Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 07-12-2018

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | JULY 12-18, 2018 LINCOLN 3 Despite burial evidence in Lincoln, construction OK'd LINCOLN – Pieces of a coffin and two grave markers have been dis- covered by archaeologists excavating a grave shaft at the corner of a site slated for residential development, confirming that the boundaries of the historic Lincoln Cemetery No. 24 once extended well beyond its pres- ent borders. Craig Chartier, director of Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery, said the discovery that effectively halted the construction of a single-family home was, in fact, a grave shaft, albeit an empty one. The body buried there had been meticulously moved sometime in the past, leaving behind a singular clue to the person's identity: a footstone engraved with the initials "L.S.W." "This burial was definitely opened up and moved," Chartier told The Breeze. "When people move bodies, they always seem to leave things behind. In this case they took every- thing but the last inch or so of coffin wood, so they did a very thorough and efficient job." Historical records for Lincoln Cemetery No. 24 indicate that a number of gravestones had gone "missing" from the lot over the years, particularly the Keene and Whipple family markers. Last month, a number of the missing burials were discovered at Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls, where cemetery records indicate 20 bodies were disinterred from Lincoln Cemetery No. 24 in 1928. No person with the initials "L.S.W." is listed on those records, making their identity the lat- est in a string of mysteries related to the cemetery. The story began in March, when Charles Belshe purchased the prop- erty at the corner of Sprague Avenue and River Road from James Walker, with hopes of building a single-family home. At the time, neighbors and local historic groups expressed con- cerns, noting that the area slated for development was once part of the cemetery property that had at some point been plowed over. Construction was halted in April after the base of a headstone was unearthed. State laws governing his- toric cemeteries forbid excavating within 25 feet of a historic burial. In accordance with the law, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission advised that Belshe undertake an archeological investigation to confirm the cem- etery's true borders. An archeological scrape of the site was conducted in May by Alan Strauss, director of Cultural Resource Specialists, with Walker operating the backhoe to dig through his former property. Strauss was searching for dark discolorations in the subsoil that would reveal ground disturbance, determining the presence of a grave shaft within the proposed foundation trenches. He found one such spot next to where the headstone base had originally been found. Strauss reported his findings to the state, which responded that the grave shaft would need to be excavated to confirm whether or not human remains were present. If Belshe chose not to excavate, the feature would be considered a burial shaft and treated as a historic cemetery under state law. Belshe hired a new team to excavate the grave shaft, tapping Plymouth for the dig conducted on June 7. In a span of a few hours, the dark rectangular stain in the soil gave way to a copper coffin clasp and nails, the bottom half of a large By NICOLE DOTZENROD Valley Breeze Staff Writer BREEZE PHOTO BY NICOLE DOTZENROD Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery director CRAIG CHARTIER lifts part of a headstone out of the ground next to the grave shaft he was hired to excavate last weekend, while second-year Rhode Island College anthropology student SHELBY MUNNELLY looks on. 'Those who own a lot nearby a historic cemetery should keep in mind that historic cemeteries have ill-defined borders. Just because there's a fence doesn't mean the border is the same that it once was.' CRAIG CHARTIER Plymouth Archaeological Rediscovery director See CEMETERY, Page 5 Smiles Orthodontic Treatments for Children, Teens and Adults Specializing in Special Health Care Needs 2359 Mendon Road, Cumberland, RI 401-334-3070 Nicholas A. Lavoie D.D.S., M.P.H., M.A. Pediatric Dentist Benjamin Chan D.M.D., M.S. 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