Friends of Smithfield Cemeteries

Friends of Smithfield Cemeteries

For the last 26 years, a hardworking group of volunteers have spent many hours repairing, refurbishing, and cleaning over 112 cemeteries in Smithfield. Known as the Friends of Smithfield Cemeteries, the group meets every other Saturday morning.

“At 77 years old, I’m one of the middle-aged guys,” says George “Skip” Tuetken, the chairman.

Don Burns, a former member of the Conservation Commission, came up with the idea of restoring the town’s cemeteries in 1998. The volunteers also “adopt” cemeteries of their own. Tuetken notes there are 120 numbered cemeteries in town.

“Some of those evidently no longer exist or just can’t be found,” Tuetken explained. “Some of the others sort of vanished. Not all cemeteries in town have marked headstones.” There’s a cemetery near Gallagher Middle School on Indian Run Trail which has no markings.

According to the Find a Grave website, there are 132 cemeteries in Smithfield, including many named for famous residents. These include the Aaron Mowry Lot, the Appleby Smith Cemetery, the Benjamin Sayles Lot, the Elisha Steere lot, the Nathan Aldrich Lot, the Noah Farnum Lot, Town Farm Burial Ground, and the Tucker Family Burial Ground.

The Friends do a lot of weed whacking and leaf raking during much of the year. They also repair broken headstones. Tuetken estimates they have repaired about 100 over the years. Others still need to be repaired.

“The last two or three years we have begun to clean the headstones with a detergent, you don’t want to use anything that could in any way mar a headstone,” Tuetken said.

A few cemeteries are located behind people’s backyards. One on Ridge Road featured no headstones, only grave markers. Tuetken notes the group leaves the vegetation intact. Some members bring their own equipment to the locations.

Chris Butler, who has been with the group for four years, said it is “very gratifying” to leave a cemetery looking cleaner than before.

The Friends of Smithfield Cemeteries would welcome more members of the community to join them in restoring pieces of history.

“We’re always looking for younger people to get involved. Anyone interested could certainly join us,” Tuetken added.

More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

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