The Secrets of Scituate Reservoir

Thousands of farmers and mill workers' lives were devastated in the early 1920s when the state made the decision to flood their lands.


More than 60 percent of Rhode Islanders get their clean, fresh water from the Scituate Reservoir, but few have heard the story of the thousands of farmers and mill workers whose lives were devastated in the early 1920s when the state made the decision to flood their lands. Author Ray Wolf, who has a written a history of the five lost villages, has a direct tie to their story – his mother was just a child when her family was forced to leave their home. "She was fourteen when they had to move," says Wolf. "She was ninety-four-and-a-half when she died, and she never got over it."

Mills were shut down, jobs were lost, schools were closed, neighbors and friends dispersed and several despairing farmers took their own lives. Hundreds of caskets were disinterred from their traditional resting place and reburied in a remote field in the Scituate woods. Most of the villages' artifacts are lost beneath the reservoir waters, but a few remain. "In Clayville, the mill is gone, but you can still see the ruins of a powerhouse in the woods there," says Wolf. "People drive by and see that every single day, and they have no idea." 

Wolf has spent several years researching the area's history and documenting it with photos for a series of books by Arcadia Publishing. His work is supplemented by excerpts from the thousands of poems written by his mother to record her memories and emotions about those disruptive events. Wolf discovered most of her work stashed away in suitcases, after her death.  

I first learned about Ray and his research at a Land Trust event in Burrillville last month, where we had both been invited to talk about our work. The next week he spoke to my geography class at Rhode Island College about our state's lost villages, and the students were fascinated. We were studying watersheds and water supply, and his personal take on how water issues affect the lives of individuals and communities lent an emotional impact to our studies, even though the events he spoke about took place nearly 100 years ago. 

On October 20, Wolf will guide his seventh bus tour to many of the sites in his book about the five lost villages of Scituate. The price is $20 per seat, with departures from Scituate's Hope Village at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.. All six of his previous tours sold out, so book your seat soon. The tour lasts about an hour-and-a-half, and runs rain or shine. "Bring your reservoir books with you," Wolf says. "I refer to them more than twenty-four times." 

Tickets for the tour, along with copies of the books, The Lost Villages of Scituate and The Scituate Reservoir, are for sale through Wolf's website.

If you’re into this blog wait until you see what’s inside Rhode Island Monthly each month.
Only $1.50 per issue when you sign up for a year. Visit the Subscription Center.




Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

You might enjoy reading...

See Peter Green's Photo Series of Nesting Baby Eagles

Peter Green's photo series captures six months of life from when a bald eagle pair began nesting near Providence this spring to when their two fledglings took flight in the fall.

Q-and-A with Jesse Burke, Photographer for Wild and Precious

The book brings together photographs from a series of road trips traveled over five years by photographer Jesse Burke and his daughter Clover to explore the natural world.

The Dish: Walrus and Carpenter Oyster Farm Dinner

A four-course feast and in-the-water raw bar were served on a sandbar in Charlestown's Ninigret Pond.

A Day Trip to Beavertail

Pass the time exploring the rocky coastline of Jamestown.

The Dish: Eat More Scup

Culinary students at Johnson and Wales University are promoting the underutilized, abundant fish species.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

Apple Picking in Rhode Island

Some of the best orchards around Rhode Island offering pick-your-own apples and other activities for you and your family.

24 Local Options for Thanksgiving Dinner and Desserts

Whether it's a sit-down feast or takeout turkey and side dishes, we've rounded up some places that are accepting reservations. Plus, where to place your to-go dessert orders!

14 Great Playgrounds in Rhode Island

Create your own park tour and hit up several of these sweet spots for kids in one day.

28 Best Seafood Restaurants in Rhode Island

10 Corn Mazes in Rhode Island and Beyond

Some are family-friendly; some are scary, but there's no doubt you'll enjoy getting lost in all of these cornfields.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags