Festival Photos: 1970s & '80s Historic Mill Photos Tours of the Mill Food Donations
About Kenyon's Grist Mill
Kenyon's Grist Mill is the oldest manufacturing business in Rhode Island, and the second oldest continuously operating business in the state. Although their current building dates back to 1886, they have been grinding meals and flours on site since 1696. The mill continues to use the original granite millstones that were quarried from Westerly, Rhode Island. These huge stones produce exceptional texture and quality not found in modern, steel ground flours. Single pass stone grinding preserves the vital, natural nutrition of the grain. Kenyon's offers the ingredients that health conscious consumers are searching for, ground the simple, old fashioned way of long ago. In addition to meals and flours, they also blend a wide variety of mixes, containing their freshly ground products, free of additives and preservatives. Kenyon's is best known for their stone ground white corn meal or "Johnny Cake Meal". For tour information, click here.
The Event's "Stone Soup" Mission Project
The Johnny Cake Festival is similar to the story of Stone Soup. At Kenyon's Grist Mill in the small village of Usquepaugh, we build a fire, add some water and put in the stones. This creates a venue where local businesses can come together, join a support system, and show off what they do best. The mission is to strengthen the community and local businesses by working together, networking, assisting, cross marketing, and promoting each other. The event promotes local culinary specialties, agriculture, handmade art, history, and education. The outreach is to those who value the importance of supporting local products. We are proud to source all logistics from local companies. This includes buses, security, signage, facilities, ATM, and so much more. Area businesses also get secondary benefits.
Every stir and every ingredient is important to making the spirit of this event work. Visitors contribute by meeting local businesses, both old and new, and purchasing from a variety of local products. The opportunity is given to learn about the area's history and heritage so that knowledge can be passed down to generations. Items that are unique to the season and to the area can be enjoyed. Donations of food and clothing are collected to benefit the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale. This directly benefits Rhode Island families and individuals in need. Volunteers are exposed to potential jobs by meeting owners and mangers directly and by gaining experience in their field. A portion of every Johnny Cake order is donated to the Rhode Breast Cancer Coalition. This will assist in awareness, prevention, healing, and research in finding a cure. Musicians get more exposure and vendors get a chance to promote themselves and gain more regular customers. Families spend more time with each other. Sponsors, media and staff also have crucial roles and benefits. All of the event's income goes "back in the pot" to cover a portion of the expenses. Any additional earnings are donated to our benefactors. You will not find any commercialized items or carnival action here. This homespun event is made from an old-fashioned recipe that has always been nourishing with long lasting results. It is this kind of partnership that creates a delicious stew that can be enjoyed by all. Together, we become stronger.
Event's History: Past to Present
The original Johnny Cake Festival was founded in 1973 by Paul Drumm Jr., owner of Kenyon's Grist Mill. The event continued until 1985. It started out as a small village fair and expanded into a nationally known festival. Yet, even in its growth, it still remained a simple country event, run by country people, for visitors around southern New England and afar. The festival included a giant craft show, an antique car show, aircraft show, band concerts, local food, tours, and a parade that stretched from the village to the Richmond Airport, temporarily shutting down Route 138. For older photos of the festival, click here.
In 2009, Kenyon's Grist Mill began hosting a series of events again, one for spring, summer, and fall. These small "open-house" style events grew larger in only one year. The Harvest Festival in October was naturally the largest of them all. In 2010, with high ambitions, Kenyon's Grist Mill sought to have three events, a Spring Festival, Summer Festival and Harvest Festival. Though plans were made to make them all unique and different, the Spring Festival had to be unexpectedly cancelled due to the devastating flood that hit Rhode Island in March. For 2010 flood photos, click here. Although the mill was not affected, the property around the mill was severely damaged. Temporary repairs were made with determination and hard work and the Summer Festival and Harvest Festival continued. After a difficult 2010, Kenyon's decided to focus solely on one event. In 2011, the Harvest Festival merged with the old Johnny Cake Festival for the first time, namely the Harvest/Johnny Cake Festival. The tradition continues once again... Saying thank you to volunteers and Kenyon's Grist Mill's small staff goes a long way! We are dedicated year-round to create something truly unique.
"Brief History of Usquepaugh" Excerpts By: Virginia Arnold
Usquepaugh, a rural village nestled beneath Little Pine Hill, is situated on both sides of the Queen's River, partly in Richmond and partly in South Kingstown. Most homes in the village were built around 1855. Since fireplaces were used for heating and cooking, many were built around a large central chimney. Here and there, old stone foundations and cellar holes still remain where houses, mills and other buildings once stood. The Kingstown Road runs through the village nearly the same path as when the settlement was under the rule of Britain's King.
Usquepaugh is pronounced ‘uhs-kah-pog’. What does it mean? ‘Usque’ means fire, life or spirit and ‘paugh’ means water. Just as hundreds of towns and villages are named by local Native American Indian origin, you might hear us say that Usquepaugh is somewhere between Quonochontaug and Escoheag! Although that is very true, it may be easier to explain that Usquepaugh is in the town of West Kingston, which is in South Kingstown, which is in South County, which is in Rhode Island. This quaint town is located off Route 138, 5 miles from Route 95 and 5 miles from the University of Rhode Island. Some say that "Usquepaugh" was likely misspelled from "Usquebaug", a Scottish word meaning "water of life". This adapted from the interpretation of the original Native American Indian word, "Wowoskepog" or "Wauwaskepog".
Several important inventions originated in the area. Grant invented the felt hat body, Slocum invented the sausage meat cutter and Silas Mumford invented a burr cleaner for cleaning wool. The Queen's River Baptist Church property was given to "set a meeting house on" in 1844. The present church house was completed in 1918. The Usquepaugh Post Office & General Store was established on June 1, 1849 under Postmaster John Slocum. It was disestablished on May 15, 1939.
The mill property was first recorded as being called, "Cottrells", and later, "Mumford's Mills". The name, "Kenyon Corn Meal Company" was established in 1909 when C.D. Kenyon bought the grist mill and property from Charles Hanson. C.D. Kenyon was the first miller to brand and package the cornmeal for individual consumers. The Drumm family bought the mill in December 1971. It is now owned and operated by Paul Drumm III who took over the mill from his father, Paul Drumm Jr. For older photos of the mill and village of Usquepaugh, click here.