Island Cemetery (NT001)


In the early 1800s burial practices started to change with the creation of the rural or garden cemetery. Following the establishment of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, many cities adopted this concept for the final resting place of their inhabitants. The City of Newport purchased land northeast of the Common Burying Ground in 1836, and with the assistance of Henry Bull and William W. Freeborn, the city’s garden cemetery was planned. The site was sold to the plot owners in 1848 who incorporated it under the name Island Cemetery Company. In 1866 the company added the adjacent Willow Cemetery to the site. This fashionable cemetery became the final resting place of many of Newport’s most important people of the Gilded Age. Starting in 1886 the Belmont Memorial Chapel was constructed, about 1894 a receiving vault was built (no longer stands) and in 1902 an office building was constructed. The Island Cemetery Annex was added to the holdings in August, 1926.


Notable burials

There are a large number of remarkable people buried in Island Cemetery.  Soldiers, politicians, artists, businessmen, civic leaders, religious leaders, and many residents of the city. 

Linked here is a map of the site with selected graves to explore.

Here is a small sample:

Major John Handy (1756-1828) was a patriot, served during the Revolutionary War.  On July 20, 1776 he read the Declaration of Independence to the gathered masses from the steps of the Colony House.  Fifty years later he repeated the reading on July 4, 1826.

Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819) the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 and his brother Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858) who opened trade with Japan in 1854.

Richard Morris Hunt  (1827-1895) America's most significant architect.

George T. Downing (1819-1903) a local and national civil rights leader.

Alfred Smith (1809-1886) land developer who created much of 19th century Newport.

Clarence King (1842-1901) was a geologist and served as the first director of U.S. Geological Survey.

Island Cemetery Website link

Search graves in Island Cemetery link The digital database debuted in 2021

Available at Charter Books in Newport.

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