For Memorial Day- some interesting gravestones

Where it all began- a year ago, we took Mom to Rindge in search of her grandparent’s house and grave sites. We found both- here’s Mom at the Dunn family plot at Hillside Cemetery in Rindge. Curiously, the names and dates of Daniel and Mary Alice Dunn don’t appear on the stone- the front says simply “Dunn”, and the reverse is blank.

There are, however, small individual stones for Carl and Reinald Dunn, Mom’s uncles who died young. There is also a marker for Mom’s Aunt Mildred, who died in 1981.

Carl was Grandfather Dunn’s twin brother. The twins were given matching names- Earl Lernard and Carl Bernard. Carl died at the age of 13, according to family tradition, when he jumped off the roof of the barn holding an umbrella as a parachute. Like the story of his father’s origins, that story turned out to be fiction. According to the death certificate I found later, Carl actually died of “paralysis” (possibly cereberal palsy), from which he had suffered since birth.

Nearby is the distinctive heart shaped stone marking the grave of Mom’s cousin Rita Valentine. Born Rita McCray, she was the daughter of Charles McCray, grandfather Dunn’s older brother. (Charles was born Guy Dunn, but for reasons that are still unclear, changed his name to McCray in about 1914). When I visited the cemetery last October, the flowers at Rita’s grave had been joined by two miniature pumpkins.

The Smith Adams cemetery in the Ballouville section of Killingly, Connecticut, is small and inconspicuous. The day I found it, I was actively looking for cemeteries in the area, and almost missed it. The cemetery is located less than a thousand feet from the farm that the Smith family, including my great great grandfather, Leonard O. Smith, worked in the mid 1800’s. There are two gravestones here that I found especially interesting. One marks the grave of Orrilla N. Smith. I didn’t have an Orrilla Smith in my tree, but the inscription on the stone made me think that perhaps I should. It reads ” Smith Orrilla N., daughter of John 2nd & Ruth, died June 30, 1844, age 16 yrs”.

Leonard Smith’s parents were named John and Ruth Smith- the fact that their farm is a thousand feet from the grave certainly lends credence to the idea that this is their daughter. The census records from 1830 and 1840 suggest that John and Ruth had a third daughter after Hannah and Margaret, and the age ranges match up with Orrilla’s dates as given on the gravestone. On the other hand, none of the other immediate family members appear to be buried here. So it’s likely, but not definite that this is another member of our family tree.

There is another interesting Smith grave in this cemetery, and I have no evidence that he’s related, but his story was too interesting to ignore. Elisha Smith’s stone says he was a member of the Eighteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. Military records show that Elisha enlisted on December 3, 1863. The following May, the 18th participated in the Battle of New Market, Virginia. It was a defeat for the Union Army, and Elisha was one of about fifty Union soldiers taken prisoner. He was held at the infamous Andersonville prison, but managed to survive until he was released at the end of the war. No mean feat in a prison camp where one third of the inmates died from the horrendous conditions. Even more impressive when you consider that Elisha was not a young man- he was already 52 years old when he enlisted.

Whether or not Elisha is related to us is still uncertain. The proximity of his grave to the John Smith farm makes it very possible, as does one other interesting fact. In 1856, Elisha’s second wife Sarah (whom he married when he was 41 and she was 17), had a daughter they named Lydia Ann. It’s possible she was named after Lydia Ann Cogswell, the wife of Leonard Smith. This would have been about 8 years after Leonard and Lydia’s marriage, and at about the time they and the Cogswells moved to Dublin, New Hampshire.

Last but certainly not least are these two oversized monuments in St. Francis Cemetery in Pawtucket. They mark the graves of the families of Philip Cregan, Mom’s maternal grandfather, and Peter Creegan, who I believe was Philip’s nephew- I haven’t completely figured out the Creegans. And it doesn’t help that the surname appears variously as Creegan, Cregan, Cragin, Cragen, and even Creighton. Philip Cregan’s daughter Catherine married Daniel Farrar, an iron moulder originally from Leeds in Yorkshire, England. Their daughter Katherine was Mom’s mother, better known to me as Nana Dunn.

Ironically, I was looking for Daniel and Catherine Farrar’s graves when I found the Creegan monuments. The Farrar’s are apparently buried nearby, but I was unable to locate their graves- it’s possible they are unmarked.

  • Beth Mariotti

    I have more information for you about Elisha and his brother Martin. They are in your tree–both sons of John and Ruth. Your website is fantastic. It has helped me learn alot about the “other Smiths” in my tree and the Shippees. Very interesting writing. I would love to know what program you are using.