MILLVILLE — The town may have lost its longtime local historian and teacher Margaret M. Carroll
on March 13, but it did not lose the lesson plan she wrote for the area from her well-lived life
preserving the highlights of the place she called home.
If you knew Margaret as I did over many years, you know about the list of long overlooked relics
of the past that she not only helped cast in a spotlight, but preserved for many generations to
They are historic buildings like the Chestnut Hill Meeting House – built in 1769 and still standing in
her town – and places like the Blackstone Canal and tow path that opened in 1828. One of its
almost perfectly preserved granite locks still exists in the woods alongside the Blackstone River
off Hope Street, where Carroll would lead many to marvel at its 19th century technology.
Margaret’s reach as a historic storyteller and preservationist went beyond the town’s borders, as
she was a key voice among those leading the
U.S. Congress to establish the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor
(“a very long name,” Sen. Chafee used to say) back in 1986.
She was instrumental in preserving historic locations along its course from Worcester to
Providence, the route the old Blackstone Canal boats would follow.
What made that all possible, of course, was Margaret’s unparalleled enthusiasm for the area’s
history and its people – many of them her friends in the cause – and others she had connected
with in some way during her 97 years of living.
She was the Millville Elementary School teacher who opened young minds to life’s possibilities for
37 years before her retirement in 1986, but also a school friend of the town boys going off to fight
World War II who wrote a hometown newsletter to keep them informed.
I had the privilege of listening to Margaret, the meticulous historian, as she recounted local facts
that would one day end up on many of the information kiosks now found in her beloved
There have been many other area historians I have had a chance to work with while covering the
Blackstone Valley over the years, folks like Woonsocket’s Phyllis Thomas, Ray Bacon and Martin
Crowley; North Smithfield’s Eugene Peloquin and Irene Nebiker; and Burrillville’s Patricia
Mehrtens – and all have done their part to keep history alive for many others.
Margaret was someone who had so many brands in the fire that you eventually ran into her again
and again as she pursued another preservation effort or teaching project.
That might be the discovery of writing on a long-covered classroom blackboard in a historic town
school, or a tour of the Blackstone Gorge above the Tupperware property in Blackstone that still
looks as it did before the town grew around it.
Early on, it was a tour of the cherished meeting house at the corner of Thayer Street and
Chestnut Hill Road. Margaret took me upstairs to see the heavy and wide planks of native trees
used to build it. She was a president of the Chestnut Hill Meeting House and Cemetery
Association and helped win its designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
She was also my guide on my first visit to the Millville Lock, taking me downslope from a nearby
Hope Street neighborhood on a route that was probably another memory from her youth.
The lock was pretty much left to local folks in the years before the Corridor, and abandonment
and neglect can sometimes allow a treasure to be overlooked long enough for someone like
Margaret to come along and save it.
I remember her telling the story of the no-longer-watered lock as she stood atop its granite block
sides and finished with an explanation of why a couple of the stones had been displaced. It turns
out, she had learned, a couple of her former students – obviously older and stronger – had done
the deed and later admitted it to her.
The stones still remain in the position they were moved and Margaret’s story remains a
memorable footnote in the history of the lock.
Another time, Margaret relayed her memory of seeing what may have been the remains of an old
canal barge down in a river portion of the canal with her father years ago and helped a group of
divers check out one possible location of memory. The divers found a few pieces of wood, likely
unrelated, and unfortunately no intact remnant of the canal’s bygone workings.
But with Margaret, there was always something new to pursue – visitor centers, tow path
restorations, and more recently even a state and federally funded bike path passing by the old
Millville Lock on a section of the Boston & Hartford Railroad bordering Charles M. Hays’ Southern
New England Railway line of the Grand Trunk Railroad route in the Blackstone Valley.
Yes, Hays was also among Margaret’s history lessons. When I visited the lock and bike path the
other day, I wasn’t surprised to learn a walker heading out with his dog from the parking lot in
Millville already knew about Charles Hays and his connection to the Valley.
Hays had planned to build the spur line from Providence through Woonsocket, Blackstone and
Millville to a connection in Palmer, Mass. that would continue onto Canada as an alternative to
Margaret loved to tell of Hays’ plans to build above all his competitors’ lines, a plan that included
a high-level crossing of the Blackstone River near the Blackstone line and that would use still-
existing concrete abutments in Woonsocket – like the one located next to Cass Park and another
on George Street. Unfortunately for the local Grand Trunk line, Hays chose the Titanic for his
voyage home from a railroad business trip to Europe in 1912 and didn’t survive the fated
transatlantic liner’s sinking.
Margaret was also wellversed in the history of Joseph Banigan and his Banigan Rubber Co.,
which would become the Woonsocket Rubber Company and later a part of the U.S. Rubber Co.
Banigan was a key factor in Millville’s initial economic success and the homes along Hope Street
near the lock were built for the workers of his plant as another of Margaret’s historical footnotes.
As with many things that Margaret brought to light over the years, one part of Millville’s history
was usually connected in some way to another.
One tour she took me on led us to Millville’s “Field of Dreams,” near where Banigan’s plant had
been located off Main Street.
Margaret remembered the field as the Rubber Shop Oval, the place where Major League
Baseball Hall of Famer Charles “Gabby” Hartnett of the Chicago Cubs had played with the
industrial league teams sponsored by area manufacturing plants.
Hartnett, a Woonsocket native, had family ties to Millville and learned his trade as catcher locally.
When the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians – the team of an another Woonsocket Hall of
Famer, Napoleon Lajoie – were to face off in the 2016 World Series, Margaret once again had a
story of Millville to tell.
After going off to the Cubs, Hartnett would come back to Northern Rhode Island from time to time
and visit with his family in Millville, she related before the World Series.
“Oh yes, my God, everybody in town knew him,” Carroll said. “He was everywhere in town when
he came to visit.”
She also recalled Hartnett driving up to her family’s home on a motorcycle one day to talk to her
father, Thomas Carroll.
“He was a happy guy, he was a happy man and he always had a smile on his face,” Carroll
recalled. When he greeted her father, a longtime friend, she remembers he “wrapped his arm
around my father and lifted him off the ground,” Carroll said at the time.
Hartnett never forgot his town and would stop in whenever he was in the area playing games or
traveling to New England, she noted.
She also told how Hartnett visited the old Rubber Shop Oval for an old timer’s game in 1946 and
was photographed in uniform with his fellow players.
Margaret never lost track of those she knew – as her World War II letter project shows – and she
also kept track of the successes of her friends as the years passed.
John J. McNamara, one of Margaret’s elementary school chums, was among Millville’s World War
II combat veterans who earned a Purple Heart with the U.S. Marines, and probably read
Margaret's hometown newsletter overseas.
McNamara came home and spent his life with his wife, Evelyn, helping his community as so many
of his generation had done.
He was an active member of St. Augustine Parish in Millville, served as a member of the
Selectmen and the Blackstone-Millville Regional High School Committee, and helped with many
other important projects for his community, Margaret remembered upon his passing October
What she said then about McNamara, a man she described as “(Walking) like a drill sergeant,
and it was all pride in Millville, pride and spirit,” said a lot about herself.
Noting McNamara’s passing, Carroll said she felt as if a void had opened in Millville.
“Oh yes, it is a great loss to those who knew John McNamara,” she said at the time. “But it is an
even greater loss for those who never knew him and don’t know what he meant to the town.”
I’m thinking the same thoughts about Margaret and all she gave to her town.
Neighboring Towns Menu HOME
Steere House in Providence, Rhode Island. Born in Woonsocket, she was the daughter of the
late Thomas F. and Anna (Masterson) Carroll.
She is survived by four nephews, Lawrence J. Carroll, Jr. (Madeline), Michael T. McGahan
(Martha), John G. Carroll (Wendy) and Timothy J. McGahan; thirteen nieces, Sr. Anne Carroll
SSJ, Ann Tabor Lane (Richard), Diane Carroll, Frances Carroll-Statler, Linda Carroll,
Margaret McGahan Skehan (Dennis), Jane Tabor Martel (Sam), Maureen A. McGahan, Jill
Tabor, Helen Carroll Kennedy, Kathleen C. McGahan, Carroll E. McGahan and Madonna
McGahan Oftring; thirty four great nephews and nieces, twenty seven great-great nephews
and nieces and one great-great-great nephew. Margaret was preceded in death by three
brothers, Thomas F., Lawrence C. and Rev. William A. Carroll SJ; two sisters, Elizabeth
Carroll Tabor and Anne Carroll McGahan; nephews, Michael, William, Phillip and Thomas
Carroll, Ernest and George Tabor; nieces, Jo Ann McGahan and Elizabeth Tabor Thompson.
Margaret was a dedicated teacher for 37 years in the Blackstone Millville Regional School
District retiring in 1986. She graduated from Hill College and received her Masters Degree
from Providence College. She was a highly-respected public servant who devoted her life to
the Town of Millville and the greater Blackstone Valley. She served on numerous boards,
committees and commissions, including as a charter member of the Millville Historical
Commission, the Chestnut Hill Meeting House and Cemetery Association, a charter member
of the Volunteers in Parks Program with the National Park Service, a charter member of the
Blackstone Millville Educational Foundation, the Millville Cable Commission, the John H.
Chaffee Blackstone River Heritage Corridor Commission and Education Chairman of the
Heritage Homecoming Weekend. Margaret was a Trustee of the Veterans Memorial Park and
served as Vice Chairman of the Millville Elementary School Building Committee. The Margaret
M. Carroll Auditorium was named in her honor. In 2016 she was a member of the Centennial
Celebration Committee where she directed a Millville Memories Show and served as a Grand
Marshall of the Centennial Parade.
Margaret received numerous awards for her public service throughout her life, including the
John H. Chaffee Award in 2001 from the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor
Commission and the Local Preservationist Award in 2010 from the Massachusetts Historical
Commission for her passion and dedication to Millville and the Blackstone River Valley. The
gazebo at the Veterans Memorial Park was recently dedicated to her in recognition of her life
and service to the town.
Margaret's love and devotion to her hometown of Millville was unparalleled. She was so proud
of the town and the part it played in the Blackstone Valley and shared that love with all. She
testified at a hearing before the United States Congress to have the Blackstone Valley
designated a National Corridor to preserve for present and future generations the unique
and significant value of the Valley.
Margaret was a devoted member of St Augustine's Parish in Millville, where she served on
the Building Committee for both the Church and St. Monica's Parish Center. She was Vice
Chairman of both the Pastoral Council and the 125th Anniversary Committee. She devoted
countless hours to the youth of the Parish through her work with the Catholic Youth Council.
Margaret had a tremendous impact and positive influence on countless people, but it was her
love of family that was above all else. "Maggie" to her family, was a devoted and
unconditional supporter of every member of her loving extended family. She was so proud of
their accomplishments large or small and they in turn showered her with affection.
The family wishes to acknowledge with gratitude the wonderful care and support Margaret
received from the Staff at the Steere House.
Private funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Holt Funeral Home, 510 South
Main St., Woonsocket. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at a later date. In lieu of flowers,
memorial contributions may be made to St. Augustine's Church, 17 Lincoln St, Millville,
Published by Worcester Telegram & Gazette from Mar. 16 to Mar. 17, 2021.