They Remember Apponaug
When Oliver Payson Fuller wrote his history of Warwick in 1875,
he described Warwick's villages as "...thriving manufacturing
villages, strung together like beads upon a string . .. .”
He notes that they were ". . .full of busy industry, nestling
along the two branches of the river (Pawtuxet).... each possessing
its peculiar features of interest, and altogether forming a community."
Obviously, the area known as Warwick has changed dramatically since
the time when Fuller wrote his history.
Change and neglect
As the 20th century progressed, Warwick’s villages often suffered. Robert 0. Jones, author of Warwick, Rhode Island, Statewide Historical Preservation Report, K-W-1, points out that, "Unfortunately, no attention was paid to the effect of growth on the old villages and open farmland that defined Warwick's environmental character." Jones uses Apponaug village as an example of this neglect charging that in 1981 it totally lacked “the connotation of pleasurable community life in a small-scale civic setting which is evoked by the term 'village'." In 1981, very few would have taken exception to the statement by Jones.
Dedication to the village
Fortunately for Warwick, a number of civic-minded citizens, such as the late Dorothy Mayor, the very dedicated individuals working through the Apponaug Area Improvement Association, the Warwick Museum, and the Warwick Preservation Commission have succeeded in restoring much of the village's pride and have preserved its historical heritage. They spent a great deal of time and effort in trying to make Apponaug a pleasant area once again. While it is obvious that it would be impossible to recreate the pleasant 19th century village of Fuller's recollection, these concerned citizens have made dramatic improvements, not only in the obvious physical appearance of the area, but in the spirit as well.
Very few villages can match Apponaug’s old timers when it comes to loyalty and nostalgia. Every year, long time residents gather for Apponaug Old Timers Night at the Veteran Fireman’s Association hall in East Greenwich. This tradition began in 1985 and draws many from near and far. This event draws nearly 200 oldtime residents and friends.
In addition to the wonderful memories of Apponaug’s by-gone days given to us by Bob Champagne and Dorothy Mayor are delightful stories shared by Joe Carney and Everett Eastman when they were at the 1990 meeting.
Joe Carney, who was 92 years old at the time, (ie: 1990) amazed us with his clear recollection of the early 20th century. Joe remembered that when he was five years old in 1903, he entered the old Apponaug Grammar School, which was on Post Road at approximately the site of the present day Trudeau Center. Joe recalled the grammar school had nine grades and could even remember some of the teachers. After completing his education at the grammar school, he went to the Warwick High School when it was in the Westcott section of Warwick. He was a student there in 1913 when Warwick was divided and the school was given, as part of the division agreement, to the newly created town of West Warwick.
Carney graduated from the high school in 1916 and, in 1917, entered the United States Naval Academy. After graduation in 1921, Joe served as an officer in the U.S. Navy for seven years and then used his engineering skills working for the State of Rhode Island and the U.S. Rubber Co. Joe Carney's long and distinguished career brought him many fond memories, and among the most vivid are those of Apponaug when he was a boy. "I came to Apponaug at the same time as the trolley cars," he chuckled. He recalled the time when Apponaug had two markets and when groceries were delivered "door to door by horse-drawn wagons." He added, "My mother paid the bill on Friday. That was the payday at the mill and we always got a bag of candy or some treat on Friday night.”
When Carney was a boy it was still possible to stand on Drum Rock in Cowesett and cause it to make a loud boom. Joe's colorful recollections include playing on “Indian Lockout” behind “Hungry Hill” and memories of the "frog-man", who had webbed fingers. He vividly recalled the days when the legendary Michael Lynch, the area’s only sheriff, patrolled all of Kent County. Carney said. "He took on several desperados and he never wore a gun." Carney and a number of other old-timers recalled that Tom Lynch, Mike's brother, ran a large dairy farm and that much of Warwick was farmland.