“Forgotten” Cemeteries

Recently I was a bit disturbed to hear on the radio that a body had been discovered by someone on their lunch break, close to where I work. The radio proclaimed that a murder investigation was underway – but it became quickly apparent that there was no need. The body was just one of many that were once part of a pauper cemetery in Cranston that had been forgotten, and largely paved over by Route 37. The full article is here.

They uncovered several remains, but estimate that hundreds – perhaps more than a thousand – are buried in the area.

Then a mere two weeks later, another “forgotten cemetery” was making news in the area. Although this time people were hired to seek it out. In Roxbury, the Boston archdiocese hired archaeologists to determine if an old cemetery was truly on its land. Hundreds of bodies were found, and some are in the process of being interred at Calvary Cemetery. More details are located here.

The stories, of course, piqued my interest, but are also saddening. As far as cemetery explorations go, my favorite trips are to small cemeteries, mostly family plots or smallpox cemeteries of which New England boasts so many. They are often set back deep in the woods, and there is a certain satisfaction in the adventure of literally finding the cemetery, followed by the academic satisfaction of recording the stones and bringing that information back to general knowledge, causing them to be “rediscovered” – no longer forgotten. These small plots are easily lost over time on public maps, especially if they are not positioned in prominent locations.

But as for the Cranston, RI and Roxbury, MA cemeteries, it seems to be a wonder that they could be “forgotten”. The Roxbury cemetery, according to the research, was off public maps by 1890, and the Cranston one by some point after the 1920s. Each with hundreds of bodies! Granted, in each case there were no visible markers – the Roxbury cemetery was an unmarked church cemetery, and the Cranston cemetery was for paupers. Still, considering the sheer size of each of the cemeteries, it is incredible how quickly they can disappear from the public’s awareness.

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2 thoughts on ““Forgotten” Cemeteries

  1. Well, in RI, were I now reside, particularly Cranston and Johnston there are many “lost” cemeteries. Ones that were documented and recorded, but still have gone missing. I blame developers. “If there are no stones, we can pave it or build there – Right?”

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