Many thanks to Dr. Jennifer White of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Dr. Craig Swanson of Swanson Environmental Associates who presented at the On Pettaquamscutt Speaker Series on Sunday, January 29th, 2017.
You can see their presentations and sign up for future speakers at http://onpettaquamscutt.org/
Next On Pettaquamscutt: February 26, Nancy Karraker, Amphibians and Reptiles in the Narrow River Watershed.
Remembering The Shack on Sedge Island
The little red shack on Sedge Island in the Narrow River has been a beloved Narragansett icon for decades. Visible due west of the Sprague Bridge, the shack has been enjoyed by people fishing, kayaking, boating, bird watching and simply sightseeing. In November, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed the shack, as it had become a hazard. It was razed with demolition equipment already in the area for the Salt Marsh Restoration and Dredging Project.
Sedge Island appears in Land Evidence records in both Narragansett and South Kingstown dating as far back as 1882. The island changed hands several times between the first land evidence record until it was purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004. USF&WS made several repairs to the shack, attempting to keep it in decent and safe condition, but the elements proved too powerful and the shack deteriorated significantly and became dangerous. Click here to read the press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Matunuck resident Karl Dillmann remembers many family stories from his grandfather T. William Dixon and mother Peggy Dixon Dillmann, who owned the island from 1927 to 1958.
“The house washed away during the ’38 Hurricane, but [my grandfather] found it and towed it back with his skiff. My mother remembers using block and tackle and with the help of her college friends dragging it back to the foundation. She said that her father fastened it down somehow, saying if there were ever again such a storm, [the house] would be blown to pieces before it would wash away again. It actually was a little fancier back then as the windows and doors were salvaged from the fancy hotels at the Pier after they were torn down.
“My mom’s family lived in Peace Dale and they would spend the summer on the island. My grandfather would get in his boat and go ashore, somewhere near where the South County Museum is now. He would walk up a path and cross Post Road… twice a day so that he could feed his cows. He was the first person on the pond to get an outboard motor.”
In June of 1946, The Providence Journal dedicated their Sunday Magazine (then called The Rhode Islander) to an article about Peggy Dixon. Photographs of Peggy show her on Sedge Island, which she used as the home base for her lobster business. Karl Dillmann recalls: “My mom was the first woman in RI to get a lobster license. She would row her Amesbury dory out the mouth of Narrow River to tend her pots. She and her friend Betty were by the mouth of Narrow River the day that U 853 sank the Black Point.”
He remembers his mother describing how seagulls created holes in the shack’s roof by dropping quahogs onto the black rooftop. Peggy and her father corrected this problem by painting the roof green.
Betty Faella of South Kingstown visited the island several summers as a Girl Scout. Led by Jane Place Andrews, Director of Waterfront Activities, a group of girls would board canoes at the Girl Scout Camp at the head of the Narrow River and row down to Sedge Island. There Peggy Dixon would meet them and they would all spend the night on the floor of the shack. Betty recalls using her toes to feel for shellfish in the sand.
NRPA is collecting memories and images of the shack. If you have stories, photographs or artwork of the shack to share, please submit to the NRPA Facebook page or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NRPA and the US Fish & Wildlife Service are working together to create a physical remembrance of the shack. Plans are under way and with the hope of an installation ceremony this Spring.
~ Many thanks to Karl Dillmann and Betty Faella for their contributions to this story.
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Narrow River Notes