Smithfield, Rhode Island (From Hayward’s New England Gazetteer of 1839)
Providence county. This is a large town, containing an area of about 10 by 6 miles, and a great variety of surface and soil.
Smithfield has generally an undulating surface, presenting an agreeable diversity of moderate eminences and gentle declivities; but in some sections it is considerably rough and broken.
The manufacture of lime is an important and extensive business, and affords employment to a great number of persons. There is also a quarry of white stone at what is called Woonsocket hill, that sustains heat remarkably well, which renders it very valuable for furnace hearths. About two miles distant from this there is a quarry containing excellent whetstones for edge tools.
The soil is a gravelly and sandy loam, with some sections of a calcareous loam. It is generally rich and fertile, although in some places it has been reduced by an exhausting system of cultivation. There are, however, some low and marshy tracts, which are generally appropriated to mowing, and afford good crops of grass. The agricultural productions consist of the various articles common to the climate; Indian corn, rye, wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, flax, beef, pork, butter, cheese, apples, cider and hay.
The waters of the town consist of the Blackstone, which washes its northeastern border, and a branch of this river, nearly of equal size, which intersects the town, discharging its waters into the former, in the northern sections of the town. After the union of these streams, the Blackstone is from one to two hundred feet in width. At some seasons of the year, it overflows its banks, and has been known to rise from 15 to 20 feet above its usual height. Besides these, there are numerous small streams, some of which afford valuable sites for mills and manufacturing establishments, which are mostly occupied. In the south part of the town, within about 4 miles from Providence, there is a considerable body of water, called Scots Pond. It is nearly a mile in length, about half a mile in width, and of great depth. What is remarkable in this pond, is the steep descent of its shores. Cases have occurred, of persons being drowned in attempting to water their horses at this pond.
There is a remarkable fall of water upon the Blackstone river called Woonsocket falls, which is considered as quite a curiosity. The fall is about 20 feet, not perpendicular, but over a precipice of rocks for some distance. The fall of the water upon these rocks through a succession of ages, has occasioned numerous excavations, all of which are smooth and circular, and some of them very large, being sufficient to contain several hogsheads.
The beautiful village of Woonsocket is situated at these falls, on the line of Cumberland; the river dividing the towns, and the village into nearly equal parts. In this village are 15 cotton and 2 satinet factories, a large furnace, machine shops, sash factory, &c. The Blackstone canal passes through this village, and it is in contemplation to construct a rail road to meet the Boston and Providence rail road, either at Providence or at Dedham, Mass. This village is indeed a beautiful place, and exceedingly flourishing. It is 14 miles N.N.W. from Providence.
Slaterville is another beautiful village in this town, on Branch river, about 2 miles W. from Woonsocket.
Smithfield is a large manufacturing town, containing many other pleasant villages, almost exclusively devoted to manufacturing objects. The centre of the town lies 9 miles N.W. from Providence. Incorporated, 1730. Population, in 1830, 6,857.
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