ROADSIDE RHODE ISLAND: Ramtail Factory

Welcome to my latest ROADSIDE RHODE ISLAND entry. For this one I will be covering the Ramtail Factory, Rhode Island’s only officially designated haunted landmark. This is a place I have wanted to visit for years, but for some reason never made it. On a recent hike with friends, they told me that Ramtail was nearby so we went to check it out. On the way there I told them the background of the place, the deaths that had happened and the hauntings as well. I also spoke of Thomas D’Agostino many times, as my source of information was from his books.

In 2015 I met Tom for the first time. I have long been a fan of his books as they are well-researched and very well written. Though he has written of many haunted places in New England, Ramtail Factory seems to be his life passion. When I met him, I bought his book “Rhode Island’s Haunted Ramtail Factory” and he was nice enough to draw me a map and give directions on how to find it. Many years later my girlfriend and I saw him speak on Ramtail, in a very entertaining and fascinating discussion.

It was mid-afternoon as we headed to Rams Tail Road in Foster, Rhode Island. It was very easy to find. We pulled in, with the cemetery on our left and we parked. There were a handful of other cars parked as well, one of which said Paranormal Investigator on the bracket around their license plate. It was a beautiful fall day and with the trees changing colors, the sights were breathtaking. We entered the path and started our journey. Up ahead we saw a group of people to the right, on a small hill. It was Thomas D’Agostino himself! He was there with his wife Arlene and a group of young adults who were filming him, talking about the location. Despite this, he took the time to chat with us and answer all of our questions. It’s a good thing too as we were wrong about the location of the factory. We thought it was further up the trail on the right and not actually where we were standing. Round Farm, the location we were thinking of, is often mistaken for Ramtail Factory and in many articles I have read online, use photos from the farm.

There wasn’t much left of the factory, at least upon quick inspection (perhaps this is why photos are often used of Round Farm since what is there is much more visually stimulating). There were foundations, a well and stone walls, as well as holes dug out with all kinds of old bottles, kettles and pots. I have to admit though that I felt a little guilty interrupting the interview so spent less time at this site than I would’ve liked. Of course this just means going back, perhaps at night!

The old well on the path just in front of the entrance to the factory ruins.

Foster Woolen Factory, later known as Ramtail Factory, was founded in 1799 by William Potter, and was built on the Ponagansett River. The factory cleaned and prepared wool to be made into cloth. Later, in 1813, Potter purchased more land with the hope of expanding the business with different partners, including his son-in-law Peleg Walker. Eventually the area included a small village that even included a general store.

The wall to the general store across from the factory.

Peleg was the night watchman of the factory and each night would walk the grounds checking all of the buildings with his lantern. Then, each morning at the end of his shift, he would ring the factory bell telling the employees it was time to come to work.

More ruins from the old store.

It is said that Peleg lived an extravagant life, well beyond his means. He ended up owing the business a substantial amount of money, eventually causing bad blood between Peleg and William Potter. There was never any record as to whether the debt was the source of the dispute. Peleg was rumored to have said something along the lines of “you will have to take the keys to the mill from a dead man’s pocket.”

Remains of the dam in the Ponaganset River.

Then, on the morning of May 19, 1822, the bell never rang. When the workers arrived everything was locked up tight. Potter broke into the main building only to find Peleg dead. One story says that he hung himself and another says that he had met with foul play. Regardless, the keys were in his pocket and he was dead.

A few nights later the village was awoken to the sound of the factory bell tolling at midnight. When the factory door was unlocked the bell stopped and nothing was found. The same thing happened the next night as well. As a result the bell rope was removed with the hope that any pranksters would stop. On the third night the bell tolled once again, forcing the removal of the bell altogether.

The beaver dam stretching across where McLaughlin’s bridge was, leading to the Round Farm.

Later, the locals were then awoken to the sound of the factory running on its own. This then repeated a few nights later, and the workers were starting to get scared that the factory was now haunted. The ones most scared started to leave. It wasn’t soon after that the ghost of Peleg Walker was seen making his rounds at the factory, lantern in hand.

The 1885 census listing Ramtail Factory as haunted.

By 1850 the factory was closed. It had accrued a lot of debt and it was difficult to get anyone to work in a haunted factory. According to Thomas D’Agostino, “The factory’s demise is credited to the haunting of Peleg Walker in the Foster Historical Records Book in the Rhode Island Historical Library.” In 1873, the factory burned to the foundations, possibly by kids.

Legend has it that there were two other deaths in the area that may increase the ghostly activity. A Richard Salisbury was living in one of the run down homes on the property and died after drinking too much. Betsy Grayson, who was also staying at one of the homes, tried to get some water from the Ponagansett River and the current pulled her into the water where she hit her head on a rock and drowned.

The dam wall across the river.

Some of the hauntings experienced include the light of Peleg’s lantern, the sound of an old lantern swinging and the tolling of the factory bell, long since removed. Perhaps in death Peleg is re-paying his debt to Ramtail Factory by staying on the job as night watchman.

I want to thank Thomas D’Agostino for his help with this blog. The information is from his books “Rhode Island’s Haunted Ramtail Factory” and “Ghosts of the Blackstone Valley,” two must-reads. He was also kind enough to identify the pictures I took at Ramtail Factory.

If you would like to read these books, or any of the others by Thomas D’Agostino and his wife Arlene Nicholson, please visit their website HERE. To find out more about his Dining with the Dead 1031 check out their website HERE! For other entries in my ROADSIDE RHODE ISLAND series, just go HERE!

~David Albaugh

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