Town of Johnston Timeline

Home | About Us | Properties | Events | Publications | History

March 15, 1759 (or March 6, 1759)
Following a 1758 petition to the General Assembly, Johnston (named in honor of Augustus Johnston, Esquire, the attorney-general of Rhode Island) was taken from Providence and incorporated as a town.

April 18, 1759
Abraham Belknap was appointed as the town's first Town Sergeant at the first Town Meeting, held at Benjamin Belknap's house on Greenville Avenue in Belknap.

The Baptist Meeting House in Belknap opened. It is thought to be the first place of worship in Johnston.

The only powder mill ever erected in Rhode Island was completed in Graniteville. It blew up in 1779.

March 29, 1779
On the occasion of his departure for New York, Major General John Sullivan was given a public dinner in Johnston by his companions in arms.

May 22, 1786
Future governor Samuel Ward King was born in Johnston, the son of William Borden King and Welthian Walton.

An iron mill (rolling and slitting) was built in the Olneyville section of Johnston by Christopher Olney.

The Belknap School, thought to be the first school in Johnston, opened.

The Providence and Norwich Turnpike (today's Plainfield Pike) was chartered.

September 10, 1795
James Fowler Simmons, future United States Senator for whom the Johnston village of Simmonsville would be named, was born in Little Compton.

The Rhode Island and Connecticut Turnpike (today's Hartford Pike) was chartered.

The Union Mill began operations in Olneyville, probably the first textile mill in town.

The Powder Mill Turnpike (today's Route 44) was chartered.

Samuel Ward King was elected Town Clerk of Johnston.

The Arcade, sporting massive granite columns which were quarried on Pine Hill in Graniteville, opened in Providence.

June 1828
The first school committee meeting was held in town.

August 1828
The town was divided into ten school districts (later increased to sixteen), and in September 1829 the schools opened.

April 17, 1835
Civil War General Zenas R. Bliss was born in the Simmonsville section of Johnston, the son of Zenas and Phoebe Waterman Randall Bliss.

Samuel Ward King was elected to the Rhode Island Senate.

Samuel Ward King was elected Governor of Rhode Island when the legislature failed to grant a majority of votes to the three leading contenders.

April 13, 1840
The collapse of a mill dam in Upper Simmonsville during a heavy rainstorm caused a flood that wiped out a mill, three or four stores, and several houses, and resulted in the deaths of eighteen people, the worst disaster of its kind in Rhode Island history.

The first Town House (equivalent to today's Town Hall) in Johnston opened on Hartford Avenue across from where Johnston Memorial Park is today.

Governor Samuel Ward King completed his fourth one-year term in office.

Johnston's first post office opened in Simmonsville.

January 20, 1851
Former Governor Samuel Ward King died.

Land was purchased for the first town poor farm.

July 10, 1864
James Fowler Simmons, former United States Senator for whom the village of Simmonsville was named, died in Johnston.

Rhode Island Lieutenant-Governor Zenas Work Bliss, son of General Zenas Bliss, was born.

A devastating flood in Hughesdale washed away its three dams and all of its industrial buildings.

The town rented space for town offices in the Irons Block in Olneyville Square, reflecting the importance of that area to the town.

The first Italian immigrants settled in Simmonsville, where they worked in Benjamin Almy's mill.

Rail service came to Johnston. The Providence and Springfield Railroad began service, stopping in a number of Johnston villages along the Woonasquatucket River.

July 1, 1871
William A. Phillips was elected Johnston's first school superintendent.

Samuel A. Irons was appointed the first Commissioner of Police in Johnston.

The Olneyville Free Library and Reading Room opened.

The Newman Dairy in Manton was started by Joseph Newman, a German immigrant.

The British Hosiery Company opened for business in its new mill on Mill Street in Lower Simmonsville, soon to be named Thornton.

William Almy Pirce, Johnston's only U. S. Representative, took office. He served until 1887.

Johnston's first Chief of Police, William A. Carroll, took office.

Holy Nativity Episcopal Church opened on Plainfield Street in Thornton, serving the newly arrived English immigrants that came to work in the British Hosiery Mill.

Johnston's first high school building opened in the area that was annexed to Providence in 1898. Johnston was without a high school from 1898 until 1960.

The opulent, Flemish-style Olneyville Free Library opened on the Johnston side of Olneyville. After the library was lost to Providence because of the 1898 annexation, Johnston was without a library until the Marian J. Mohr Library opened in 1961.

Johnston's first fire station, the Rough and Ready Station opened on Plainfield Street in the Annex Section.

The Antioch Chapel, on Plainfield Street in the south-west corner of town, opened.

April 7, 1892
Johnston Hose Company #3 (Manton) was organized under William H. King, foreman. This volunteer group built a station on Greenville Avenue in 1913 that is still standing.

Two big Thornton mills opened, the Victoria Mills on Mill Street and the Pocasset Mill on Pocasset Street.

Hiram Kimball began his long term as Police Chief of Johnston. He stepped down in 1934.

June 1, 1898
The western section of Olneyville and Silver Lake, part of Johnston since its founding in 1759, was re-annexed to Providence.

The Providence & Danielson Railway, an interurban trolley line, began its operation across Rhode Island. The trolleys ran through Johnston.

The Hughes Chemical Works burned to the ground, ending eighty years of manufacturing in the village of Hughesdale.

St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church opened on Plainfield Street in the Thornton section.

April 16, 1919
A small portion of Johnston was re-annexed to Providence, from which it was taken in 1759. The annexed area was in the Neutaconkanut Hill neighborhood.

July 5, 1926
A fire in Thornton destroyed five buildings, heavily damaged five others, injured twelve volunteer firemen, and caused a total loss of $75,000. The blaze started in John Saar's dry goods store at 1377 Plainfield Street.

During the World Cup (Soccer) games in Uruguay, Johnston native Tommy Florie scored a goal for the United States in its victory over Belgium.

The present Johnston Town Hall opened for business. It also housed the jail and the police department until 1966.

August 30, 1936
Rhode Island's twenty-four miles of Route 6 were designated as part of the trans-continental Grand Army of the Republic Highway during dedication exercises at Ochee House on Hartford Avenue, the first section of the 3,200-mile route to be so designated.

Edward Crandall bought the former Tillinghast farm on Morgan Avenue and soon built a barn for the Crandall Dairy cows. Their processing facility remained in Providence until 1955.

The original Pocasset Casino burned to the ground. The wooden structure was soon replaced by the present brick structure.

May 31, 1945
Johnston Memorial Park opened. It was dedicated to the men and women from town who served in World War II.

The Graniteville volunteers at Johnston Hose Company 2 bought the town's first ambulance, a converted hearse.

The impressive St. Rocco's Church opened on Atwood Avenue in Thornton. It was the heart of the Italo-American community for the area.

The first fire station in the western side of Johnston opened on Hartford Avenue.

Crandall's Dairy moved their processing facility from Providence to Morgan Avenue.

January 10, 1957
Former Lieutenant-Governor Zenas Work Bliss died.

The Johnston Junior-Senior High School opened, the town's first high school since 1898. The building later became the Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School.

November 1961
The Marian J. Mohr Memorial Library opened, giving the town its first library since 1898.

The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad terminated freight service on the rail line that ran through Graniteville (the former Providence & Springfield Railroad), ending the railroad era in Johnston.

Johnston High School's first graduating class of the modern era. During this year the school's baseball team won the state championship.

Johnston's first full-time, paid firefighters were hired to work out of the new Fire Department Headquarters on Atwood Avenue. Johnston's other stations continued to be covered by on-call, part-time firefighters.

Albert and Anthony Silvestri, owners of a gravel pit on Shun Pike, began accepting trash.

June 8, 1968
A new police/fire headquarters at 1520 Atwood Avenue was formally dedicated.

January 1971
Ralph Russo, later Ralph aRusso, began his term as Town Administrator. In 1974, his job title was changed to Mayor, at which point he became Johnston's first mayor.

Thomas R. DiLuglio, the only person from Johnston to serve as Lieutenant-Governor, took office.

The Johnston Police Station opened this year. It was the first building in town that was used exclusively by the police department.

December 1980
Albert and Anthony Silvestri's property on Shun Pike was purchased by the state to be used as a landfill for most of the state's garbage.

September 23, 1984
Farnum House (later renamed Elisha Angell House) became the new headquarters and property of the Johnston Historical Society.

January 1995
Louis Perrotta was sworn in as the second Mayor of Johnston.

January 1999
William Macera was sworn in as the third Mayor of Johnston.

September 23, 2001
The Johnston History Museum opened in a new reproduction barn at 101 Putnam Pike.

January 2007
Former Rhode Island State Senator (1993-'99 and 2001-'07) Joseph M. Polisena was sworn in as the fourth Mayor of Johnston.

The Central Landfill was reported to be about 564 feet tall, twenty feet taller than Pine Hill, the highest natural point in town.

The Town of Johnston celebrated the 250th anniversary of its founding with a series of events sponsored by the Johnston Historical Society, including a party, a scavenger hunt, and a historical sites tour.

April 5, 2022
In a special referendum, Johnston voters overwhelmingly approved issuing up to $215 million in bonds to pay for renovating and building new schools in town.

January 9, 2023
Joseph Polisena, Jr., son of the previous mayor, was sworn in as the fifth Mayor of Johnston.

October 9, 2023
A controversial statue of Christopher Columbus, sculpted in the 1890s by FrŽdŽric Auguste Bartholdi, is unveiled in Johnston Memorial Park. It was removed from its long-time location in Providence's Elmwood Avenue neighborhood due to repeated vandalism.

Home | About Us | Properties | Events | Publications | History

Johnston Historical Society, 101 Putnam Pike, Johnston, RI 02919, (401) 231-3380,
Unless otherwise noted, all content is © 2006-2009 Johnston Historical Society.

Updated November 2023