Eagle Scout candidate restores neglected cemetery

Eagle Scout candidate restores neglected cemetery

Nicholas Lizotte, Eagle Scout candidate of Troop 1 Manville, cleared, cleaned and marked the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery that had been hidden by overgrowth in Cumberland Hill.

CUMBERLAND – At the end of Willis Drive in Cumberland there lies a neglected cemetery between two homes, grown over with trees and brush so tall and thick that they swallowed several rows of headstones and nearly engulfed the “Rhode Island Historical Cemetery” sign marking the lot until recently.

The property has been restored thanks to the efforts of Cumberland High School student Nicholas Lizotte, who adopted the long-abandoned burial ground as part of his Eagle Scout project for Troop 1 Manville. Son of Jonathan and Michelle Lizotte, the CHS senior grew up nearby the cemetery and has watched it deteriorate over the years.

His restoration efforts were shepherded by Ken Postle, cemetery commissioner for the Blackstone Valley Historical Society, who warned him it would be a big undertaking to clean out debris and recover lost headstones.

The R.I. Historic Cemetery Commission described the lot as being “used as a cut-thru and has become a dumping ground for area residents.”

Lizotte was up for the task at hand, logging more than 130 hours clearing brush, unruly weeds and trash, pulling sunken grave markers from the dirt and gathering shards of damaged stones.

He was aided by Postle and BVHS, his father Jonathan, fellow Troop 1 Scouts and their families, neighbors and other volunteers. Lizotte said former Mayor Bill Murray was also a huge help with the project when he needed large tree limbs removed that had been cut down by the highway department but never hauled away.

“Within a week he had a meeting set up for me and asked what I needed. I really appreciated it,” Lizotte said.

A new wooden sign in front of the cemetery now provides a key for the 12 known burials there, which include a Civil War veteran named Henry Bennett, whose grave was flagged for Memorial Day by BVHS volunteers. Postle said there are also a number of additional Quaker burials in the lot marked by un-engraved stones.

“One of the big things we were trying to do is hopefully raise awareness for the town about what’s happening here and the importance of taking care of something that should be taken care of out of respect for people who have died,” he said.

Now that attention has been turned back to the cemetery, Lizotte said he hopes his project will help ensure the so-called Kimball Lot does not become forgotten or neglected again.

“If you do something small, people notice,” he said. “It only takes one person to start something impactful.”

During the course of the project, he was able to meet two family members of people who are buried there, saying, “We didn’t even realize that people still had family here until we came. It meant a lot to them that we were there.”

He said the family had previously attempted to visit but it had been too overgrown to step beyond the stone wall perimeter. “They knocked on a neighbor’s door to see where their family was buried but they couldn’t even get in,” he said.

Asked why he feels it’s important to pause to remember those who have died and respect their final resting places, Lizotte said, “This will be me someday. One day when I’m six feet under, I’d like to be remembered, just like I assume all of these people would.”

Comments

First off thank you to Peter Sarazin, the SH Digs family and the many Cumberland High School students who did all the prep work and excavation prior to this project in years past to make this Eagle Project possible..

This was an awesome effort by Nick and the Scouts..

Maybe more of the neighborhood folk around there will step up and take care of this already heavily intruded yard and keep further desecration from happening..

There has been awful bulldozing over on both the East and West ends of this yard and a dog pooping area was constructed by a neighbor on the North side..

Thank you Nick for the informational box for visitors!

Hopefully even more young people will step up to preserve history!