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Remembering
Ernest Matteson
Ernest Matteson
1929 - 1974

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Henry Matteson's Gravesite

In the past The Matteson Historical Congress Of America Inc. (MHCOA) has suggested that Henry was buried in the Vaughn Lot, East Greenwich Historical Cemetery #07 (EG007), going as far as to erect a memorial stone there in 1995. We do not know how they came to that conclusion as we have never found any evidence to suggest that Henry, or any Mattesons at all were ever buried there. Despite my requests, the MHCOA has never provided any evidence that might help explain their reasons for placing a memorial stone for Henry there.

It is doubtful that this cemetery is located on the same ten acres of land that Hannah sold to to George Vaughn after Henry's death. The original land grantee of the land on which the Vaughn Lot is located was John Soule. Christopher Vaughn was the owner as given in the 1712/1716 land surveys. No records have ever been found showing that parcel of land as ever having been owned by Henry Matteson or George Vaughn. Additionally, there was no mention of a dwelling house being located on the ten acres of land that Hannah sold to George Vaughn so it is likely that Henry and his family were living elsewhere at the time of his death.

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The Philip Matteson Lot, WG082

While I think it is wonderful that the MHCOA chose to honor our earliest American ancestor with a memorial stone, sadly, by placing it in a cemetery on land that no Mattesons have ever owned and in a cemetery where no Matteons are buried they have "poisoned the well" for anyone seeking to find Henry's true final resting place. The confusion caused by the memorial continues on to this day.

This is not the first time that the MHCOA has misidentified the location of Henry Matteson's burial site. Previously the MHCOA believed that Henry's burial site and home were located roughly six miles west of the Vaughn Lot. This is detailed in a lengthy article by Mary Stafford in their own newsletter, "The Mattesonian", Vol III No.6-1 (PDF).
AndrewsLot.jpg

The Andrews Lot, WG025

In it, it describes how they were taken to view the "almost obliterated cemetery" where Henry was believed to be buried as well as the foundations of what once was Henry's home.1 Using the descriptions of these locations found in the article it is easy to locate these areas today. The cemetery where Henry was believed to be buried at that time was none other than the Philip Matteson Lot, West Greenwich Historical Cemetery #82 (WG082). This is the only cemetery in the area near the supposed homestead that could have been considered to be and described as obliterated. The cemetery now looks much better after the commercial devlopment of the area was completed. And strangely what they believed to be the foundations of Henry's home are in fact not home foundations at all, but yet another cemetery, the Andrews Lot (WG025) with the Thomas Matteson Lot (WG065) located directly behind. The Andrews lot no longer contains any burials as they were all removed to Woodland Cemetery (CY066) in Coventry in the late 1800's. Perhaps this could explain how it was mistaken by them for home foundations. Or are we to believe that the Andrews family would have buried their dead in Henry's cellar?

I also have an undated newspaper clipping which describes how "George Matteson, chairman of the reunion comittee, showed the band of "cousins" the stone ruins of Shippeetown Road, East Greenwich that he has established as the homestead of the first Henry Matteson." and "Nearby is a family cemetery, pointed out by George Matteson as the burial grounds where Henry possibly is buried."2
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Having grown up on Shippeetown Road, I know of several cemeteries in the area but again, I have never seen anything that would indicate that Henry's home or grave is located there.

The MHCOA apparently has a long history of finding the locations where Henry is NOT buried. We may never fully understand their reasons for placing the memorial stone in the Vaughn Lot but it is clearly not Henry's final resting place. Based upon their past record of identifying all the wrong locations, people would be best advised to take any claims regarding Henry's burial site coming from them with a grain of salt.

In a recent MHCOA newsletter, "The Mattesonian", June 2015 in an article by W. C. Macindoe a number of locations are speculated upon as to being the possible final resting place of Henry Matteson. These include both the Vaughn Lot location (EG007), where there are no known Matteson burials, as well as the Matteson Family Cemetery location (WG076). Other possible locations are given as behind Panera Bread in the Weaver Family Lot (EG076) where there are also no known Matteson burials, somewhere at the corner of Frenchtown Road and South County Trail where no cemetery even exists and one location given only as "North of Division Road in W. Greenwich".3

If you eliminate the locations where no cemetery exists and the cemeteries where no Mattesons are buried this leaves only the Matteson Family Cemetery location (WG076), which agrees with our findings of this being the actual location where Henry Matteson the immigrant is buried.

Henry Matteson's gravesite is located in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. within the Big River Management Area in West Greenwich Historical Cemetery #76 (WG076) on land we believe may have been owned at one time by him or his son Capt. Henry. This cemetery is the oldest identified Matteson cemetery in the state and likely the first Matteson cemetery to exist anywhere in this country.

From: Historic and Architectural Resources of West Greenwich, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report
Rhode Island Historical Preservation Comission, October 1978 -

Following Roger Williams' settlement of Providence in 1636, the area that makes up present-day West Greenwich was part of the "Vacant Land Tract not yet part of the Colony." This land encompassed not only West Greenwich, but East Greenwich as well. The land was not truly "vacant"; a number of people were already settled there--some, squatters, others, leasing land from the Narragansett Indians. In 1709, as a last device to put all the remaining Narragansett territory under control of the Colony, these lands were accepted by the Rhode Island General Assembly from Ninigret, Sachem of the Narragansetts, in payment for military defense, as well as other services.4

After over 300 years of weathering Henry's gravestone is severely worn and eroded. On most days it is only possible to discern a small portion of the original markings. His grave is located far to the front of the cemetery indicating that his is most likely the earliest burial within the cemetery. It stands alone as one would expect to find it as it is well known that Henry's wife Hannah remarried Charles Hazelton shortly after Henry's death.

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Video of Henry Matteson's Gravesite
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Click image to view larger

 


  1. Mary Stafford. "The Rhode Island Meeting as reported by Mrs Mary Stafford." The Mattesonian Vol III No.6-1 (1949):1-3. https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE1955342&from=fhd
  2. Unknown Author. Undated newspaper cliping.
  3. W. C. Macindoe. "Where's Henry? Analysis" The Mattesonian (2015):1-7.
  4. Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commisson. "Colonization" Historic and Architectural Resources of West Greenwich, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report (1978):4. http://www.preservation.ri.gov/pdfs_zips_downloads/survey_pdfs/west_greenwich.pdf

 

Matteson Family Cemetery WG076

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