2018-03-15 / News

Few private burial sites remain in town

BY ROSEMARY ENRIGHT AND SUE MADEN


The marker on the grave of Josiah Arnold was carved at The John Stevens Shop in Newport. It is located in the oldest cemetery in town on the Beavertail peninsula surrounding by Beaverhead Farm. 
JAMESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY The marker on the grave of Josiah Arnold was carved at The John Stevens Shop in Newport. It is located in the oldest cemetery in town on the Beavertail peninsula surrounding by Beaverhead Farm. JAMESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY For many years after Jamestown was settled, the dead were buried in plots on their family farms. Most of these early burial sites disappeared without a trace when the family died or the farm was sold.

References in contemporary documents give hints to the existence of some lost sites.

Quaker records describe the Joseph Greene plot “in the northwest corner of his nether orchard,” but the plot can no longer be found. The Quakers traditionally did not inscribe their headstones, and the markers may have been mistaken for field stones.

Land evidence records for the 1873 sale of 182,880 square feet between Orient Street “and the land of Lucius D. Davis” exempts “the so-called Hopkins burying ground and the passage thereto” from the sale. This may refer to the Paine family gravesite, which early records indicate included the grave of John E. Hopkins.

Some families moved their ancestors’ remains to safer resting places when they left the homestead. The Oliver Arnold burial ground on Taylor Point survived for 200 years. Then in the 1880s, those remains and their stones were moved to Cedar Cemetery, which had been founded in 1861 as a common burial place.

In 1942, the Hazards created a small family cemetery, enclosed within its own stone wall, adjacent to Cedar Cemetery. The Watsons, who donated much of the land on which Cedar Cemetery was built, moved their earlier graves there, too.

As a result, only five private family plots have survived on Jamestown: the cemeteries of the Josiah Arnold, Carr, Paine, Tew and Green-Cottrell families.

The oldest cemetery is Josiah Arnold’s plot on Beavertail, surrounded by Beaverhead Farm. It was established by Captain Josiah Arnold, the son of Gov. Benedict Arnold, one of the original purchasers of the island.

The earliest marked grave is that of Josiah Arnold, “ye son of Josiah & Sarah Arnold, Aged 4 Mo 20 Days,” who died Sept. 3, 1694. Josiah, who died at 78 in 1724, is buried close to the center of plot between his first wife, Sarah, and his second wife, Mary, both of whom predeceased him.

The earliest marker in the Carr cemetery on East Shore Road predates young Josiah’s by about 20 years. The site, however, is not as old as its gravestones. The cemetery was moved to town in 1900 from an early Carr burial ground in Newport that was threatened with destruction.

Captain Thomas Paine, privateer and friend of Captain Kidd, was buried near the house he built on East Shore Road at the north end when he retired from the sea about 1680. His gravestone has been moved at least twice and now does not mark the actual burial site. Some of the other stones in the cemetery were lost in the moves.

The earliest marked grave in the Tew family burial ground on Rosemary Lane is from 1766. Somewhere nearby, their locations unknown, are the graves of Azariah Tew, who died in 1765, and his four children. Avis, the youngest, died just three hours before her father.

Azariah and his little daughter were buried in one grave with Avis’ coffin set on top of her father’s. The town clerk who recorded the deaths noted the double deck burial was “an instance not to be found in the annals of this town and perhaps even rarely in any other corporation in this Colony.”

The most recently established family plot is the Green- Cottrell cemetery on Fox Hill Farm, which originally was part of Josiah Arnold’s Beaverhead Farm. It was bought by William Green in the 1820s, and the earliest grave is that of Coggeshall Green, who died in 1835 “in the 82nd year of his age.”

The gravestones tell a story of a generally long-lived family, although – as was common in the era – many of the children died young. One could weave a story around the deaths of William (age 3) and Elisha (age 8), the sons of Benjamin and Mary Cottrell, who died within two weeks of each other in 1848.

All the family cemeteries are on private property and maintained by the owners of the property.

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