Excerpts of article printed in "The Valley Breeze" newspaper May 26, 1999.
Reprinted with permission
 
1808 Ballou Gravestone to be Returned
By Marcia Green
 
Cumberland, Rhode Island - Thanks to a 1990s computerized database of Rhode Island graves, an 1808 gravestone swiped 15 years ago by pranksters is coming home to Cumberland.

The slate marker for Harriet Amelia Ballou, who died on July 3, 1808, four days shy of her second birthday, will be returned to Elder Ballou Meeting House Road cemetery on May 29, 1999.

Members of the American-French Genealogical Society of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who are coordinating the stone's return, plan a brief reuniting service at 2 p.m. on that day.

The Ballou burial ground is on Elder Ballou Meeting House Road, a country road off West Wrentham Road. Burials date from the mid-1700s and include Revolutionary War solders.

Little has been said about the thieves who snatched the stone.

The stone was reported two years ago to the Connecticut Gravestone Network, a group that uses advertisements to urge people to turn in stolen gravestones.

When a search of Connecticut records turned up nothing, Harriet's name was forwarded to John Sterling, the Rhode Island man who is coordinating a stone by stone indexing of the states graveyards.

In Cumberland, the genealogical society's president, Roger Beaudry, is transcribing the town's stones for Stearling. The Ballou name is common here.

But because the indexing is a relatively new project, her name was missing from Sterling's catalog, Beaudry got there after the thieves.

Still she was quickly located, Beaudry said. Her stone was indexed during the Depression when a similar cemetery listing was created by a Grace Tillinghast.

Comparing the two list one from the '30s and one from the '90s finds about a half-dozen missing stones from this cemetery, Beaudry said.

The thieves probably didn't know it but they snatched one of the cemetery's more prominent dead. The little girl was the granddaughter of the third pastor of the 1740 Elder Ballou Meeting House, the first of a succession of Ballous who gave their name to the historic building that burned in 1960s.

According to the records provided by the society, members of the Cook family were the first two elders, then came Elder Abner Ballou who served this Baptist community from 1775 to his death in 1806.

Abner was a tall man with blue eyes and long white hair who wore a light blue coat, knee breechers and blue stockings.

Said a Meeting house historian Ana Whipple, "He spoke with earnestness and power; his messages to sinners were warnings, beseeching them to repent and flee from the wrath to come."

This was a congregation so conservative that the clamor to install a stove for heat triggered a controversy with opponents declaring "it would be the work of the evil spirt to have such a wordly notion in a house of worship." Men an woman entered by separate doors, they sat on narrow, hard benches for a service that lasted most of Sunday, with a break for lunch.

Harriet's stone, with a decorated urn, is said to resemble her grandfather's and was probably carved by the same person.

The public is invited for the ceremony Saturday May 29, 1999 at 2 p.m.


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