On a beautiful, sunny afternoon in Pawtuxet Village, the Pawtuxet Rangers came together to celebrate a piece of their history returning to its rightful place.
It has been almost a year since Col. Ron Barnes and the rest of the Rangers learned that a copy of their original charter from 1777 would be up for auction at Boston’s Skinner House. On Sunday, the charter was officially unveiled and put on display at the Ranger’s Armory on Remington Street.
A number of Rangers, community members and Rhode Island officials turned out for the celebration and ceremony, which took place at the Armory. Among those present were Representative Joseph McNamara, Mayor Scott Avedisian and State Historian Laureate Dr. Patrick Connelly.
“It’s a great day to be in Rhode Island,” said Barnes, who was absolutely elated to have completed this project and have the document restored, preserved and on display for future generations.
“It’s funny we found out about a colonial document through an e-mail,” added Barnes.
Barnes was notified of the charter being up for auction through someone in the re-enactment community, and was able to quickly learn about the auction process with help from John Adams, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution.
“He taught me patience,” said Barnes, laughing as he recalled Adams stopping him from bidding $3,000 for the charter when it was first called.
Barnes and Adams purchased the charter at the auction on Nov. 18, 2012 for $1,500.
Barnes also recalled attempts from the Rangers and the mayor’s office to stop the sale of the charter completely, arguing it was the property of the Rangers.
“That was probably a bit of a stretch,” said Avedisian.
All together, roughly $7,500 was raised for the purchase, restoration and preservation of the charter, which will be kept in the Armory but be available to the public so future generations can be educated about the work of the Pawtuxet Rangers and their role in the American Revolution.
“The Rangers contribute a great amount to the community,” said McNamara, who helped secure a legislative grant for the project. “This is important because it connects the historic past to our current Rangers.”
McNamara also said the return of the document helps to connect Pawtuxet Village residents, and all Rhode Islanders, to “our great heritage.”
Lt. Col. John Courier of the Rangers was amazed after helping to unveil the charter.
“It’s great,” he said, appearing to be at a loss for words. “It’s a wonderful thing to have a piece of history you can look at that close.”
Avedisian explained that his office and the city truly came together to support this project; it was a community effort. “What this project showed me, and showed the city, was what is truly important,” said Avedisian. “It brought a whole bunch of people, who wanted to be involved, together.”
During Sunday’s presentation, a great deal of talk focused on preserving history for the future generation, and those who will carry on the legacy of the Rangers were on hand to celebrate this milestone.
Lindsay Mason is 22 years old and has been a Pawtuxet Ranger for almost 11 years. She is from Pawtuxet Village, and joined the ranks with a number of her friends.
She says that she loves being a part of the Rangers because of all the different experiences she gets to have.
“We get to travel, I meet new people and I love playing music,” said Mason.
Mason plays the snare drum in the Fife and Drum Corps.
Ryan Lutrano also said being in the Rangers has provided him with a number of different experiences and networking opportunities.
Now 23, Lutrano joined the Rangers at 18 when a student at Cranston High School East. He joined after learning about the organization from his stepfather, Col. Barnes. His mother is also a major in the organization.
“That’s how I found out about it,” explained Lutrano, who was previously in the Fife and Drum Corp., and is now a member of the Color Guard.
Although he is not so interested in the historical aspects of being a Pawtuxet Ranger, Lutrano says he enjoys the experiences he has, such as marching in various parades and meeting new people.
“I look at everything as an experience; you only live life to the fullest if you have different experiences,” said Lutrano.
Sunday’s event concluded with the unveiling of the now-preserved charter in the main meeting room at the Armory. Barnes explained that the document needs to be displayed in a unique way because of its scribe, John Waterman Jr., the company’s clerk in 1777.
“Being a thrifty Rhode Islander, they who wrote the copy of the charter wrote on both sides of one piece of paper,” said Barnes with a laugh.
As a result, the original copy of the charter is kept in a lighted display but only one side is readable. A copy of the copy was created and put in a rotating display so both sides can be seen; that display will be kept in another part of the Armory.