The Big Barn Project

A New Permanent Exhibition

For the first time in over 40 years the Little Compton Historical Society is working on a new permanent exhibit, and we are eager share our plans with you. Our exhibit committee is completely reimagining the space within our 19th-Century Dairy Barn to create a 2,300 sq. ft. exhibition exploring farming in Little Compton from the time of the Sakonnet People to the present day.

The exhibit will use the most interesting objects in our agricultural collection, primary source
research, historic images, and oral histories to share the story of local farming along with other occupations, like weaving and fishing, that helped Little Compton’s farming families make ends meet.

A highlight of the exhibit will be two short films featuring dozens of historic images from our collection and a number of interviews with contemporary Little Compton farmers.

We Need Your Help!

As with so many of our projects, community input is the key to success. If you have photographs, movies, video, or documents related to local farming past and
present please consider donating them, lending them for digitization, or sending us digital copies (lchistory@littlecompton.org). If you have farming objects you would be willing to donate, please let us know. Our collections committee will consider each item. The exhibit will include all types of farming as well as textile production, basket weaving, dairying, ice harvesting, fishing, and early trades including shoemaking, blacksmithing, and carpentry.

We are especially interested in connecting with present-day farmers.

Learn More

To learn more about the project and the ways community members can take part, please
watch this Zoom talk by Executive Director Marjory O’Toole.

Share Your Stories

Marjory will also be facilitating several community conversations via Zoom to gather information about local farming past and present. Space is limited to allow all participants an opportunity to speak. You can also volunteer for an oral history interview by calling 401-635-4035 or emailing lchistory@littlecompton.org.

Grand Opening

We’ll be unveiling the exhibit on Fourth of July Weekend both in-person, according to the COVID-19 precautions in place at the time, and with a virtual tour of the exhibition. Follow us on social media and make sure we have your email address to ensure you receive updates this winter and spring.

Weaving for Kids

Before we could buy back-to-school clothes in a store, kids had to help their parents make the fabric that made their clothes! Learn about how weaving worked by watching this video.

Then you can try out some weaving for yourselves, using paper.

Grown-ups, you can print the files for the warp (below), then cut construction paper strips that are the same width for the weft. Contrasting colors makes it easier for kids to see what they’re doing. The smaller width is more challenging for elementary-aged kids, and larger width is just right for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

This activity promotes fine motor skills, both with scissor skills and manipulating the paper. It also reinforces the math and critical thinking concept of patterns.

Lois Brown Almy

Lois Brown Almy

1917 – 2018

Lois Brown Almy. Courtesy of Marcia Pratt.

Lois was born on May 22, 1917 in Providence, RI to Philip W. and Grace E. Almy. Lois lived on the family farm on West Main Rd her entire life, as the fifth generation to live on the farm. Lois lived there with her two older brothers, Philip Jr. and Charles.

Lois attended Wilbur McMahon School, graduating in 1935. She then went on to Rhode Island College of Education (now RI College) graduating in 1939.

Lois started her teaching career in Tiverton at the Nonquit School. She taught two classes in one room, until 1945. She then started teaching first grade at the Wilbur School in 1945 and taught until her retirement in 1975.

In March of 2008, Lois received Teacher of the Year for her outstanding performance in teaching by the Little Compton Grange no. 32. Lois also received a citation from the Rhode Island House of Representatives for the distinguished honor of her 2008 Teacher of the Year Award.

Lois traveled extensively throughout the world, usually with her brother Philip and his wife Dorothy. I believe the only country they never visited was Australia.

After her retirement, Lois wintered in Coral Gables, FL until the late 1980’s. Lois and her sister-in-law Dot spent their winters making many crocheted and knitted items which they donated to the United Congregational Church’s Annual Fair held every July.

Lois was a member of the United Congregational Church since she was a young child. She, along with Dot would be found in front of the church during the fair hours. She was involved in town activities into her 90’s.

On November 15, 2013, Lois received the Boston Post Cane, given to the oldest resident of Little Compton. This was presented to her by Town Council President Robert Mushen. Lois was the third Almy to receive the cane. Her father Philip W. Almy Sr. received the cane in 1963 and Dorothy T. Almy received the cane in 2005. She had the cane until 2015 when she left her home to live at Sakonnet Bay in Tiverton. Lois resided at Sakonnet Bay until her death on October 23, 2018 at the age of 101½ years old.

Marcia Pratt, Niece

April 2020

 

Back to Table of Contents

Grace Bourne Almy

Grace Bourne Almy

1877 – 1961

Grace Bourne Almy. Courtesy of Marcia Pratt.


Grace was born on October 6, 1877 in East Providence, RI to Baylais and Ella Bourne. Grace attended Normal School for 2 years. She began teaching in a one room school house with 8 grades on Neck Rd, Tiverton, RI until her marriage.


Grace married Philip W. Almy Sr. on December 13, 1898 and became a Little Compton resident for 63 years. Grace and Philip had three children; Philip W. Jr., Charles B., and Lois B. Almy.


When Grace and Philip were first married, they owned the Steamboat Company. The boat ran from Providence to Sakonnet Point. Grace did the cooking for the travelers taking the excursion. On December 12, 1933, Grace started to work at the Little Compton Post Office. It was her 35th wedding anniversary, but that did not stop her from reporting to work for the first day of which was to become 15 years on the job. She was the assistant postmaster until the sudden death of the postmaster. Grace passed the civil service exam and was then appointed postmaster. Helen Peckham was her assistant until she moved away and then Agatha Gomez became assistant.


The post office was a small room in a building north of Wilbur’s Store. She worked until she reached 70 years old and was forced to retire on December 31, 1948. This was the official government retirement age.


Grace was a member of the United Congregational Church. She served as the church clerk and was the chairman of the music committee. Grace sang in the church choir and also led a junior choir. She was a member of the Little Compton Grange, Newport County Pomona Grange and the National Association of Retired Civic Employees.

A Wheelchair Reverie

Sometimes, so lonely, I sit in my chair, –

Gloomy thoughts fill me with despair,

Morbid thoughts; and sometimes I cry,

(To hide from others, my tears I try.)

 

Yet, why should I feel so sad?

I have much to make me glad,

Many there are who could envy me;

My good husband, home and family.

 

If Jesus could come by my way,

And, taking my hand, should say

“Arise, Thy faith hath make thee whole.”

How that would delight my soul!

 

Then, joyfully, would I run

To seek some good deed, just waiting to be done.

Then my heart would gladly sing

At the wonder of this thing.

 

No words of mine could express

The thrill of my happiness.

“Restore me, O my Lord above

That again I may serve those I love.

 

This is my earnest plea: –

Lord grant this to me.

All my thanks to Thee I’ll give

As long as I shall live.”

Grace B. Almy
Grace in the foreground with some friends at Sakonnet. Courtesy of Marcia Pratt.

Marcia Pratt, Granddaughter

April 2020

 

Back to Table of Contents