Explore Our Town: Smithfield
The local legends, historical happenings, and backyard secrets of Smithfield, Rhode Island, are the focus of Our Town, an ongoing Rhode Island PBS community project. Rhode Island PBS premiered the documentary Our Town: Smithfield on September 13, 2017 at 7:30pm.
Neil Salley/Town Seal Artist
Neil Salley has lived in Smithfield nearly his whole life and is the artist who created the official town seal. Salley gives viewers a rare peek at the early designs of the seal, and how his knowledge and love for his town drove the design of the final product. He tells personal stories about growing up in town, and his love for the Smithfield community. Salley also explains the unusual way his career as an artist began.
Smithfield Airport came to be because local resident, John Emin, needed a place to land his airplane. Little did he know that just days after erecting a hanger and sign for the Smithfield Airport, that a now-famous WWII pilot would make a stop in Smithfield. That stop not only saved the pilot’s life, but many would argue changed the course of the war, and definitely changed this local family forever.
The Smith-Appleby House
The Smith-Appleby House is now a museum on seven acres, and headquarters to the Historical Society of Smithfield. The home was built in 1696 by the great-grandson of one of the original party of six men who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony with Roger Williams to start the colony of Providence. The original 40-acres granted by Roger Williams grew to almost 700 acres at one time, and has been the site of a grist mill, a saw mill, and a blacksmith shop over the years.
The Smithfield Fire Department
The men and women of the Smithfield Fire Department proudly serve their community every day. Told by those who know the department best, the story describes the earliest volunteer departments in the 1800s, and the evolution to the current-day paid firefighters. Also presented is how the town has acquired the equipment and apparatus to fight fires through the years. The segment also includes tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, as well as some notable fires through the years.
The Mowry House
The Mary Mowry House is an historical home on 20-plus acres in Smithfield. After more than a decade of sitting vacant, the home is being refurbished through a partnership between the town and several non-profit organizations. The segment presents a first-hand look at before and after photos of the improvements being made to the homestead, originally built in the 1700s. The segment also describes the unique partnership and how it works to preserve one of the area’s oldest homes.
Powder Mill Ledges
Powder Mill Ledges is an incredible wildlife refuge in town. The 100-plus acre property is owned and operated by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and is their organization headquarters. In this segment, viewers are given an amazing tour of all Powder Mill Ledges has to offer, from wildlife and nature trails, to classes and community events.
While a Christmas celebration in town is nothing new, the Smithfield Christmas Parade is brand new. The first annual, held in December of 2016, was a big hit, and in the segment, organizers share the sights and sounds, explain how the event came about, and what made it so special. The segment also previews plans for the 2nd annual Smithfield Christmas Parade.
In the early days, like so many Rhode Island communities, Smithfield was a mill town. There were several mills of different industry, but none as well-known as the Esmond Mill. This mill manufactured blankets that became famous across the United States and beyond. The history of the Esmond Mill and its famous blankets is told in this segment by an avid collector, who has taken it upon herself to learn their history and what made them so special.
Other segments include 130 years of the public library, the old Smithfield bank, and the Farnum House.