NORTH KINGSTOWN—At the insistence of many town officials and local residents, the town council presented a proclamation on Monday evening to establish G. Timothy Cranston, North Kingstown’s go-to historical resource, as the town’s first official historian. Cranston has published and spoken widely about North Kingstown’s historic people and places, and takes up the role with pride.
“It is a great honor, especially to be the first official town historian of North Kingstown,” said Cranston. “I feel like it is something that is an honor to me and to the folks of the Town of North Kingstown.”
“We have almost 40 years of history, and there are a lot of people who have paved the way for us,” he added. “I just try to bring those people back to life by remembering their lives.”
Cranston, who also works for the town as a water quality specialist, is himself descendant from a long line of Cranstons dating back to the first landings of pilgrims in the New World.
“My first ancestor, John Cranston, came to the colony of Rhode Island right at the very beginning in 1635 with Anne Hutchinson’s group,” said Cranston. “There has been a Cranston in Rhode Island ever since then.”
John Cranston became governor of the Rhode Island colony in 1678 and was succeed by his son Samuel, who also became governor. Upon realizing the full impact that his ancestors had throughout the history of Rhode Island, Cranston began researching stories about his family and, from his work, a greater appreciation and desire to learn about North Kingstown’s history was born.
“[His family history] has been in my blood since I was a young boy, but my foray started with genealogy,” said Cranston. “You come across an interesting story, and I just sort of started stockpiling. Then at one point I decided I’d write a column and have been doing it now for almost 15 years.”
Cranston has been most interested in educating the public, especially students, about the faces that have meant so much to North Kingstown in the past during his time, and has worked with teachers to develop curricula that incorporate local stories and events.
“It is really important to me that the young people of the community get connected to the history of the town,” said Cranston. “This designation will be able to help me to continue to do that.”
The new official historian also strives to tell the stories of the people whose voice is not often heard in the history books, including women, African Americans and Native Americans.
“The one thing I’ve noted about local histories is that they are really about white, Anglo- Saxon men as told by white, Anglo-Saxon men,” said Cranston. “It has been important for me to go back and fix that.”
“You get a flat idea of what the history is all about,” he continued. “You tell girls, for example, about history, and their part is not even mentioned.”
In a letter addressed to the town, high school social studies teacher Christopher Carty praised Cranston for his enthusiasm to work with teachers.
“Tim has selflessly given up his free time to share his passion for North Kingstown history with me,” read Carty’s letter. “Tim has played a major role in the development of the Rhode Island History course which will be offered at the high school next year.”
“His extensive knowledge of the town’s history, combined with his enthusiasm and willingness to share has been the key link to taking the potential course offering to a class that will be rich in local history,” it continued.
Many others sent letters to the council as well, including representatives of the Planning Department, the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, and numerous local historical organizations, praising Cranston’s work and passion for history.
“My part [is] to fill in the blanks on history, and it has been exciting and interesting to me because some of the stories you come across are very neat,” said Cranston. “It is very fulfilling to get those stories out so folks can learn about them.”