Your Town, Your Life: Jamestown

By: Alexandra Cowley

In this weeks Your Town, Your Life we take you to the last stop before heading over the Newport Bridge the locals call it Rhode Island's best kept secret. Jamestown has a population just over 5,400. Its residents love the quaint, quiet feel of their community.

But don't let that fool you, Jamestown has a lot to offer. From its gorgeous views of Narragansett bay to the friendly downtown atmosphere.

If you love the outdoors, The Beavertrail State Park is the place for you. Perfect for walking or taking in the breathtaking views. Inside the park, is the Beavertail Lighthouse and Musuem. It's the most visited landmark in Jamestown, located on the southernmost tip of the town.

It's also home to quite a few farms, seven to be exact. Jamestown Community Farm is one of them. It's run by volunteers who grow most of their food to donate to local charities. They make money from their vegetable stand on the weekends. Farmer Bob Sutton says the town makes it a priority to preserve farm land and gives owners comfortable tax rates on their land.

Sutton, “there's something about living on an island and living next to the ocean and something about the community itself that kind of pulls you in.”

Last year, Community Farm donated 23–thousand pounds of vegetables to local food banks and soup kitchens.

You can't drive through Jamestown without stopping to see the historic windmill. The original was built in 1728 for grinding corn, it was powered by the sea breeze. It stood for 46 years, until British troops burned it down. The current one was rebuilt in 1787. It's open for tours in the Summer.

A stones throw away from the windmill is the Conanicut Friends Meeting house. The small structure was built at the same time as the windmill. It served as a place of worship for the Quakers. It's still open for services on Sundays in the Summer and Fall.

All of these things are part of what makes Jamestown so unique. But there's a bigger story to tell about the Narragansett tribe, which laid claim to the land thousands and thousands of years ago. Today, their history is on almost every piece of it.

Narragansett Indian John Brown says, “We've always been here, since man has walked from the waters to the land, we've always just been here.”

The Narragansetts are still in Jamestown,their burials are everywhere. It's John Browns job to preserve his ancestors history.

“This area was a sacred land for us, this was a sacred place. It was a burial of our most honored and distinguished people,”said Brown.

Conanticut Island was named after the daughter of Cononicus, one of the great chiefs of the Narragansett Tribe. Because of the island's sacred link to the Narragansett Tribe, anytime the town builds on the land, the tribe is part of the negotiations. But it wasn't always that way.

“The roads that you ride on to get over here, some of them go across burials they're under the roads, they're built into the roads,” explained Brown.

Those were some of the worst times for the Narragansett Tribe, but today they have a working relationship with the town. Town historians go to great lengths to preserve the past.

A copy of the land agreement when it was bought from the tribe hangs in town hall and a downstairs vault unlocks a stash of old treasures.

Town Historian Rosemary Enright says, “anything that isn't now is history, we're afraid we'll over stuff everything. We still try and keep up with what's going on today because tomorrow it's history.”

The people living in Jamestown, including State Representative Deb Ruggiero, enjoy that it's a hidden charm.

“Well we kind of like that we have a very quiet island, but it is the best kept secret,” said Ruggiero.

If you have any suggestions on where our next stop should be in our Your Town, Your Life series click on the tab on our home page and fill us in.

(C) WLNE-TV 2014