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.
Heather Aubuchon was born in 1971 at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, MA. Her parents are Donald Gomez and Judith Waite Gomez. Heather has one older sister. Her name is Holly Emond. From her mom’s side, her grandfather, Lewis Waite was raised in Tiverton. He was also a commercial fisherman. He fished for swordfish and lobster off Sakonnet Point on a boat called the Harry Glen. Her great-grandfather was a commercial fisherman and he owned his own boat too. Sadly, her great-grandmother, Abigail, died from the Flu Epidemic of the early 1900s. Her maternal grandmother, Emma Perry Waite was born to parents who came to America from the Azores. She was raised in Fall River, MA and Tiverton. She had a job sewing the lace onto the bottom of slips in a mill in Fall River, MA. She was paid per item sewed. She was also a pastry cook for the Sakonnet Golf Club in Little Compton. Heather’s great-grandfather was killed in a mill fire in Fall River.
On Heather’s dad’s side, her grandfather, John Gomez, was the 1st generation born to parents who emigrated from the Azores. Her grandfather was born and raised in Little Compton on his family’s farm on South of the Commons. He was a farmer, a chauffeur, gardener, and a handyman for a summer family named Merrman who lived at Sakonnet Point and “also had a home in” Providence. Her grandmother, Helen (Brown) Gomez, was born and raised in Little Compton on her family’s farm on West Main Road. Her family was of English descent and has lived in Little Compton since the 1700s.
Heather’s childhood was spent in Little Compton. Her dad traveled a lot for his job with the Navy and she was fortunate that he was able to bring her and her family with him sometimes. This enabled her to see many places that she may not have been able to see otherwise. Most of Heather’s time was spent playing outside with her sister, Holly, with her cousin, Polly, who lived with their great aunt & great uncle next door to her and with her cousin, Sid, who lived on the other side of her house. They would ride bikes in the cemetery next to their houses so their parents wouldn’t worry about them riding in the road. They spent all day every day in the summer playing at Briggs Beach. Most of their time was spent outside and with each other . They would make up games and play in the dirt pile, or the treehouse that her great uncle built for them. They would skate on the pond out in the backyard when it got cold enough . Her Uncle David would make a fire alongside the pond so that when it got cold, she could warm up and get right back to skating . Her uncles on her mom’s side were all part of a tractor pull group, so on Sunday afternoons she would go watch them compete. She would go camping for 2 weeks every summer too. Sleeping in tents was fun until it rained. She camped in Maine mostly but also went to Lake George in New York and even to Nova Scotia.
She grew up in Little Compton in the house that her grandfather John built on part of his family’s farm on South of the Commons. It was the same house that her dad was raised in. Her family stayed in that one house. She lived there until she built her own house. Mostly, what Heather remembers the most is just always being around her extended family and doing all kinds of random things with them. She liked camping trips. She liked watching her uncles at the tractor pulls. She liked it when she was out in the garden with her dad, or in her grandpa Louie’s garden. She liked learning how to fish from her dad. or going for bike rides around town with her mom and her sister. Her mom also taught her how to play tennis on the courts up at the Commons. One time, her grandpa Louie brought the whole family out to the West Island off Sakonnet Point for a picnic. West Island used to have a hotel out on it but it was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938. You could still see some of the stone framework of the building. She found a doorknob out there and brought it home because she was convinced that it belonged to one of the doors to the old hotel, and thought that was really cool. Mostly she remembered how bad the island smelled because of all of the decaying seagulls and stuff. She doesn’t know if seagulls would go there to die, or if they were unlucky that there were a bunch of them that did not make it. Heather also remembers waiting for the boat her grandfather Louie worked on, the Harry Glen, to come back from a trip and just as the boat was coming around the breakwater, a seagull pooped on her grandma Emma’s hair. They all thought it was funny but her grandma was really mad because no one messed with grandma’s hair. Her dad took a picture of the seagull who had done it as he was sitting on the dock post. He still has the picture and it still makes her laugh when she sees it. She also got to play on the boat when it would come back. She used to be allowed to go down into the hold where the swordfish were stored packed of ice. They would be hauled up by a crane, one at a time, and weighed on the scale on the dock. She still has one of the swords from them. It has her birth year with a picture of a black lab’s head on it . Her grandfather got one for each of the grandchildren. The decorative swordfish hung over their fireplaces.
Heather is now married and has four kids: Kyle, Kaylyn, Chris and Colby. Her husband’s name is Scott. They all live on Long Highway in Little Compton. She continues to enjoy camping, going to the beach, and gardening. She shares all the things she used to do as a kid with her own children. Recently, Heather’s parents built a house next door to her and Holly. Heather was raised on how important family is and she loves being around them all now.
Based on an interview with Heather Aubuchon, April 2020.
Written by: Christopher Aubuchon,Grade 5 -Wilbur & McMahon School
Grace Taylor Armstrong was the matriarch of the Hawes family. Born in Boston in 1876, she spent her childhood at her parents’ home on Beacon Hill. Her father was General Charles H. Taylor, co-founder of the Boston Globe and owner of the Red Sox from 1904 to 1911. It was Taylor who started the construction of Fenway Park.
In 1905 Grace married Matthew C. Armstrong of Hampton, Virginia. The wedding announcement ran in the Globe with the headline: “The daughter of Gen. and Mrs.Chas. H. Taylor Becomes the Bride of a Southern Man.”
So Grace, the quintessential Bostonian, moved south to Virginia. Matthew Armstrong, with his brother Richard, had established the Armstrong Land and Improvement Company in 1902. They acquired a 600-acre tract of land in Hampton around the turn of the century. Known as Ivy Home Farms, the land was subdivided into residential lots and sold off over the next four decades. Both brothers were prominent in business but Matthew was better known in social circles. Naturally reserved, Grace attended many social events with Matthew, though she may have preferred her comfortable home life.
On November 10, 1906 their first child, Elizabeth, (known as Bess) was born. Their second daughter, Frances, was born two years later, on November 8, 1908. I imagine the two little girls, so close in age, would have been life-long friends. But life is full of twists and turns. For the Armstrong family their comfortable home life turned tragic.
Frances contracted pertussis (whooping cough), a highly contagious disease that is especially dangerous for babies and small children. Not yet two years old, Frances died on February 5, 1910. Grace had gone back to Boston to deliver both of her babies. However, even if they had had time to get Frances to Boston, it is unlikely the outcome would have been any different. Unfortunately the pertussis vaccine was not invented until the 1930s. Grace and Matthew buried their daughter in the Taylor plot in Boston at the Forest Hills cemetery.
Now the social scene was even less her cup of tea. Grace focused her efforts on helping the community. She and Matthew were generous supporters of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. It was founded in 1868 by Matthew’s uncle, Samuel Armstrong, for freed slaves after the Civil War. Today, over 150 years after its inception and renamed Hampton University, the school continues to break new ground in academic achievement, staying true to Samuel Armstrong’s original promise : The Standard of Excellence, An Education for Life.
The couple also supported The Little England Chapel. It began modestly as a Sunday school in a small section of a private home. The school became so popular that they needed more space to hold the Bible Studies. A local man, George Rowe, set aside thirty-five acres, divided into thirty-three lots, to be sold to African Americans. This area came to be known as Newtown. In 1870, the first six lots were sold at fifty dollars each. During this same period, African Americans also purchased lots of comparable size at the same price from William N. Armstrong, Matthew’s father. Subsequently, “Newtown” was applied to the entire black community.
In 1878 William offered the use of a small piece of land along Ivy Home Road for a larger building if the residents in the neighborhood would contribute toward the support of a day school teacher. The money was raised and the chapel opened in 1879. Students from Hampton Institute not only designed but built the school house. The work was overseen by William Armstrong. The chapel now serves as a museum with exhibits that interpret the religious lives of post-Civil War African Americans in Virginia.
Grace also wanted to create a living memorial to her father. In 1925 she donated the land and money for a building to be known as “The Charles H. Taylor Memorial Library.” Modeled after one of Grace’s favorite buildings, the Courthouse in Elizabeth City, Virginia, the library opened in 1926 for “the use and benefit” of county residents. It was the first free county library in Virginia and served for more than 60 years as the city’s central library.
Many residents recall how grand it was. The children’s room was complete with a majestic fireplace and crown molding. In 1987 when the city of Hampton built a new expanded library next door, the memorial was not forgotten. Thanks to Grace’s farsighted vision the historic building was renovated according to the guidelines she set forth in her bequest and in 1989 the building reopened as the “Charles H. Taylor Arts Center.” Grace served as a trustee for many years.
Both the library, and subsequently the arts center, have been cornerstones of the city; a vibrant center of learning and creativity. This “recent transplant from Boston” left her mark on Hampton.
But she never forgot her roots. When she came north for the summer the Red Sox games were broadcast locally. After lunch, Grace would retire to her bedroom for a “nap.” In fact, she was often listening to the Red Sox games on the radio.
To escape the heat and humidity of a Virginia summer, Grace would return to New England every year to join her parents and brothers on Buzzard’s Bay at the family compound on “Taylor Point.” There were several houses on the property, as well as a 9-hole golf course. Grace and Matthew stayed in the small guest house behind the main house. The hurricane of ‘38 destroyed one of the other houses and things were getting more crowded each succeeding generation.
In addition, the family saw what was coming and didn’t like what they saw; more development, more traffic, more tourists; in other words too tacky. Grace had heard mention of Little Compton from a friend. Maybe it was the word “Little” in the town’s name or maybe Grace was charmed by the open fields and stone walls. In any case, in 1946 Grace and her then 11 year old granddaughter, Hat Hawes, drove over from Buzzard’s Bay and looked at just two houses; one on Taylor’s Lane (no relation) and one on Warren’s Point,
They both agreed on the Taylor’s Lane house. It still remains in the family; a large summer “cottage” without heat or insulation in the main part of the house. To this day, Hat’s children, grandchildren and assorted nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews give Hat grief for not choosing Warren’s Point! The bike ride to all their activities was SO much longer.
Summers in Little Compton were idyllic. Grace moved up from Virginia kit and caboodle and stayed for the season. Her daughter, Bess Hawes, lived in Washington D.C. and she and her four children did the same. Husbands showed up on weekends. Those were the days when many women were able to stay for the whole summer. Today more women work outside of the home and have limited vacations, but Little Compton’s “summer” people keep coming back whenever and for as long as they can.
Grace’s youngest grandchild, Sandy Hawes, has managed to come every summer except one since he was 6 weeks old. He has fond memories of his grandmother, especially their frequent trips to the Bluff Head for ice cream cones and to the little cafe near the old post office on the Commons for lobster rolls.
On weekends you could find Grace watching the sailboat races from her car. She parked in the lot at Sakonnet Point for the best view. Everyone in the family was an avid racer, though in the heat of the battle it could get quite tense in the cockpit. Bess and her husband Alex frequently had “frank and open” discussions during races. Their voices were often loud enough to be heard from quite a distance, but not from Grace’s parked car!
One family activity Grace really enjoyed was helping to fold the spinnaker and pack it back into its bag. It was all hands on deck as the sail was spread out over the entire living room floor, in order to be ready to sail their Alden, the Malolo and later the Blue Angel, the next race day.
Grace also loved to sit outside in the sun, though she was NEVER seen in a swimsuit or even shorts. She didn’t worry about getting sunburned as she was always completely covered from head to toe.
While the grandchildren were always busy; sailing, playing tennis, golfing, biking to the beach, jumping off the high board at Warren’s Point, they still had to adhere to their Grandmother’s schedule. The household was a fairly formal one. It goes without saying that you didn’t come to the dining table in a swimsuit or bare feet.
Dinners were always in the dining room and for certain days the menu was set and never changed. Sandy can still recite the order. When Grace’s son-in-law, Alex Hawes, was up from Washington DC. for the weekend they had swordfish Saturday night and standing rib roast for Sunday lunch. On Mondays, the staple was home-made roast beef hash from the left-over roast. On Thursdays when the cook had the day off, the family had to fend for themselves. Occasionally they took this opportunity to boil lobsters.
Little Compton was and has remained a wonderful place to vacation or to raise a family. Grace was correct about the changes that were coming to Buzzard’s Bay. Taylor Point is now the home of the Mass Maritime Academy. Traffic is a nightmare. The beaches are overrun by tourists, and many of the open fields have disappeared under the pressure of development.
Grace Taylor Armstrong came to Little Compton in the summer of 1947 with her daughter, son-in-law and four grandchildren. The family now number 39, all of whom return to Little Compton at some point during the summer. It is true that they have added to the ranks of “summer” people. But whether summer or year-round, we all love Little Compton. I believe Little Compton has handled the pressure of development far better than other seaside towns and that Grace would still find it charming.
Grace Taylor Armstrong died in Hampton on November 21, 1967. She is buried at the Forest Hills cemetery in Boston next to Matthew and Frances Armstrong.
She may have been a “transplant” to Hampton, but she had a lasting effect on the educational, cultural and spiritual lives of its residents that endures to this day. And her numerous progeny, each in their own way, contribute to the life of our beloved Little Compton.