Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tillinghast Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island

Hey, blog. Long time no see. I've been busy working on my PhD program, but I haven't stopped thinking about or visiting graveyards. The Tillinghast Cemetery on Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, is one of the more unusual graveyards I have visited. There are no gravestones, aside from the huge monument at the center commemorating Elder Pardon Tillinghast, the English progenitor of the Tillinghast family. He was born in Seven Cliffe, Sussex, England, in 1622 and migrated to Providence in 1643, where he served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church.

Providence in 1790, depicted by a Brown University student

In the 17th century, many of the families of Providence maintained their own family burying grounds on their properties between Main Street and Benefit Street (the area of first Euro-American settlement in the city). In 1710, with the founding of the North Burial Ground, many began to bury their dead in the large municipal cemetery to the north of the city and even moved bodies and grave markers from existing family cemeteries. By the late 19th century, most of the old family burying grounds had been obliterated, with the exception of the Tillinghast Cemetery. It contains approximately 35 burials, but only one marker.

From this historical atlas of Providence, you can see that the Tillinghast Cemetery had become municipal property by 1875. This is the fate of most cemeteries that have been "abandoned" by the original owners, including the St. George/St. Mark's Cemetery.

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