Taking a Pause

The museum’s Visitor Center will be closed for the next two weeks in compliance with the Governor’s Rhode Island On Pause announcement. You can still reach our staff by phone and email. Thank you for your understanding.
We look forward to seeing you soon. Stay safe.

Candy Corn: A Handful of History

Did you know that Chicken Feed was the original name for candy corn. In 1898, the Goelitz Confectionary Company wanted to market the kennel shaped treat that would appeal to rural America. Their clever marketing included a prominent rooster on the candy box to target citizens living farms, about half of America. The unique shape was originally created by hand, but now Jelly Belly has automated the process in true Willy Wonka form. Check out this video to learn more.

The Rhode Island Red was the most popular chicken in the coop. William Tripp (1824 – 1891) developed the bred on his farm in Little Compton around 1854. In 1898, Richard V. Browning, of Natick, Connecticut, exhibited the bred for the first time at the Rhode Island Poultry Association show. His exhibit created quite a stir.

The Richard V. Browning Collection, on loan from Don Nelson, include the original handwritten and typed correspondences from around the nation Mr. Browning received after the show. Chas. O. Flag, Director and Agriculturist, at the land grant school Rhode Island College (now University of Rhode Island) inquired:

“What can you tell me about this bread? How long have you had your stock and what is source? I saw that Mr. Wilbur’s display of eggs were spoken of as laid by the famous “R.I. Red “. Does this breed of foul always lay with a large dark egg as those exhibited by Mr. Wilbur? Are the birds hardy and easily raised, and are the hens good layers?”

Richard V. Browning Collection. Letter from Chas. O. Flagg 24 December 1898 inquiring about the “R.I. Red”.

The Rhode Island Red became a commercial success. It admired for being a productive egg layer of large attractive brown eggs, as well for meat. The bird’s mild demeanor makes it attractive to raised over more aggressive birds.

So next time you grab a handful of candy corn out of the bowl, you can be proud of one of little Rhody’s famous bird. So enjoy a handful of history and Happy Halloween!

And the winner is……

Maria Saracen, West Warwick

This handmade quilt took over a year for quilter Mary Loftes to make. She generously donated it so a lucky winner could enjoy it for a life time. Maria, her husband and son now the best museum gift shop souvenir anyone could get for $1.00.

They stopped by to “take a look around” then decided to purchase a couple of raffle tickets. It was their first visit to the museum. This summer, every visitor was welcomed with free admission. It’s as our gift to a community who always supports us.

Thanks to your generous support, the museum remains a place where anyone can take a break from the modern world in order to step back in time. Thank you for your continued support!

And congratulations Saracens!!!

TURN on a binge worthy American Revolution Spies lecture tonight

Adored “TURN: Washington’s Spies” or want to know what the fuss is all? Join us tonight at 7:00 PM for the equally entertaining and educational presentation on Rhode Island’s spies in the American Revolution.

Can’t make it tonight? SCM members can enjoy watching the recorded lecture anytime on the South County Museum’s website. Members also receive 10% off everything in the museum’s store, including Christian’s book!

Become a member at www.southcountymuseum.org today. #southcountymuseum #rhodeislandhistory #americanrevolution #newenglandhistory #spies

How about them apples?

We are specially talking about the Rhode Island Greening. Have you heard about them? Have you used them in a favorite recipe? We are dying to know more about this type of apple and looking for your help. Since the 17th century, this apple variety has been the go to pie apple because it keeps its shape and the flavor is enhanced by cooking which brings out the full “richest and sweetest of flavor”. 
We have over 10 apple trees at the South County Museum, including many RI Greenings. Why? Because we are preserving the rich agriculture history we all know and love because of our South County roots. The apples are not “pretty” grocery store perfection because we do not spray them but picked from the branch there is nothing fresher. Visitors are welcome to pick today 10-4. The best part about our apple orchard? Our staff loves heading to the “cafeteria” we forget our lunch!!
Source: Orange Pippin  https://www.orangepippin.com/varieties/apples/rhode-island-greening

Dry weather rained on our parade

The region’s long dry spell makes for less than ideal planting conditions; therefore, the upcoming work days this Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be postponed until the grounds are more agreeable for the new natives plants that will put the finishing touches on the Friends of Canonchet Trails’ landscaping project at the South County Museum.
Basically, the dry weather rained on our parade….for now.

October 5, 6, & 7th
9:00 AM – Noon

We do hope you consider digging in with us then! Send us an email at southcountymuseum@gmail.com if you would like to volunteer.

This project won’t be possible without the generous support from the South County Garden Club, Grandscapes, and Narragansett Rubbish.

Garden Rejuvenation Project in full swing

A hardy group of volunteers from the Friends of Canonchet (FOC) load up the tool trailer most Saturday winter mornings to work clearing invasive plants, like knotweed, privet, bittersweet, porcelain berry, Japanese barberry, and burning bush along a 1.3 mile Nature Trail that connects the Narragansett Elementary School and the auxiliary Narragansett Beach parking lot. The crew has removed many invasives from the Nature Trail over the past four winters.

FOC members are now tackling more than 25 burning-bush (Euonymus Alatus) and Japanese Barberry (Berberis Thunbergii) on the grounds around the South County Museum thanks to a donation from the South County Garden Club. Both plant species are highly invasive in Southern Rhode Island. “We have been fortunate enough to have a strong relationship with the Friends of Canonchet. The time and talent their volunteers donate have been priceless,” explained Jim Crothers, Executive Director of the museum.

The month of September the invasive shrubs and plants will be removed by volunteers from the Friends of Canonchet, URI Master Gardeners, and South County Museum volunteers. New colorful, pollinator-friendly native plants and flower plantings will replace the invasives and rejuvenate the Circle and Half Moon gardens. Blueberry shrubs will be one of the main attractions that will serve as a functional border known for attracting birds. Finally, plant signs will be added to complete the project which will serve as an educational exhibit for the museum’s many visitors as well as a beautiful backdrop for couples using the grounds for their wedding.

Volunteers interested in getting their hands dirty are encouraged to join in to help. Thomas Hoagland, a ten-year University of Rhode Island Master Gardener and Vice President of the Friends of Canonchet will presented an overview of the project via Zoom.

For more information to be a volunteer on one day October 5-7, 2020 from 9:00 AM – Noon, email southcountymuseum@gmail.com .


Booktalk: Revolutionary Spies

Christian presentation will include highlights from his Spies in Revolutionary Rhode Island book. He will talk about American spies who operated within British lines when the British occupied Newport from 1776 to 1779. He will also reveal the work of a talented female spy, Ann Bates, who passed to the British information relative to the Battle of Rhode Island in August 1778.  He will discuss the famous Culper Spy ring and its effort to convey to the Count de Rochambeau in Newport intelligence of a planned invasion of Newport by British forces against the newly-arrived French army in July 1781.


Christian McBurney is an independent historian who has written eight books, including four on the American Revolutionary War and four on Rhode Island (see www.christianmcburney.com). Christian is also the founder and publisher of Rhode Island’s leading state history blog, the Online Review of Rhode Island History at www.smallstatebighistory.com.  He resides in the Washington, D.C. area and has a second home in West Kingston, Rhode Island.

What to get Lucky?

You might just get LUCKY! What would you do if you won this handmade quilt “Spring’s Revival” for $1.00? Mary Loftes outdid herself this year this year’s donation that is bursting with color.

Not feeling really lucky, for $5.00 you get six! This quilt will bring new life to any bedroom and draw countless compliments from house guests.  All proceeds support the South County Museum, where we offer free admission during COVID to give everyone a chance to step into the past for a brief break from the modern world.

Purchase your raffle tickets today online, in our gift shop, or by calling the office (401) 783-5400. Who knows – it might just be your lucky day…..

From the Director’s Desk

Although not in our typical format,  the purpose of this modified newsletter is to bring you up to date on what we have been doing here at SCM during these most unusual times.

We closed our doors on March 14 and started working from home.  Since there was no telling if or when we could reopen in May, we decided to focus on designing programs that could be utilized by school-age children and parents for on-line learning.   I think we were successful in that area.  Heather Kisiliwicz, our new Assistant Director,  created a “History at Home” link on our website and facilitated ZOOM lectures by authors Christian McBurney and Robert Grandchamp who discussed their latest publications.  Both of these generous folks were slated to present lectures this summer, but…. They were most gracious with their time to help us.  In addition, photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Mark Starr filmed and edited a 30-minute introductory program on blacksmithing here at SCM.

It goes without saying school field trips were canceled; Family Day and the Taste of Summer Fundraiser went by the board.  Blacksmithing Camps for Kids and Adult Workshops were COVID casualties. We did hatch over 200 RI Red chicks thanks to Wayne Durfee and Don Nelson, but the public 4th of July Chick Hatch was not possible.  The Folk Art Quilt show was put on hold.  And needless to say, we lost four months of admission revenues.

BUT….WE DID OPEN!  (mid-July, only on Friday and Saturday) with buildings reconfigured to allow viewing from the doorways.  We are not opening the Metz Exhibit Hall because we cannot maintain the Department of Health’s cleaning guidelines for that space.

So, that’s where we are in the COVID Fall of 2020.   We will be open Fridays and Saturdays until the end of September.  Admission is free as our gift to the community for its support, but we appreciate a donation.

In closing, I would like to thank all of you who continued your memberships.    This year especially membership is an investment in history here in South County. I would also like to thank Lynn Wagner, our treasurer, for facilitating a PPP loan, the Champlin Foundation for a substantial COVID-Relief Grant,  and Rhode Island Council for Humanities for some COVID Relief monies.  We’re hanging on!

So stop by SCM during September. No bad news, no politics, just peace and quiet with history as your guide.  Stay safe.