Preservation Society to clean up ‘orphaned’ cemetery

Preservation Society to clean up ‘orphaned’ cemetery

Fred Faria, right, and Skye Pechie of the Scituate Preservation Society selected the Phillips-Smith Cemetery for this year’s cleanup event on May 1 at 9 a.m. While Faria said he likes the back end of preservation, he said Pechie is more into going out in the woods helping to locate cemeteries in need of cleanups. Here, Faria taped the number 93 in medical tape to the rusted-over sign to identify the cemetery for volunteers.

SCITUATE – The sign for the Phillips-Smith Historic Cemetery SC093 in Scituate might be rusted over and completely illegible, the only identifying marker the number “93” placed on it with medical tape by the Scituate Preservation Society’s Fred Faria, but the “orphaned” cemetery is due for a cleanup on May 1 with the help of volunteers.

Faria said the Preservation Society participates in Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Restoration and Awareness Day to clean a historic cemetery every year, and singled out the Phillips-Smith cemetery this year due to its state of disrepair.

While last year’s cleanup was canceled due to COVID-19, Faria said the Preservation Society is excited to get back out there and clean up what he calls the “little orphan cemetery.”

“We found this one. It’s so isolated and so orphaned, so all by itself, that we really want to do this one,” Faria said.

By his estimates, the cemetery has not been touched for generations. Located behind the larger Glenford Cemetery on William F. Angell Road off Danielson Pike near the post office, Faria said the larger cemetery is taken care of, but not Phillips-Smith.

“As my daughter said, no one is dying to get there and clean it up,” he said.

The Preservation Society hopes to get at least 25 volunteers out to Phillips-Smith cemetery on Saturday, May 1, beginning at 9 a.m. Faria said volunteers can come for as long or short as possible, and do not need to commit to an amount of time.

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He said if there are extra volunteers, the Preservation Society has additional locations nearby that can be cleared. He added that he would like to give acknowledgment to anyone who assists in the cleanup, and hopes many will be interested in future cemetery cleanups.

After seeing the great turnout on Earth Day for a cleanup, Faria said he is optimistic that volunteers can make cemetery cleanups a more frequent event. He said right now, the Preservation Society does one a year, but he hopes to expand to one every six months or more.

“It’s in its growing stage now, folks are caring about it more and more,” he said.

Faria said he hopes to clean up the cemetery using hand tools only, and suggested bringing tools such as clippers, shovels, rakes and handsaws. For comfort, he said, volunteers should bring drinking water, snacks, gloves, knee pads, sunscreen and a hat.

Social distancing and health guidelines will be followed, and volunteers should bring a mask as well as watch out for thorns, poisonous plants and ticks, he said.

There are more than 200 cemeteries in Scituate, Faria said, and many are in desperate states like at Phillips-Smith. He said the town’s Department of Public Works pitches in on cleanups when possible, and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts often volunteer to adopt a cemetery.

He said more residents volunteering to take care of cemeteries is greatly needed and appreciated.

“We also encourage all residents who wish to clean up other historic cemeteries or have a historic cemetery on their property to clean it up. We can make suggestions on which ones would be great candidates,” he said.

Additionally, Faria said the Preservation Society is looking for residents who know of a cemetery or have one on their property to take pictures of cemeteries and email them over.

“Many have not been photographed in generations. Please help us locate them,” he said.

The Preservation Society will also replace cemetery signs if needed, and encourages residents to reach out for new signs. Faria added that a new sign is coming in for Phillips-Smith. He estimates the Preservation Society has replaced 35 signs over the years.

For more information, contact Faria at 401-828-5355, or by email at .