Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Historical Background on the Vars Cemetery

The old Vars burial place also known as Vars and Hall Cemetery and  is one of the oldest cemeteries in America.  It is located 500 feet east of Bradford Road at telephone post number 3710. Once you find the telephone pole, turn right onto a dirt path called Woody Hill Road Extension.  At the end of Wood Hill Extension, turn left, walk straight through a lot with a house on it and proceed through the woods.  Enter the Vars Cemetery and about 210 rods northwest is the location of the  Vars homestead, on a hill sloping west. Nothing remains of this original homestead today. Many members  of the Vars family are buried in the cemetery here, including:

Theodaty Rhodes, died in 1733
Mary Vars  Rhodes, wife of Lord John De Vars and Theodaty Rhodes, died in 1740
Isaac Vars, only child of Lord John De Vars, died in 1760
Rebecca Larkin Vars, wife of Isaac Vars, died about 1760

However, their tombstones no longer exist. Today there are over 60 known burial sites with about 50 inscriptions dating from 1846 to 2006.

Our Search For The Vars Cemetery

  My great grandmother was Mary Elvira Vars and her ancestry can be traced back to early European settlement in the United States.
  Lord John De Vars sailed to this new land in the late sixteen hundreds and visited a small settlement with good land, deep harbors, and pleasant weather. This settlement was Newport, Rhode Island. John returned home, sold his property, collected his wife, Mary and his young son, Isaac, and sailed back to America. On the return trip, Lord John De Vars died at sea. There are many stories about the cause of his death. One story states that he was wounded in a duel and died of his injuries. Another story claims that the ship's captain had him killed so the captain could take procession of Lord John De Vars's fortune. Whatever happened, when the ship arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, Mary and her son, Isaac were left there to find their way in this distant foreign land among strangers.
  Several years later, Mary married a man named Theodaty Rhodes. Accounts vary about who purchased the original Vars homestead in Westerly, Rhode Island. One account claims Lord De Vars purchased the land from the Native American Chief before he returned to France. Another account states that Theodaty bought land just south of Newport, near the towns of Westerly and Charlestown, Rhode Island from the chief of the Narragansett tribe and then Theodaty sold tracts of land to early settlers. A land deed from 1707 shows Theodaty Rhodes (died in 1733) and Mary (died in 1740) buying 2 pieces of land in this area and a month later a 50 acre tract of land was deeded to Mary's son Isaac Vars. This land became the Vars homestead.
Isaac Vars Homestead

  Today the Vars Cemetery still exists on a portion of this land but it is not easy to find.
  Last fall, my daughter, my niece and I traveled to Westerly, Rhode Island in search of the Vars cemetery and our ancestry. We were helped in our quest by a lovely lady who owned Maize 'N' Manna Cafe in Westerly that went above and beyond kindness to strangers to start us out in the right direction.

We traveled on Bradford Road looking for a number on a telephone pole. When we found telephone pole #3710, there was a dirt track leading in opposite directions. Luckily, another lovely lady was outside in her yard and she directed us down the correct dirt track, through a yard and down a very overgrown, rocky, and what looked like an abandoned dirt path. We headed out, crawled through and over fallen trees and brush, and laughed all the way. We couldn't believe it as we entered a clearing and saw a fairly well maintained cemetery.

 The grass and brush were cleared away but sadly many of the tombstones had been vandalized.

We spent much of the afternoon taking pictures of the tombstones so that later I could fit them into my genealogy records. We left that remote and deserted cemetery with a real sense of connection of our distant heritage.
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