Kent County Times Article - Natural & Cultural Resources groups
Villages - Rice City, Cov. - Past and present linked by farming traditions
By: Jessica Selby , Daily Times Staff
RICE CITY - The trees that tower over sections of western Coventry yield the age of this historically rich section of town. At one point in the late 1800's, however, one particular section of Rice City that is now dotted with a variety of trees was nothing more than barren farmlands.
The land was owned by several farmers who used it for sheep and cattle grazing. The animals would wander for days on end over the rolling hills as passersby traveled by them using a bridge that bordered the property. At the time, this was the only throughway that connected the western section of Coventry to the Connecticut line. Passersby would use this throughway to visit the Rice City Tavern, which used to be on Route 14, or to make a purchase at the Fairbanks General Store or visit the Fairbanks Ice House. Local property owners like Samuel Gibbs and Isaac Fisk also used this throughway to reach their homesteads. In 1938, the bridge was destroyed by a devastating hurricane and the Fairbanks Bridge on Plainfield Pike, that is still there today, replaced it.
Today, much of the land around the old bridge and one of the nearby plats located adjacent to the Moosup River that was owned by Isaac Fisk and known as the "Log House Lot" is owned by Peter and Ingrid Fratantuono. They too, continue the tradition of farming the land in Rice City, but they run a slightly different operation. The Fratantuono farmlands that were once barren are now covered with dense overgrowth in the forested areas and finely manicured crops in their many acres of fields.
Every day that the family heads out to the fields to water their crops or pick their harvest, though, they stumble upon another segment of history that reveals how life in Rice City once was.
Peter Fratantuono explained how, from one end of their multi-acre farm to the other, the history of the Place, Macko, Fisk, Fairbanks, and Gibbs families can be uncovered. From their places of recreation to their homesteads to their burial sites, it's all located in and around Rice City, much of it right in the Fratantuono's back yard.
A deed that Peter Fratantuono was able to get his hands on indicated that the old Isaac Fisk Log House Lot was once located on a piece of land at the rear of his property. Fratantuono explained that, although the foundation of the
old Log House Lot is no longer visible in a quick glance, who's to know if or what is or isn't under a foot of dirt along the river.
"There are about 10 acres back there and it is completely surrounded by the brook," Fratantuono said. "According to the deeds, Fisk owned the 10 acres and built a home there, but with heavy rains the brook floods out and probably eventually washed much of the foundation away. Back in those days, the foundation would have been made completely of wood, but who knows; maybe it's still intact and just buried under a foot of dirt."
What is still visible to the naked eye, indicating life back to the time of the Log House Lot, is a neatly laid section of flat rocks remaining in a single section of the stream, known as Trout Brook, which surrounds the entire of the 10-acre plot of land.
"These rocks didn't just appear there," Fratantuono said. "They were obviously put there because it was probably where the horse and carriage or whatever else they used to travel crossed to get to the Log House Lot."
The other natural piece of history which aids in uncovering some of Rice City's past is the land where the old Fairbanks Ice House used to be located. There an old stone foundation does remain and so to does a manmade jetty which was constructed to contain a section of water in the Moosup River so it could be used for ice making.
"None of these stories are etched in stone, but I did go to a lecture at the old library [Greene Public Library] where historians made mention of all of it," Ingrid Fratantuono said. "I remember as they talked about each fact I was like, oh my goodness, that's right in my back yard."