Tim Cranston can trace his Rhode Island roots back to 1637. It was then that his ancestor John Cranston, a young boy of 12, left Scotland as a ward of Jeremy Clarke, traveling aboard a sailing vessel bound eventually for Rhode Island. He was sent to the “colonies” by his father, a chaplain to King Charles, as he feared retribution would be rained down upon the boy by Cromwell during the long period of turmoil in England. Upon arrival he walked down the gangway to the young streets of Portsmouth and Newport and would later become colonial Governor. His son Samuel would one day marry the grand-daughter of Roger Williams, and eventually would become the longest standing governor in history. The Cranston family eventually went on to settle in North Kingstown; in the villages of Wickford and Swamptown.
Today that long standing lineage, and inherent Rhode Island sense of place, is personified by Tim Cranston, self-proclaimed arbiter of all things “Swamp Yankee,” and local historian of Ye Old North Kingstown and South County, and all of Rhode Island. His popular local history newspaper column has run in the NorthEast Independent for more than fifteen years, and has won two RI Press Association “Spirit of RI” and two PreserveRI Education Awards. His work as a historian and preservation advocate through his non-profit corporation “Swamptown Enterprises” has garnered education and advocacy awards. The South County Tourism Council recently awarded Tim its South County ‘Starlight Award’ for his entertaining and educational walking tours and guided bus tours of the region and the NK Arts Council recently honored his work as the inaugural recipient of its Skog Award. Just this year, the Town Council of North Kingstown honored Cranston by naming him the Town’s very first official town historian. In 2013 PreserveRI and the RI Historic Preservation Commission honored Tim with the Antoinette Downing Award given, when warranted, to the State’s most successful preservation advocate. Tim is now working with the history department at the North Kingstown High School, aiding them in the development of a 12th grade level RI history course.
The culmination of Tim Cranston’s efforts to learn about the details of the history of the village of Wickford, once the RI Colony’s second most important seaport, is the “Walking in Olde Wickford” guidebook series, a four volume set of handbooks to the history of this critically important South County village. Volume 1 covers the area around Main Street, Volume 2 examines the history of the Brown Street business district, the 3rd volume covers the West Main Street section of the village, and the recently released 4th volume will cover both West Wickford, the area centered around the Coalition Corner and the Hamilton Avenue, now known as Boston Neck Road, section of the village. All told, the histories of more than 225 buildings are in these pages. Each volume includes a simple map for the use of the curious traveler and each individual house entry is chock-a-block full of historic photos and tales of the folks that once inhabited these fine homes. The Walking in Olde Wickford guidebooks can be purchased in shops in the village itself or all on line bookstores.