Depot Square Oral History Project

Oral History Interviews

Project History

It began as a simple plan to gather quotes from local residents who remember life in Hope Valley when the “peanut roaster” (that would be the train that traveled the Wood River Branch Railroad) chugged into town several times a day. The quotes were to be included in the Memory Walk which will wind through the new park planned for Depot Square. But it has evolved into an oral history project that involves the Langworthy Public Library and its historical archives, the Hopkinton Historical Association, and area schools.

Actually the inception of the project was the creative vision of the Hope Valley/Wyoming Fire District that envisioned the park, and of Ana Flores who was commissioned to create a sculpture for the park and worked with Elena Pascarella who designed the park. Working under the auspices of the Langworthy Public Library and with a committee of Library volunteers, Linda Wood of Hope Valley, and Carla Ricci of Carolina, have recorded twelve oral histories-stories that might otherwise have been lost forever. Indeed, two of the residents interviewed have recently passed away, but their memories and stories have been preserved for posterity.

The oral histories, which not only describe the train, but also immigrant life in Hope Valley, mill village life, the Hurricane of ’38, and the minstrel shows at Barber’s Hall, will be brought to life when Chariho Regional High School students present “The Wood River Anthology,” written by Yvette Baeu of Hope Valley and directed by Sandra Laub, based on the oral histories.

Hopkinton’s elementary schools will also get in on the act. Langworthy’s Oral History Committee is working with the Ashaway and Hope Valley Elementary Schools to establish oral history and local history lesson plans at the 4th grade level. One lesson, “A Sense of History, A Sense of Self” will have each 4th grader record an oral history that explores his own connection to the town of Hopkinton-whether it goes back three centuries or three weeks. According to Ashaway Elementary School Principal Linda Perra, “This project will leave our students with a deeper understanding of their own personal history and the history of their hometown. Students will also have first-hand experience creating primary historical records. What a great foundation for the study of history in later grades.”

The Hopkinton Historical Association will also be involved in the project, making the very successful historical bus tour that it sponsored in 2007 a permanent part of the 4th grade experience.

“Hopkinton, of which Hope Valley is an important part, is on the brink of dramatic change and development,” said Wood. “We hope this project will provide a strong sense of community identity by acknowledging the town’s past and encouraging a self-determination ethos to help it make informed decisions about its future. As Langworthy librarian emeritus Gladys Segar (1901-1994) once said, “You can’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been.”

The Depot Square Oral History Project is made possible by a grant from the ADDD Fund of the Rhode Island Foundation, a charitable community fund serving the people of Rhode Island.