Gaspee Days CommitteeHistory Files
Gaspee Days Beginnings

FirstGaspeeParadeLeft: First Gaspee Day Parade photo on display in Cameron's Pawtuxet Pharmacy

It all began on a hot and humid night in September, 1965 when a group of fifteen men women, representatives of businesses, civic, and patriotic groups in the cities of Cranston and Warwick met at the John Carder Tavern (home of Mr. and Mrs. L. Hazard Knowles) at 118 Road in Warwick. All present listened to an energetic man convey his idea of an annual celebration of the burning of the hated British revenue schooner Gaspee by colonial patriots in June, 1772.

The man was David Stackhouse, chairman of the Warwick Heritage Committee, who believed it was time to arouse people's interest in the history of Pawtuxet Village.

"The Gaspee was burned right here on our doorsteps," he explained, "but how many people know or even stop to think about the significance behind it. This act saw the first blood shed before the Revolutionary War and was the first step in gaining our independence. Let's celebrate it."GaspeeGoGetters

Right:  The Gaspee Go-Getters square dancing club won the coveted Best of Parade float award in 1966.

Stackhouse, with the help of Hazel Kennedy, who he asked to serve as secretary, mailed invitations to all local organizations and civic groups asking them to send one representative to the first meeting in October, 1965. Thanks to Edward Yatsko, who was associated with Mason & Winograd on Warwick Avenue, the committee began meeting on the second floor. This building was soon named Gaspee House, and the committee met here for sometime.

There were 60 people at the first meeting, and 33 would sign the original charter. The celebration was a weekend of activities from June 3 - 5, 1966. The committee received $5,500 from the State and the cities of Warwick and Cranston.

The name Gaspee Day Committee was suggested by Hap Knowles, and the charter was written by Eugene McCaffrey, who would later become Mayor of Warwick


  • The first Gaspee Day was proclaimed by Governor John H. Chafee as June 4, 1966, the first Saturday of the month.
  • Area restaurants spiced the occasion's colonial flavor with such delicacies as bear venison, johnnycakes, hasty pudding, Indian pudding, and pumpkin pie. Drinks included "flip", an ale mixed with egg, and "sillabub", a frothy mixture of wine or cider with milk or sweet cream.
  •  The Grand Marshall of the first Gaspee Day Parade was 92 year old Walter Whipple of Warwick, a direct descendant of Abraham Whipple who led the Gaspee Raiders in 1772. He wore a tricorner hat and drove in an antique car with his daughter.
  • In 1966, the 18th century cannon from the Newport Artillery boomed from the Pawtuxet Bridge as the bells in the steeple of the Pawtuxet Baptist Church tolled from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. A memorial service was held at the Church at 11:00 a.m. and the parade began at 2:00 p.m.
  •  Four members of the William Shields VFW Post, Warwick, made three replicas of the 13 star Betsy Ross flag and presented them to the Committee. One Gaspee Day, they were flown over the State House and the city halls in Warwick and Cranston.
  • May 1966 was the first year for a three hour powerboat marathon on Narragansett Bay, running a triangle from Gaspee Point across the Bay to Bullocks Point and back along Pawtuxet Neck. Trophies were awarded, and these races continued for six years.
  • An all day historical symposium was held the first two years at either the Pawtuxet Baptist or the John Waterman Arnold House, home of the Warwick Historical Society. Luncheon followed at The Bank Cafe.
  • For many years, there was a display of historical memorabilia at the Pawtuxet Baptist Church

    Grand Union FlagLeft: The Grand Union flag, which had been  adopted by the Colonies at the time of the burning of the Gaspee, was displayed throughout Pawtuxet Village during Gaspee Days..

  • The second year, the Committee formed a speakers bureau with three men who visited schools and organizations; showing slides of the first celebration.
  • On June 3, 1966, the first band concert, followed by fireworks, was held at Salter Grove.
  • A statewide poster contest for junior and senior high school students was held the second year. The winner was a South Kingstown High School student who received a $25 savings bond.
  • Warwick's First Ward Republican Club held the first clambake in Salter Grove on Sunday June 5, 1967. It became so popular that it had to be limited to 300 people. The Republicans donated the profits to the building committee, and $400 was raised the first year.
  • For several years, the Ward One Democrats held a carnival near the Zayre Store (now Shaw's) on Warwick Avenue. Proceeds also went to the Gaspee Committee.
  •  The first Children's Costume Contest trophy was donated by Councilman Fred Connell and was awarded in 1968.
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Rev. 07/2008    Beginnings.htm