Betty Tripp House

Betty Ferris Tripp House

1917 – 2003

Betty Tripp House with Brad Tripp. Courtesy of Jane Gavin.

Back in the 1920’s my grandfather bought an old barn and set it on property owned by his brother at Ship Pond Cove, Little Compton, Rhode Island. Today, it is
known as Little Pond Cove.

Grandpa called the barn “Crow’s Nest.” It was a very secluded and beautiful spot on the ocean. As a matter of fact, the barn was set so close to the water that at high tide, with the doors open, we could sit on the floor and dangle our feet in the ocean water that was lapping the rocks beneath “Crow’s Nest.”

We were kept busy picking huckleberries, blackberries and wild strawberries for Grandma to make jams and jellies when she returned to the city. Hours were spent walking on the beach looking for beach glass and beautiful odd-shaped rocks. The cows from Aunt Hattie’s Hundred-Acre Farm (now called Chace Point) would pay us a visit each day.

My cousin, Milly, and I – both 9 years old – spent weekends there with our
Grandmother and Aunt Rose. Grandmother did not drive so Grandpa dropped us off with all our provisions: drinking water, ice box with a hunk of ice and food for the weekend. There were kerosene lamps and candles for light, a kerosene stove for cooking and, of course, an outhouse. The four of us slept on small cots. No telephone, we were cut off from the world. We were on our own and dependent on someone coming down the bumpy old dirt laneway to Ship Pond Cove each day to see if we needed anything.

The ocean was our bath tub, so while Grandma was preparing dinner, Milly and I would go swimming and get cleaned up. After dinner, Milly and I did the dishes. Then, we were free to read books and play games before going to bed. The sound of the ocean waves hitting the beach would lull us to sleep.

Early one morning, about two a.m. (I guess) we were awakened to sounds of a boat or something being dragged over the rocks on the beach. Then we heard Grandma whispering to Rose, “Just be quiet. We should be okay as long as they do not know we are here.”

I was terrified. My heart was thumping so hard I was afraid they would hear it. My scalp tightened up and it felt like my hair was standing straight up. Milly and I grabbed each others hand and held on for dear life. There was complete silence. No conversation outside that we could hear, but there was activity of some sort. Eventually, we heard a car going up the dirt and gravel laneway towards the village and then the sounds of oars rowing a boat.

Grandma and Rose went back to their beds and Milly and I lay there motionless, afraid to even turn over, for fear someone would hear us and try to come in. Finally, after a sleepless night, the sun came up and Milly and I were full of questions for Grandma.

Grandma explained Prohibition to us and what she thought had happened the night before. During Prohibition the manufacture and sale of alcohol was illegal. Grandma said that a big boat would anchor offshore in the dark of the night with the banned liquor on board. A smaller boat would bring the contraband to shore where trucks or cars would pick it up and take it away to sell it. The men (probably not women) were called rum runners or bootleggers and would smuggle their liquor into the remote areas around Little Compton and Tiverton to sell illegally.

“The Crow’s Nest” went out to sea with the 1938 hurricane, taking with it many secrets of the rumrunners.

Betty Tripp House

April 2020

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548 West Main Road, Little Compton, Rhode Island
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