Grace Simmons McKivergan

Grace Simmons McKivergan

Born 1935

Oral History Interview with Grace Simmons McKivergan

Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Betty Athington Hathaway

Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Diane MacGregor

Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Valerie Crowther Turcotte

Oral History Interview with Grace Simmons McKivergan

Pilgrim Roots

My Simmons ancestor came to Little Compton with William and Elizabeth Pabodie who were his grandparents but by the time my grandfather, Frederick Almy Simmons was born, our branch of the Simmonses had migrated up Crandall Road into what is Tiverton. 

Adamsville Bakery

As a young man my grandfather, Fred Simmons, worked at the bakery which was next to Gray’s Mill on the Adamsville side. When I was a child it was a meat market, but the market was moved to Manchester’s store in the 1940s. One of the “specialties” of the bakery was Jenny Lind cookies. I remember seeing a recipe for them that included, a bushel of this and a shovel of that.  When I tried a few years ago to find the recipe online I was amazed to find that every recipe for Jenny Lind cookies included crumbs from previous batches of baked goods. Recycling I guess. 

The Family Business

At one point when I was growing up, all three stores in Adamsville were managed by relatives. Cousin Ed Cook was at Gray’s Store; his father, Uncle Walter, was in charge at Manchester’s; and my grandfather, Fred, had purchased Head’s Store at the corner of Crandall Road. 

My grandfather’s store was a small country grocery store. It wasn’t the general store type that sold everything from food to buggy whips as Wilbur’s and even Manchester’s were. Flour and meal were in barrels and weighed out for each customer into paper bags. Molasses and kerosene were in barrels in the basement and were also measured out for each customer. Cookies were in boxes with a glass “door.” They too were weighed out for customers. Fruit was in bulk with a whole stalk of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling. And, of course, candy was in the candy case and counted out into a paper bag according to the taste of the buyer.

My grandfather went around his “route” on one day taking orders and went back the next day delivering them. I remember going with him on the Saturday Tiverton Four Corners route. Mrs. Cory always had a molasses cookie for me.

The Tompkins Farm

My parents bought a piece of land for their house from Tom and Molly White. The Whites lived in the house that is now von Trapp’s. It was called the Tompkins Farm as it had belonged to Molly’s family. When it was the White’s farm there was a barn and all the land from the corner to 72 Stone Church and up Crandall Road as far as the post office was part of their farm. They hayed the fields and kept several cows which grazed in the fields. Most families in the village had a milk can (a one or two-quart metal can with a cover) and went daily to buy milk in the milk shed, which was probably originally the summer kitchen. I think that is what became von Trapp’s kitchen. As a testament to the small size of Adamsville, until after college my mailing address was always: Grace D. Simmons, Adamsville, Rhode Island. 

Christmas Spirit at Old Stone Church

Most of the people in the village considered themselves to be members of the Old Stone Church.  My fondest recollection of the kindness of Adamsville was one Christmas when I was about five or six years old. Eleanor Gray [Rosinha] wanted to invite me to go to their Christmas party.  She asked Mrs. Hart if it would be all right. Of course it was. When Santa was passing out gifts to the children there was a gift for me. Looking back in later years, I realized that not only was the little sewing kit which I got prophetic, but undoubtedly Mrs. Hart had somehow gotten a gift for me to put under the tree in a time when trips to Fall River to shop were all-day excursions.

Yellow Paint

Abraham Manchester’s Store was painted yellow with green trim. Local story says that when Mr. Manchester realized that all the houses in the village were white he gave Eugene Shurtleff the yellow paint to paint his house. All I know is that in the forties and fifties every house except Shurtleff’s was white. Shurtleff’s was yellow, like the store.

Gray’s Store Loafing Room

There was a bench around all the walls and a stove in the middle. Many of the regulars must have played cards as there was a sign on the wall prohibiting card playing on Sunday. We kids used the room, especially in the winter when we were skating and got cold. 

Growing Up

In the forties there weren’t many children in Adamsville.  I remember when we took the bus to school, there were three of us (Eleanor Gray, Bill Souza Moniz, and me) waiting for the bus at the corner of Stone Church and Colebrook. There were more students waiting at a stop in the village. I think these were the only stops in Adamsville. The Silva kids had to walk to the middle of the village and the three or four on Harbor Road were also expected to walk into the village. Most of the population in the village in those years had the “old” Yankee names: Pearce, Soule, Wordell, Carr, White, Hart, Davis, Cook, Kirby, Mosher, Shurtleff, Gray, Greene, Wilbur, and of course, Simmons. Most of the population of the village was of my grandparents’ generation. Growing up there was important enough to me that when Dave and I were looking for a place to raise our own brood we chose to “come home” so they could grow up there, too.

Excerpts from “The Adamsville I Remember”.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Betty Athington Hathaway

Adamsville was filled with boys. Marion Carter, Eleanor Gray, Grace McKivergan, and myself, we were the only girls. But we visited back and forth and I never felt isolated. You made friends in Little Compton School, and it was far away.

We rode bicycle. We played around the river. The river was a great source of entertainment. You could always catch crabs down there. It was mud bottom. On a desperate day when it was hot, some of us would go swimming in the river, but most of the time there was some mummy that had a car, and we could get to South Shore or to Westport Harbor. We used to swim down at the Charlton Wharf which was open to the public back then.

In the wintertime High Hill on Old Harbor Road was a wonderful hill for sledding. Some of the big boys would stop the cars, wouldn’t let them go up the hill. All of us kids would come down on our sleds and then the big boys would let the people go. The roads didn’t get sanded and graveled. Once we got a good snow, it would be that way for a few days.

Based on an oral history interview with Betty Athington Hathaway.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Diane MacGregor

I also have memories of kids coming back and talking about Christmas caroling. It was an Adamsville kind of thing. Grace McKivergan and her girls and her husband and probably, the von Trapps.  I’m not sure who else was doing it but they would always tell tales of going Christmas caroling around Adamsville. There was one year that we were invited. Grace McKivergan had a group to her house first, and one year we were invited to come down. I was feeling a little bit like an outsider because we hadn’t done it before. It was one of the last years Grace did it before they moved away. But it was a wonderful feeling of, almost like a family down here. I think that was something that a lot of the other parts of town maybe had within their own neighborhoods, but not as large as this village had.

Based on an oral history interview with Diane MacGregor.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

Excerpt from an Oral History Interview with Valerie Crowther Turcotte

We were free to walk everywhere. I meandered the whole village my whole life. I don’t think there was a house on Old Stone Church Road and through the village that I hadn’t been in a hundred times. Grace Simmons—who is Grace McKivergan—I was there a great deal when I was a kid. It was Grace and her sister Marie—that we called Mimi—and they were a nice, nice family, and her mother made a great impression on me. She was very interested in everything the kids did. She ran our local 4-H Club. That’s how I got involved with 4-H and got to go to camp, was through them. Everybody called her Billie Simmons. You know her name I think was Imelda. I’ll bet nobody else knows that, but I remember Billie Simmons. She used to be in the store quite often, because they owned Simmons’ store.

Based on an oral history interview with Valerie Crowther Turcotte.

First published in “Remembering Adamsville” by the Little Compton Historical Society, 2013.

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