A new local history book to be released Dec. 9 reveals the intriguing characters and everyday citizens who have made Coventry’s history legendary since its incorporation in 1741.
Written by local historian and author of Coventry Patch's "Coventry Roots" column, Andrew Boisvert, Legendary Locals of Coventry shares the stories of unique individuals and groups, past and present, who have had a lasting impact on the community throughout its history. Vintage images coupled with facts and anecdotes culled by Boisvert reveal the fascinating history of Coventry's inhabitants.
For about a year Boisvert traversed the Town of Coventry researching influential residents of the past, arranging meetings, conducting interviews and taking photos to populate the book. He began with a few individuals in mind to feature, but quickly realized that through word of mouth and networking within the town there was no shortage of stories surrounding Coventry and its residents.
"Soon after I started, the people seemed to find me," he said. "The stories just started to come in - some almost seemed to write themselves. I'd chase down the person who contacted me to see what they had. Just by word of mouth when I interviewed people, they would suggest one or two people, who would suggest another person, and so on."
Boisvert said he also reached out to friends, family and former classmates who proved to be terrific resources when pointing him towards interesting Coventry personalities.
Within the 128-page book, readers are introduced to local politicians, authors, business owners, celebrities, town officials and everyday residents who contributed to or made a difference in the Town of Coventry.
The book covers both town greats and unsung heroes like Samuel Gorton, a friend of the Native Americans who fought for religious freedom; George Potter, a Medal of Honor recipient for his service in the Civil War; Byron Read, who opened the town’s first furniture emporium; Ray Gandy, who swam the English Channel; Linda Crotta Brennan, a local children's author; Philip Johnson, who was a Boston Post Cane recipient and many more.
Boisvert says he is excited to share his book with the community and hopes it will "inspire current residents of Coventry to become future legendary locals". He is hosting a book release celebration and signing at the Coventry Community Center, Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. The event will offer guests the opportunity to purchase and have copies signed by Boisvert, view a collection of historical photos that didn't end up in the book, and socialize with local history enthusiasts while enjoying refreshments. All are welcome to attend.
"I want everyone to get involved. I want all the stories to be told," said Boisvert. "The book is a history for the people of Coventry so they can become aware of their connections to the past."
"That's a big part of this book, getting people information so they can go on and find pictures and information about their relatives and background," he continued. "I genuinely believe that people want to know more about their histories, but their lives are so busy now they don't always have time to."
Legendary Locals of Coventry will be available for sale at Tuesday's event, at local retailers like All Booked Up and New England Farm and Artist, online booksellers retailers, and through the publisher at www.legendarylocals.com.
About the Author: Andrew D. Boisvert, a direct descendent of some of the founding families of Coventry, has spent the last 28 years unknowingly preparing for this book. He began by researching his family genealogy around the age of 13, followed by years of experience working or volunteering at historic sites, libraries, and museums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from Providence College in 2000, moved to Coventry in 2009, and was given the opportunity to write about historical places and people of Coventry for Coventry Patch in 2011.
When not doing genealogical or historical research, you’ll find Boisvert cleaning and preserving cemeteries. He is an active volunteer with the Pawtuxet Valley Preservation and Historical Society Cemetery Group, volunteers at the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society as well as the Rhode Island Genealogical Society, and is the vice chairperson for the Historic District Commission for the Town of Coventry.