Lost cemetery found near Wilde's Corner

John Howell
Posted 10/20/15

Sarah Wilson was lost, but now she has been found.

A “servant girl of color,” Sarah was born in 1863. On Dec. 28, 1879 she died at the age of 16 years and eight months.

More is known about …

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Lost cemetery found near Wilde's Corner

Posted

Sarah Wilson was lost, but now she has been found.

A “servant girl of color,” Sarah was born in 1863. On Dec. 28, 1879 she died at the age of 16 years and eight months.

More is known about Sarah. The August edition of the Warwick Historical Society newsletter says Sarah was married to Markus Wilson, a fisherman from Baltimore, at Shawomet Baptist Church on Sept. 28, 1874 and died of complications of childbirth.

But over the years, where Sarah was buried was lost. Her grave was among the 26 “lost cemeteries” listed by John Sterling in his survey of historical cemeteries published in 1997. Sterling knew of Sarah from a survey done by James Arnold in the 1800s.

Arnold reported that on July 15, 1894 he visited the Low’s family yard where he found Sarah’s headstone and another unmarked headstone believed to be that of a Civil War soldier, “fenced and in good order.”

In a later report, Charles and Martha Benns recorded they found a “lone grave at Wilde’s Corner” in 1936. But after that there was nothing. That was until this July when Pegee Malcolm of the Historic Cemeteries Commission got a call.

“I got this call and he said, ‘I don’t know what to do, I just found a gravestone,’” Malcolm recalled.

The caller, who Malcolm chose not to identify because she does not want to reveal the exact location of the site, said he was digging in his yard when he found a headstone. She inquired further and was told the property is in the vicinity of Wilde’s Corner and “that’s where I live.”

Malcolm was immediately interested, especially when the caller said the stone had a name and date.

The caller wanted to know what to do with the headstone. Malcolm told him to leave it where it had been found and the man said he would rebury it.

She and Mark Brown, Cindy Corkum, Sue Cabeceiras and Bob Chorney visited the location toward the end of July and dug up the headstone. They cleaned it off and took a GPS reading of where it had been found. Their search also uncovered a footstone. The headstone was re-erected, as was the footstone.

Brown started his research on Sarah at ancestory.com and from there delved into vital statistics at Warwick City Hall. He found both her birth and death record. Her maiden name was Gibbs and she lived with her mother, Lydia Armstrong, who was described as a washerwoman, and her stepfather, Thornton Armstrong, a laborer. Sarah was listed as a mulatto, which was the common word for “of color” at the time, said Brown.

Judging that her stepfather and mother were not wealthy from the description of their jobs, yet there was the expense of cutting a headstone, leads Brown to speculate her husband may have been a successful fisherman or that the property owners Sarah worked for assisted with the cost of the burial. Also, Brown finds it unusual that she and possibly an unnamed solider were the only two buried in the plot.

It’s such questions and finding the answers that energizes Brown.

“I love doing research,” he said.

Brown has been doing research for the commission for the last several years and has assisted in identifying four of the lost cemeteries listed in Sterling’s book. One of the most remarkable finds was identifying the city’s first public cemetery dating to 1663. Often, he said, lost cemeteries are found in overgrown and wooded lots or by people doing yard work who hit a rock while mowing their lawns. In some cases those “rocks” end up being grave markers.

“It’s exciting when this happens,” said Malcolm. “You don’t find the lost ones often.”

Sarah is no longer lost, although questions about her life and how she met a fisherman from Baltimore may never be answered.

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Lioneyez924

Grear article John Howell, thank you!

Sarah (Gibbs) Wilson is my Great Aunt on my Mother's, Barbara J. (Holden) Davis side of our family. She is my Great Grandmother's (Amelia Gibbs) Holden / Hall sister. Sarah's mother Lydia (Proffitt) Gibbs / Armstrong is my Great Great Grandmother.

Regards,

Ron "Ronnie" Davis

Saturday, October 22, 2016
Lioneyez924

Great article John Howell, thank you!

Sarah (Gibbs) Wilson is my Great Aunt on my Mother's, Barbara J. (Holden) Davis side of our family. She is my Great Grandmother's (Amelia Gibbs) Holden / Hall sister. Sarah's mother Lydia (Proffitt) Gibbs / Armstrong is my Great Great Grandmother.

By the way, Sarah (Gibbs) Wilson's father (my Great Great Grandfather) was of Cherokee descent and born in Maryland. The term Mulatto was also used for people of mixed color.

Regards,

Ron "Ronnie" Davis

Sunday, October 23, 2016
Lioneyez924

I forgot to add, Sarah (Gibbs) Wilson's natural father (my Great Great Grandfather) was of Cherokee descent and born in Maryland. His name was William Gibbs.

Sunday, October 23, 2016