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Organization Spotlight: Johnston Historical Society

Johnston Historical Society

By: Louis McGowan, Past President

From Spring, 2019

We are the Johnston Historical Society, a small but very active local historical society, officially organized in 1976. Our mission is to preserve and disseminate information about the history of Johnston, RI. We do this in many ways; through a published newsletter and journal, monthly public meetings with speakers, and two pictorial essays in Arcadia’s Images of America series (Johnston and Johnston II). We also have an active cemetery group which goes out weekly to inventory, maintain and restore our 90+ historical cemeteries. We maintain a museum full of items related to Johnston ranging from historical documents to fire helmets. The front of our property is the 1825 Elijah Angell House where we maintain a house museum on the first floor.

We tell various stories at the Johnston Historical Society—some of daily life for a Johnston family in the mid-19th century and some more specific like the exploits of George Sutcliffe, a p-47 fighter pilot during WWII. We also discuss the textile industry of our town and the development of Johnston through old houses and the formation of different villages.

Our most interesting collections piece is a 19th century clock with a reverse painting of the early 19th century Morgan Mills textile factory. The painting was done by a self-taught artist named William Waldo Atwood, who lived just down the street from the mill. The clock is not all that rare, but the painting makes it a unique piece.

Our museum consists of two buildings at 101 Putnam Pike (Route 44) in the Graniteville section of Johnston. On the street is the Elijah Angell House with its house museum and in back of the house is a reproduction post and beam barn which houses our museum collection of artifacts and our archives.

We are open to the public every Tuesday from 9AM-11AM and 6:30PM-8:30PM; every Thursday from 2PM-5PM; and the first and third Saturdays of the month from 9AM-11AM. We are also open by appointment, (401)-231-3380.

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