Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 05-14-2020

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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12 WOONSOCKET MAY 14-20, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION Over the past few weeks, Duhamel has used the little information available to try to determine where the stone came from and who it belonged to. A length of concrete along the side of the stone indicates it was likely embedded in the foundation of an apartment building that stood on Blackstone Street. The build- ing was demolished in 2018 as part of a blight reduc- tion program, but a portion of the foundation was left behind to serve as a retaining wall along Holders Lane. It was while excavating this wall that city workers dis- covered the fragment. "There is cement, so the stone was used for construc- tion purposes after it was broken off," said Duhamel. After seeing photos of the stone on social media, some observers raised concerns the parking lot could have been constructed over a historic cemetery, but Duhamel doesn't think that's likely. In addition to the fact that no other stone fragments were discovered, historic maps show no evidence there was ever a cemetery on the property. It's not unusual, he said, for gravestone fragments to turn up yards or even miles from their original resting place. Instead, he suspects the stone came from the Baptist A fragment of a gravestone was recently discovered in a former building founda- tion adjacent to the municipal parking lot on Monument Square. Hill Cemetery, a now defunct historic cemetery at the corner of Cato and Boyden Streets about a third of a mile away. In 1890, a short time before the Blackstone Street home was constructed, an article in the "Woonsocket Patriot" described the cemetery as already in poor condition, with many gravestones broken or scattered. Today, the cemetery is virtually nonexistent, with no BREEZE PHOTO BY LAUREN CLEM BRIAN COTE, an employee of the Woonsocket Highway Department, shows approximately where he discovered an old gravestone. known gravestones remaining at the site. "That specific cemetery was abandoned and basically just developed over in the 1890s," he explained. One clue to the gravestone's owner is its makeup. The stone was carved from thick granite, a material Duhamel said was common in the gravestones of Irish immigrants at the time. The stone also appears to identify its owners as "Natives of Co.–" before cutting off, more evidence it likely belonged to an Irishman. "We see a lot of Irish stones like that where they speak of themselves as natives of Cork or natives of 'Co. something,'" he said. According to Irene Blais from the Woonsocket Historical Society, the parking lot where the stone was found was previously home to the Linton Block, a historic building that burned down in the 1980s. The building was constructed in 1888 by Robert Linton for use as a drug store and was later home to a bar known as the Monument Tap. Another theory on how the stone ended up there is that a neighborhood stone carver discarded it as a mistake. A short distance away, in a parking lot off North Main Street, a series of gravestones lie embedded in a walkway, evidence the area was the resting place of more than one stray stone during its history. Most of these stones, said Duhamel, belong to owners whose graves are accounted for else- where, leading some to believe they were actually mistakes thrown out by the carver. Whichever theory is correct, Duhamel said he's unlikely to uncover definite answers. He plans to use genealogical records to try to match up the stone with an owner, but with the fragment probably more than a century old, there's a good chance he may never know for sure just how it ended up in a parking lot off Main Street. 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