Originally a part of Providence, Johnston became a separate town and was incorporated in 1759. It was named in honor of Augustus Lucas Johnston, of Newport, Attorney General of Rhode Island from 1758 to 1766. He owned much of the land in this area. The first settler was Thomas Clemence who built a house circa 1680, which still stands at 38 George Waterman Road, and is known as the Clemence-Irons House.
Image of Clemence-Irons House
Built by Richard Clemence in 1691, the Clemence-Irons House is a rare surviving example of a "stone-ender," a once common building type with roots in the western part of England.
A soapstone quarry, used earlier by the Indians, and a granite quarry were worked by the early settlers. A cotton mill was built in 1835, and a dyestuffs factory was established about 1870. A major industrial development was the founding of a hosiery company in 1884 which employed more than 100 people.
Image of Dame Farm, Johnston
Although most early settlement was in the eastern part of town, near the Woonasquatucket River and the Providence town center, gradually the Johnston interior was settled for farming. The Brown Avenue Historic District, a National Register property, is centered around the late eighteen- century Dame Farm, and includes 500 acres of farm land, woodlots, orchards, pastures, fields, old burying grounds, and several old farm buildings.
The town of Johnston has several important farmhouses now on the National Register including two eighteenth-century farmhouses belonging to decendents of Thomas Angell, who came from England as apprentice with Roger Williams in 1631. The Angells were amomg the first settlers in town and owned a large tract of land the present Graniteville area.
Image The Elijah Angell House
The Macera family lived in Simmonsville. The village was established in 1822 when James F. Simmons built a mill and two large reservoirs. It was the scene of the disastrous flood of 1840. The mills were re established later. In 1854 William A. Pierce began manufacturing cotton -cloth. Subsequently, the mills went to B. F. Almy, who brought in Italian immigrant workers - perhaps the first to come as laborers to Rhode Island. During the late nineteenth century, members of many of these families went into farming. In the early 20th century, many Italians purchased old farms in the area and made land improve ments. Eventually, Italian Americans comprised the largest ethnic group in the community, playing a major role in its economic, social, and political life.
When not working, residents took time to play and celebrate. The feasts associated with the Italian churches played an important role in the lives of the immigrant populations. The feast of Saint Rocco was particularly important to the Italian immigrants.
Image of Saint Rocco Church
While Michael Macera was on his way to the the beaches of Normandy, Johnston residents desirous of doing something more for the war effort were attending a community meeting to make plans for their Fifth War Loan campaign.
May 31, 1945
Johnston Memorial Park opened. It was dedicated to the men and women from town who served in World War II.