Kiosk to be unveiled at historic Poor Farm cemetery
The Warwick Historical Cemeteries Commission will unveil a new informational kiosk at City Park on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., which will pay proper homage to the nearly 100 people buried in Historic Warwick Cemetery Lot #90 – many of whom were buried without family or friends present and without much dignity.
The cemetery is filled with uneven rows of cracked, broken and otherwise weather and time-damaged headstones (mostly rough-cut fieldstones) – all without any names or number markings of any kind – and was the final resting place for many who lived at what was known as the Warwick Asylum (also the Warwick Poor Farm), which was built in 1870 and closed operations in 1943.
The cemetery contains 94 headstones but the number of bodies buried is unknown, as not all may have been buried with a headstone and others might be buried on top of one another. Now, 78 of those people have been identified, thanks to the hard work of the Commission, including the particular efforts of Mark Brown, chair Pegee Malcolm, Warwick Historical Society president Felicia Gardella and Sue Cabeceiras, who works as the liaison between the city and various commissions.
“This is one of the most active commissions,” said Cabeceiras. “None of this work would get done without these volunteers.”
The Commission also got some help from DPW, who offered to cut the grass and clean up natural debris within the cemetery lot for free. The volunteers were thankful of the previous efforts by historians Don D’Amato, Henry Brown and Don Wyatt, as well as John Sterling’s work on plotting the locations of historic cemeteries in Warwick.
The $548 kiosk was purchased from Vacker Signs of Minnesota thanks in large part to the charitable help of Warwick Historical Society member Bob Chorney. It is being installed by the Department of Public Works and is being unveiled in a ceremony that will draw Mayor Scott Avedisian, Rhode Island legislators and, hopefully, history buffs of all ages.
The Warwick Poor Farm was a landing place for those who were unable to financially support themselves, as well as a place where mentally ill individuals were housed. Although they may have not been given a respectful burial or been treated with much thought, the volunteers behind the project took months of their own time to ensure that they would be remembered, even many years after their deaths.
“I don’t want to forget about these people because hopefully in the future, somebody will remember me,” said Gardella.