On Natick Hill, members of the Tripp and Cutter families once went to visit their deceased loved ones. Today, that cemetery, West Warwick Historical Cemetery #505, is designated as “lost” and its location is unknown.
The burial ground stood on a hilltop just west of Natick, on the John B. Sheldon farm, and contained several interments, including those of the Cutter family.
During the early 19th century, John and Rose Cutter and their seven children moved into the basement of a structure located at the corner of Main and Rhodes streets. The building had been constructed for use as a tavern with the bar room in the basement. But when it wasn’t profitable, the owner sold it to a mill company and it was turned into tenements.
The children of John and “Rosy” Cutter included Elizabeth, Sarah, Charles, Maria and at least two others whose names are not known. Son Charles was an eccentric character who moved by himself to a little hut about a mile in back of Buttonwoods Beach when he was just a boy. He remained there through adulthood, eventually constructing himself a pigpen and planting a vegetable garden. He supported himself by digging and selling clams but, during the autumn of 1887, he fell on hard luck. The 64-year-old first sprained his ankle and was then discovered suffering helplessly upon a cot in his hut with rheumatic fever. He was at once transported to the Town Farm to recover.
While Charles was away, the residents of Buttonwoods put on a comic entertainment to raise money to give him when he returned. Charlie spent about a month at the Town Farm and was eager to gain his release. He later told neighbors that he was expected to eat too much salt at the Town Farm. Among his many peculiarities, Charlie was known to take issue with the subject of salt.
Rose, who was born in Coventry on Feb. 15, 1776, had married John Cutter in 1819. Widowed young, she was fond of responding to the question of how many children, “I had three at once, two at twice and one ever so many times.”
Rose maintained an exceptional long-term memory throughout her life although her short term memory eventually almost disappeared and she became very physically feeble. At the age of 106, she enjoyed a hearty Thanksgiving meal of turkey, chicken and all the fixings. She resided in that same cellar tenement for over 50 years, became very frustrated by the loss of her hearing and went through life with two pinky fingers on each hand. She died on April 12, 1883 at the age of 107.
During the autumn of 1890, Charles was deemed to be unfit to care for himself due to failing health and was again removed to the Town Farm. The 67-year-old had grown quite deaf and walked much stooped over. He had injured his clam-digging hand and spent his days yelling and swearing at the crows who swooped down for the clams he could no longer gather. He bragged that he took no medications and eased his colds with cups of black tea. His vocabulary included words such as “t’aint” and “t’was” and, at his burial within the Town Farm cemetery on Nov. 9, 1890, hardly anyone came to mourn. The keeper of the Town Farm, the Overseer of the Poor, a cemetery workhand, sister Elizabeth and her driver were the only people present to send Charles off on his heavenly journey.
Prior to his death, an artist by the surname of Des Granges executed a life-sized crayon portrait of the well-known clam merchant. It was the property of William Brown of Natick.
Elizabeth Cutter was the last remaining member of the family. She lived in the basement tenement alone until she suffered slight shock one night in Feb. of 1891. She was able to crawl to the door on her hands and knees and unbolt it so the neighbors could gain entrance. The next morning, they entered the tenement to find her lying helplessly upon a lounge with one of her limbs badly swollen. As they began to concoct a plan for taking care of her, Elizabeth decided it was best if she simply went to the Town Farm. There, she appeared to be content and comfortable and, when she died, was laid to rest on the farm’s cemetery just like her brother.
Along with Rose, the now “lost” Tripp-Cutter cemetery also contains the body of David Tripp who died on Feb. 12, 1858 at the age of 65. The son of James and Mary Tripp, he resided in Warwick with his wife Celia and his children; Susan, Raymond, Almira, Mary and William.
In March of 1881, half of the John Sheldon farm was sold to Emily K. Barnes. Five months later, she purchased the other half from Marietta Sheldon, Sarah Grant and Henry Burlingame.
The Tripp-Cutter cemetery had been given to the village for its free use by the Rhodes Manufacturing Company and laid out around 1801. On May 12, 1901, an unknown person or persons went into the cemetery and smashed every stone. The stone of David Tripp was destroyed along with that of infant Moses Perry Cutter, who died on June 28, 1856 and Rose Cutter, the oldest woman in Rhode Island.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.