Events, News, and Resources

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The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation awards grant for stonework in God's Little Acre

Since being activated in 2016, the Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission (HCAC) has focused on the conservation of our historic burying grounds and cemeteries.  While they are all important pieces of Newport’s rich heritage, God’s Little Acre located in the Common Burying Ground stands as the most significant site. It is the largest collection of marked graves for colonial Africans and African Americans in the country.  The stones are crafted from slate which has weathered for hundreds of years in the New England environment.  Many stones have lost significant information and material and cannot be conserved, but others maintain important qualities that make them valuable and deserving of conservation.  It is estimated that about $147,000 is needed to treat ever stone with value that needs some level of work.
A potential source of funding for gravestone conservation in God’s Little Acre was offered in 2018 by The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The HCAC saw this as an opportunity to fund the needed work.  To facilitate the application, the Preservation Society of Newport County served as the applicant for the grant, working in conjunction with the commission and thereby, the City of Newport.  Leigh Schoberth, a commission participant and PSNC staff member, lead the effort.  Our project was not awarded a grant.
In 2019 the second round of funding through this grant was available.  This time our letter of intent was accepted and a full application filed for consideration.  Leigh and the staff of the Preservation Society dedicated many hours in completing the application and the submission was an impressive statement of support of the project.
Information was received on July 1st from the National Trust that conservation of gravestones in God’s Little Acre was awarded a $50,000 grant for which we are extremely grateful.  While the merits of the project have been verified by the grant, the expertise and hard work of the staff at the Preservation Society of Newport County was essential in presenting our case for the funds.  The Preservation Society of Newport County have been incredibly supportive of the work of the HCAC since it was activated in June 2016 and their efforts on behalf of our historic sites is greatly appreciated. 


Roger Williams students paint part of the fence along Farewell Street

About twenty freshman from RWU fulfilled their community service requirement by painting the southern end of the fence at the Common Burying Ground on August 27th, 2018.  The students are majors in historic preservation and architecture and chose to help spruce up the site.  Thanks!


City of Newport, Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission

In June 2016 the city revived the commission to help promote, preserve, and protect the public burial sites. 

Link to "official" city pages

Link to pictures of stonework- before and after images Common Burying Ground  Wilbur site

Historic Cemetery Day clean up Coggeshall pictures


Resources- print

Knoblock, Glenn, African American Historic Burial Grounds and Gravesites of New England, Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland and Company, Inc, 2016

Strangstad, Lynette, A Graveyard Preservation Primer, Plymouth UK, Altamira Press, 2013

Luti, Vincent, Mallet and Chisel, Boston, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002
(This is the most specific publication about colonial carvers in Newport with a focus on the Stevens Shop)

Sterling, John E. et all, Newport, Rhode Island Colonial Burial Grounds, Rhode Island Genealogical Society, Special Publication No. 10, 2009

Seeman, Erik R., Death in the New World, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA 2010

Hattendorf, John B, Semper Eadem: A History of Trinity Church in Newport 1690-2000, Trinity Church in Newport, 2001

Youngken, Richard, African Americans in Newport, The Newport Historical Society, Newport RI, 1998

Meyer, Richard E., Cemeteries and Grave markers: Voices of American Culture, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 1992

Chase and Gabel, Gravestone Chronicles, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston MA, 1990

Tashijan, Dickran and Ann, Memorials for Children of Change, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown CT, 1974

Ludwig, Allan I., Graven Images: New England Stone carving and its Symbols, 1650-1815, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown CT, 1966

Brayton, Alice, The Burying Place of Governor Arnold, privately printed, Newport RI, 1960

Forbes, Harriette Merrifield, Gravestones of Early New England and the men who made them, The Pyne Press, Princeton, NJ, 1927

Resources- online

Bacon, Allison, The John Stevens House at 30 Thames Street Newport, Rhode Island, Roger Williams University, December 6, 2016

Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission database of graves- http://rihistoriccemeteries.org/searchgravesnameonly.aspx

God's Little Acre- http://www.colonialcemetery.com/

Military stones history

Association for Gravestone Studies

Use of Egyptian Revival Architecture in American Cemeteries