Chepachet and Points North 1.14.2009

Thank god the weather was clear and the roads were dry for the spin up to Chepachet to talk with the local historian, Edna Kent. We were meeting at her house for a confab to see how we could mutually benefit each other and the village of Chepachet, township of Glocester, and state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations with whatever information we had.

Edna Kent is a charmer. She's devoted her life to getting it right, history-wise, for the village where she grew up. She had mounds of stuff around the house, including her books, and Betty the Elephant and Dorr Rebellion artifacts. These last are, after all, the village's main claim to fame (aside from Chepachet's little people- but that's quite another story). It drives her crazy that's so much stuff has been given away and lost.

But to get down to brass, as they say, buttons. Edna told me that most of the town's history is in her head. She's dug up much over her life and, though she's written three books on the village, it's only a beginning. There's still a lot of oral/aural history to be transcribed. There was, for example, the story of why Scituate's farmer became involved in Betty's murder. Edna's theory has to do with damaged fruit trees and revenge. He was, she confided, "the injured party" among the conspirators in all of this. Unfortunately, we have no written or tangible proof of her theory- yet. But things do have a way of surfacing.

She also told me that the townspeople are private about the event. There's a haunting feeling that it could happen again floating around. There are elephant-related superstitions.

Edna graciously allowed me to take some pix of some of her pertinent artifacts, which she has been keeping for her forthcoming children's book on the Betty event. Perhaps we could tie all of these things in. We made informal plans for me to present my initial public program on the research sometime this summer.

I told her I intended to post an ad in the local paper asking for information about the 1826 event, just in case there's someone who knows something who would be willing to share it with the public. Someone may have a diary or know where there's a newspaper article hidden away. I live in hope. Maybe if I called the local newspaper and offered them my story, it would get me farther...

We parted after making a tentative date a few months hence to meet again and go through the materials that are in her trunk. I drove around some of the sites that were connected with both the original event and the centennial and a half celebrations trying to get a sense of what to film. It is winter in Rhode Island, of course, and the land was covered with snow, but I did spy a couple of spots that might lend themselves to the story.

Although I know there were probably not any transcripts as such kept of trials of the 1820's in RI, there may be bits and scraps, and I intend to find their natural resting places....

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