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Site of Ponaganset Village (Barden's Mills, Bettyville)

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Barden's Mills, Bettyville
1883–1884, dam. Mid-19th century, granite bridge and burial ground. Intersection of Ponaganset Rd. and Hemlock Rd.

This intersection, surrounded by the forest of the Reservoir Management Area, was the site of one of Scituate's lost villages—and is a place to remember them all. A little up Hemlock Road is a handsome granite dam in an arc, rare in Rhode Island, but appropriate where rock on either side of a narrow channel gives solid abutment to the curve. Now part of the Scituate Reservoir, it is a beautiful spectacle when an overflow brings an arc of water against the tumble of native rock in this remote and sylvan setting. John Barden erected an ironworks at the fall in 1760, and later a gristmill. (Betty was his wife.) Eventually Providence entrepreneurs moved in to establish a small cotton mill in 1826. The mill burned and was rebuilt in 1854. Both company and town then became Ponaganset. The dam, built to hold a reservoir on the Ponaganset River, followed in 1883–1884. Back to Ponaganset Road, where another view of the dam and its random masonry abutments is available from a reinforced-concrete bridge below the dam. Around the road intersection and bridge the mill and the village once clustered.

At .4 mile from the bridge is the Ponaganset burial ground, possibly the loveliest small cemetery in Rhode Island and certainly the one with the most architectural approach, but of a type that occurs elsewhere in Rhode Island. A wide granite wall encloses three sides of a rectangle, the front left open as a high granite threshold, notched in the front by two stairs. In this roomlike enclosure, open to the sky and pressed by the reservoir woods, the generations who lived here are remembered. The granite dam, the old bridge abutments, and this granite enclosure bear witness.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Site of Ponaganset Village (Barden's Mills, Bettyville)", [Scituate, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-SC22.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 273-273.

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