Saturday, December 26, 2009

Epitaph: Chad Brown of Providence

“In Memory of
In this Town!
He was one of the original Proprietors
Having been exiled from Massachusetts
for CONSCIENCE sake.
He had five sons,
John, James, Jeremiah, Chad & Daniel;
Who have left a numerous posterity.
He died about A.D. 1665.
was erected by the TOWN of

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Epitaph: Alexander Duncan, England and Providence

Alexander Duncan's memorial rests close to Cyrus Butler, his long-time friend and relative (by marriage). Alexander was born in Parkhill, Scotland in 1805 and died in London in 1889. His remains were interred in Knossington Church Yard, Leicestershire, England, but he was well-remembered by family and friends in Rhode Island and on the back side of his memorial one can read the salient details of his life:

“Came to the United States in 1822 in the Packet Ship “Amity.” Graduated from Yale College, New Haven. In 1827 became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Resided in Canandaigua, New York. Was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. October 11, 1827, married Sarah Butler, only daughter of Samuel and Sarah Butler. In 1839 took up residence in Providence Rhode Island.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Epitaph: Cyrus Butler, Providence

Well-known in his time, Cyrus Butler was a native Rhode Islander. But we'll let him, or rather his friends tell the story:

"Cyrus Butler was born in Providence and early engaged in commerce with his father and brother whose remains now rest in this enclosure. Distinguished for untiring industry, a resolute will with a clear sagacity and a sound judgment, governed by an uncompromising honesty, devoted the active years of a long life to the pursuits of trade. He accumulated a large fortune by the judicious management of which contributed much to the commercial prosperity of his native town by a munificent donation during his life he aided largely in founding in this city on the banks of the Seekonk River the Butler Hospital for the Insane."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Old North Burial Ground in Providence

One Saturday, before winter was realized in the Ocean State, I took advantage of clear blue skies and bright sun to stroll through the Old North Burial Ground just north of the city of Providence.

One of my favorite bits of sculpture in the cemetery is the memorial to the men from Rhode island who fought in the Spanish-American War:

As with most large cemeteries, casual strolling without an agenda almost always bring forth a surprise or two. What anguish lies behind this simple stone for two very tiny children:

Just a stone's throw away, and close to the Brown family mausoleum, lies the remains of Cyrus Butler, merchant and philanthropist who founded the Butler Hospital for the Insane along the banks of the Seekonk River, and whose memory was recalled by his friend Alexander Duncan:

Duncan himself has a stone right next door, in which he lays out a brief word on his life:

But Duncan is in fact not buried here. According to his headstone, he and his wife were interred in the "Knossington Church Yard, Leicestershire, England."

Another surprise, for me at any rate, was coming across the marker for Stephen Hopkins, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence:

Sleep Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA

A quick hour’s drive north form Providence and we pulled into the wonderful little town of Concord, MA. We were in search of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and had little difficulty finding it since it was within earshot of the town center. Our objective was to find four of the greatest writers in American literature: Henry Thoreau, Ralph “The Waldo” Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. Buried along the spine of what the locals call “Author’s Ridge,” the locations is well marked and quite easy to find.

With a few minutes we stood atop the tiny ridge amidst a cluster of family plots that demarcated the final resting place of so many great wordsmiths in such a small space.

Like Emerson:

. . . and Hawthorne:

. . . and Louisa:

. . . and the man from Walden Pond himself:

After paying our respects to the Concord Four we wandered around the cemetery for a few minutes, amazed at some of the incredible (and incredibly detailed) epitaphs these men and women from so long ago left behind (to amaze us I suppose). We also spent a little time in concord and plan on a return visit in early December. Yes, it is really that kind of a place, one that you want to return to.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Coach in Cranston, RI

I suppose the highlight of my month was a short road trip my wife and I took last Sunday, first to to Cranston, RI and then north to Concord, MA. We wanted to say thanks to Nick "the Coach" Colasanto who, even though he's been gone for many years now, still manages to make us laugh every time we see him on "Cheers." And we wanted to stand in quiet awe of four of American literature's greatest talents.

The day began a little blustery but sunny as we headed off just the couple of miles or so from our house to St. Anne's cemetery in Cranston and conveniently arrived just as church was letting out. We parked the car, found the entrance in this huge burial complex wedged between St. Anne's and St. Mary's churches on Cranston Street, and with our handy guide set off on foot to find the Coach. We passed section after section of stones bearing Italian names, along with some wonderful epitaphs. (One thing New Englanders can be justly proud of is there tendency toward remembering their better sides in death.)

Using the directions out of Tod Benoit’s Where are They Buried we soon found the small, flat stone in section 31 that marked the final resting place of “the Coach.”

Thanks Coach.