The first Europeans settled in the Richmond area and interacted with the Narragansett Indians circa 1636 in what was then known as “Narragansett Country”. The first land holdings by Europeans in the area were named for deeds between the settlers and the Narragansett Tribe. The Shannock Purchase (~9,722 acres) included Richmond and the nearby towns of Charlestown, Hopkinton, and Westerly. Paths connecting early farms became right-of-ways which later were called driftways or freeways. Many of these driftways later became the regions roads. The Town of Richmond was incorporated in 1747, formed from a section of Charlestown, north of the Pawcatuck River. Richmond, a town of approximately 50 square miles in Washington County (a.k.a. South County) Rhode Island is bounded on the west by the Wood River, on the southeast by the Usquepaug River, and on the south by the Pawcatuck River. Originally an agricultural community, the town transitioned into a mill village economy during the industrial revolution. The story of Richmond may be viewed on 6 historical plaques located along the Richmond Heritage Trail; the trail head is off Country Acres Road in Richmond.
The Richmond Historical Society is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1968 by Lucy Rawlings Tootell. The purposes of the society are to:
1. Further the study and collection of the oral and written history of the region,
2. Foster the collection, preservation, and archiving of manuscripts and articles of historic interest and,
3. Encourage the preservation and marking of historic sites.
The Society meets two to three times annually either at the Bell School (built 1826) in Wyoming, RI, the Clark Memorial Library in Carolina, RI, or the Chapel at Wood River in Wyoming, RI. These meetings are educational, business, and social in nature. Outside speakers have presented such varied subjects over the years as the town’s role in the civil war, the town’s mill villages, stonewalls of South County, and apple growing in Rhode Island.
The Society’s extensive archives are located at the Clark Memorial library. The Society owns and maintains two buildings, the Bell School and the original Richmond Town Clerk’s Office in the historic village of Carolina. It has, in conjunction with a member and the R.I. Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission placed a marker at the historic stone dam in Hope Valley. It will assist those who own historical houses in placing such markers.
The Society has published two books, “:Driftways into the Past: a history of Richmond” published in 1977, reprinted in 1988 (out of print)and “Down Country” Cookin’” a book of local recipes published in 1995. This book also contains a series of pen and ink drawings of Richmond houses and local lore. A third book published by the author, Vera Robinson, entitled, “Carolina: a Mill village” is available in the archives. A popular video, aired by PBS, filmed and produced by Carla Ricci, entitled, “Carolina: Smallest of the Small” is available for sale.