Anne Hutchinson Gravestone Recovered

In the Press: Gravestone Returned
01-12-2010 | JANET MERRIMAN

From The Newport Daily News

October 10 and 11, 2009

Long-lost historic gravestone is recovered

The footstone from the grave of Anne Hutchinson’s granddaughter was taken years ago from Newport’s Common Buying Ground

By Sean Flynn, Daily News Staff

Newport – The footstone that marked the grave of Ann Vernon, a granddaughter of Portsmouth founder Anne Hutchinson, was returned anonymously to the Newport Historical Society this summer after being removed from the Common Burying Ground sometime in the past.

“Some good citizen discovered it on Second Beach in Middletown,” said Ruth S. Taylor, the society’s executive director.

Local historian Bert Lippincott, the society’s reference librarian, said the discovery highlights how the historic cemetery has been plundered and vandalized over the years.

“We’ve had gravestones from Newport found as far away as Hopkintown,” he said. “Over the years, they have been used as doorsteps, walkways and even septic tank covers.”

Taylor said she would talk to cemetery experts and any heirs of Vernon who might be available to determine if the footstone is in the public domain.

“It’s an interesting dilemma,” she said. “The stones are owned by the family, but who has stewardship? If we work with the city to return it to the cemetery, it creates an opportunity for it to be stone again. Something this size is too easily picked up and taken away.”

John Stevens, a stonemason who opened a shop on Thames Street in 1705 and carved gravestones, carved Vernon’s footstone, Lippincott said.

“From the execution and the date, we know it must have been carved by Stevens,” he said. “At the time, there were no other stonecutters in the area.”

The footstone has a carved angel’s head at the top and is decorated on the sides with rosettes and vines, trademarks of the Stevens shop that is still located at 29 Thames St. and is believed to be the oldest continuously operating business in America.

Vernon’s headstone remains in the Common Burying Ground, in a plot of land reserved for Vernon family members. Her gravestone, just three stones away from Warner Street, says: “Ann, wife of Daniel Vernon and daughter of Capt. Edward Hutchinson, born 1643, died Jan. 10, 1716.”

Edward Hutchinson was Anne Hutchinson’s first-born child, Lippincott said.

Vernon’s husband’s gravestone is next to hers; it says Daniel Vernon also was born in 1643. He died in 1715.

“He was in 1658 the first clerk of King’s town and in 1686, marshal of King’s Province, Narragansett,” the gravestone says.

Vernon was his wife’s second husband. She previously was married to Samuel Dyer, who died in 1678, Lippincott said.

Her gravestone is one of the earliest original stones in the cemetery to include the father’s name, according to reference material in the Newport Historical Society. At the time, many of the graves had smaller footstones as well as the large headstones.

If the recovered stone isn’t returned to the cemetery, Taylor would like to display it, she said, along with the description of Vernon, her grandmother and the Stevens shop. Such a display could call attention to the resources of the Common Burying Ground, and explore what can be done to improve stewardship of the cemetery, Taylor said.

Some of the stones have been knocked over in past years and have sunk into the ground, Lippincott said.

Anne Hutchinson held Bible meetings for women in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that soon had great appeal to men, as well. Eventually, she went beyond Bible study to proclaim her own theological interpretations of sermons, some of which offended the colony leadership and she was banished.

Hutchinson established a settlement at the northern end of Aquidneck Island, then called Pocasset, with some of her followers. She is considered a key figure in the study of the development of religious freedom in the American colonies and the history of women in ministry. She moved in 1643 with her younger children to an isolated wooded area on Long Island Sound in New York, where Native Americans massacred her, her family and their servants. Hutchinson’s 10-year-old daughter, Susannah, survived the attack. Her older children, including Edward, had remained in Massachusetts, where his wife, Catherine, gave birth to Ann the year her grandmother died.


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