EAST GREENWICH — History throughout the town comes in many forms. Whether it’s old buildings or old streets, many detailed signs and elements of a time gone by are still in existence today.
Those elements also include old gravesites, where residents and important figures from many generations ago that helped East Greenwich become the town that it is now lay in peace.
And it’s those gravesites that one local preservation group is looking to come up with a commission for help keep that specific history intact.
Alan Clarke and Chairperson Margaret Malcolm of the Kent County chapter of the Rhode Island Commission of Historical Cemeteries, brought their concerns about graveyard preservation to the Town Council on July 8, asking if it’s possible to set up a historical cemetery commission that focuses strictly on East Greenwich.
Clarke began his statements to the five-member Council referring that the Old Kent County Courthouse – which is now Town Hall – on Main Street was constructed 210 years ago by a gentleman named Oliver Wickes, who is now buried in East Greenwich Historical Cemetery No. 72, placing emphasis that Wickes has strong standing in East Greenwich lore.
Clarke said East Greenwich has a total of 91 historical cemeteries, which by definition he says are gravesites that are over 100 years old. When the cemeteries were first used, Clarke said residents used to bury their loved ones in the backyards of their properties and family gravesites in backyards on farms were common place many years ago.
Although the status of the larger historical cemeteries in East Greenwich, such as the one on First Avenue, aren’t a major issue, Clarke said the smaller ones are on land that have recently had housing developments built upon them and are in jeopardy.
“It is a problem,” Clarke said. “We have cemeteries that are in people’s front yards. There is one that is 15 feet from a person’s back door.”
Clarke added that the issue at hand is that if a person purchases a piece of property that has a known gravesite is whether or not he or she knows what to do or understands what is involved with having the small cemetery.
For the rest of this story and more local news, pick up the July 18, 2013 issue of the East Greenwich Pendulum.