Portsmouth Friends Cemetery PO10 History and Index
Submitted By Deb (Briggs) Gustafson 2006
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Portsmouth Friends Cemetery, Portsmouth, RI has been designated Portsmouth Historical Cemetery #10, or Po10 as it is commonly shortened. The cemetery is located in back of the Portsmouth Evangelical Friends Church located at 11 Middle Road, at the NW corner of the intersection of Middle Road and Hedly Street. (Do not refer to Mapquest.com, because as of July 2006, they had Portsmouth Friends Church located on the SW of that intersection!)
Currently the cemetery has been divided by the Church's burial committee into two sections, the old and the new. The new, or North, section is the active section. The old or South section is closed to all but one or two elderly members who will be laid to rest beside their loved ones who already are buried in that section. Generally the gravestones are headstones, although a few have footstones. Some of the writing on the gravestones faces east, but most is on the west side. The head of the burial committee said that the bodies are buried facing east (toward the church). Burial in this cemetery has traditionally been for members of the church and their relatives. Gravestones are to be simple and the planting of shrubs, ornamentation, etc. is discouraged, as befits the Friends' way.
For the purpose of this project, I called the new section, North (active), and included the Excel file currently in use. This would be a map of the actual graves, and would show the numbering system currently in use. The lighter shaded boxes indicate cremations, white boxes are empty, and grey shaded are burials. There are four short cement corner posts at the corners of this section from which measurements are made.
I have included scans of Bayles 1888 History of Newport County, p.679-683 [see below], an article that tells of the Portsmouth Quakers, their history, and especially gives information regarding their cemetery, which at that time was the whole old, South, section. For the purpose of this project I have further divided that South section into two; one which I call Southeast, because it lies closest to the Meeting House, and the other, South, because the Church's older burial records refer to that section with 13 rows as the South section. A large flat monument was erected in roughly the center of this SE section. It says "In memory of Friends, -names unknown- of Rhode Island Monthly Meeting, buried in this plot, 86' x 118' ". There are very few gravestones that have endured in that section, and those that have quite often show lines where they were mended. When my father and I measured out the plot, the 118' came just short of a group of 3 slate gravestones for Jonathan Dennis, Hannah Dennis, and Abigail Wing. But I included them in the SE section because they were not on the sketch I found in the cemetery records for the rest of the South section.
Much of the work my father and I did was in the South section. Most of the gravestones in the whole cemetery are in this section. Using the same numbering system used by previous burial committee members, we measured each of the 13 rows of gravestones and plotted those gravestones to make a map, not of the graves, but of the gravestones. The scale for this map was roughly 1/4" = 1'. It took 8 sheets of graph paper and was put together to make one giant map which was given to the church. I have included here a sketch [see below], not drawn to scale, but with relationships of stones relatively intact. However, it is only accurate as of July 2006, and I am sure that there are more burials than we show gravestones for. Some stones have been broken off at the base and some graves were never marked at all. I attempted to go through the burial records, and make a list of burials that were not marked, but I only included on that list the ones that were VERY plainly actual burials, and not just spots reserved for people who never actually used those plots.
The files for this project include those sketches and articles that I have already mentioned, plus pictures of each footstone and headstone (including engraving for both sides of the stone, if applicable). Also, if a transcription of an illegible stone or other notes are needed... [the information was provided and added to the pages].