A while back I researched and wrote about the largest USA state, Alaska, as the Heritage Tourist. This week I have been looking at the smallest USA state, Rhode Island. Whenever there is a National Heritage Area in the state, I like to start there to get an understanding of what the local folks think is important from a heritage viewpoint. National Heritage Area ‘national stories’ come from many local meeting of many local people getting to gather to talk about what their local culture, history and natural elements can say to a national audience.
The John H. Chaffee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor provides such a story in terms of ‘History & Culture’ and ‘Nature & Science.’ While primarily billed as the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution” – and it was – most of story is actually about how activity along this 46-mile long river and its adjoining ecosystem from Worchester, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island, affected life here. There are marshes and wetlands, a developing system of trail and the Blackstone Bikeway. Each of these bring both the locals and their visitor closer to nature – to better understand who they are, where they came from and where they are going.
Did you realize that the official state name is actually: Rhode Island and Providence Plantations? Neither did I. That is why I love research. Roger Williams founded Providence Plantation seeking religious and political freedom. Most of us have probably read that store. ‘Rhode Island’ was a colony founded near Newport, on what today is called Aquidnck Island, the largest of several islands in Narrangansett Bay. The two were combined into what became one of the original 13 colonies at the time of the Revolutionary War. You can see that report I was working on here.
Dr. Smith is also author of the family saga novel, “Back to the Homeplace,” set in a rural community in the southern Missouri Ozarks, drawn from his family history and genealogy passions and life experiences. He is also the author of The Heritage Tourist, a monthly column in The In-Depth Genealogist which focuses on the social context of travel and history when applied to our genealogy. Dr. Bill can be found blogging at Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories.
© 2012 Dr. Bill Smith