by Ron Ash
If you grew up in northern Rhode Island you are no stranger to Chepachet Village, but you may not be familiar with its history. Walking through this quaint community of antique shops one cannot help but to appreciate its rustic charm. The areas history dates far back before the earliest of commercial ventures were imagined. I believe they called them “Trading Posts” back then. What are now The Town Trader and surrounding shops were some of the historic establishments started by those early Americans who saw Glocester as a place for business opportunities during colonial times.
Originally home of many Pequot and Nipmuc people, Chepachet finds it origin in the language of these native Americans. Chepachet means “where rivers meet”. The Chepachet River flows through Glocester and Burrillville starting at New Pond, flowing north to Gilleran Pond, and eventually joins with the Clear River to Branch River. Obviously the ideal natural infrastructure to facilitate trade between native Americans and the colonists. Have canoe, will travel!
In 1774 Chepachet residents were ready for independence and were not shy about lending their support for the impending revolution. At that time the “Gloucester Light Infantry” was founded in town. The infantry operates an armory museum behind the town hall at 33 Dorr Drive, formerly Chepachet Elementary School. I’ll have to visit there someday. I will be sure to share my findings when I do.
If you walk across the bridge from the Chepachet Post Office (est. 1828) towards the antique shops you’ll find a plaque on the bridge which commemorates “Betty the Fabulous Learned Elephant”. On May 25th 1976 “Elephant Day” was proclaimed in remembrance of the shooting death of said elephant as she crossed the Chepachet River on that date in 1826. “Little Bett” was the victim of a band of undesirables led by a man named Canton Smith. A sad story made worse as Betty was a very popular small circus attraction of the day.
It is easy to miss the historical importance of this beloved town. We get so busy with life we often get tunnel vison and fail to appreciate the history around us. So, while you are on your way to Who Cut The Cheesecake, Uncle Harry’s Barbershop or Depitrillo’s Bakery, please take a moment to recall the early settlers who made Chepachet and the United States of America possible. Historically, the residents of Chepachet were and are not a shy people. Get involved, learn the history and support those who protect and maintain it.
Remember, time is our most precious commodity, spend it wisely.
Best, Ron Ash aka My RV Guy