“You’re going WHERE?!” my friend exclaimed.
“To the cemetery,” I replied. “Want to come?”
Unfortunately she declined and missed a wonderful opportunity to meet up with others who enjoy learning about what went before them or who wonder how a certain area got to be the way it is today.
Tim Cranston, our local historian, presented a talk on the The Story of Stones at Elm Grove Cemetery on Route 1 in North Kingstown. The place is loaded with the once and fine prime movers in the history of this corner of Rhode Island, and Tim regaled us with the virtues and sins of many respectable citizens in “this fair town” as he loves to describe North Kingstown.
Having grown up in a funeral home, I knew a thing or two about cemeteries, but I always thought of them as a repository of bodies––not history. Tim changed that with his tales about the lives of those who inhabit the ground beneath those stones. His knowledge of their history seems without equal, and his understanding of the different types of stone from which the headstones were made is fascinating. Still more intriguing is his ability to interpret a man’s personality based on the type of tombstone he had fashioned for himself and family.
Though I’ve driven by it thousands of times, I’d been in Elmwood Cemetery only once when a friend drove me through to show me the large plot her husband’s ancestors had developed. I found that interesting, but didn’t realize what a beautiful spot it is for a final resting place. (Not that you’d know it once you’re there, but those you leave behind might.)
Its abundance of dogwood and elm trees make it a glorious spot for walking on quiet paths. Tim explained that cemeteries used to be a place for live residents to come and walk about while remembering their loved ones. One woman even had her tombstone built in the form of a bench so that people could come and “sit awhile.” Perhaps this would be a good habit to reinstitute. It might help us slow down and think about what really maters.
The walk was sponsored by Historic Wickford Inc. It was free and open to the public, and I thank the organization for sharing an opportunity to continue to learn and grow from our heritage. Histwick will sponsor another talk on Saturday May 26 on West Main Street, better known to our ancestors as Quality Hill. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the area in which you live, this is a wonderful way to do it––no carrying heavy history books and no books to read. Just bring your sunglasses, a notepad (if you’d like) and your curiosity. Then, join an interesting group of people who want to get a handle on the past.
About the Author
Nora Hall lives in North Kingstown and is a member of HistWick. She always enjoys Tim’s talks and is grateful for all she has learned from him. To hear more of her stories about life on this planet go to Survive Your Husbands Retirement.com