Monday, January 28, 2013

Howard M Grant, Moshassuck Cemetery, and the Saylesville Labor Riot

I wrote about my great-uncle Howard Mellor Grant and his service during World War I in this post a few months ago. Since then, I have come across a few more photos of Howard, and an interesting account written by my great-uncle George H. Wood. George was married to Howard's twin sister, Marion Mellor Grant. In Uncle George's account of Howard's service and burial in Moshassuck Cemetery, he writes:
"Lot is in front row - turn right as you enter the cemetery and it has a large stone with a marble statue of Christ, with arms extended and mounted on the same base as the stone. His grave was marked with the usual granite marker on a base, as used then for veterans. The stone was broken off from the base during a strikers riot at Sayles Bleachery. Several fingers and the head of the statue was broken off at the same time. The statue was repaired by the Taylor Monument Works just across the street from the cemetery and the stone was laid against its base and partly buried. In the years since, the stone has almost completely sunken into the ground."
In his notes (written in 1980), Uncle George talked about his plans to order a new stone marker for his brother-in-law and to see if he could get a new bronze VFW flag holder to denote a veteran's gravestone. I do not know why this work was never completed - Howard's stone is still partially buried. Another veteran gravestone in the same family plot, that of George S Grant who served in the Union Army in the Civil War and died 16 January 1963 from consumption after being discharged, does not appear to have been damaged in the riot, but is almost totally unreadable today. In the photo below, Howard's stone is on the right, and George's Civil War Veteran's stone is just behind and to the right of the statue.
Grant Family Plot
Moshassuck Cemetery, Central Falls, RI
Clematis Avenue, Section A, Lots No. 123 & 124
When I last visited the cemetery, I enquired about getting Howard's gravestone reset. I also placed flags on both graves, indicating their service in two of our country's wars.
Howard M. Grant Gravestone
Moshassuck Cemetery
When I drove through Moshassuck Cemetery last summer, I noticed a monument commemorating the riots of 1934. It is located not too far from the Grant plot, on the same side of the road. I had not previously known of the 1934 Labor Riots or the history of damage both to Howard's gravestone and the family monument statue. From an account of the riots by the Rhode Island Labor History Society :
"On Labor Day, 1934, a national textile strike began in Rhode Island and spread to southern cloth mills in an attempt to raise wages and improve working conditions during the Great Depression.
The event turned ugly when local management ask for protection at the non-union Sayles Finishing Company. National Guardsmen, with fixed bayonets, confronted hundreds of unarmed strikers and chased them into the Moshassuck Cemetery. Ironically, union picketers too cover behind headstones in the graveyard. The bullet holes remain dozens of stones to this day. Strife there lasted almost three weeks resulting in the injury and wounding of hundreds of protesters and the deaths of several others. The strike would erupt in violence in Woonsocket as well."
Saylesville Massacre Monument
Moshassuck Cemetery