Long time, no write! Although putting together blog pieces would be my personal favorite thing to do, my reality is such that the level of priority for it is on a much lower scale.
A few months ago, I came across some old billheads that belonged to my grandparents from a variety of local businesses here in our Pawtuxet Valley, partially encompassing the towns of West Warwick and Coventry, Rhode Island. As my thoughts began to formulate the potential for a great blog post, including some background information on these businesses, it soon became clear that the volume of material is just too large for one post and would never get completed if left to the full extent. Therefore, I have decided to break the material down into smaller pieces. I make no promise as to a timeframe for the next installment but will do my best for the near future.
In brief, this post will focus on the following: a little history on my maternal grandfather, some background about the home my mother grew up in on Fairview Avenue, known as the LeValley Homestead; a little piece of our Carr family line; and, some history of Moore’s Motor Service.
It is with my featured postcard that I will begin, both the front and back sides are shown below.
This was a postcard sent out by Moore’s Motor Service of Quidnick (Coventry) as a car advertisement in November of 1943. The card was mailed to my grandfather, T. Wm. Watts, during the timeframe when he, my grandmother and my mother, resided at 42 Fairview Avenue, in West Warwick, RI. The message on the reverse side of the card reads: “Your present car may be the down payment on a New 1944 Hudson 6 Sedan. Come in for a good deal now.”
According to the Pawtuxet Valley Preservation and Historical Society, it was in 1927 that Stanley E. Moore, operator of a small repair garage in the village of Lippitt, purchased the former Quidnick Company Store building. He renovated the front, turning it into an auto showroom for new cars. He also built an extensive addition on the rear of the building for his repair garage.
This business provided one of the first dealerships in Coventry, an old ad reads:
Moore’s Motor Service New and Used
Dealers in Hudson-Terraplane, Studebaker Automobiles and G.M.C. Trucks
Providing 24 hr. Towing Service
It remained a dealership until 1954, then went on to operate as an auto and truck repair garage owned by Clarence Moore, Stanley’s son.
One of the billheads, that I found a few months ago, was a repair bill from when my grandfather had some work done at their garage in 1933, as pictured below.
This is one of few businesses that have remained in operation all these years and I took a couple of photos of their building and sign to show what it looks like in current times.
If you look at some of my other blog posts, you will see that my family history has a Moore line and I have no idea, to this point, if the Moore family that operates this business is a relation. Maybe as time goes on I can research that further. For a little background on my Moore line, please see my posting: Intro to Grandma Julia and the Bitgood’s Pine Knoll Laboratory.
My maternal grandparents, Bertha L. James (Gra Gra) and T. William Watts (Pop Pop) were married on June 24, 1915 by Rev. Frederick Sandford, in the Clyde section of West Warwick at the home my grandmother lived in since the age of 10.
My grandfather was born on February 20th, 1886 in Long Eaton, England and died on March 24th, 1960. His parents were: Jonas Watts born in Bedford, England, died May 21, 1923 and Mary Jane Pepper-Shepard born in Kegworth, England, died November 16, 1921, in England.
In his younger days, my grandfather played trombone, was a member of the Royal Light Marine Infantry of England and was a boxer, wrestler, weight lifter and bowler. He came over to the United States in 1910, settling in the Riverpoint section of West Warwick.
When he first came to America, he boarded a room at the home of James Lyons, over the Carroll Brothers’ Store, in Riverpoint.
He became Dean of Lace Weavers of the Pawtuxet Valley, Branch 7, Amalgamated Lace Operatives of America. He is on the left in the mill picture below.
He was one of the first to help set up the first lace machines, in 1911, in the Pawtuxet Valley. He was a weaver from the time he was 16 and had been employed at Bancroft Lace Co., West Warwick, RI. He also helped set up machinery when the Phenix Lace Mill on Maple Avenue was getting ready for operation. When he came to America, there were lace plants in West Barrington, Alton and Riverpoint. He went to work for Harry Bodell, foreman, son of Gilbert Bodell, prominent in local lace weaving circles at the time. His pay in those days was $35 per week for a 54-hour work week.
Some of the known associates, to my grandfather, in the lace weaving trade were as follows: George Clarke, Thomas Clarke, Robert Fletcher, William Coates, George Bradford, Clarence Coates, Joseph Tivey, Harry Haywood, Alfred Bell, Jack Thornhill, Bill Burton, Bill Stephenson, Joseph Holmes, Edward Hampson, William Hampson, George Hampson (3 brothers).
After marrying, my grandparents lived for a time on Harris Avenue, West Warwick, in an apartment, but at some point moved into and rented the LeValley Homestead at 42 Fairview Avenue, which was the home my mother grew up in. They later purchased a home of their own on South Street.
My mother told me several stories about living in the farmhouse, as she called it. Without my remembering the exact details, one of her stories had something to do with an area that did not get much heat in the winter and goldfish that froze and would thaw in the spring. Another story focused on the lack of indoor plumbing and having to use the out-house. All stories were told with the fondest of memory on her part.
The Carr-LeValley house, shown above, has quite a history and has been the subject of a few newspaper articles in the past. I will touch lightly on some recorded history I found but will not repeat anything from the newspapers. I do recall reading a story written several years ago about residents that have lived there, but it had no mention of my own family that resided there many years.
The following history information on the Carr-LeValley house was found online from a copy of the 1987 publication: “Historic and Architectural Resources of West Warwick, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report. By the RI Historical Preservation Commission.”
The Carr-LeValley House, located at 42 Fairview Ave., in West Warwick, was built about 1722 and is most likely the oldest still standing in town. The house is a one and one-half story farmhouse, with a center chimney and gambrel roof.
The house had been built by a descendant of Caleb Carr (1616-1695) (he came over on the ship “Elizabeth and Ann” with brother Robert), who served as 16th Colonial Governor of Rhode Island from May 1695 until his death from drowning on December 17th, 1695.
Caleb’s granddaughter, Sarah Carr, acquired the property. She married Rev. George Pigot, rector of King’s Church (later known as St. John’s Episcopal Church) in Providence from 1723-27, and they lived in this house. In 1727, Rev. Pigot traded this property with Peter LeValley, a resident of Marblehead, Mass. LeValley, was said to be a Huguenot descendant and former sea-captain, and he resided here until his death in 1820.
The house has a plaque located on the front that says “LeValley Homestead 1722”.
The older photo, (second one above), showing the complete homestead was part of my grandmother’s pictures and it shows an addition that had been built onto the back but at some point that was removed. A few months ago, I went by and took some recent pictures, one was of the plaque using my telephoto lens feature and I took a couple of others as shown below. The picture of the side porch was taken from the side street around the corner from it. Some of the trees that were in front of the house have now been cut down.
A few years ago there was an open house here as the son of a previous resident was looking to sell it, I wish that I had taken advantage of that to have a “look-see” on the inside.
The photo below was taken in front of the barn, my mother at about age 14 with my grandfather. It seems she was looking for some dollars.
In the photo below is Gra Gra’s maternal grandmother, Harriet Ann Zuill Carr standing by the porch of the house at 42 Fairview Avenue. She lived until November of 1925, so the picture was taken prior to that time.
This Harriet was a daughter of John and Harriet (Roberts) Zuill. John was a Scotchman, born in 1815 and died in 1881. His wife, Harriet, was born in 1826 and died in 1892–she was brought up by three uncles-Lord Roberts, a Doctor and a Tavern keeper.
Harriett Ann Zuill Carr married George Henry Carr and they had two children, Martha and Samuel George Carr. Martha was mother to my grandmother.
In future posts, I will explore more of this family, branches of both the Zuill and Carr lines. My grandmother always told us that she was a direct descendent from Governor Caleb Carr; however, I am still working on proving that line…it may be that she actually descends from his brother Robert. There is only so much genealogy time to go around and so many family branches to explore, both maternal and paternal, that it may still be a while before I get to solve my many family mysteries.
Here is one last picture of my grandfather taken in 1957 after they had moved to their home on South Street.
In closing, I am not sure what the future will hold for the Carr-LeValley Homestead, I don’t believe anyone is currently living there. Recently, there have been some trees removed so I wonder if there will be other work done in the near future. Often I have thought it would be nice for it to be maintained as a historic site, like a museum…wish I had the dollars, or connections, to do such a thing.
Until next time…
Update Note: My best estimate for the years that my grandparents and mother resided in that homestead would be from approximately 1920 to 1941, I need to do a bit more research to make a better determination.