Friday, May 20, 2016

Rhode Island Historical Cemetery, Cumberland 3 (May 20, 2016) -- Part I

Rhode Island Historical Cemetery -- Cumberland 3 taken in late March 2010.

The Rhode Island Historical Cemetery (Cumberland 3) is located on Dexter Street in Cumberland. It has long been in disrepair -- although of late there has been interest by a small group of kind and dedicated people in repairing the damage done by time, long neglect, and some unfortunate vandalism of the past.

I visited the Cumberland Cemetery in late March 2010 toward the end of several dreary, gray, very rainy days that had resulted (just a day or two earlier) in the flooding and closure of Interstate 95 in the Providence area.  I visited because I have ancestors and relatives who are buried in this particular cemetery.  Despite the inclement weather the day I visited, I walked the entire cemetery taking stock of the conditions and documenting via photographs as many headstones as I could before the rain started up again. I have photos of some 56 or more headstones found in the cemetery in late March 2010.

Fast forward about five and a half years after my last visit. On September 18, 2015 I received an email from Diane Boumenot of the wonderful blog, One Rhode Island Family. Diane and I have never met in person, but we have corresponded for a few years now and I am a dedicated reader of her blog. In her email, she very kindly shared with me a photograph of a damaged headstone found in Cumberland Cemetery and reassembled by Ken Postle and his helpers. It turns out the headstone is that of my 4X great uncle, Aurin Miller (April 22, 1800 - November 27, 1859).  

There are several Millers, Carpenters, Bishops, and Angells buried in Cumberland Cemetery and many, if not most of them, are relatives of mine. I am very appreciative of what Ken Postle and his crew are doing in this and other cemeteries!

In my reply of thanks to Diane, I mentioned that I had some papers that belonged to my maternal grandfather, Everett Shearman Carpenter, that I needed to dig out of storage because I seemed to recall some of them related to the Cumberland Cemetery. I have finally gotten around to pulling out the papers and giving them a closer look.  It was an understatement to say I thought I had papers that merely "related" to Cumberland Cemetery. I have what I think is a small treasure trove of documents about the history of the cemetery and this is the first of a series of posts where I will share the information and images for those who are interested. Perhaps the documents and the information they contain can help in some small way to memorialize the history of the cemetery and encourage continued repair and preservation of this historic site.

To begin with, the plat shown immediately below depicts the various parcels that were conveyed by James Dexter or Timothy Dexter and eventually became the irregularly shaped site of the future Cumberland Cemetery. The plat is undated, but as will be seen in a future post in this series, it pre-dates subdivision of the Sumner plat, the Leighton plat, and the unnamed parcel running along the east side of England Street. The information it depicts probably dates from before 1870.

Although the site of the Dexter Street cemetery existed as a burial ground for many years prior to 1870, Cumberland Cemetery was incorporated in 1870 after proposed legislation was "received and passed" by the Rhode Island House of Representatives on June 14, 1870 and "received and concurred" by the Senate on June 15, 1870. There were eight initial incorporators named in the act approved by the legislature:

George A. Kent               Addison Kinsman
                                   James G. Dexter               Eber Miller [my 3X great grandfather]
Joseph G. Fiske               Daniel A. Miller
Baylies Bourne               William C. Dexter

In accordance with Section IV of the incorporating legislation, the conveyance of lots in the Cumberland Cemetery were mandated to be by deed duly executed by the treasurer of the corporation. Such deeds vested in the purchaser full ownership of the lot conveyed.  Property owned by the corporation or by individual owners/purchasers was exempt from taxation. But, the burial lots sold by the corporation were not sold with any provision for the perpetual care of the deeded properties.  The upkeep of individual lots was the duty and responsibility of the heirs of the original owners . . . and, as we shall see, therein lies the problem.

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All images by the author -- or from scanned original documents in the author's personal collection -- except the photograph of the repair of the Aurin Miller headstone, which is courtesy of Ken Postle via Diane Boumenot.
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Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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  1. What a great set of documents that you have! And what fate for them to be in the hands of someone who will share them! I'm looking forward to more of this and I don't even have relatives there!

    1. Thank you Laura! I was pretty amazed at what I had when I finally got around to looking closely at the papers. I have more to come on this particular cemetery and look forward to sharing the information and the documents.

  2. I found your 2 maps of the cemetery interesting. Each map shows no separate division between what is now known and labeled as CU3 and CU4 (sometimes referred to as the Old Indian burial Ground) It seems as though this was all one unified burial area back then.