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Archive for the ‘cemeteries’ Category

I visited the North Burial Ground in Providence this week for the first time.  This large municipal cemetery holds over 35,000 markers (1) and over 100,000 interments (4).  It was begun by the city in 1700 and remains active today, with new burials occurring regularly.  It was originally positioned north of the Providence settlement, but over the centuries Providence and Pawtucket grew around it and it is now located at the intersections of North Main Street and Branch Avenue, with I-95 running along one side.

The southern entrance shows the cemetery office just inside the gates.

The southern entrance with the cemetery office just inside the gates.

Prior to the creation of the cemetery, and during its early years, residents of Providence buried their loved ones in family plots on their own property, since there was no central church and accompanying graveyard.  Gradually, many of those small cemeteries were relocated to the North Burial Ground (4).  By the mid-1800′s there was a desire to make the appearance more rustic and scenic, and extensive landscaping and improvements were undertaken (4).  In the 20th century the cemetery continued to grow but struggled with some deterioration and vandalism.  Today, the cemetery remains a unique and authentic memorial to Providence, past and present.

The downtown Providence skyline, barely visible on the horizon from the center of the cemetery, gives an almost exaggerated idea of the distance.

The downtown Providence skyline, barely visible on the horizon from the center of the cemetery, gives an exaggerated idea of the distance.

Visiting

Those who frequent Rhode Island’s many historic cemeteries will appreciate being able to walk into a cemetery office and get some help finding a grave – a rare opportunity in Rhode Island.

Entrance to the office

Entrance to the office

While it is likely that I have some early ancestors there, I only knew about one grave for sure that I was seeking.  It was the grave of my great-great aunt, Sarah E. Lamphere Capwell (1843-1905).  She was the sister of my gg-grandmother, Emma Lamphere Darling.

I walked into the office (open hours are listed here) with some information in hand that I had found on The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project website (7) about Sarah’s burial.  The staff in the office were patient and cheerful as I stumbled around a little checking the year of burial; it turns out that date is the crucial starting point.  I did know the section (section BE), but they wanted to find the plot record and let me see that.

The book containing the ownership and record of burials for the plot.

The book containing the ownership and burials for the plot I was seeking.

The cemetery records

The record book was extremely helpful.  It showed the layout for the 10 graves in the plot, and gave some information for each one.

The Capwell plot in Section 17, Lot no. 2563.  On the map, the section is called BE.

The Capwell plot in Section 17, Lot no. 2563. On the map, the section is called BE.

The “Proprietor” was Nancy M. Capwell.  Sarah appears to be the first buried, in grave #1. Sarah was married to Burrington Anthony Capwell, who was the son of Nancy Maria (Wesson) Capwell and Joseph Alexander Capwell (a butcher), who were buried next in #2 and #3.  In the 1900 census Nancy Maria reported that she was the mother of 10 children, 4 living, so possibly the five names recorded in the plot record could have been for their children.  The staff explained to me that the scanty records of those names – Sarah, Maria, Caroline, Clark and Lillian – could indicate that they were re-interred from another location.  The last three names – Burrington himself, Sarah’s son Charles, and Charles’ wife, Margaret, complete the plot record.  Since Margaret was actually #11, she apparently shares a grave with her husband.

All interments for the Capwell plot

All interments for the Capwell plot.  The list of names included ages and dates of burial for some of the interred.

The staff pointed out several helpful pieces of information on the sheet.  Names are listed and numbered, and the diagram of the plot shows the appropriate number in each spot.  So you know where each person was buried. The rectangles and lines drawn at the foot of some graves usually represent markers.

The diagram of graves also shows some information about the location

The diagram of graves also shows some information about the location

Underneath the chart is an indication of the location of the plot within the section, indicated by feet from from the nearest roads – “61 ft E of Central –  79 ft S of Prospect area”.

Finding the grave

Staff were ready to accompany me but I was willing to drive over and try to find the grave myself. They gave me a map, and highlighted it with my route.   Section BE was large.  If it weren’t for the specific notations on the page I think I would have had a big problem finding it.  But I counted out the feet and found the spot.

A tiny portion of my map.  You can see where staff pointed out the number of feet from each street.

A tiny portion of my map. You can see where staff pointed out the number of feet from each street.

The map is not online, it is pretty much expected that you will go to the cemetery during open hours Monday through Friday and get specific directions, or be escorted, to the plot you are looking for in the huge cemetery.  Staff are busy, of course, but good at getting visitors the information they need.

Sarah E. Lampher Wife of B. A. Capwell Died Mar 14, 1905 Aged 59 Years

Sarah E. Lampher Wife of B. A. Capwell Died Mar 14, 1905 Aged 59 Years

I found Sarah’s grave among the Capwells.  The plot map and seeing these graves “put to rest” any idea I might have had of finding connections to Sarah’s Lamphere family, for instance, a sibling buried near her.

Sarah is in the second row, at the end.  Her husband Burrington should be immediately in front of her, but he has no marker.  Oddly, his parents have a double marker which says "Mother" and "Father" with dates, but no names at all.  Perhaps there had been plans for one more, grander monument.

The ten graves. Sarah is in the second row, at the end. Her husband Burrington should be immediately in front of her, but he has no marker. His parents have a double marker which says “Mother” and “Father” with dates, but no names at all. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized the short railing (in front) said “Capwell” at ground level. 

Research

The record books in the cemetery office apparently go back to about 1848 (3).  To find earlier information, most people consult John E. Sterling’s North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island : Old Section, 1700-1848 (9).  That book is out of print, so the people at Gaspee Virtual Archives (3) have provided some information about where to find a copy.  There is, of course, a copy available in the cemetery office.

A Firefighters memorial to "Men Killed in the Line of Duty", beginning in 1828.

A Firefighters memorial to “Men Killed in the Line of Duty”, beginning in 1828.

The cemetery is filled with interesting memorials added over the years – a Firefighters memorial, an Elks section, various veterans memorials, to name just a few.

The Elks memorial

The Elks memorial

I’m sure I will be revisiting this huge cemetery in the future, since I suspect I have ancestors among the oldest burials.

Sources for further information

  1. The city of Providence webpage for the Old North Burial Ground
  2. List of names frequently found in the cemetery from The Bucklin Society website
  3. Instructions for finding graves at the cemetery, from the Gaspee Virtual Archives website
  4. National Register of Historic Places nomination form (1977; Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission)
  5. Two volumes of North Burial Ground notes (mostly legacies), from the Early Records of the Town of Providence:  volume 18 and volume 19.
  6. Some old inscriptions are recorded in The Narragansett Historical Register with the title ” The Story of the Tablets” by James L. Sherman  See volume 4 (p. 70, 116, 178, 283) and  volume 5 p. (67, 166, 268).  Find links to all volumes here.
  7. The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project.  This large index can be downloaded in small pdf sections.  It includes entries statewide.
  8. FindAGrave section for the North Burial Ground.
  9. North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island : Old Section, 1700-1848 by John E Sterling.  Greenville, RI : Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2000. This book is out of print.  See the WorldCat record here, and another list of repositories that hold the book here.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/04/14/north-burial-ground-providence

2014-04-11 12.36.05

 

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Recently, on a trip to the Providence Public Library, I found obituaries for Russell and Hannah Lamphere from the Providence Journal.  I was surprised to see that they were buried in their home town of Norwich, Connecticut.  Later, online, I found a list of all those buried in cemeteries that (now) belong to the town of Norwich.  The 976 page pdf of the list (available as a link here) contained Russell and Hannah’s names, and pointed to Section 6, Plot 9 at the Yantic Cemetery, Norwich.

At the Cemetery

This is taken from the cemetery map at the entrance to Yantic Cemetery:

Section 6, Lot 9

The plot has several markers visible, and most likely more burials in the rest of the space.

The area of Plot 9

I have now been there twice.  There are two small markers which may or may not designate where Russell and Hannah are buried; one has initials, the other is more worn.

One of the small markers may have the initials “L R”

The rounded marker in the back is for James D. Lamphere who I believe is Russell’s brother.

James D. Lanphere

“In memory of my husband, James D. Lanphere, born Oct. 14, 1829, died January 27, 1887.  Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”  James left a widow, Mary, and a stepdaughter.

The first (tilted) marker up front is for Russell’s sister Lydia (Lamphere) Palmer, who died fairly young.

Lydia Lamphere Palmer

“Lydia, wife of Henry Palmer, died in Greenville, Nov. 19 1852, aged 45.  —   Mother.”

This brings us to the fifth marker.  It’s a mystery, but since Russell’s wife and mother are still among my mystery women, any information is useful.

The photography lesson

The first time I saw the marker, I took pictures that I couldn’t decipher.

hard to read my first set of pictures

I consulted genealogy friends on Facebook.  Turns out this is a controversial topic, and I got lots of conflicting advice.  When I went today, two of the suggestions worked great.

  • Wet the marker (I had a bottle of water in the car leftover from a recent trip)
  • Photograph in bright sunlight (the sun was going in and out of the clouds, so I waited for it to be right)

This was the result:

Margaret (Gaslin) Bassett

“Margaret Gaslin  widow of Barnabas Bassett  DIED  March 7, 1854 aged 76″

The difference is incredible. Both in person and in photographs, it became much easier to read.

So that was a lot of work just to figure out that the marker belonged to the next plot (#10), the Bassett plot. Which leads me to believe the other tiny, unmarked gravestone may belong to the Bassetts.  Leaving just 3 markers in the Lamphere plot.

Although there are no additional markers, the master list also included in that plot Harry H. Hill and Frank A. Hill.  Those are not names I recognize.

Original Cemetery Records

I also stopped at the Norwich Town Hall to look, once again, for a death record for Russell Lamphere’s mother, Lydia Miner, in 1849 (the death record I have is from The Norwich Aurora).  I didn’t find one.

But I did notice, among some miscellaneous volumes in the records room, an original sales/burial book from Yantic Cemetery detailing some later-sold sections with numbers in the mid-100′s.  My section was 6.  I looked everywhere, and asked if there were earlier volumes, but the clerk could not find any.

What’s Next

  • I will investigate the Hills a little more thoroughly, but there’s always the possibility they were sold spots in the plot but are not related to my family.
  • The original Yantic Cemetery sales records may be somewhere, like a local historical society.  I’ll keep looking.
  • The map says “R and W Lamphere” but I can’t account for a “W Lamphere”.
  • I do not know where Russell’s parents, Russell and Lydia, are buried.  Need to keep exploring that.
  • As I somehow expected, Russell’s loyal associate, Congressman John Turner Waite, who submitted a War Reparations bill for Russell three times in the 1880′s, is also buried in Yantic Cemetery.  I am thinking of approaching the New London Historical Society for more information about him.

John Turner Wait

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