In March of 1867, members of the Stone family decided that their ancestors’ eternal sleep would continue in some place other than where it had begun over a century earlier.
The Hugh Stone farm stood along Pontiac Avenue in Cranston. Many years before his death in 1732 at the age of 85, Hugh deeded a two-acre plot to his son John, who was employed as a wheelwright and chairmaker. There, John built himself a house and resided with his wife Hannah (Barnes), their three children, and Hannah’s nephew, who had been bequeathed to John by his brother-in-law Thomas Barnes for the period of time leading up to the boy’s twentieth birthday.
When Hannah died in 1712 at the age of 23, the boy was removed from John’s care and placed with an uncle on his mother’s side. Hannah was laid to rest there on the Stone farm and John later married again, taking Abigail Foster as his second wife.
Upon his own death in 1759 at the age of 84, John was laid to rest beside his first wife and his father. Eighty-three-year-old Abigail joined them in the family lot the following year. Eventually the family farm would number over 30 burials, set peacefully by the Pocasset River.
That spring of 1867, the bodies of John and his two wives were exhumed by the trustees of the estate. The remains were viewed, showing the skeletons to be in a perfectly preserved condition. Even Hannah’s hair, having been encased beneath nearly six feet of earth for over 150 years, was still neatly braided and coiled around her head.
The three bodies were reburied in the North Burial Ground, a 110-acre cemetery and Providence’s first public burial ground. However, it would be more than a century before the rest of their family would join them.
During the summer of 1975, 30 bodies were removed from the Stone property and reinterred in the North Burial Ground. The remains were placed in five graves, six people being placed in each grave. A family monument and six fieldstones were also moved to the new resting place. Three months later, another body exhumed from the farm followed suit.
Through the years, many families like the Stones, who had ancestors buried on private lands, have opted to unearth their family members and relocate them to more greatly protected areas. In those places, they resume their eternal sleep, hopefully never needing to be disturbed again.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.