Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks

Published on Thursday, March 14, 2024

(Providence, R.I.) – Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Awareness and Preservation Weeks (Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks) will feature dozens of free programs in April and May. Rhode Islanders of all ages are invited to participate in tours, clean-ups, hikes, talks, and other programs at and about historic cemeteries throughout the state. Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks is organized by the Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries (RIACHC) and Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) in collaboration with many individual and organizational partners. 

Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks will include walking tours of large landscaped cemeteries like Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls and River Bend Cemetery in Westerly, as well as visits to small burial grounds. A special tour of Arnold Burying Ground in Newport salutes the efforts of Alice Brayton to restore its colonial gravestones in the 1940s. For those who prefer to walk in the woods, there are hikes to rural burying grounds in Exeter, Lincoln, and Richmond. 

Ready to volunteer? There will be dozens of clean-up events throughout the state. Since 2015 the R.I. Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries has promoted volunteer projects to clean, maintain, and improve historic cemeteries. They welcome volunteers to help with raking, trash pick-up, light brush cutting, weed trimming, and other activities. At some sites, gloves, bags, and tools are provided, and volunteers are encouraged their own gloves and tools as well. Clean-up sites include the Nicholas Thomas Lot in Scituate and Brayton Cemetery in Warwick. 

Several Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks programs honor the memory of those who served our country in wartime. RIACHC Commissioner Debbie Suggs will make a presentation on Revolutionary War patriots buried in Washington County, and her Newport colleague Lew Keen will lead a Decoration Day tour of soldiers’ graves at the Island Cemetery on May 26. Also on Memorial Day weekend, Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park rangers and the North Smithfield Heritage Association will share the stories of Civil War veterans at Slatersville Cemetery. There are opportunities to place flags on the graves of those who served in Exeter and Richmond, and a ceremony at the Babcock Lot in Westerly. 

Professional archaeologists will lead a pair of Cemetery Weeks events at the central Cranston Public Library. On April 8, the Public Archaeology Laboratory will be part of a program about the 2006 disturbance of graves of residents who died at the State poorhouse in the early 1900s. On April 24, State Archaeologist Charlotte Taylor will present on Rhode Island cemeteries and the laws that govern them. Interested in nature? Check out the Birds & Burials tour at Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, a nature tour of North Burial Ground in Providence, and a geology-themed tour in Coventry. Love local libraries? Visit local cemetery exhibits in Middletown and Newport. 

RIACHC Chair Pegee Malcolm said, “The Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Historical Cemeteries is very happy to be working with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission on Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Awareness and Preservation Weeks. We strive to protect all the historical cemeteries in Rhode Island. This year we will be leading clean-ups, tours, and demonstrations to give the public a chance to see the beauty, history, and nature found in historic cemeteries.”

RIHPHC Executive Director Jeffrey Emidy added, “Rhode Island’s nearly three thousand cemeteries are among our most unique and often overlooked cultural resources. Historic cemeteries tell the stories of individuals and families, landscape design, artistry and technology, religious beliefs, traditional cultural practices, and community development.” 

Visit https://rihistoriccemeteries.org/events.aspx for more information and a calendar of events. Listings will be updated throughout the spring with many more events to come, especially in May. The online listings will have information about times, locations, tour size limits, registration (if required), and other key details. 

EVENT CALENDAR (as of 3/14/24)

(full descriptions at https://rihistoriccemeteries.org/events.aspx and more events to come) 


  • 4/3 Birds & Burials Tour | Norman Bird Sanctuary, Middletown
  • 4/4 Colonial Newport Burial Sites & Stones Presentation | Edward King House, Newport 
  • 4/6 Clean-up/Flagging | Isaac Collins Lot, Richmond
  • 4/6 Pokanoket Royal Burial Ground Tour | Burr’s Hill Park, Warren
  • 4/8 The Poorhouse Graves of Route 37 Panel Discussion| Central Cranston Public Library
  • 4/13 Clean-up | Jonathan Foster Ground, Westerly
  • 4/20 Clean-up | Old Baptist Church Yard, Exeter
  • 4/20 Arnold Burying Ground and Alice Brayton Tour | Arnold Burying Ground, Newport
  • 4/20 Tour | Hotchkiss Cemetery, North Smithfield 
  • 4/21 Hike/Clean-up | John Gardner Lot, Exeter
  • 4/23 Birds & Burials Tour | Norman Bird Sanctuary, Middletown
  • 4/24 Living with the Dead in Rhode Island Talk | Central Cranston Public Library
  • 4/27 Tour | Hotchkiss Cemetery, North Smithfield 
  • 4/27 Clean-up | Nicholas Thomas Lot, Scituate
  • 4/27 Tour | Common Burying Ground, Newport
  • 4/27 Flagging | (meet at) Exeter Public Library
  • 4/27 Clean-up | Babcock Lot, Westerly
  • 4/27 Clean-up | Brayton Cemetery, Warwick
  • 4/28 Walking Tour | Moshassuck Cemetery, Central Falls
  • 4/28 Walking Tour | River Bend Cemetery, Westerly


  • 5/2 Gilded Age Graves in Newport Presentation | Edward King House, Newport
  • 5/4 Clean-up | Common Burying Ground, Newport
  • 5/4 Tour | Hotchkiss Cemetery, North Smithfield 
  • 5/4 Tour | North Burial Ground, Providence
  • 5/4 Hike/Flagging | (meet at) Clark Library, Richmond
  • 5/6 Revolutionary War Patriots Buried in Wash. Cty. Discussion | URI, South Kingstown
  • 5/11 Clean-up | Common Burying Ground, Newport
  • 5/11 Tour | Hotchkiss Cemetery, North Smithfield
  • 5/11 Hike | George Beverly Lot and Unknown Lot, Richmond
  • 5/18 Clean-up | Common Burying Ground, Newport
  • 5/18 Tour | Silas Casey Cemetery, Casey Farm, North Kingstown
  • 5/18 Tour | Hotchkiss Cemetery, North Smithfield
  • 5/18 Clean-up | Hall-Vars Ground, Westerly
  • 5/25 Tour | Silas Casey Cemetery, Casey Farm, North Kingstown
  • 5/25 Tour | Hotchkiss Cemetery, North Smithfield
  • 5/26 Decoration Day Tour | Island Cemetery, Newport
  • 5/26 Local Veterans’ Service Stories Tour | Slatersville Cemetery, North Smithfield
  • 5/26 The Power of Nature Hike | Lincoln Woods (including Olney Burial Ground), Lincoln


  • 4/2 - 5/31 Newport Historic Cemeteries Exhibit | Newport Public Library, Newport
  • 4/10 - 5/18 Middletown Historic Cemeteries Exhibit | Middletown Public Library, Middletown 


  • Geology Walk | Knotty Oak Cemeteries, Coventry
  • Programs in Block Island, Cumberland, East Providence, Little Compton, Smithfield, Tiverton, Woonsocket, and many more to come


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Rhode Island Cemetery Weeks 2024