Hours

Monday - Friday: 1 - 6pm
Saturday: 9am - 12pm

History

Reminiscences of Saunderstown by longtime local residents.  These audio files were originally recorded in the 1970s and 1980s, with several additional recordings of local residents done in the summer of 2016 by library supporter and local resident Maura Sayre. The digitization of the historic recordings was done by Maura Sayre. Our heartfelt thanks go to Maura for this effort in preserving this part of our community’s very special history.

Flossie Foskett reminisces about her connections to Plum Beach and Saunderstown.
Flossie Foskett Part II
Maura Sayre interviews Alice Nalle, August 22, 2016.
Maura Sayre interviews Ingrid Kadereit, July 29, 2016.
Andrew Staley
Anna Ames, 1993
Irving Hazard, Ethel Greene, Mrs. Hazard
Jesse Nalle
Frances Chase Hughes
Charlie Arnold, John Newcombe, Rich Viall, Part 1
Flossie Foskett, Part 1
Alexander Randall
Betty Allen
Bob Eaton and Will Seymour Part I
Bob Eaton and Will Seymour Part II
Bob and Rowse Matterson
Charlie Arnold, John Newcombe, Rich Viall, Part II
Douglas Arnold, Bob Eaton, Macy Webster
Edwin Taylor
Ethel Green, Douglas Arnold, Peg Squibb
Fanny Wister Stokes
Gladys Garlick Eaton, Ruth Garlick Baker Part I
Gladys Garlick Eaton, Ruth Garlick Baker Part II
Helen Zimmerman
Hon. Florence Rhein Bird
Irving and Shirley Sheldon
Jack Seymour
Ken Outerbridge and Peg Squibb
Leicester Brodner
Leon and Helen Handel Part I
Leon and Helen Handel Part II
Louise Jack and Will Seymour
Milford Hoffman and Douglas Arnold
Milford Hoffman and John Moffit Part I
Milfrod Hoffman and John Moffit Part II
Rev. Francis B. Rhein Part I
Rev. Francis B. Rhein Part II
Thayer Keeler
Thayer Keeler Part II
Will Seymour

Some Additional History

Taken from Saunderstown by Irving Sheldon:

The Virginian

The youngest son of John A. Saunders, Jr. was Thomas Willett Stillman Saunders, born in 1855, the year in which his parents made their arrangements with the Carpenter brothers.  Stillman, as he was known, became an extremely hardworking and enterprising man.  He believed in the shipyard and, we are told, bought back all the property his father had owned.  The use of steam interested him and while still a young man he built his first steamboat, the “Wyona,” which he put into service carrying passengers and freight to Wickford and Providence, or contracted her out for various needs.

Meanwhile in 1885 he initiated an endeavor of a different sort.  On an old barn at the corner of what is now the Waterway a notice appeared: — ‘All those interested in providing a free library for the use of this neighborhood are invited to appear at my house, November 13th, to consider the best way in which this can be done. (signed) Stillman Saunders.’  Forty eight people met with Captain Saunders on the advertised evening, and the ‘Circle for Mutual Improvement’ was formed.  After a season of very interesting literary and musical entertainments, a few suppers, etc., the Circle found that it had quite a little money on hand, and in a formal manner it was unanimously voted to spend this money for a free library, and the first book was bought, making the beginning of what is now a library of which any country village might be proud.  These words are quoted from a report of 1908 and are equally true in 1985, though the libraries in the area are not now as isolated from each other as they were seventy seven years ago.  The next year the library opened in the home of Mrs. Ruth Arnold, Librarian.  By 1889 it had nearly 500 volumes and before the end of the century a small building to house the collection had been built on the Arnold property.

Stillman Saunders dominated the village in the last decade of the old century.  He was to be a major factor in the first of the new.  One of his first acts occurred on “June 4th, 1901, when he made application to the Secretary of State for the incorporation of the library.  Then the Saunderstown Free Library Association was formed and they took the new enterprise in charge, calling it the Willett Free Library, in honor of the Willett family whose descendants owned and gave to the Association a lot on which to place their building, and for a member of whose family, Thomas Willett, Captain Saunders was named.”

Another factor, of course, was the growing influx of people who wanted to spend their summers here.  Major Benoni Lockwood’s daughters, Mrs. LaFarge and Mrs. Wharton, led these in the twentieth century by buying homes on the shore from Alphonso Gould and Charles Garlick in 1901 and 1902, and soon relatives and friends, largely from Philadelphia, joined them.  The Wharton house had first been owned by the Caswells, shown on the 1870 map with the name, W.R. Caswell, and its current address is #28 Waterway.  The LaFarge home was next to the south.  It, unfortunately, burned down in 1945.  Adolph E. Borie, a noted artist, purchased a sizeable piece from the Misses Carpenter and the daughters of Thomas J. Gould in 1902 and had local men build him a very attractive home the next year at #90 Willett Road.  Owen Wister, probably the country’s most noted novelist, commenced to rent the house now numbered 25 Waterway from Mrs. Albert Gould in 1901.  Each of these caused friends to visit and often they rented or bought their own places.  An article in the Providence Journal in 1905, tells of Frances Willing Wharton’s stories, Landon Mitchell’s plays, Edith Wharton’s books, Mary Morse’s stories, Henry Copley Greene, and the architectural work of Grant and Bancel LaFarge.  All of these artistic people owned, visited or rented homes here that year.  It also tells of notable visitors:  George Cabot Lodge, Susan Coolidge, John Kent Kane, and last but not least, the president, Theodore Roosevelt, a friend of the LaFarges.  It is amusing to read in this account of the intellectual climate that “Mr. Lockwood of New York was the first to come, and he built the first house!”  Obviously, the “natives” were of another world.

It is too bad that the reporter did not talk to Mrs. LaFarge.  Her diary reveals a far different picture.  While she may have entertained the President, she also was wrapped up in the life of the village and was constantly working to help those around her.  One family was apparently largely supported by her efforts.  She was a true environmentalist and her garden was of tremendous importance to her.  The Journal reporter, who apparently only saw it in passing, remarked on the “garden which is the admiration of the town.”  Boxwood hedges, holly trees, yews, and a brick walk are still in evidence today.  An indication of her interest in the year-round community was her strong support of the library.  In her comments on finding people and funds to help the organization one gets a sense of ‘the power behind the throne.’  Other evidence is in her espousal o f a Boy Scout troop for the youth of the village and her serving on a group to handle the beach which the Misses Carpenter had given for the use of the residents.

One person of whom she did not entirely approve was Stillman Saunders.  There is no question that she would have fitted in well with today’s environmental movement.  When she bought the place in 1901, there was a truly rural atmosphere around her on the outskirts of the community.  Cattle were on the fields and people were few.  Much as she liked each individual she viewed with sadness the continual change in the village.  Of course, this was an unending process and as much as twenty five years later she was still noting it: “It’s part of the whole growth – consequent on motors and the nearness of Providence, hang it.  Even the nice people who have started the nice Yacht Club are part of it.”  From what we have seen of Stillman Saunders it is understandable that she viewed his efforts with something less than enthusiasm, even though she had to admit, “and yet with some things he will not do.”