NORTH PROVIDENCE – Volunteers continued their all-out mission to restore the Peach Hill Cemetery on Peach Hill Avenue last Saturday, spending several hours moving cut wood in the next phase of the effort to restore the historic cemetery.
Ken Postle, cemetery coordinator for the Blackstone Valley Historical Society and key organizer behind cemetery cleanups across the Blackstone Valley area, thanked Nicole Loranger for her hard work.
Postle said volunteers were earlier able to gather four “really huge piles of brush and trees” and several more piles of cut wood, which then needed to be dragged down to the Halsey Avenue entrance of the cemetery for the North Providence Department of Public Works to swing by with a chipper. Underneath the piles was a footstone for 4-year-old Henry Morton Collins, who died in 1866.
“So many hours, so much to do,” said Postle, “and the vegetation over the fieldstones just keeps burying them out of sight.”
Once all the clearing work is done here, he said, they’ll need to find a way to keep the growth down.
Stone recovery and brush clearing work has been ongoing since The Breeze first reported in April that volunteers had tackled the Peach Hill Cemetery after decades of overgrowth and deterioration. Some neighbors were surprised at the time to learn that the cemetery was even there based on the extent of the trees and brush.
Postle said he and Loranger, who lives a half-mile from the cemetery, were the only two people who made it last Saturday, but they were able to make good progress hauling a substantial portion of the pile. They really need a huge group to come back and help with the bulk of what’s left, he said, hopefully doing the work over multiple days.
The town is partnering to an extent in being available to grind up the wood that’s taken out of the cemetery where so many of North Providence’s founders are buried, including members of the Olney, Allen, Dye, Waterman and Whipple families. One known grave of Capt. Samuel Olney, who died in 1813 after founding the North Providence Rangers, is the Revolutionary War soldier buried here. His group was designed to protect the town after the war.
The hope, say volunteers, is that the town will help maintain the cemetery once the majority of restoration work is done.
In addition to the famous names in town, there are also rows and rows of fieldstone burials here, likely representing former mill workers or servants. “There’s some real history here,” said Postle.
Volunteers were able to find the Halsey Avenue entrance after a neighbor with a gate previously prohibited them from using it.
“We’ve made a lot of progress in there, but it’s a ruined cemetery,” said Postle, with pieces of burial stones everywhere.