The Spencer Family Historical Cemetery
(aka East Greenwich Historical Cemetery No.9)
On the south side of Middle Road
Just west of Partridge Run
East Greenwich, Rhode Island (United States of America)
(The above nine gravestones run along the cemetery west wall. Number 1,2,5,6,7 & 8 are Audrey Mae’s, Edith Anna’s and John Edward’s direct ancestors. 🙂 )
The purpose of this website is to illustrate Audrey Mae (née Spencer) MacDonald’s (1912-2007) artistically depicted map of her Spencer family ancestral cemetery and her mini-biographical sketch of each Spencer ancestor in this Spencer family historical cemetery. Fearful that future Spencer generations would lose awareness of the importance of our ancestral heritage and our sense of history, Audrey Mae labored long and hard in the 1980s to compile this information. This was before the days of readily accessible computers, printers, scanners, cell phones, digital cameras, and other home and office convenience products. With the completion of the graphic as well as written work, descendants could clearly see the importance of her work in disseminating this knowledge for current and future generations.
Audrey Mae gave this map and mini-biographical sketches to her family members in the late 1980s. Audrey Mae died March 11th, 2007, just shy of her 95th birthday.
Audrey Mae’s numbering of the gravestones in this Spencer historical cemetery map began in the far right back corner at the southwest corner of the cemetery because No. One Gravestone was the marker of the first Spencer in Audrey Mae’s, Edith Anna’s and John Edward’s (“Ed’s”) direct line to be buried in this cemetery. Historically, first burials were always on the west end of cemeteries.
Number One (1) gravestone is the marker of the first Spencer in Audrey Mae’s, John Edward’s and Edith Anna’s direct Spencer line to be buried in this cemetery. Huldah (née Johnson) Spencer, Gravestone Number One (1), is the wife of John Spencer, Gravestone Number Two (2). This John is responsible for the beginning use of this new cemetery down by Middle Road. John’s parents and older sister and brother were buried in what came to be known as “over back” cemetery. “Over back” cemetery (straightspencerhistoricalcemetery.org) got it’s name because that cemetery was back and over the stone wall from this newer cemetery, the Spencer family cemetery, on the south side of Middle Road.
Buried in this Spencer family cemetery are John and Huldah’s descendants and their descendants’ spouses. John and Huldah are the great, great, great (3 times) grandparents of Audrey Mae, John Edward and Edith Anna. John and Huldah have No. 1 & No. 2 gravestones. No. 4, 6, & 15 are three of their sons and No. 3 & 5 are the sons’ spouses. The remaining gravestones are the descendants and the spouses of these three sons.
Following is Audrey Mae’s graphic diagram of her Spencer family historical cemetery on Middle Road in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Explanation of her gravestone colors:
Solid Yellow Coloring entire gravestone: Direct blood relatives to Audrey Mae (née Spencer) MacDonald and her sister, Edith Anna (née Spencer) Evarone and brother, John Edward Spencer
Yellow mark on one edge of gravestone: Audrey Mae’s, John Edward’s and Edith Anna’s two uncles (“Uncle Ern” and “Uncle Rich”), their children and grandchildren
Green mark around edge of gravestone: George and Roby Alice (née Spencer) Rathbun and their three children (Because a large Rathbun gravestone (1901) is located by the front gate, the Veterans Administration erroneously labeled this historical cemetery as Rathbun. Spencer descendants have been unable to get the Veterans to correct their mistake!) 🙁
Seven American Flags: Patriots, Veterans, Men who Served in the Military or in Combat. Richard Anthony, gravestone No. 39, was not noted by Audrey Mae. His service makes Eight men who served in the military and are buried in the Spencer Family Cemetery on Middle Road.
Red on two edges of gravestone: Hezekiah and six of his and Waite (née Briggs)’s twelve children
Light Blue on edges of gravestone: Children of Captain John and Phebe (née Vaughn) Spencer
Angel with wings: Edith Anna (née Spencer) Evarone’s infant son, Frank, and two year old daughter, Anna Lucia
Two Red Devils: Two ancestors not remembered for their good qualities 🙂
Following is Audrey Mae’s mini-biographical sketches of her relatives — direct ancestors, uncles, cousins and their spouses — who are buried in the Spencer family cemetery. Also buried here is her niece, Anna Lucia, and nephew, Frank Jr. Audrey Mae was twelve when her niece, Anna Lucia, died at age two. Even though Audrey lived eight decades after that, she remembered the day Anna Lucia died as the saddest day in her life. Anna Lucia and Frank, Jr.’s gravestone is Gravestone Number Thirty-Eight in Audrey’s gravestone numbering system.
There is no doubt that this ninth recorded cemetery in East Greenwich, Rhode Island was recorded as the Spencer family cemetery. However, because of sloppy research done by the Veterans’ organization, this Spencer historical cemetery (E.G.No.9) was recorded in veteran records as Rathbun cemetery. This error was made because veteran George Rathbun’s large relatively modern gravestone just happened to be by the front gate “so they probably poked their heads over the gate and read the first gravestone and ignored the sixty some other gravestones.” [Roby Alice (née Spencer) Rathbun married George Rathbun and their gravestones (No. 48 and No. 49) are by the front gate. Their deaths were in 1901 and 1906.] Of interest is two Spencer sisters married two Rathbun brothers and all their gravestones just happen to be by the front gate.
There are six Spencer veterans, as well as two Rathbun brothers–who married two Spencer sisters–who are veterans in this historical Spencer family cemetery. The Veteran Groups are to be complemented for keeping our heritage and our American history alive. Audrey Mae’s oldest daughter remembers as a young person how her grandparents or her uncle Ern would pick up her and her older brother and take them to the historic cemetery. There they would view the rifles being shot in the air in memory of the Veterans of the Revolutionary, Civil and other wars for their service to their country. Audrey Mae’s daughter, who was taken there as a seven year old, remembers being totally impressed.
The Veterans group naming this cemetery in error, plus the removal of the E.G. No.10 number on Audrey Mae’s ancestors’ other cemetery (see straightspencerhistoricalcemetery.org), greatly grieved Audrey Mae. She felt–and she was– the link that connected the Spencer history in the East Greenwich area of Rhode Island to the modern day Spencer descendants in Rhode Island, as well as in California. These web sites carry out her and her California sister’s, Edith Anna’s, desire to keep the Spencer ancestral history alive in the modern day descendants and in all future descendants in California, Rhode Island, and states in between. 🙂
It was only after completing this web site that the descendants realized why this Spencer family historical cemetery meant so much to Audrey Mae and her sister Edith Anna. Their parents and they, Audrey Mae, Edith Anna and brother John (“Ed”), were the first to break the family tradition of burial in the Spencer family cemetery. Their father and none of his three children are buried in the Spencer family cemetery. Audrey Mae’s, John Edward’s and Edith Anna’s great, great, great-grandparents, their great, great-grandparents, their great- grandfather and their grandparents are all buried in this Spencer family cemetery. Even their father’s two brothers and some of their children and grandchildren are buried here.
Direct Ancestry of Audrey Mae, John Edward and Edith Anna:
- Great, great, great-Grandparents: Gravestones No. 1 and 2 Huldah and John
- Great, Great-Grandparents: Gravestones No. 5 and 6 Roby and (“Deacon”) Richard
- Great-Grandfather through Anna Maria (Mar-eye-ah): Gravestone No. 7 Richard
- Great Grandparents through John Johnson: Gravestones No. 53 and 54 Audra and Benjamin
- Grandparents: Gravestone No. 8 Anna Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) and John Johnson
Uncles and first cousins of Audrey Mae, John Edward and Edith Anna:
- “Uncle Ern”: Gravestone No. 40 Alfred Ernest, younger brother of Wm. J.B. Spencer
- Cousin Richard: Gravestone No. 39 Richard, son of “Uncle Ern”
- “Uncle Rich”: Gravestone No. 42 Richard, older brother of Wm. J.B. Spencer
- Cousin Annie: Gravestone No. 43 Annie Eleanor, daughter of “Uncle Rich” and “Aunt Lottie”
- Cousin Amy: Gravestone No. 44 Amy, daughter of “Uncle Rich” and “Aunt Lottie”
Audrey Mae’s, Edith Anna’s and John Edward’s (“Ed’s”) mother, Mary Jane (née Vaughn) Spencer did not want to be buried in the historical Spencer family historical cemetery–or in her own historical Vaughn family cemetery–because she was fearful of vandalism or the shenanigans of unscrupulous people digging up graves to take jewelry. Alarming old newspaper article:
Mary Jane died in 1955 and, following her wishes, William J.B.Spencer buried his wife of fifty-eight years in a cemetery with perpetual care near their home and across the street from their Church at the corner of Knotty Oak Road and Washington Street in Coventry, R.I. When William J.B. died in 1969, he was buried next to his wife. Breaking the tradition, William J.B. Spencer was not buried in the Spencer family historical cemetery where his younger brother Alfred Ernest, his older brother Richard Augustus, his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandparents and his great-great-grandparents are buried.
Audrey Mae, the youngest child of Mary Jane and William J.B. Spencer, died in 2007. She was not buried in her family’s historical cemetery. She was buried in Rathbun Cemetery in Coventry, R.I. with her mother and father and next to her husband, Milton Earl MacDonald. Milton died in November 1995, eleven and a half years before Audrey Mae died. Audrey and Milton’s eldest son realizing his family of origin would no longer be buried in the Spencer family historical cemetery in East Greenwich, purchased additional cemetery land next to his grandparents’ and parents’ burial site in Coventry, Rhode Island for MacDonald, Spencer, and Vaughn descendants. Audrey Mae’s oldest son and many of his younger siblings plan also to be buried with their parents and maternal grandparents in this burial plot in Coventry, a neighboring town.
Even though circumstances would keep Audrey Mae, Edith Anna, John Edward (“Ed”), and their father, William J.B. Spencer, from burial in the Spencer family historical cemetery, they still felt an obligation to preserve the history of their ancestors and of their historical cemetery. Today the eleventh and twelfth generation descendants carry on this tradition and continue to be the caretakers of this historical cemetery. Buried there are fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh-generation Spencers in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Audrey Mae’s father, a ninth-generation Spencer, and Audrey Mae, Edith Anna and John Edward (“Uncle Ed”), tenth-generation Spencers in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, are not buried there. However, Edith Anna’s first daughter, Anna Lucia, and first son, Frank, Jr., eleventh-generation Spencers in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, are sadly buried there as they died in infancy and childhood.
This web site assures that Audrey Mae’s, John Edward’s and Edith Anna’s ancestry and historical cemeteries will never die. Their proud, tragic, and at times comical history will live on forever in the consciousness of their descendants and history buffs alike.
Even though the descendants of historical cemeteries in Rhode Island are the proud “owners” and, therefore, the caretakers of these cemeteries, there is to be no more burials within the cemeteries. Rhode Island cemeteries are to remain forever as historical colonial cemeteries.
Historical cemeteries represent for all Americans the ties to our colonial past. Rhode Island, the smallest state with the longest name–the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations–, has many historical cemeteries. The value of historical cemeteries to all Americans–and not just the known descendants of the families buried in the cemeteries–is expressed and is evident by the Rhode Island governor’s appointed commission. The governor appoints a Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission to protect historical cemeteries and, in the process, educate the public.
The website, www.rihistoriccemeteries.org gives us the purpose of the Rhode Island Commission on Historical Cemeteries: “There is created a permanent advisory commission to study the location, condition, and inventory of historical cemeteries in Rhode Island and to make recommendations to the general assembly relative to historical cemeteries in Rhode Island.”
“The future is nothing without the past.”
Spencer Descendants on horseback in the early 21st Century:
As stated in this website, John Johnson Spencer brought his own horse with him when he went into the Civil War. He obviously was an excellent horseman–growing up on one of the Spencer farms–because his rank as Private in the Civil War included his classifications as Farrier, Teamster and Blacksmith.
Keeping the tradition alive in the 21st century, five of John Johnson Spencer’s great, great, great-grandchildren are learning to ride horses and taking riding lessons in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
John Johnson (aka “Ace”) Spencer’s great, great, great-granddaughter, Jessica, a universary student, following in the Spencer tradition, is also an excellent rider.
Vaughn, Spencer, Walton, and MacDonald Press, Hemet, California 92544
Copyright © 2012 by Heather D. MacDonald