A 326-year old gravestone, which went missing from Newport approximately 37 years ago, was recently returned to Newport after being discovered in a suburban Philadelphia yard .
In August of 2016 a suburban Philadelphia homeowner, Stephanie Pallas, was re-landscaping her property when she unearthed a stone that was in the way. She carefully uncovered the stone, approximately two foot by one foot in size, turned it over and was surprised to discover it was a grave stone dated 1690 for William Mayes.
After searching the internet, Stephanie believed the stone was from Rhode Island based on the information she found on the web site of the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission (www.rihistoriccemeteries.org). She contacted the Commission Chair, Pegee Malcolm who contacted the Newport Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission who verified that the stone belonged in the city’s Common Burying Ground. The stone was last seen in Newport in 1979.
Bob Butler, a member of the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission and his wife Charlene, drove the stone from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island and it was delivered it to Scott Wheeler, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds for the City Of Newport. The stone will be reset in its proper place at an event scheduled for October 22nd.
In addition to the Mayes stone, the October 22nd event will also celebrate the return and resetting of stones from 1835 for Elizabeth Cook and her children. These stones were last seen in 1874 and were discovered in the basement of the home of Pam and Brendan Kelley who live in the Point section of Newport. Pam kindly contacted Scott Wheeler to inquire if the city wished to have the stones returned. The Kelley family purchased the double lot in 1983 and discovered the stones when excavating behind an existing building on the property. The stones had apparently served a prior owner as a patio. They were placed in the basement where they have resided safely for years. With great excitement the stones have been recovered from Pam and will be returned to the burying ground.
Theft of historic grave markers is a chronic issue for burying grounds and the return of these stones is greatly appreciated by the Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission (HCAC) and the City of Newport. The HCAC has been active since June with a focus to protect, preserve and promote Newport’s historic burying grounds. Details of the October 22nd event will be shared in the near future.