North Burial Ground, Bristol, RI
I found Eli Owen today. He was resting in peace at the North Cemetary in Bristol, RI… just as the records had said he would be. The burial ground was enormous and when I got there I had no faith I would find him amongst the rows and rows and rows. I drove around for a while before I spotted a large statue depicting a soldier near the front of the cemetary. I made my way over to that section, hopeful but restrained. On the statue were the words, “Rhode Island Soldier’s Home.” I smiled. He was here. Just a few more minutes and I’d finally get to meet the man who’s been eluding me for years.
In truth, I had hoped to find him amidst a family plot. I had hoped that he would be surrounded by family and that my discovery of him would lead to other discoveries, but when I found him in the last row of markers, beside graves much more recently visited, I was anything but disappointed. His tombstone was faded and covered with moss but I could make out his name. I said hello to my 3rd Great Grandfather for the first time.
You may recall my telling the story of Eli Owen a couple of months back. Since discovering him two years or so ago, he has been a constant mystery, moving about every few years of his life, mysteriously appearing in the United States after being born in England, with no record of his ever entering our country… There are no records of his parents. He is a genealogical dead-end, but a man who, though I know very little about him, has continued to fascinate me regardless of the frustration he has caused.
I didn’t know I was going to Rhode Island when I woke up this morning. I thought I might. It was on my list of things to do that I wrote back in February, but I wasn’t prepared, I told Stephanie. Yes, I wanted to give my new tires a test-run. I wanted to see how the car would drive after its day in the shop yesterday. I wanted to get out and have an adventure but I wasn’t sure I was ready.
Well, by eleven-thirty I was on my way.
I started out in Providence, looking for the place that the Owen family lived for years. It’s not there anymore. Wherever they lived is now part of industrial complex on the edge of a small red-light district. There are a couple of strip-clubs around there and an adult book store. I have a feeling that though the zoning may have changed a lot in the past century, this was probably never a great part of town.
Yet another piece of the puzzle.
From Providence I took Rte. 195 to Rte. 114 and made my way toward Bristol, RI, where my records indicated Eli was buried. After his wife passed away in 1881 he went to live in the Rhode Island Soldier’s Home in Bristol. When he passed away in 1901 he was laid to rest alongside his fellow soldiers in the cemetary I found today.
I didn’t really learn anything new today but I felt like I accomplished a good deal anyway. As strange as it may seem to put such stock in finding the grave of someone you never even knew… as strange as it may seem, it doesn’t seem all that strange to me. It’s important that I know where I came from. I can’t really explain it. I think you either care about this sort of thing or you don’t.