Friday, February 06, 2009

Ghosts of Newport Past - An Introduction

This is the first of what will be a series of photo essays exploring the historic cemeteries of Newport, RI. I have a fascination with graveyards, and especially with the art of stonecarving. I'm especially in love with the colonial-era carvers and their stones; for some reason I have a special attraction to carving on slate, and the simplicity of line in the art, and the lettering styles. But in this series I won't jut stay mooning around in the early boneyards; we'll explore elsewhere as well.

Aquidneck Island was settled in 1638, at the north end in Portsmouth, by Anne Hutchinson and her band of refugees from the Puritan dictatorship in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A year later several families broke off from Hutchinson's group and moved to the southern end of the island to found Newport. So there is a rich mine of material for the colonial gravestone lover. Newport is dotted with small, single-family burial plots - the Coggeshalls, the Arnolds, the Eastons, etc. - as well as larger public burying grounds like the Common Burying Ground and the Clifton Burying Ground. There are church-specific ones, too - the Friends Cemetery and the St. Joseph's and St. Mary's Catholic cemeteries.

This first article is basically an announcement that there's more coming, and some pictures to whet your appetite. I won't be doing them every day, but spread out because there's so much material I'd never survive a daily grind of it. And besides, I can't take you through St. Joseph's and St. Mary's until March, as they're both Irish immigrant resting places and I thought I'd save them for Irish-American History month. But here's a taste of what's to come...

The Common Burying Ground on Farewell St.

The Clifton Burying Ground at Thomas and Golden Hill Streets

The Friends (Quaker) Cemetery

The Easton Family Plot

St. Joseph's Cemetery

St. Mary's Cemetery

And that's the big picture. Details coming soon!

© 2007, 2008, &2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. WOW, Roy, I can't wait! That first picture is fantastic

  2. Roy I love wandering around grave yards! I love your photos! The first one is so very impressive...and Michael who does know a thing or two about photography was impressed when I showed him yesterday!

    I am in for a treat I see!

  3. Roy, I can't wait to see all of your gravestones. Matty and I crawl all over old grave yards around here. We love the old stones and piecing together history by studying the dates and names. I'll be sure to have Matty take a look too. Thanks!

  4. I have been meaning to have a wander over the cemetery that is right next door for AGES. Well, for three months. That's how long I've lived next to it.

    I think this post might just be the impetus I need. No way my photos will be as good as yours though. Wow.

  5. New England cemeteries are wonderful places. There's a town here on the Olympic Peninsula called Port Gamble. It was originally a mill town founded by a couple of brothers from Maine, and they built to look like a Maine seaside village. The cemetery is on a knoll overlooking an inlet of Puget Sound. It is an absolutely enchanted place. Roy, if you ever make it out here, we're going there.

  6. roy, the first shot in this series i had as my laptop background for quite some time. it is just so thought provoking and mysterious.

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  8. I've been meaning to comment on these photos. I love old cemeteries. In Philadelphia, these were some of the most unspoiled (by cigarette butts and litter) spaces. So quiet and dignified.

    When I drive home to Illinois, I take a route through Kentucky on an old highway and twice I have happened upon the same tiny church cemetery. I usually have lunch there and then walk among the markers, noting dates and epitaphs. Last time I chanced to step into the surrounding woods only to find discarded headstones lying where they'd been tossed to make room for newer larger stones, or new occupants.

    I was at first stunned - then mollified - as why not let the stones as well as the inhabitants truly return to peaceful dust?

  9. Just found this site. Beautiful photos! I would love to know where my great-grandfather Ashton Yates is buried. He died in Newport, Rhode Island on December 24, 1892. Funny thing is he lived at 94 Golden Hill Street in 1880. I don't know if the house is still there, but it was right around where the Clifton Burying Ground Cemetery is now. His daughter, my grandmother, Martha Ann Yates Wilson, is buried in a cemetery in Clifton, NJ. Now that would be weird of Ashton was buried in the one in Newport with that name. Anyone know how I can find out just where he's buried?