and I thank you for this very very much. You are very kind. She is a very modest girl of my age, but she is quite smart and I hope will try to travel and discover many places!
        Thank you once again! Hugs!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This was such a lovely post. I have never been to Rhode Island. I recently finished for congressman Patrick Kennedy’s wonderful book from last year (part biography, part advocacy), and I ended it thinking how I’d like to visit a place I’ve never seen. Now your post only reinforces that feeling, along with perhaps reading one of your books too. Thanks for a great read… – Marty

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  9. I really enjoyed this post Clare, although I say that about all your posts! I think there’s something special about seeing an author in her own setting which I believe is part of one’s identity, after all. Your photos tell stories too – what you think photo-worthy, what’s characteristic of your home, and of course the way you frame those aspects. I’m drawn to the history of RI and especially Kingston. It is so soul-ful, in contrast to the soullessness of many places of more modern architecture. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Robyn – I haven’t been reading or even posting my own blogs for a few weeks. (I’ve been really busy with book “stuff”. ) I will try to post something light this week, as it’s the peak of Autumn here and quite lovely, I’m off to your blog now. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely vignettes about Little Rhody. I was born in Providence which is also the title of my blog and soon to be book. New England is saturated with history. I love your photos. Very nostalgic.

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