Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rhode Island Historical Cemetery, Cumberland 3 (October 12, 2016) -- Part VI

In this sixth and final post of the Cumberland 3 Cemetery series, I am presenting the last of the documents found in the Cemetery file that was kept by my maternal grandfather, Everett S. Carpenter, and subsequently passed down to me.

Among the last seven miscellaneous documents found in the Cumberland Cemetery file are: five customer copies of "personal service checks" drawn on the Pawtucket Institution For Savings in the years 1955 and 1956; a business card of John P. Cannon, Right of Way Agent with the Rhode Island Division of Roads and Bridges; and a 4 in. x 6 in. piece of notepaper with penciled notes about a "Mrs. Alexander Dale," "Martha A. Kendrick," and a "C. Babbitt, Jr." I present these items below in the hope that they might be of some assistance to others who are interested in piecing together more of the history of Cumberland Cemetery 3, or who might find the information and names of some use in tracking down ancestors or relatives.

The above business card appeared loose in the manilla envelope containing the Cumberland Cemetery 3 files. It was not attached to or seemingly associated with any other document in the files and there is no mention of, or explanation about, the card in the notes of the cemetery corporation.

A "Right of Way Agent" is an official who performs various duties with respect to real estate, but the main purpose and duty of such an official may be the securing of property rights for another. This can include private third parties or government agencies. The Right of Way Agent will often have to identify land owners who might be affected by a planned project; obtain accurate appraisals of subject land; establish a face-to-face meeting with landowners to establish a relationship and discuss a planned project; perhaps negotiate a sale of subject property; and --in the event of damages resulting from the implementation of a project -- work to settle damage disputes.

It is unknown if there were any state-involved projects that would have required discussion, negotiation, or perhaps sale of any of the property owned by the Cumberland Cemetery, Inc., but it is possible that a project related to improvement to Dexter Street brought Right of Way Agent John Cannon calling on my grandfather or other representatives of Cumberland Cemetery, Inc.  The answer might lie in the historical records of the Division of Roads and Bridges.

The next miscellaneous items in the Cumberland Cemetery file are the five personal service checks shown above.

The first check is made out to Amos Egerton in the amount of $17.00 on March 15, 1955. This is apparently for Mr. Egerton's periodic care and maintenance of certain funded gravesites in Cumberland Cemetery. This check is in exactly the same amount ($17.00) as itemized in his invoice/receipt dated December 22, 1954, which is depicted in Part V of this series.

The other four checks are all written in series (Nos. 53857 - 53860) on the same date -- January 31, 1956. The last in the series is written to the Secretary of State of Rhode Island for $2.00 and is most likely the annual corporate registration fee. Another of the checks is again written to Amos Egerton in the same amount as before -- $17.00. A fourth check is made out to "George Savage" for $18.00. What this payment was for and who Mr. Savage was is unknown at this time. The final check dated January 31, 1956 (No. 53859) is made out to my grandfather, Everett S. Carpenter, in the amount of $25.00. Unlike all the other checks (which are signed by my grandfather as Treasurer for Cumberland Cemetery), this check has a notation under the signature line that might indicate what the payment was for, but unfortunately it is illegible.

Finally, there is the note shown immediately above. It contains three names and a reference to the northeast corner of the Carpenter lot in the cemetery.  The names might be persons who purchased or wanted to purchase lots in the cemetery, but the note and names could just as well have some other purpose.  The actual purpose of the note is probably now lost in time. The three names are . . . 

               Mrs. Alexander Dale
               1662 Lonsdale Ave.
               Lonsdale, RI

               Martha A. Kendrick (Stone)

               C. Babbitt, Jr.
               Crowell St.

None of the surnames mentioned in the note shown above are listed in the records of plot purchasers or Cemetery officers (see previous posts in this series -- especially Part III). The reference under Martha A. Kendrick (Stone) to the northeast corner of the Carpenter lot probably relates to an interest in purchasing a lot located there, but here is no record in the Cemetery files I have of a Kendrick or Stone lot being purchased. Perhaps additional research in the future by me or someone else can help identify who Mrs. Alexander Dale, Martha Kendrick, and C. Babbitt, Jr. were.

So what do all these lost and newly discovered documents about Cumberland Cemetery 3 indicate?

To begin with, the documents include what are probably two previously unknown early plats of the property that is now Cumberland Cemetery 3.  Notations on the plats together with minutes by the Cemetery trustees provide new supporting evidence for the belief that the property was a burial ground before the time of the 1870 incorporation of Cumberland Cemetery, Inc.

It is also very clear in a review of these documents that the cemetery was overseen by generations of volunteers who were left to solicit and cajole owners of lots and their relatives and descendants to either care for and maintain the lots in the cemetery, or contribute voluntarily money and/or labor to keep the cemetery from falling into disrepair.  Since none of the lots were endowed with funds for future care and maintenance (save for the Howe and Dana lots funded with bequests -- see Part IV), the trustees had very limited funds to invest and use for general cemetery care and maintenance or for perpetual care of the individual, unfunded lots. 

The sale of the cemetery lots without any requirement for care and maintenance financing for future gravesite and cemetery upkeep, proved eventually to be a fatal flaw for the viability of the cemetery. The trustees/officers were reduced to issuing pleas for funds and/or volunteer labor, but apparently the calls were largely ignored or wholly inadequate to the needs of the cemetery as it aged from the 19th century into the 20th century. Relatives and descendants gradually moved away or lost the family memory of those interred in Cumberland Cemetery 3 . . . and the cemetery fell into disrepair through neglect and the aging and death of the original trustees and their interested descendants. 

Te sad story of Cumberland Cemetery 3 is quite likely a story that was repeated throughout Rhode Island in the case of private cemeteries. While many of these cemeteries have been identified and marked as historic sites, it is only through the efforts of dedicated, selfless volunteers such as Ken Postle and his many assistants with River Road and Blackstone River Valley Cemeteries that continued discovery and restoration of these sites is underway today. 

It is sincerely hoped that the discovery and publication of the documents related to Cumberland Cemetery 3 in the six parts of this series will be of some assistance to Ken and his wonderful volunteers AND to folks who might be looking for ancestors or relatives with connections to Cumberland and its immediate environs. I would be thrilled if this series and the documents presented led anyone to the discovery of the final resting place of a lost family member or members!

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All photographic images in this series are by the author. All document images are from originals in the file inherited from the author's maternal grandfather, Everett S. Carpenter, and are now in the author's personal collection. 
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Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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