NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Centuries-old gravestones missing from a Colonial-era cemetery have been returned after turning up elsewhere, including one found in a Pennsylvania woman's yard.
The three gravestones were reset in the Common Burying Ground in Newport on Saturday.
The oldest stone dates to 1690 and was for a 1-year-old child. The 12-inch-by-24-inch stone was found in August by Stephanie Pallas, of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, said Lew Keen, of the Newport Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission.
"She was doing some landscaping, hit this flat stone in her yard, dug it up, flipped it over and realized it was a gravestone. Then, with the help of the internet, did some research to discover it belonged not in Pennsylvania, but in Rhode Island," Keen said.
The stone for William Mayes was last seen in 1979, but the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission maintains an online database , and it had a photo even though the marker disappeared more than 30 years ago, Keen said.
"She thought maybe we have a copy of that stone, but lo and behold she had the original," Keen said.
The others were from 1835 for a Newport woman, Elizabeth Cook, and her children, and they were last seen in 1874. Those were found in a Newport yard during a renovation in the 1980s and stowed in a basement until the homeowner alerted the commission in the spring, Keen said.
Keen said theft of historic grave markers is a chronic issue, and that people take stones for patios, well covers and other uses.