Cocumscussoc, North Kingstown, RI

Yesterday I visited the Narragansett Indian land in Rhode Island known as Cocumscussoc which became the original colonial/Indian tradepost in 17th century RI. Established by Roger Williams, the post was run by Richard Smith, who built a home here.

“Captain Richard Smith built what has long been designated as the “Old Castle,” within one-half mile of the village of Wickford. This, in 1639, was erected for the farm house of Captain Smith, and here the good Roger Williams, who also fled from persecution, often visited. The brave and just old Canonicus and also Miantinomo frequently visited Smith. This castle was built by Smith as a trading post or house, and as a protection against the troublesome Indians. It was fifty feet square, two stories high, and its walls were of rough stone, two feet in thickness. It was used as a garrison and fortification during the Indian war, and it was there that Captain Benjamin Church assembled his forces before marching to the great swamp fight, and after his victory, with the dead and wounded, burying some forty-two of the slain in one grave” – From USGenWeb article on the history of North Kingstown.

There exists today a large marker which stands as a memorial to the soldiers who died during the infamous Great Swamp Fight and are buried in this mass grave.

Known today as “Smith’s Castle”, the original house was burned to the ground during King Philip’s War, and soon rebuilt and remains today, having undergone several structural changes. It serves now as a wonderful house museum which preserves and collects documents and artifacts from the colonial through the Victorian period, each of the rooms reflecting a different period in the life of the house.

Also on and near the property are several small cemeteries – the Smith plot, the Updike plot (who inherited the house later), and also a large burial area of the slaves to the Smith and Updike families.

“HISTORICAL CEMETERY #: NK346 SERVANTS/SLAVES NORTH KINGSTOWN RI
81 burials with 1 inscriptions

NOTE: Located near the Updike-Ayrault and Congdon lots near Cocumscussoc. Harris describes it “on plain north of the above yards in open lot quite an extensive burial yard of the colored servants of the above families.” Harris counted 72 large and 8 small graves all with rude stones. He speculates that there may have been more whose marks have been removed. ” – From the Historical Cemeteries of North Kingstown, RI.

I definitely would like revisit Cocumscussoc for further exploration – but right now February in New England is chiiiiiiilly!

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Wintery New England Days…

It’s been a long and cold winter, and good ol’ Punxsutawney Phil, “King of the Groundhogs, Father of all Marmota, Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators” (I kid you not, check out the website !) has foreseen an even longer winter. Got almost three feet of snow in the “Blizzard of 2005” awhile ago, and with continual cold winds and temperatures, cemetery exploring is just not at it’s peak. Photos are hard to take with the glare of the sun against the snow, and frankly it’s much nicer to stay inside and gather cemetery and genealogical info with paperwork and the internet – beside a nice fire with some hot cocoa!

With the start of the New Year, it’s time to begin planning what the year has in store. When it gets warmer, I will trek out to the almost-forgotten Munroe Cemetery and the definitely-forgotten Stetson Cemetery, both in Hanson. Munroe Cemetery is still marked on maps, but the Stetson Cemetery no longer exists on any modern maps, and I hear has sadly fallen into great disrepair. Both are hosts to some of the oldest stones in the town (1750s-70s), along with 1800s stones from relatives and neighbors.

A quest for photographs will bring me to Colebrook Cemetery and Mt. Zion Cemetery in Whitman, where many former citizens of South Abington are buried, boasting a rich array of colonial names.. Gurneys, Reeds, Ramsdells.. the list goes on and on.

Much of the Providence cemeteries are left to be explored, and some, especially St. John’s, require photo re-shoots – my harddrive crashed right around Christmas and I lost many good photos. While going digital was a huge blessing in many ways, I should have had the forethought to burn them all to CDs or print them for good measure! Hard lessons indeed.

Since I’m buried in snow, much of my work recently has been on the wonderful USGenWeb where I serve as the Town Coordinator for Hanson, MA – check out the website. I have been collecting many books, papers, and maps and trying to compile genealogical, historical, and cemetery information about the town as I can, and it is a pleasure to contribute and work on.

Here’s to spring!